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The 8 Best Oblique Exercises For A Great Oblique Workout

Complete with videos and step-by-step instructions to our top oblique exercises.

Most core workouts focus primarily on strengthening the core in the flexion and extension directions.

While this is certainly an important component of having a strong core, to effectively optimize the functional strength of your core muscles, you need to train the core to not only permit—but also restrict and stabilize against—lateral flexion (side bending) and rotation.

These motions are primarily controlled and supported by the obliques, the abdominal muscles that run along the sides of your torso (side abs).1Oliva-Lozano, J. M., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Core Muscle Activity during Physical Fitness Exercises: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(12), 4306. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124306

In this article, we will provide step-by-step instructions for the following exercises you should include in your best oblique workouts for functional core strength:

A cable oblique exercise.

Let’s dive in! 

The Ultimate Oblique Workout

The best oblique exercises strengthen your oblique muscles to help both stabilize and efficiently transmit force through lateral flexion and rotational movements, along with some degree of forward flexion and extension.

Here are some of the best exercises for obliques to include in your strength training workouts:

#1: Side Plank

Side plank.

This is a great isometric exercise for your obliques.2Park, D.-J., & Park, S.-Y. (2019). Which trunk exercise most effectively activates abdominal muscles? A comparative study of plank and isometric bilateral leg raise exercises. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation32(5), 797–802. https://doi.org/10.3233/bmr-181122

Beginners, start with your knees down, and as you get stronger, weight bear on the side of your foot instead.

Here are the steps to this one of our oblique exercises:

  1. Lie on your right side with your legs stacked on top of each other.
  2. Push up on your right hand and straighten your right arm so that your whole body lifts up into the air. Your arm remains straight, your legs remain straight, and your feet stay stacked one on top of the other.
  3. Keep your hips in line with your body.
  4. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.

#2: Side Plank With Thoracic Rotation

Progress the side plank by adding an element of movement, which makes it much more difficult for your obliques, rectus abdominis (six-pack), and transverse abdominis (deep core muscles) to stabilize your body.

Here are the steps to this one of our oblique exercises:

  1. From a side plank position, slowly rotate your pelvis towards the floor while reaching your extended arm underneath your body, bringing the hand past your rib cage to tap your shoulder blade. 
  2. While maintaining your balance, rotate back to the starting position, lifting your top arm back up into the air.
  3. Rotate 10-12 times per side.

For another variation, perform hip dips while holding the side plank position.

#3: Overhead Suitcase Carry

The overhead suitcase carry is a fantastic oblique strengthening exercise that simultaneously helps develop overhead strength and stability.

Because this is a unilateral exercise, you must engage your entire core, including the internal and external oblique muscles, to stabilize your torso while resisting lateral spinal flexion under the one-sided load.

This demand is primarily controlled by the oblique muscles along with the rest of the abdominal and core muscles.

Here are the steps for performing this one of our dynamic ab exercises:

  1. Hold a weighted implement in one hand. A dumbbell or kettlebell tends to work best, but if you are an experienced weightlifter, you might even choose to use a barbell or sandbell.
  2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the weight up at your shoulder level with your palm facing your body.
  3. Keeping your core tight, chest up, and shoulders level, explosively press the weight straight up into the air until your elbow is fully locked out.
  4. Make sure to keep your shoulders down, balanced, and level.
  5. Walk forward for your desired distance or time, keeping a firm grip on the implement and your core engaged. Make sure not to allow your hip or shoulder to drop on the side holding the weight.
  6. Switch sides.

Pay attention to any differences in strength or muscular endurance between your two sides, and then use this information to help guide your ab workouts, focusing on correcting muscle imbalances.

#4: Crossover Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are a tough cardio bodyweight exercise that strengthens your abs, shoulders, back, and glutes. This crossover variation helps specifically target your obliques.

Here are the steps to this one of our oblique exercises:

  1. Get into a push-up position with your core and glutes engaged and your hands placed under your shoulders. Your hips should be in line with your body.
  2. Pressing your weight into your hands, alternate bending each knee and bringing the leg up under your chest to the opposite side of your body so that you aim to tap your right knee to your left armpit and left knee towards your right armpit.
  3. Squeeze your obliques with each rep.
  4. Go as hard and fast as you can for 30-60 seconds.

