It’s easy to remember to exercise our ab muscles, but it’s a common mistake to forget about exercising our obliques. This is a silly mistake because our oblique muscles are very important to our overall core strength and fitness performance. So, it’s time to try these muscles out, maybe for the first time, with some of these great oblique exercises.
Table of contents
- What are Your Oblique Muscles?
- 30 Best Oblique Exercises for Men
- 1. Cross-Body Mountain Climber
- 2. Bicycle Crunch
- 3. V-Up
- 4. Hanging Hurdle
- 5. Heel Taps
- 6. Mountain Climbers
- 7. Russian Twist
- 8. Woodchop
- 9. Hanging Oblique Raise
- 10. Spiderman Pushup
- 11. Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
- 12. Medicine-Ball Rotational Toss
- 13. Offset Dumbbell Squat
- 14. Single-Arm Overhead Press
- 15. Single-Arm Farmer’s Carry
- 16. Side Plank
- 17. Single-Leg Side Plank
- 18. Side Plank and Row
- 19. Half-Kneeling Cable Chop
- 20. T-Rotation
- 21. Single-Arm Reverse Lunge and Press
- 22. Bird Dog
- 23. Bear Crunch
- 24. Hip-Thrust
- 25. Swiss-Ball Stir-the-Pot
- 26. TRX Pendulum Swing
- 27. TRX oblique rollout
- General FAQs
What are Your Oblique Muscles?
Oblique muscles are muscles that run along the sides of your core. The muscles are super important for rotational movements like bending side to side. They also help build up the overall strength of your core. Most importantly, oblique muscles play a vital role in protecting your spine. If appearance is something you’re worried about, a strong set of obliques will replace those much-loved, hard to budge, love handles.
Anatomically speaking, the external oblique is the thickest and runs from the lower ribs to the iliac crest, while the internal oblique sits under the external muscle. The entire muscle group is found in the anterolateral abdominal wall and are highly important in maintaining abdominal wall tension and support the internal organs. Should these muscles be damaged, you might yourself with an abdominal hernia where the soft tissues underneath the muscles bulge out.
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30 Best Oblique Exercises for Men
If you want to perform the ultimate oblique workout, you need to understand why each exercise works. Here is a list of the best oblique exercises for men, complete with instructions and information for getting the movement down.
1. Cross-Body Mountain Climber
This exercise is extra useful as it doubles as a cardio movement that also targets the core, mainly the obliques. The high-intensity exercise will engage your midsection while keeping your heart rate up, helping you to burn calories and reveal that hard work. Make sure the movements are fairly slow, to target the obliques. To perform the cross-body mountain climber exercise:
- Move into a high plank position, making sure your wrists are under your shoulders and your glutes are slightly higher up.
- Bring your left knee towards your right elbow, while trying to keep the rest of your body as still as possible.
- Return the leg to starting position.
- Repeat with the right leg, and continue to repeat, making sure to move fairly slowly.
2. Bicycle Crunch
If you’ve done this exercise before, you’ll know what we mean when we say it’s a killer for the obliques. It targets your centre core too- your whole stomach will feel like it’s on fire! Always remember, control is the key here. While it is easy to start slipping and sliding around on the floor, keep your core tight and try not to move from your base on the floor. To complete the bicycle crunch:
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- Lie on the ground on your back and bring your legs to a tabletop position.
- Place your hands behind your head, bend your elbows.
- Engaging your core muscles, lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground.
- Bring your right elbow to your left knee, while straightening your right leg in a simultaneous movement.
- Release and twist to the other side so you bend your right leg and straighten your left leg, making sure your legs don’t touch the ground.
This one is another killer exercise designed to burn out the abs and the obliques. A favourite among crossfitters and HIIT athletes, the V-Up requires controlled movements up and down from both the upper and lower sections of your body. All this movement hinges on your core, forcing your obliques and abs to do the heavy lifting. To complete a V-Up:
- Start lying down on your back and extend your arms behind your head, keeping them straight and keep your legs straight touching the floor with your feet touching.
- Lift your legs at the same time as you lift your upper body, keeping your arms and legs straight the whole movement.
- Slowly lower your arms and legs.
- Repeat the movement.
4. Hanging Hurdle
The hanging hurdle requires a bar and a bench. It’s a callisthenics exercise that mainly targets the obliques, but also targets the quads and abs. You will definitely see athletes at the gym making use of this exercise. The hanging component of the oblique exercise creates continuous tension on your core, increasing the severity and practicality of the workout. To complete a hanging hurdle:
- Place a bench underneath a chin-up bar.
