The Obliques | What Are They & How Do You Exercise Them?

The Obliques | What Are They & How Do You Exercise Them?

The abdominal obliques are the next largest muscle of the abdominal cavity or region and it is the outermost area of the abdominal muscles. The abdominal cavity is made up of eight separate attachments on the torso between the fifth and twelfth ribs. However, most often in people these muscles aren’t visible due to issue that the obliques usually require a very low body fat percentage in order to become visible. The oblique muscles function as a support group to help pull the chest inwards/downwards while the abdominal muscles (abs) is being contracted.

Just as if you are training your abs, the obliques have hundreds or thousands of different exercises and methods that someone can use to train his/her obliques. However, there are a few exercises that increase tension and muscle activity higher than others. The ones that are recommended today to help train your obliques are as follows.

The Captain’s Chair

This exercise requires the use of the Captain’s Chair or a standing, padded leg raise chair. This is usually a stand that has a backpack and two padded arm extensions with a handle for each hand. On this exercise, you will stand upright and use your arms on the pad as a stiffener for your body and hold your back against the back pad. Rest your forearms on the arm padding and grip the handles gently, your arms on the pad will support your bodyweight. Slowly release your legs to a full extension so your feet are as close to the floor as possible. Slowly bend your knees upwards and lift your knees upwards to your side, both knees one side at a time.

Hold this contracted position for a second or two before slowly releasing your legs back down to the extended position you started in. This is one complete repetition. Complete for a total count of 50 reps while alternating at each side for about 4 sets total. Each set will take around 2 minutes to complete and should be allowed a well-rested 2 minutes or so between sets.

Bicycle Crunch

The next exercise to increase oblique definition and strength is the bicycle crunch. For this exercise, you will lay down flat on the floor on your back. Extend your body to its maximum position with your legs together and your arms and feet by your side and outstretched. Next, bring your hands up and behind your head and interlock your fingers to help support your head to release any tension or strain that may occur. Slowly raise your legs upwards, bending at the knees and one leg at a time. As your bring your first knee up you will slowly lift your body up as if you are performing a standard crunch exercise, however, as you lift upwards, bring your opposite arm of the knees lifted inwards until your elbow touches your knees.


For example, if you bring your right knee in for the crunch, as you lift your torso upwards, you will bring your leg elbow inwards until your left elbow touches your right knee. Hold this position for a second or two before slowly releasing. Once back to the start position, you will repeat this same process for the opposite side. Keep alternating sides between each rep until your perform between 20-50 reps. Complete this for a total of 4 sets as well, while resting 1-2 minutes in between sets.

Oblique Crunch on a Ball

The next best exercise is the oblique crunch while using an exercise ball. Lay back onto an exercise ball with your hands behind your head. Push your waist downwards into the ball causing your knees to be bent at a 90 degree with your lower back down into the ball. With your hands behind your head, bring your head upwards and rotate your body to one side as you did for the Bicycle crunch. Squeeze this contraction and slowly release back to the start position. Alternate sides and repeat for a total of 20-50 reps. Complete this exercise as well for about 3-4 sets while resting for 1-2 minutes between sets.

Minimal Rest Time

To obtain the maximum results, keep rest times between changing exercises down to a maximum of 2 minutes. This will allow you to perform these three exercises for a total of 12 working sets in under 20 minutes or much less time. The objective is to apply constant tension on your obliques for an extended period of time while working them. The greater the tension time applied with a proper stretch of the muscle while being worked, the greater the flow of nutrients will be that will increase muscle growth and repair.

Take-Home Message

I strongly recommended that your perform any oblique exercises at the very end of your workout routine, after any weight training and cardio training. It is also a good idea to workout your obliques while training your abdominal muscles as well. So when you are performing your abs routine of leg raises and sit ups, also add in these oblique exercises as well to your routine for the day. Each exercise that trains your obliques will also train your abdominal muscles as well since they are being used in these exercises.

Also make sure that for any abs exercise performed, you are not causing too much of a bend in your back which may cause pain in your lower back later on during the week. Perform exercises slowly with little to no added weight and make sure to stretch your body properly before and after any workout. Enjoy your new oblique routine and now you know where they are located.

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Logan Berman

Logan Berman

Writer and expert