Often known as "love handles", your obliques are abdominal muscles located on the sides of your stomach. You use your obliques to flex and twist your torso as you move through your daily activities. The stronger these muscles are, the easier it is for you to complete your daily tasks. Toned obliques add to your physique and improve your posture.
You have left and right external and internal oblique muscles. The external obliques are close to the surface and you feel the muscles by placing your hand on the sides of your stomach. The internal obiques are located underneath the external obliques. Both pairs of muscles work together to flex and twist your torso. When you turn around in your chair to look over your shoulder, your obliques contract to rotate your body.
Your obliques are strengthened in various positions. Dr. Peter Francis from the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego University studied 13 different abdominal exercises and found the captain's chair exercise produced the highest muscle activity in the obliques. You perform this exercise from a standing position inside of a high chair. Position your elbows on the arm rests of the chair and your back against the pad. Your body is supported in your arms and your feet are hanging beneath your straight legs. Perform the exercise by bending your knees and lifting your legs toward your chest.
A side bend is an exercise you can perform from a seated position. This exercise uses dumbbells held in your hands for added resistance. While seated, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight at the sides of your body. Perform the bend by sitting up tall and then bending to the right as if you were going to place your dumbbell on the floor. Tighten your stomach as you return to an upright position and then complete the bend on the left.
You can also train your obliques from a supine position. Dr. Peter Francis found the bicycle maneuver an effective oblique toning exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor and your hands behind your head. Begin the exercise by lifting both feet off the floor and extending your right leg away from your body. Perform the oblique twist by bringing your left knee closer to your chest and aiming your right elbow toward it. The bicycle maneuver continues as you alternate knees to opposite elbows.
Your oblique toning exercises add into your daily workout routine. Dr. Peter Francis recommends five minutes of stomach strengthening exercises. Perform each exercise 10 to 15 times, rest and then repeat for two or three sets. Strong obliques will improve your posture and the look of your stomach. You may feel other benefits such as reduced back pain.