- Hang from the chin-up position with an overhand grip and with your legs to one side of the bench.
- Ensure your feet are together and your knees are slightly bent.
- Lift your legs over the bench without bending your elbows or knees, reverse the movement.
5. Heel Taps
While this may be a simple movement, it is one of the best oblique exercises to target the forgotten parts of our core. It is essentially a side crunch that sees you assume a familiar position. Throughout the movement, make sure to keep your shoulders off the floor, as this creates further tension on your oblique muscles. As a result, you’ll feel a far greater burn, indicating the exercise is doing its job. To complete heel taps:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat and arms down by your side with palms facing up or down.
- Lift your head, using your core and keep your head and upper back off the ground.
- Reach in a sideways movement with your left arm to your left side, tapping your heel with your left hand.
- Return to the centre and do the same movement with your right arm.
6. Mountain Climbers
The humble mountain climber is a great exercise to strengthen the core and to work on cardiovascular endurance at the same time. Another high-intensity exercise, you want to get the heart rate up and a bit of a sweat on. Make sure that your back is parallel with the ground to maximise tension and stay controlled with your movements. To complete mountain climbers:
- Assume a high plank position and ensure your hands are under your shoulders and keep your back straight.
- Drive your right knee up in a straight movement towards your chest, keeping your left toes firm to the ground.
- Extend your right leg back to starting position and simultaneously drive your left leg to your chest.
- Repeat this movement back and forth, in a quick movement.
7. Russian Twist
A centred and strong core is key to mastering the Russian twist, one of our favourite oblique exercises if you’re looking to get shredded. There are two ways you can complete this oblique workout. The first sees you assume the sit-up position with feet on the ground. The anchor position of your feet will make the exercise slightly easier, however, will benefit you in your stability. The second option is to complete the Russian twists with you feet together and off the floor. Far more difficult, this movement requires you to steady and stabilise yourself using solely you core. To complete Russian twists:
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat.
- Lean back and lift your feet, so that you’re balancing on your tailbone.
- Extend your arms and twist your torso so that your arms drop by your side after each twist.
- Twist back and forth, dropping your arms left and right as you go.
Kind of like chopping wood but with a weight, this move is an intense full-body exercise that also targets your delts and your quads. You can complete this exercise with a dumbbell or with the use of the cable machine, depending on the equipment you have on hand. As with all exercises on this list, it is important that you focus on keeping your back straight and body rigid. To complete the woodchop:
- Grab a dumbbell and hold it with both hands to the right side of your body.
- Squat down while slightly rotating to the right.
- Stand up and as you do so, swing the dumbbell up and across your body by twisting your torso to the left, keeping the movement controlled.
- Pivot on your right toe as you move, and then bring the dumbbell over your left shoulder.
- Repeat on the other side.
9. Hanging Oblique Raise
For all those newbies out there, this is a hard one so steer clear until you’ve built some oblique strength with the more simple exercises. You will need a bar to do this exercise, so it’s best to try this one in the gym. To complete the hanging oblique raise:
- Hold onto a chin-up bar with an overhand grip and hang from the bar.
- Bend your knees and bring them up towards your left rib cage.
- Extend your kneed to the starting position and repeat the movement except this time bring your knees towards your right rib cage.
- Continue alternating.
10. Spiderman Pushup
Mastering this oblique exercise may turn you into a real-life superhero, toning your muscles to such a degree you can scale walls! It is a great bodyweight workout that targets a few muscle groups. A compound movement, this variation of the traditional pushup requires far more lower body and core control. Keeping your body stable while in a crouched position is heavily reliant on your oblique muscles. Take it slow and focus on contracting your midsection. TO complete a Spiderman pushup:
- Assume a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder distance, keeping your body in a straight line.
- Bend your elbows so they angle backwards at 45-degrees from your body as you lower your chest towards the floor.
- Move your right knee up and out, so your knee reaches your elbow as your chest lowers to the ground.
- Press up your chest while you simultaneously extend your knew and return your foot to the floor.
- Repeat on the opposite side bringing your left knee to your left elbow.
11. Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
This exercise is great for strength and power, and you can use different weights to adapt to your individual fitness goals. While you may recognise this movement as a great way to bulk up your chest, proper form will see you target your obliques as well. By contracting your shoulders and tightening your core during the push element of the lift, you will add tension to your midsection, helping to build strength and size in your stomach area. To complete a single-arm dumbbell bench press:
- Lay on your back on the bench with a dumbbell in one hand, with both arms extended upwards.
