THE ULTIMATE OBLIQUES WORKOUT GUIDE
Most people focus on their abs when they’re trying to get a six-pack, but the obliques are just as important for your entire core!
The oblique muscles are located on the sides of your torso, and they play a major role in both movement and stability. That’s why it’s so important to include oblique workouts in your routine.
In this article, we’ll discuss the anatomy of the oblique core muscles, why they’re important, and what the best oblique workouts are. We’ll also provide a list of our favorite oblique exercises, both with and without equipment.
So, if you’re looking to define your waistline and get rid of love handles, read on for some great oblique workouts!
1) ANATOMY OF THE OBLIQUES
Before we get into this effective obliques workout, let’s take a quick minute to understand how the obliques function.
The stronger the mind-to-muscle connection is, the more in sync your movements will be as you activate the obliques and the entire core.
Speaking of the oblique muscle, most people make the mistake of thinking there are only the best lower oblique workouts and upper oblique workouts, but this isn’t the case. The oblique muscle fibers are external oblique and internal oblique – not upper and lower like the fibers in the central rectus abdominis muscle, also known as the “six-pack” muscle.
The external obliques are the muscle group you can see running along your rib cage, and they’re quite the show-offs. They are the core muscles that most people focus on when training to get ripped obliques.
The external obliques are situated at a downward angle, and they help rotation. For example, your external obliques go into overdrive to maintain the leg positions when you do Windshield Wipers.
The internal obliques are deeper muscles that sit beneath and are often overshadowed by the external obliques, but they play just as big of a role. Unlike the external muscles, these run parallel and also assist with rotation.
They can be activated through moves like Russian Twists, which is an amazing exercise for the obliques and overall core.
OBLIQUE MUSCLE FUNCTIONS
The internal and external obliques work in tandem during good oblique workouts to create rotation while also controlling it. In some instances, the obliques may even prevent rotation from happening at all.
Not only do your obliques assist with side bending, but they also help with the flexion of the trunk. The intensity of the contraction depends on the movement being used.
For example, if you are performing a Spiderman Push-up, you are activating the obliques as you bring your knee to meet your elbow.
As for trunk flexion, single-sided oblique exercises such as a single-leg plank are the way to go. Your obliques, along with the rest of your core, actively prevent trunk flexion–the natural inclination of your body when positioned in this way.
There are plenty of easy at home oblique workouts that you can do with or without weights.
2) WHY ARE OBLIQUE WORKOUTS IMPORTANT?
Oblique training is an important part of any fitness routine. Not only do they help sculpt the waistline, but they also promote healthy mobility and form a strong base for other exercises.
Here are some of the most important reasons you want to include great oblique workouts in your fitness program.
SUPPORT ROTATION AND FLEXION
Your obliques control rotation driven from the top down or from the bottom up. They can also flex you to one side or the other, but from the top down or the bottom up.
What’s more, they can prevent lateral flexion altogether or prevent rotation altogether.
Rotation and flexion go beyond the gym. Think about how you move during your day-to-day routine. Twisting and turning in everyday tasks like picking up kids or doing yardwork is essential so getting better at it will only benefit you.
The obliques provide stability to your core, which helps with proper posture. This is especially important when performing other effective exercises like squats and deadlifts.
When your obliques are strong, you’re less likely to experience injuries from these movements.
Again, look outside of the weight room to see the real benefit of the best ab and oblique workouts. Your entire upper body relies on proper posture to support itself and the obliques are like two of the pillars holding you up on either side.
Mobility refers to your physical ability to move your body. More specifically, it’s made up of range of motion, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility. While muscle and strength are great fitness goals to have, mobility is crucial for making all other fitness goals possible, including improved athletic performance.
Given their location on your body, your obliques play a key role in improving your overall mobility. Oblique exercises help build strength and flexibility in the area, which gives you more range of motion.
SCULPT THE WAISTLINE
Now, let’s talk aesthetics. Your oblique muscles are a key part of achieving that coveted V-cut or six-pack. Without them, your core won’t look as complete.
By properly activating the obliques with external and internal oblique workouts, you’ll be able to chisel a strong and defined waistline in no time.
3) WHAT IS THE BEST OBLIQUE WORKOUT?
The best oblique exercise routine hits every function of the obliques, but it also hits both the internal and external obliques.
