Killer Obliques Exercises
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While we love a good abs workout, a killer core isn't just about a flat stomach. (See: Why It's Important to Have a Strong Core) That also means paying attention to your sides, or, more specifically, your obliques. Strong obliques (built by an oblique workout like the one below) will improve your posture, support your lower back, and make you feel tightened up all around your midsection. Plus, cut-outs and crop tops are still holding strong in the fashion world—and they're perfect for showing off chiseled obliques.
But crunches won't do you any favors here. We tapped trainers with sick abs from across the country to share their best oblique workout moves. (Also try these 4 Oblique Exercises from J.Lo's Trainer.) Get ready to sweat!
How it works: Perform these obliques exercises once through for a killer obliques workout, or pick your favorite and work them into your regular routine.
You'll need: a 12- to 15-pound kettlebell, Plyo box or another elevated surface, set of 5-10 lb weights. Optional: small exercise ball (which you can also use for these advanced abs and obliques exercises).
Photo: mihailomilovanovic/Getty Images
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“This exercise not only tones those obliques but also gets your heart rate up by adding some cardio, which will help you shed extra layers and reveal your waistline faster,” says Jenn Seracuse, director of Pilates at FLEX Studios (and the model demonstrating these oblique workout moves).
A. Start in on all fours with knees underneath the hips and wrists underneath shoulders. Exhale to engage the abs and lift the knees to a hover off the mat.
B. Kick the right leg under body and across to the left as you rotate hips to the left and drop left heel to the mat. Simultaneously, reach left arm up. Return to all fours and hover. Do as many reps as possible for 30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
2. Side Plank with Hip Dips
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Jeff Schultz, director of training at Pinnacle Sports Inc., swears by this oblique workout move. “It's a great multi-muscle core strength and stability exercise. It hits the obliques, abs, and back muscles.” (Related: Why Side Planks Are the Best Obliques Exercise Ever.)
A. Start by lying on one side, propped up on one elbow, keeping body in a straight line, feet stacked on top of one another, hips lifted.
B. Lower slowly down until hip barely touches the ground, then lift back up. Do 10-12 reps, holding last rep for 15-30 seconds before dropping. Repeat on opposite side.
3. Elevated Mountain Climbers
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You might not think of mountain climbers as an obliques exercise, but it totally counts: “This move targets your obliques and abdominals, while also increasing pelvic mobility and cardiovascular strength,” says Jimmy Minardi, founder of Hamptons-based Minardi Training.
A. Find an incline, like a bench, stair, or plyo box and position hands on the incline slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Pull one leg in toward chest.
B. Alternate leg positions by pushing hips up while immediately extending forward leg back and pulling rear leg forward under chest. Do 2 sets of 30 reps.
4. Windshield Wipers
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“As a bonus, this oblique exercise definitely works your upper body, too,” says Astrid Swan, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer. (Like her style? Here are some bonus weighted abs and obliques workouts from Astrid.)
A. Start in a decline plank position off of a bench, stair, or plyo box with hands under shoulders, core engaged.
B. With a straight right leg, lift up and keeping leg straight drag over towards the outside of right hand, tap toe down to the floor and lift back up to return to starting position. Do 3 sets of 10 and repeat on the opposite side.
5. Oblique Side Sit-up
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“I originally saw this move in my Brazilian JiuJitsu training," explains Dasha Libin Anderson, trainer and creator of Kettlebell Kickboxing. "Soon after seeing its amazing ab benefits, I put it into all of my Kettlebell Kickboxing workouts!” (P.S. this isn't the only way to use a kettlebell as part of your ab and oblique workouts.)
A. Start kneeling, sitting to the side of knees. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell tightly at chest.
B. Engage core and squeeze glutes to raise up to kneeling position, keeping weight at chest. Then sit back down. Repeat on opposite side. Perform as many reps as possible in 1 minute. Do 3 sets.
6. Supine Obliques
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"I love this oblique workout move because it isolates and strengthens the obliques by keeping them fully activated over the entire range of movement, while also keeping the lower back fully protected," says Julie Jacko, Ph.D., owner and founder of Barre/Motion Miami. (Related: What to Do If You Have Lower Back Pain From Running)
A. Lie on back, extending arms straight up overhead.
B. Keeping core engaged, lift legs into tabletop position, knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Without changing the angle of knees, tilt knees left and lower feet until toes tap the floor. Lift legs back to tabletop and repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
7. Curl with a Twist
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This is Core Fusion co-founders Fred DeVito's and Elisabeth Halfpapp's go-to obliques workout move. “This exercise is a sneak peak from one of our favorites from our book, Barre Fitness: Barre Exercises You Can Do Anywhere for Flexibility, Core Strength, and a Lean Body.” (Try this arms and abs barre workout for more obliques wokrouts like this.)
A. Lay down with knees bent and feet flat on floor, hips-width apart. Holding either a small exercise ball or light weight, point elbows out to the side and curl up, pressing lower back down into the mat. Hold for 10 seconds, engaging the abs.
B. Twist upper body to the left while keeping the back of the waist on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
8. Toe-Heel Reaches with Weights
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“Make this tough oblique workout move even tougher by playing one of your favorite high-energy songs, ideally 130 to 140 BPMs, and moving along with the tempo of the beats,” suggests Matty Maggiacomo, a trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp. (Related: 10 Fast Tracks For Your Playlist)
A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. With a 5 to 10 lb weight in each hand, reach right arm to right toe, followed by left arm to left toe.
B. Then reach right arm along the back of leg towards right heel, followed by left arm towards left heel. Avoid bending too much from the hips. Perform this move slowly for 30 seconds, faster for 30 seconds, then double-time without weights for 30 seconds.
9. Plank Hip Twists
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“For this full-body move that specifically focuses on the obliques, pretend you’re bringing your hips up and over a beach ball for wide exaggerated twists,” says Sarah Koste, a personal trainer based in New York City. (P.S. there are a million other plank variations that do double duty as oblique workouts too.)
A. Hold a forearm plank position, legs squeezing together for an extra inner thigh bonus.
B. Twists hips up and over midline, alternating left to right. Do 10 reps, 3-4 sets.
10. Single-Sided Mountain Climber
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“These mountain climbers fire up one side at a time, so you get an extra burn from the oblique workout,” says Joe Buffa, a trainer at KORE in New York City.
A. With hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, pull right knee over towards left elbow.
B. Switch, pulling left leg in towards left elbow. Your right hip should be slightly lower than the left. Do as many reps as possible for 45 seconds. Repeat, bringing knees toward the right elbow. Do 4 sets per side.