3 Moves for Stronger Obliques

Today I'm sharing 3 of my favorite exercises targeting the obliques. You can watch below and read on for a quick anatomy lesson and a full explanation of technique. Enjoy and let me know how you incorporate your obliques into your core work below in the comments!

The obliques are comprised of both right and left external and internal obliques.

The external obliques lie more superficial, or closer to the surface. On each side of the body the muscles fibers originate from the outsides of ribs 4 -12 (as humans we have 24 ribs total, 12 right + 12 left) and then run down and medial to the iliac crest (upper-most bony part of the pelvis) and linea alba (vertical line right down the center of the abs. 

The internal obliques lie deep to the external obliques and their muscle fibers run almost perpendicular to those of the external obliques. The internal obliques originate at the iliac crests, inguinal ligament (think groin), and the thoracolumbar fascia, or connective tissue that lies on our low back. From there the muscles fibers run up and medial to ribs 9-12 and the linea alba. Both obliques, in general, work to flex the spine forward, side bend the trunk and rotate, or twist, the trunk.

Okay now that I have covered the obligatory anatomy, in extreme generalization, lets move on to why you should work to strengthen your obliques and get started right away with 3 approachable  exercises. 

Strong, toned obliques work with the other muscles of the core to support the spine. The obliques also create the long, lean lines on the side of the torso. Strong obliques = trim trunk. Try adding these exercises to your workout 3 times a week and notice a difference pronto. 


Start lying on your right side with your legs stacked and your ankles/hips/shoulders all in a long, straight line. Head goes in the bottom hand (shown) or you can lie your head all the way down on your mat. Engage your transverse abdominis (TA) by drawing your navel up and in, and engage the bottom/right oblique by lifting through the right rib cage. Inhale. Exhale and lift both legs up while contracting through the left obliques. Inhale to lower the legs with control. Do 12 reps then switch sides.


Start in a high side plank with the right arm straight and the hand stacked underneath the shoulder. Legs are long and staggered with the top foot in front of the bottom. Reach your left arm up to the ceiling, lengthen your spine, engage your TA and lift through your bottom oblique. Inhale to twist through the trunk and thread the left arm under the right ribs. Exhale to return to start. It's very important to keep stability in the right shoulder as you twist, otherwise you can injure your shoulder. Remember the cue "lift" in your right shoulder and obliques. Do 12 reps then switch sides. 


From the Pilates Series of Five. Start lying on your back with your knees in table top. Bring your arms behind your head but keep your elbows in your peripheral vision. Find a neutral pelvis, engage your TA and maintain a peach-sized space between your chin and chest. Gaze is towards your knees. Inhale and rotate your trunk to the right while extending the opposite (left) leg. Exhale to switch sides. Keep breathing as you alternate from working the right and left obliques. Complete 10 sets. 

Try a seated side body stretch, like mermaid, or standing side flexion with the arms overhead at the end of your workout to stretch the awesome work you've just done!

Jen CraftComment