Let’s take a look at my picks for the best oblique workouts no equipment needed.
This first exercise in these oblique workouts without weights will allow you to tap into the bottom-up rotational movement pattern that the obliques are responsible for.
HOW TO DO ARCHER TUCKS:
- Start on the ground in v-sit position with hands on the ground out to the side and slightly behind you.
- Pull your knees in towards your chest, sliding your body from one cheek to the other in order to position yourself to create a nice, strong contraction in the obliques.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: Bringing the legs into the chest maximizes the intense contraction through rotation both right and left.
Another often overlooked movement pattern, improving top-down rotation will translate well into other exercises and movements.
HOW TO DO BODYWEIGHT RUSSIAN TWISTS:
- Start by sitting on the ground in V-sit position but with your feet shoulder width apart on the ground. It’s important to take the legs out of it. You don’t want to fatigue the hip flexors.
- Now focus on driving the trunk rotations from the top down. Reinforce the proper mechanics by turning this into a row, side to side. Pretend like you’re doing a Cable Row and drive your elbows far back behind you as you can.
- Use proper form during the entire movement to get the most out of it and avoid risk of injuries.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: Focusing on driving the elbows back can reinforce that you’re actually getting good rotation from the shoulders up on the torso and you’re not just tapping your hands back and forth.
BOTTOM-UP LATERAL FLEXION
This time we’re focusing on that lateral flexion and again from the bottom up and the top down. The Side Plank Twists are one exercise that need to be a part of any good side oblique workouts.
SIDE PLANK BRIDGE TWISTS
HOW TO DO SIDE PLANK BRIDGE TWISTS:
- For this creative side plank variation, starting in elbow plank position, move into side plank position, drive up into a side plank lift and then drop down.
- The focus is on creating an eccentric control as you drop down with a little bit of rotation. When you come back up to the top, drive up into that side plank lift, really trying to drive your hip up, creating that lateral core flexion we’re talking about.
- Switch to the other side and repeat.
- Take this movement slow and keep the core tight the entire time.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: The shoulders are staying stable, and the hips are what are doing the work here.
TOP-DOWN LATERAL FLEXION
Now we move to the next exercise, which is going to target top-down lateral flexion, the opposite of the last exercise.
SIDE CYCLE CRUNCH
HOW TO DO THE SIDE CYCLE CRUNCH:
- Lie on your side on the ground with the bottom arm anchored out in front of you, top arm bent behind your head.
- Focus on leaving the hips in place and flexing the torso from the top down.
- Each time you bring your knee in, flex the trunk laterally towards it, bringing the elbow down towards that knee.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: You can get an insane contraction in this movement pattern by bringing the elbow down as you flex the trunk. Add this one to your killer oblique training routine.
And this is where we start to do the part that most people forget to do. It’s the anti-stuff or the anti-lateral control and the anti-rotational control.
SIDE PLANK WALK THROUGHS
HOW TO DO SIDE PLANK WALK THROUGHS:
- Get into a static Side Plank position, then walk your feet across, and bring your knee up.
- Then walk your feet back and repeat.
- Your job is to stay as rigid as possible on the bottom side, not allowing your body to collapse into that flexion.
- Maintain core stability the entire time.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: When you get the other leg up and drive it up towards the chest, you’re supporting the entire weight of the side plank through just one leg as opposed to the foot contact of two. This is a great unilateral exercise that works one side of the obliques at a time.
Which brings us to the final exercise here in these workouts for obliques for definition, the anti-rotational control movement pattern.
HOW TO DO WALL LOCKS:
- For this anti-rotation exercise, stand with your hips diagonal to the wall, plant your hand in contact with the wall and then move your opposite hand on top of that wrist locking yourself in place.
- This is now challenging you to maintain a rigid torso facing straight ahead, because what it wants to do is give in and twist towards the wall.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: To prevent rotation, you’re going to have to activate that oblique that’s on the opposite side of the wall and hold it strong.
4) WHAT ARE THE BEST OBLIQUE EXERCISES?
As I mentioned above, you want to choose oblique exercises that do more than make your side burn a little bit.
The greatest workouts for obliques at the gym focus on the function of the muscle – not what might work but what actually works.
Here are some of my favorite free weight oblique workouts that tap into the function we discussed above:
HOW TO DO THE BROOMSTICK TWIST:
- For this excellent obliques exercise, sit on a bench with feet on the ground.
