The Only 6 Oblique Exercises You Need for Sleek Midsection

In order to whittle your middle, you need to incorporate oblique exercises into your ab workouts.
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Whenever you bend your torso to one side or rotate your upper body, you're activating your external obliques. These muscles, which extend along the sides of your torso, are superficial muscles that cover the internal obliques, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Doing an oblique workout helps define your waist and give you a stronger core — the region including your abs, obliques and back — which helps support your spine. Strengthening these muscles not only means you'll look and feel strong, but you'll shore up muscle imbalances, move better through your daily tasks and even lower your risk of injury.

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During your next ab workout, be sure to include external oblique exercises like bicycle crunches, side crunches, Russian twists and side planks. Here's how to do each of them (plus a few more).

1. Side Crunch

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 15
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Drop both knees over to the right side as far as they will go without your left shoulder blade lifting up off the mat.
  3. Place your hands behind your head for support.
  4. Exhale as you lift your shoulder blades and upper back up off the ground. Rise up as far as you can without straining your neck.
  5. Inhale as you return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for a total of 10 to 20 reps, then switch sides.

Tip

Side crunches are very similar to regular crunches, but they're performed with a rotated torso to put the emphasis on the obliques.

2. Elbow-to-Knee Crunch

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 15
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands behind your head for support.
  3. Exhale as you lift your shoulder blades and upper back up off the ground and twist to the right so that your left elbow moves toward your right knee.
  4. Inhale as you return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for a total of 10 to 20 reps, then switch sides.

3. Russian Twist

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 20
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lean your torso back about 45 degrees. For an extra challenge, lift your feet off the floor.
  3. Extend your arms out in front of you, palms pressed together. Or keep them at the level of your bellybutton.
  4. As you inhale, rotate your torso to the right.
  5. Pause for a moment, then exhale as you rotate back through to center.
  6. Inhale as you rotate to the left, then exhale back to center.
  7. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps on each side.

Tip

Russian twists are an effective exercise that works the entire core, but targets the obliques. They can be performed with just your body weight or while holding a dumbbell, weight plate or medicine ball.

Once you can perform 20 reps easily, you're ready to add weight. Start with a light weight and add pounds as your strength increases. Or, try Russian twists while laying over a stability ball, as demonstrated by the ACE.

4. Bicycle Crunch

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Reps 25
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head for support.
  2. Lift your shoulder blades and upper back off the ground. Keep them lifted throughout the exercise.
  3. Pull both knees in toward your chest so your knees and hips are at 90-degree angles.
  4. Exhale as you rotate your torso to the right, bringing your left elbow to your right knee. As you do this, extend your left leg out, hovering your foot a few inches above the mat.
  5. Inhale as you come back through center, then exhale as you twist to the left, drawing your left knee in to touch your right elbow and extending your right leg long.
  6. Repeat for 10 to 20 repetitions on each side.

Tip

A simple exercise that requires no equipment, bicycle crunches are an effective exercise for targeting the obliques as well as the abdominal muscles. In fact, it ranked second in an ACE-sponsored study for oblique activation behind the captain's chair.

5. Side Plank on Hand

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Time 30 Sec
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Prop yourself up with your bottom arm, hand on the floor.
  2. Keeping your knees straight, stiffen your torso and lift your hips off the ground, balancing on your bottom hand and outer foot.
  3. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then lower back down.
  4. Perform 3 to 4 times on each side.

6. Side Plank With Knee Tuck

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 15
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Prop yourself up with your bottom arm, hand on the floor.
  2. Keeping your knees straight, stiffen your torso and lift your hips off the ground, balancing on your bottom hand and outer foot.
  3. Use your abdominal muscles to bend your top knee and top arm until your knee meets your elbow.
  4. Lower your leg down and straighten your arm high.
  5. Complete 10 to 20 reps on one side before switching to the other.

Bonus: Spiderman Push-Up

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Reps 10
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Full Body
  1. Begin in a high plank like you're at the top of a push-up.
  2. Keep your back straight and bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body to lower the torso toward the ground with control.
  3. At the bottom of the push-up, bring your right knee to the outside of your right elbow.
  4. Return your leg to the starting position and extend through your elbows until you reach the top of the push-up.
  5. Alternate sides on each rep. Aim for 5 to 10 on each side.

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