- Slowly pull the dumbbell down to the body making sure to engage your core.
- Press the dumbbell back up to the original position. Repeat with the other arm.
12. Medicine-Ball Rotational Toss
The rotational toss with a medicine ball may already be a staple in your exercise routine and if it isn’t, it should be. A high-intensity exercises, the turning movement as you pick up and throw the ball targets the side section of your stomach, building out your oblique muscles. The heavier you go, the better, however, consistency is key for this one. Try and go for a minute straight without stopping. To complete the medicine ball rotational toss:
- Begin next to a wall, standing upright or kneeling in a lunge position, making sure your shoulders are perpendicular to the wall.
- Place your front hand under the ball and the back hand behind the ball.
- Throw the ball towards the wall and catch it, using the power from your back knee and hip.
13. Offset Dumbbell Squat
Target all the right places with this exercise, which will have you looking firm and fit in no time. Remember to engage your whole body during this exercise and choose a weight that suits your training ability. To complete the offset dumbbell squat:
- Start in a standing position holding a dumbbell in your right hand just outside of your shoulder, with your palm facing towards you and keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Pause down the bottom and then slowly push yourself up to starting position, making sure to brace your core throughout the movement.
14. Single-Arm Overhead Press
If you want to target your core and your arm muscles, this move will do both at the same time. Save time and get stronger all at once! Similar to the bench press, this compound movement relies on continuous tension across large sections of the body. Tightening your core at the top of this exercise will allow you to strengthen your core muscles whilst also hitting the shoulder, chest and deltoid areas of your upper body. To complete the singe-arm overheard press:
- Stand upwards and hold a dumbbell just outside your shoulder with your arm bent and palm facing inwards.
- Stand shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent.
- Brace your core.
- Press the weight over your head until your arm is completely straight, and your bicep is next to your ear.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
15. Single-Arm Farmer’s Carry
The single-arm farmers carry is a great exercise that can be used to strengthen the core and quads. It’s also a great one for alleviating low back pain! To complete the single-arm farmer’s carry:
- Hold the weight in one hand and begin walking.
- Maintain a neutral spine and upright posture with an engaged core during the exercise.
- Swap sides after a certain amount of time.
16. Side Plank
The exercise that everyone loves to hate- the side plank! This move seriously targets the side abs and your upper body, which is why it isn’t easy but has to be done. Different to the traditional plank in that it forces you to stabilise your body using the outer sections of your stomach region, the side plank is hugely beneficial when it comes to building you oblique muscles. To complete the side plank:
- Lie on the ground on your left side.
- Come up onto your hand or forearm, supporting your upper body.
- Bend your knees at a 45-degree angle and stack your right leg on top of your left or extend your legs if you are feeling strong.
- Making sure your feet are touching, use your obliques to pull your right hip toward the sky.
- Extend your arm overhead while you do this, or let it rest to your side.
- Hold for the desired time, and then switch sides.
17. Single-Leg Side Plank
If you want to take your plank to the next level, try balancing on one leg. The movement is similar to the aforementioned side plank, albeit with far greater tension on your mid-section: To complete the single-leg side plank:
- Assume the side plank position, making sure you are balancing on your feet.
- Lift the top leg, supporting your weight on the bottom leg.
- Hold for as long as you wish.
18. Side Plank and Row
In one of the more challenging oblique exercises, try the side plank and add a row for some extra oomph. This variation of the oblique exercises requires you to tighten and contract your core muscles in a compound movement. Be warned, this exercise does require some coordination. To complete the side plank and row:
- Attach a handle to a cable station and lie on your side, facing the stack.
- Hold onto the handle with your top hand.
- Raise up into a side plank: knees straight, and keep your upper body propped on your elbow and forearm.
- Pull the handle to your rib cage while making sure to keep your hips pushed up and forward.
- Slowly extend your arm.
- Try not to rotate your body while you do the extension.
19. Half-Kneeling Cable Chop
Once you’ve nailed the wood chop exercise, it’s time to give this variation a try- the stance and movement target the obliques like no other! Dropping down to a slightly lower level allows you to maximise your upper obliques. To perform the half-kneeling cable chop:
- Assume a half-kneeling position and attach a rope to a cable stack overhead (or use a dumbbell)
- Position the inside knee up and set up with both hands grasping the rope about a shoulder-width apart.
- Rotate the rope across your body from your shoulder to your knee.