- First tilt your pelvis back and let your upper back round a bit. By doing this you’re limiting the amount of rotation you’ll get in your spine. The rotation will be driven by your obliques.
- When you rotate, notice that the opposite oblique will fire alternately.
- Move slowly and focus on the quality of each repetition rather than the number of repetitions. With that said, 8-10 controlled reps works well.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: Paying attention to the amount of rotation and not worrying about the numbers in terms of reps will help to tap into the oblique muscles. Although this is focused on the obliques, you will feel this through your entire core. Also, if you don’t have a broomstick lying around, you can use any type of weighted stick. You could even use a light barbell, but do not use the traditional Olympic barbell.
PHYSIOBALL PLATE TWIST
HOW TO DO THE PHYSIOBALL PLATE TWIST:
- Sit on a Swiss ball with a weight plate or medicine ball and set your feet hip width to shoulder width apart. If you need a more solid base on the ball, spread your feet wider, focusing your heels on the ground. As usual, keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Loosen up, let that plate drop and if possible, keep the top arm straight. Lower down slowly into the extended position, until you feel the weight getting further away from you.
- When it feels like it’s about to reach its lowest point, pause for a second then lift it back to center and rotate to the other side ensuring that throughout the entire move you stay controlled and torso stable.
- Aim for 10-12 total reps per set.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: The arms are staying aligned with the torso and there is no relative stress of rotation or control of rotation, ensuring you’re going to target the core muscles, especially the obliques. This one is great for any type of exercise ball oblique workouts, and it’s one of my favorite lateral movements.
HOW TO DO THE ANTI-ROTATION PRESSOUT:
- Start with a cable pulley and a rope on a cable tower.
- Set your starting position by placing your hands on the bar or rope, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Start from a half-kneeling position, then drive one arm out and lock it in place at shoulder height.
- Next, twist your torso toward the front without bending your arms. Keep the movement at waist level or lower chest level. You should now be able to see that you’re making 90-degree angles when going back and forth.
- You’ll feel an offset load pulling you back almost immediately; this is what you need to focus on controlling throughout the exercise. If you don’t have access to cable machines, you can also use a weight plate, medicine ball, or resistance band.
- Again, 10-12 reps per set works well here.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: It’s an amazing way to offset the load to one side and really challenge the anti-rotation function of the torso and obliques, helping you build a strong core.
HOW TO DO THE BANDED CAULDRON:
- Starting from a standing position with the band anchored at your side a few feet away, stretch the band out in front of you and then start making circles like you are stirring the cauldron.
- The further away your arms are from your body, the more challenging the exercise becomes. This oblique exercise also helps improve lateral stability and control.
- When you finish the reps for one side, be sure to switch to the other side.
- Move slow and controlled, aiming for a higher rep count like 12-16 reps.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: When using a resistance band with proper form, you aren’t allowing the natural rotation back in the direction of a band, but you’re also incorporating dynamic movement into the exercise.
BANDED ELBOW THRUST
HOW TO DO THE BANDED ELBOW THRUST:
- Secure your resistance band to a sturdy and dependable surface. I find the high-pulley cable machine works great, especially if you are supersetting additional movements.
- Next, place the band around your elbow. Step out a couple of feet from a standing position while allowing yourself to be pulled back slightly towards the side of the band.
- Slowly lower your elbow towards your hip, contracting your obliques as you control the rotation back to the starting position.
- You can also aim for the same 12-16 reps here.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: Although you’re only controlling a small movement, you’re putting everything you have into it, ensuring muscle activation of the oblique muscle.
5) WHAT ARE THE BEST OBLIQUE EXERCISES WITHOUT EQUIPMENT?
What if you don’t have access to a gym or any special fitness equipment at home to use? Can you still sculpt your obliques with just bodyweight exercises?
Even if you don’t have any resistance bands, free weights, or cable machines at your disposal, there are still plenty of core exercises you can do for training obliques.
Let’s take a look at the best oblique workouts without equipment:
HOW TO DO THE SIDE CRUNCH:
- To get started, lay on your side and place your hand behind your head in crunch position. Do not rely on or use your hand for support in any way.
- For a proper Side Crunch, keep your left knee and foot on the ground, which helps to engage your obliques.
- For a deeper stretch, let your left shoulder fall all the way to the ground before rotating towards the ground to open up the oblique muscle.
