There’s no denying that all the muscles in your core are important. You need them all to be strong in order to keep your body stable and supported throughout everyday movements and intense workouts. But many workouts that target the abdominal muscles (and even compound exercises that don’t necessarily target the core but engage those muscles indirectly) don’t always do a good job of working the muscles responsible for twisting your torso and helping you bend from side to side. Those muscles I’m referring to are the obliques.
The oblique muscles run along the sides of your stomach and are an important piece of the core-stability puzzle. If your obliques are weak or just not working as well as they should, it can cause other areas to compensate (like your lower back) when you’re twisting or turning your body. Of course, you should be incorporating some rotational exercises into your overall routine—think: wood chops, medicine ball rotations throws, and even sledgehammer swings—but doing an obliques-focused workout is also a great way to make sure these muscles don’t get left out of any of the fun.
This workout focuses on one side of the body at a time, so that you can keep one side of your abdominal wall under tension for an extended period of time and really challenge all the muscles. The workout “helps with rotation to work into obliques, so that you have the ability to rotate with ease,” says Stokes. “Oftentimes, lower-back issues come from rotating [the torso] incorrectly. This workout helps improve spinal rotation and stabilization.”
The workout is set up so that you start with gentler moves to really warm up your core first, and then you’ll add in rotating and pulsing movements, and then eventually, movements that have you fully contracting and extending your abdominal muscles. “This takes out any breaks,” says Stokes, “and turns it into a flow of movement, which I truly feel is a great way to make the most of your time. It’s super efficient and effective for working into the obliques.”
On that note, let’s get right to it:
- Quadrupled Thoracic Spine Rotation
- Bird Dog Crunch
- Quadrupled Anti-Rotation
- Tabletop Resistance
- Sprinter Sit-up
- Bicycle Crunch Pulse
- Straight Leg Pulse
- Cross-Body V-up
- Forearm Side Plank Pulse
Do all 9 moves for 20 seconds each, all on one side. Then do all 9 moves for 20 seconds each on the other side. If you’re feeling good and want to do more, try doing this circuit 2 times through.
- Quadrupled Thoracic Spine Rotation—20 seconds
- Bird Dog Crunch—20 seconds
- Quadrupled Anti-rotation—20 seconds
- Tabletop Resistance—20 seconds
- Sprinter Sit-up—20 seconds
- Bicycle Crunch Pulse—20 seconds
- Straight Leg Pulse—20 seconds
- Cross-Body V-up—20 seconds
- Forearm Side Plank Pulse—10 seconds pulsing, 10 seconds full range
Minimize rest in between each move and each round, Stokes suggests. This will help you keep your abdominal muscles under tension for longer and make the moves more effective at challenging your muscles.