- Return to start and repeat.
This is a classic oblique exercise you can do with just your body weight, perfect for any time of the day no matter where you are. Once again, focus on stability throughout this movement. The less your rock form side to side, the more effective the oblique exercise will be. To perform the T-rotation:
- Assume the push-up position with your arms straight.
- Lift your right hand and rotate the right side of your body upward until you are facing completely sideways, and your body forms a t-shape.
- Reverse the move so that you rotate to the left, ensuring to keep your hips raised and body in a straight line.
21. Single-Arm Reverse Lunge and Press
This is one of the best oblique exercises if you’re looking to increase strength and stability, as well as helping with your balance. Another compound movement, this exercise targets upper and lower body muscle groups at the same time. By keeping your core tight and your movements controlled, you can hit the obliques easily. Make sure you hold at the top of the movement to maximise overload. To perform the single-arm reverse lunge and press:
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand at shoulder height.
- Lunge backwards until your knee is almost touching the floor.
- Press the dumbbell overhead.
- Lower the dumbbell back to your shoulder and then rise back up to standing, pushing through the hell of your front foot.
- Repeat with the other leg.
22. Bird Dog
Don’t let the name fool you, this oblique exercise is one of the most serious core-killers out there. This yoga-based movement may seem simple at first, but the slower and more controlled you take, the more effective it will be. Try to reach out as far as humanly possible without losing your form and the straightness of your back. To complete the bird dog:
- Place all fours on the ground and make sure your hands are in line with your shoulders and knees in line with your hips.
- Brace your core and reach your right arm and left leg straight simultaneously.
- Keep your lower back stable and hips square.
- Return to the start and repeat, rotating arms and legs.
23. Bear Crunch
Time to bring your oblique muscles out from hibernation with the bear crunch, one of the best exercises to attack all parts of your core. This can be quite a tricky movement to master, so take your time and focus on the contraction of your midsection and obliques. To complete the bear crunch:
- Start on all fours and raise your knees slightly off the ground.
- Move your left knee to your right elbow, bending your right arm as your knee moves upwards.
- Keep your left arm on the ground as you rotate.
- Rotate back to starting potion and repeat with the right knee.
The hip-up or the hip-lift is one of the best oblique exercises if you’re looking to put the pressure on and get the most out of your workout. You may also see a similar exercise performed with a barbell or heavyweight, however, for beginners, the simple movement can be enough. You will also find that this oblique exercise targets your upper legs and quads. To perform the hip-up:
- Lie on the ground and place your hands under your tailbone.
- Pull your navel in toward your spine.
- Lift your hips a few inches off the floor, keeping your legs pointed straight up towards the ceiling.
- Keep your head resting on the floor and slowly lower your hips back to the floor, returning your legs to starting position.
25. Swiss-Ball Stir-the-Pot
This exercise is just as it sounds, an interesting variation of the exercise ball plank and ideal for challenging core stability. If you are having trouble keeping your body stable, try spreading your feet further apart to creating a wider base of support. The slower you move with this exercise, the more effective it will be, so take your time and focus on core stability. To perform the Swiss ball stir the pot:
- Assume a kneeling position with your forearms resting on the exercise ball.
- Extend each leg, keeping your legs a shoulder-width distance apart.
- Slowly rotate the arms in a clockwise rotation
26. TRX Pendulum Swing
Utilising a TRX machine can also be a great way to improve your oblique strength. The banded instrument allows you to rely on your own bodyweight for movements, with severity and difficulty dictates by your overall stance. The pendulum swing is one method for improve core strength. To complete:
- Place your feet in the TRX straps.
- Assume a push-up position.
- Keep your body straight and engage your core.
- Swing your legs from side to side while ensuring your hips remain stabilised.
27. TRX oblique rollout
For an exercise that will undoubtedly refine and sculpt your obliques, try the TRX oblique rollout next time you’re at the gym. Similar to a regular rollout, this variation requires more control, increasing the rate of oblique tension and improving overall strength. To complete the TRX oblique rollout:
- Rest on your knees and your chest facing the TRX.
- Hold one grip in each hand.
- Drive your hands forward and to one side while you slowly move your chest towards the floor, keeping your back straight.
- Engage your core while you return to an upright, centred position.
The best oblique exercises are ones that target the obliques and core stability, like the Russian twist and the side plank.
You can lose the fat around your obliques by regularly doing muscle-conditioning exercises that target the obliques.
It is recommended to incorporate oblique exercises in every workout you do.
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