Your obliques are a set of abdominal muscles responsible for bending you side-to-side or rotating your torso. Women sometimes avoid working these muscles for fear of developing block-like abs and a square waist. However, if you want a truly defined middle, you can't leave the obliques out of your exercise routine.
Avoiding over-developed obliques is easy — just do simple moves at home using your own bodyweight. Aim to complete three to five targeted exercises several times per week, in addition to moves that flex your ab muscles to work your rectus abdominis, such as crunches, and strengthen the extensors of the back, such as bird dogs.
The Oblique Routine
Warm up by marching in place for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, do standing twists and side bends for about 1 minute. Finish this pre-workout by holding a plank position — resting on your toes and forearms with a rigid torso — for 30 to 60 seconds.
Roll out a mat on your living room floor or fitness room to do eight to 12 repetitions of the following:
Lie down on your mat with your back pressed to the floor and your feet planted firmly, knees bent, about hip-distance apart.
Cradle your head with your hands and contract your abdominals as you raise your head, neck and shoulders up a few inches off the floor. Simultaneously raise your legs to a form a 90-degree angle at the hips and knees, so the shins are parallel to the floor.
Twist your right armpit toward your left knee as you extend the right leg straight out at a 45-degree angle. Rotate the other direction. Keep the elbows open wide and focus on picking the backs of the shoulders up off the floor.
Push-up to Side Plank
Get into the top of a push-up position. Hug your abs in toward your spine.
Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, in what looks like the bottom of a push-up.
Straighten your elbows to rise back up and simultaneously turn to the right side, stacking your feet, hips and shoulders on the left hand and outer foot in a side plank. Keep your hips lifted (you'll look a bit like a rainbow) and extend the right arm to the ceiling. Return to a push-up and repeat, turning to the left.
Side-Lying Oblique Crunch
Position yourself onto your right side. Stack your legs and reach your right arm beside your ear.
Brace your abdominals as you lift your right arm and both legs off the floor. Use the left arm to provide balance and support.
Hold for one to two counts and lower. Do all the reps on the right, then move to the left.
Lie on your back on a mat. Bend your knees and plant your feet in the floor. Let your arms rest on the floor alongside your torso.
Lift your upper back and right shoulder up off the ground. Reach your right and left arms out past your left thigh toward the foot. Pause for one count.
Return to start and repeat by lifting the left shoulder to complete one repetition.
Standing Side Bend
Stand tall with your legs together. Reach your arms past your ears toward the ceiling and press the palms together.
Place your right foot on the inside of your left leg — above or below the knee. Your right knee should point out to the side of the room. It looks just like yoga's tree pose.
Shift your weight into your left hip and leg as you side bend toward the right side. Return to a straight body, maintaining your right foot in tree position, and perform all the reps to the right. Repeat with the left leg lifted.