- You’ll feel a sudden contraction in your oblique muscle when you raise your left elbow to form a 45-degree angle. Increase the intensity of this sensation by moving slowly. Don’t forget to switch sides!
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: Performing a proper side crunch ensures you can get a deeper stretch and really activate the target muscle.
HOW TO DO THE SIDE BRIDGE:
- Begin the exercise by placing your forearm down on the ground and your feet elevated on a chair or stable surface.
- Maintain a straight horizontal line while preventing rotation forward or backward.
- To make this excellent exercise more challenging, dip down a bit on every rep, then re-establish the stable position. Keep the core braced during this exercise.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: The key is to activate the obliques that are nearest to the floor. This will allow you to achieve a sturdy pillar-like stability from your head to your toes. This is a must for any bodyweight oblique workouts.
ELBOW TO KNEE
HOW TO DO THE ELBOW TO KNEE:
- Start in a seated position on the floor, with your legs extended out in front of you and your hands behind your head.
- Bring your right elbow to meet your left knee as you crunch up, then return back to starting position.
- Repeat this movement with the opposite side, bringing your left elbow to meet your right knee.
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: This is one of the best obliques exercises without equipment. Remember to move slowly enough so that you can engage in that much desired mind-to-muscle connection.
HOW TO DO THE CORKSCREW TWIST:
- To start this advanced core movement, assume the position of a hanging leg raise with an overhand grip on the pull-up bar.
- To properly execute this exercise, focus on twisting your pelvis whilst keeping the rest of your body straight. If you have difficulty maintaining stability throughout hanging exercises, try pulling down an inch or two before initiating the twist. You’ll likely find that doing so provides more stability, as you’re reinforced from above by your grip strength. This will help keep you stable during each contraction and enable greater control over the movable parts.
- Concentrate on contracting your obliques with each movement. If you keep your focus on the obliques and NOT the abs, you’ll find that your legs won’t lift as high. And that’s completely normal!
WHAT MAKES IT EFFECTIVE: Ditch your ego and you will feel the lower part of your abdominal muscles working a lot harder.
6) HOW DO I GET RID OF LOVE HANDLES?
You’re certainly not alone if you have love handles; in fact, this is where most men store fat.
Unfortunately, if you’re overweight, common core exercises like oblique crunches aren’t going to help you get rid of love handles. The truth is that no amount of working out can fix a bad diet.
With that said, there are several things you can do to get rid of your love handles. The first three tips are for those of you who are currently overweight and struggling with the love handles.
The last tip is more for those people who have been going steady with a good diet and training program. Keep this in mind as you read through this advice.
FOCUS ON YOUR NUTRITION
The initial step you must take if you want to lose weight and get rid of your love handles is to clean up your diet.
For now, forget about seeking out exercises that are dubbed as “magic bullets” for fat loss. You won’t see results from an exercise routine to burn oblique fat because it’s not possible to spot reduce belly fat.
Instead, you can eliminate your love handles by focusing on and improving your nutrition, and the extra side fat will go away with it.
Once you start focusing on your nutrition intently, you might realize that there are a few things you do daily which are preventing you from reaching your goal. Examples include consuming too much sugar and drinking empty calories such as beer or sugar-loaded beverages.
If you want to maintain a healthy diet, make sure to include protein, fibrous and starchy carbs, and cut out unhealthy fats and refined sugars.
GROW YOUR LATS
If you want to get rid of love handles, focus on your lats! When your lats become wider, it will give off the visual illusion that your waist is narrower.
To make your lats look wider than your waist, you need to do lat exercises with perfect form.
Now, when it comes to developing bigger lats that start at the love handles perfect form means that you need to pull the elbow back behind the body.
To avoid over-rotating and injuring yourself, you will likely need to decrease the weight until your elbow is able to wrap around behind your body.
By adding this lat training exercise to your routine, you’ll feel stronger and see a visible difference in the width of your lats while appearing to have a smaller waist.
TRAIN YOUR ABS MORE
If you’re already dedicated to eating healthy, the next step is to train your abs more frequently.
If you want people to focus less on your stomach area, then you’ll have to put in the effort and work those abs out more frequently.
I advocate for training your abdominal muscles regularly, even multiple times a week. You don’t have to spend hours upon hours working on them at once. The key is simply being consistent with it.
