There are many different ways you can do side bends. However, regardless of the side bend exercise you've chosen, this workout will target your oblique, or the muscles on the sides of your torso. Side bends are a particularly good exercise, as they can help strengthen your core and back.
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Side bends primarily target your obliques, which are the muscles that wrap around your waist and torso.
Side Bends Pros and Cons
A side bend workout can incorporate a wide variety of different side bend exercises. These exercises can help strengthen your core.
According to a November 2015 study in the Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology Journal, this is important since people lose both muscle quality and quantity as they age. Changes to superficial abdominal muscles, like the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles, are some of the first to be affected.
Keeping these muscles strong is an important part of staying healthy. A July 2013 study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science reported that thinner, weaker core muscles, including your obliques, is associated with a higher likelihood of lower back pain.
However, do keep in mind that side bends aren't the only way to strengthen your core. In fact, it may be better to swap your favorite side bend exercise for another core strengthening move.
Although side bends can be a safe and healthy exercise, this exercise has its limits. It's possible to use too much force in certain variations of this exercise, which can cause damage to your spine.
The American Council on Exercise consequently recommends swapping side bends for side planks. Side planks are one of Dr. Stuart McGill's "Big Three" exercises that are ideal for strengthening your core.
Read more: 11 Plank Variations for Rock Solid-Abs
Side Bend Exercise Variations
The best side bend exercise variations are the ones that don't require you to incorporate too much force. A side bend workout with exercises like these can help increase your flexibility and strengthen your oblique muscles.
Move 1. Kundalini Yoga Side Bend Exercise
The Kundalini Yoga side bend exercise is focused on increasing spinal flexibility.
- Clasp your hands behind your neck with your fingers interlocked.
- Bend sideways at the waist, keeping your torso straight. Your elbow should be aimed at the floor.
- Stay relaxed when doing this exercise, breathing in and out deeply as you bend to each side. Don't overstretch.
- This side bend exercise should be performed for about 1-to-2 minutes.
You can do this side bend exercise seated in Easy Pose (a cross-legged position that requires a wider gap between the feet and the pelvis) or standing.
Move 2. Stability Ball Side Bend Exercise
The stability ball side bend exercise can vary in difficulty depending on where you've positioned your body on the exercise ball.
- Lie on the ball on your side, so that your torso, waist and hip are resting against it.
- Your body should be straight, resting at an angle, with your feet on the floor. Your arms should be held behind your head.
- Raise your torso sideways by flexing your waist. Lower yourself back onto the ball. Repeat 8-to-12 times.
- Repeat on the other side.
For an easier version of this exercise, place your hips lower down on the stability ball. For a harder version of this exercise, rest your hips higher up on the ball. Rest your feet against a wall to increase stability.
You can also perform weighted side bends by using dumbbells, a cable pulley or a barbell lever. However, you may hurt yourself if you perform these exercises with too much added weight or if you use improper form. You may want to avoid performing these side bends without the supervision of a physical therapist or personal trainer.
- ExRx.net: "Cable Side Bend"
- ExRx.net: "Lever Barbell Side Bend (Plate Loaded)"
- Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology: "Age-Related Ultrasound Changes in Muscle Quantity and Quality in Women"
- Journal of Physical Therapy Science: "Reliability of Ultrasound Imaging of the Transversus Deep Abdominial, Internal Oblique and External Oblique Muscles of Patients with Low Back Pain Performing the Drawing-in Maneuver"
- American Council on Exercise: "Train This, Not That: The Core Edition"
- ExRx.net: "Side Bend (on Stability Ball)"
- Kundalini Yoga: "Lesson 9 - Flexibility of the Spine"