There’s a lot more to training your midsection than just focusing on the six-pack muscles.
Everyone tends to focus on the six-pack, but it’s the obliques that will help you get rid of stubborn fat that hangs over your jeans, trim down your waist, and give your core that aesthetic finish.
Your obliques are the long muscles that run up and down, along the sides of your midsection. Your internal and external obliques are responsible for keeping the spine neutral. They also help you bend from side to side. When you carry groceries, for example, you need one side of your body to stay strong to control the motion so you stay balanced.
Let’s face it — no one likes to work out their core. But all you need for a strong, flat core is 10 minutes a day, three times a week.
These next five exercises are fun and make those 10 minutes go by quickly.
This move engages your lower abs to stabilize your body while your obliques are doing all the work, twisting side to side. Your core will definitely feel a burn with this exercise.
Equipment needed: decline bench and weighted plate or ball
Muscles worked: obliques, lower core, and lower back
- Sit upright on a decline bench at about 45 degrees. Hold that position throughout the entire exercise. Your feet should be underneath the bench’s pegs with your knees bent. Hold onto a weighted plate and extend your arms out in front of you, keeping them parallel to your thighs.
- Keep breathing and twist your torso and your arms to the right side as far as you can. Hold this contraction for 1 count. Follow the weighted plate with your eyes so you get a full twist. Twist both your arms and your core to the left. That’s 1 rep.
- Keep your rep pace moderate and make sure you come to a complete stop in the middle before going to the other side. Try to keep your hips stable throughout this exercise. Only your obliques, arms, and head should be moving.
- Perform 20 repetitions total for 3 to 4 sets. Remember, right to left is 1 rep.
Take It to the Next Level: Russian Twist with Medicine Ball
If you found the previous exercise easy to perform, add a little momentum to the mix.
Equipment needed: medicine ball or weighted plate and a flat bench
Muscles worked: abdominals, shoulders, and arms
- Sit down on the edge of a flat bench grasping a medicine ball in between your hands. Keep your arms fully extended in front of you. Criss cross your feet so one ankle is on top of the other. Lift your feet so they are in line with your glutes; your tailbone is now the only thing supporting you on the bench. Your legs will not come down to the floor until you have completely finished this exercise. You have to engage your core the entire time for balance and to protect your lower back. This is your starting position.
- Keep breathing, stick out your chest, and twist your obliques and the ball to your right. When you’ve twisted as far as you can to your right, bounce the ball on the floor once and catch it right away. Keep your eyes on the ball the entire time while you perform this exercise. Wherever your eyes go, your body will follow.
- Come back to your starting position with your arms locked out and the ball right down the center. It’s important to come back to center to get a sense of balance again and to make sure you’re not rushing this exercise.
- Twist your obliques and the ball to your left side. Bounce the ball once and catch it right away. That’s 1 rep.
- Perform 20 repetitions and try to do 3 to 4 sets. Remember, left to right is 1 rep.
By bringing your pelvis up toward your rib cage, you emphasize the lower half of your abs. And since you’re adding a twist to the mix, your lower core and obliques are now forced to work as one.
Equipment needed: vertical leg raise machine, or pullup bar
Muscles worked: abdominals
- Position your body on the vertical leg raise machine so that your forearms are resting on the pads next to your torso. Hold onto the handles in a neutral grip position with palms facing in toward each other. Your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Your torso should be straight with your lower back pressed firmly against the pad of the machine. Keep your legs fully extended, pointing down toward the floor.
- Exhale and lift your knees up until they are in line with your hips. As soon as your knees and hips are in one line, twist your knees up to your right elbow. Hold this position for 1 count. Don’t use any momentum or swing your legs. This is a core exercise so make sure your core is doing all the work.
- Inhale, slowly lower your legs, and straighten them back down to your starting position.
- Exhale, perform the same move, but now you will be twisting up to your left elbow. Right then left is 1 rep.
- Perform for 16 repetitions. Work up to 3 to 4 sets.