If you’re less experienced, hit the abs at least three times per week. If you’re more experienced and you’ve been training for a while, train your abs no less than five times per week.
TARGET THE OBLIQUES
Stubborn love handles are unfortunately common in very fit men, because it’s the number one place where men tend to carry their body fat. It’s also typically the last place they lose their body fat.
If you have less than 10% body fat but still can’t seem to lose those last few pounds, I have a solution for you.
Train with oblique workouts for definition!
Trust me, you should ignore anyone who tells you not to work your obliques because it will make your waist look wider. As you work to get rid of body fat, developing your obliques will make your waist look incredible.
Building core strength with easy oblique workouts not only gives you a more toned appearance, but it also creates the coveted V-taper look.
When you couple a firm midsection with well-defined lats, you’ll be on your way to looking amazing.
7) HOW DO I GET V-CUT ABS?
Who doesn’t want that V-cut ab line that goes down below the waistline? You don’t have to have “good” genes or a special ab machine to achieve this look.
The V-cut is a highly sought-after abdominal shape that takes both dedication and the right exercises to achieve. I’ll show you one of the most challenging (and effective) exercises for achieving this look.
ACTIVATE THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS
To start, lie on your back with both knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart—as if you’re about to do a basic crunch. Then, by contracting your stomach muscles and pulling them down toward the floor, engage your transverse abdominis—the deep core muscles.
Doing this will pop your transverse abdominis if you are already lean. This is because the transverse abdominis has a tendinous sheath that meshes with the internal obliques’ tendinous attachment, which blends into the V-Cut ab line.
TILT YOUR PELVIS
The second part of the exercise is to get your abdominals activated with a posterior pelvic tilt movement.
Starting from lying on your back, continue to engage your transverse abdominis muscles and perform a trunk curl to target your abs even more.
As you roll your hips off the floor, pull your belly button down toward the ground. Notice how my butt is lifted away from the floor and my lower back is pressed firmly against it.
Continue doing the two movements above. Flatten your mid-section and tilt your pelvis up, then rotate your upper body until you feel the contractions on the desired side of the V-cut ab line.
To work the left side of your V-taper, rotate your right side diagonally and downward toward your right knee at roughly a 45-degree angle. Do the opposite of this for the right side.
At this stage in the movement, only your shoulders should be off the floor. It is similar to knee-to-elbow sit-ups, but not entirely; you are moving your shoulders, though not both simultaneously.
The contralateral movement helps to strengthen the internal oblique on the side you rotate towards. If done correctly, forming a V-cut should be no trouble.
I would recommend performing 2 or 3 sets of 10 quality contractions, holding each contraction 6 to 7 seconds.
Oblique workouts are an essential part of any fitness program. Not only can they help improve your overall mobility and range of motion, but they can also help give you a defined waistline.
By performing the best oblique exercises – both those that require and don’t require equipment – you can achieve a strong core with improved mobility and a more defined waistline.
Looking for effective oblique training for at home or the gym? We’ve got you covered! Check out our ATHLEAN-X programs to see which one best fits your goals and fitness level!
OBLIQUE WORKOUTS FAQ
Yes, oblique exercises can help slim your waistline by strengthening and toning the muscle groups in that area. The stronger your abdominals become, the more defined your core will look. You should shoot for 3-5 exercises in your core workouts including a few for the obliques. In combination with a healthy diet and regular cardio exercise, oblique training can help you achieve a slim and toned midsection as part of your broader core training program.
No, oblique workouts do not widen your waist. In fact, they can help tone and define the muscles in that area when done correctly.
No, oblique workouts will not make you boxy or bulky. The goal of exercises for obliques is to help strengthen and tone the muscles in that area, not bulk them up. If done correctly, oblique workouts can help you achieve a more defined waistline with a slim and toned midsection.
Yes, oblique workouts can help give you a smaller waist and make your core stronger when performed consistently as part of an overall fitness program and a healthy diet.
Yes, oblique workouts can help reduce the appearance of love handles when combined with a healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise. Performing workout moves that target the obliques will help strengthen and tone the muscles in that area, which can make it look smaller and more defined.
The best way to tone the sides of your stomach is by performing oblique exercises that target the muscles in that area. Additionally, combining these exercises with a healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise can help you achieve that lean look you want.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.