#5: Single-Leg Side Planks

Single leg plank.

The best oblique workouts for experienced weightlifters include this progression of the basic side plank.

Side planks involve an isometric contraction of your internal and external oblique muscles. This advanced oblique movement takes things one step further by lifting the top leg, which makes it all the more difficult to balance and stabilize your body.

Here are the steps to perform this oblique workout exercise:

  1. Once you are in a side plank position, lift your top leg up towards the ceiling, keeping your hips in line with your body and keeping both legs straight.
  2. Think about squeezing your obliques and engaging your entire core to prevent sinking into the supporting shoulder or arm. Your entire body, from your head to the foot on the supporting leg, should be in a straight line.

You can further progress this exercise by moving from resting on your forearm to using just your hand and pressing up into a high-side plank position with your elbow straight.

#6: Anti-Rotation Pulses

This is an excellent obliques exercise that simultaneously works the rest of your core as well as your shoulders. 

You can modify the difficulty of the exercise via the width and thickness of the resistance band you choose. Use a thinner band if you are a beginner and a wider, thicker band as you get stronger. 

Here are the steps to this one of our oblique exercises:

  1. Attach the resistance band in a doorway or on a stationary object at chest height. 
  2. Position yourself so that your body is angled 90 degrees from the band.
  3. Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Hold the handle of the band with your arms fully extended out in front of you. Step far enough away from the anchor point that there is significant tension on the band in the starting position. 
  5. Brace your core and contract your glutes while pulsing the band side to side. For instance, if the band is anchored to your left, pulse the band with extended arms to the right about 4 inches per pulse.
  6. Pulse 25-50 times and then switch sides. 

#7: Side Jackknife

The side jackknife is an advanced side crunch exercise to try in your workouts for obliques once you have built up some strength and body coordination to attain the proper form and range of motion.

Here are the steps for performing this oblique exercise:

  1. Lie on your right side with your legs straight and your left arm behind your head, cupping it gently for support.
  2. Squeeze your legs together as if fusing them into a single unit, allowing a soft bend in your knees.
  3. Lift both legs several inches off the ground and squeeze your obliques to maintain this position for the duration of the exercise.
  4. From there, use your obliques to crunch your right arm and right leg up toward one another above your body.
  5. Hold for 2-3 seconds and then lower back down, keeping your legs hovering off the ground.
  6. Complete 15 reps and then switch sides.

#8: Hanging Oblique Raises

Hanging knee raises are a fantastic core exercise, and they also increase grip strength and upper back and shoulder strength, making them a great addition to even your full-body workouts.

By driving your knees up towards one side of your body rather than straight up towards your chest, you can transform this into a challenging exercise for your obliques.

Beginners can bend their knees into a tuck. Progress the exercise by keeping your knees straight and piking your legs up as a unit. 

Here are the steps for performing this exercise in your oblique workout routine:

  1. Grab onto a pull-up bar or the bar at the top of a squat rack with your palms facing forward.
  2. Hang in the fully extended position, holding your upper body and torso as stationary as possible.
  3. Draw your legs up towards your chest, angling them as a unit up towards your left side rather than straight up. Make sure to only use your abs to lift your legs. Do not swing your body or use momentum to help you.
  4. Hold your legs up for 2–3 seconds, and then slowly lower your legs.
  5. Then, lift your legs up to the right shoulder.
  6. Continue alternating sides, completing 10-20 sets of both legs.

Other oblique exercises to include in your workouts can be Russian twists with a medicine ball, oblique crunches, wood chops, and bicycle crunches.

For more great workout ideas, check out some stability ball exercises for stability, core strength, and power here.

A side plank.

References

  • 1
    Oliva-Lozano, J. M., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Core Muscle Activity during Physical Fitness Exercises: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(12), 4306. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124306
  • 2
    Park, D.-J., & Park, S.-Y. (2019). Which trunk exercise most effectively activates abdominal muscles? A comparative study of plank and isometric bilateral leg raise exercises. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation32(5), 797–802. https://doi.org/10.3233/bmr-181122
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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