Equipment needed: kettlebell or dumbbell
Muscles worked: abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, and triceps
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your right arm fully extended overhead. Your palm should be facing away from you. Keep your left arm locked out with the back of your palm rested on your inner left thigh. Take a wide stance and turn your left foot out about 45 degrees. Keep your right foot pointed straight with your right leg locked out the entire time. You’ll be in a starfish/windmill position.
- Exhale. It’s important to keep your eyes fixed on the dumbbell in your right hand. Stick your butt and hip out to the right while you slide the back of your left palm down to your left foot. The goal is to bend down far enough until your fingers reach down to the floor. During this bend, keep your right leg locked out, only your left leg can bend if you need. Your right shoulder should be slightly turned out and in a straight line with your left shoulder. Squeeze your core and hold this contracted position for 1 count.
- Inhale and slowly come back up to your starting position. Keep the dumbbell raised above you the whole time. Don’t rest your arm.
- Perform 15 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets. Then reposition your feet and hold the dumbbell in your left hand. Perform the same exercise on your left side.
Take It to the Next Level: Double Kettlebell Windmill
You’ll perform the same exercise as before, but this time you’ll have a little more weight involved. Both hands will now be holding onto a kettlebell or dumbbell.
Equipment needed: two dumbbells or two kettlebells
Muscles worked: abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, and triceps
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your right arm fully extended overhead. Keep your palm facing away from you. Keep your left arm locked out with the back of your palm resting on your inner left thigh and holding onto a dumbbell. It should be the same weight as the one in your right hand.
- Take a wide stance and turn your left foot out about 45 degrees. Keep your right foot pointed straight with your right leg locked out the entire time. You’ll be in a starfish/windmill position.
- Exhale. You’ll want to keep your eyes fixed on the dumbbell in your right hand the entire time. Stick your butt and hip out to the right while you lower the dumbbell in your left hand down until it is 1 inch away from the floor. Squeeze your core and hold this contracted position for 1 count.
- Inhale and slowly come back up to your starting position without putting the dumbbells down.
- Perform 15 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets. Then perform the same exercise, but switch your feet and arms.
Equipment needed: bosu ball
Muscles worked: abdominals
This exercise is very similar to the bicycle crunch, but it tests your sense of balance.
- Sit down on the second or third line of the bosu ball. Bend your right leg so your right knee forms a 90-degree angle and your right foot is flat on the floor. Straighten out your left leg and keep it lifted about 3 to 4 inches off the floor.
- Fully extend your right arm out so both of your opposite limbs are fully extended off the floor. Keep your left arm up off the floor at all times. You can place your left hand on your hip so you don’t try to use it while performing this exercise.
- Exhale and in one motion, bring your right arm up and your left leg up. Your body should form a “V” shape. Try to keep both limbs fully locked out while crunching up.
- Inhale and slowly lower both your right arm and your left leg back down to your starting position. Really squeeze your core while performing this exercise. You don’t want to wobble and lose your balance.
- Perform 15 repetitions. Then switch and perform 15 times lifting up your left arm and right leg.
This exercise really isolates your obliques while the rest of your body remains stationary. If you have any low back problems, use a stability ball instead of the back extension machine. Or, avoid this exercise all together.
Equipment needed: back extension machine or stability ball
Muscles worked: abdominals and lower back
- Adjust the back extension height so the pad is at your hip’s height. Stand up straight with your right hip against the pad. Keep one foot in front of the other. Place your left hand behind your head and your right arm across your torso. Engage your core and keep your legs locked out the entire time.
- Exhale and bend only at the waist to the right as far as possible. Keep your back straight and your head up. Hold this contraction for 1 count.
- Inhale and slowly come back up to your starting position.
- Complete 15 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets. Then turn over and repeat on your left side.
The obliques are important muscles when it comes to working out your core. All it takes is 10 minutes a day, three times a week to have a tapered waist and get rid of that stubborn muffin top.