There is – or should be – a whole lot more to working out your abs than getting a six-pack, and there are other muscles in your midsection that merit at least as much attention as the rectus abdominis, which run down the centre of the front of your stomach to form the “washboard”.

The obliques, which frame the outside of your midsection, are an example of other core muscles that deserve some more time in the limelight, as PT Ann Brindley of Active Nation explains.

“The obliques help to stabilise and protect your spine, as well as helping to bend and rotate your torso to the side, so it’s important to include them in your abs workouts.”

To help you do just that, here are Brindley’s favourite obliques exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced gym-goers, along with her sets and reps suggestions for each move.

Beginner Obliques Exercises

Side crunch

Sets 3 Reps 10

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put both hands on the side of your right leg. Slowly, keeping your abs under tension, crunch up to the right side. Repeat on the left side for one rep.

Side bend

Sets 3 Reps 15 each side

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medium to heavy dumbbell in your right hand. Engage your core and bend to the right at the waist towards the floor. Pull from your core to bring your body back to the start position. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Side plank

Sets 3 Time 30sec each side

Lie on your side with your legs straight and prop up your upper body on your forearm. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold that position without letting your hips sag.

Intermediate Obliques Exercises

Russian twist

Sets 3 Reps 15

Sit with your legs on the floor in front of you, knees bent and heels on the floor. Lean back so your torso is at roughly 45° to the floor, holding a medium weight close to your stomach with both hands. Keeping your back straight, twist to the right and then to the left to complete one rep.

Sit-up twist

Sets 3 Reps 15

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands at the side of your head and engage your core. Do a full sit-up and once at the top of the movement twist your right elbow to your left knee, twisting your torso towards that side. Then lower back to the start and repeat on the left side. That’s one rep.

Single-leg heel touch

Sets 3 Reps 15 each side

Lie on your back with your arms extended above your head. Lift your left leg with your foot directly over your hip and a slight bend in your knee. Tuck your chin down towards your chest and reach your right arm towards your left foot by contracting your core. Return to the start position and repeat. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Advanced Obliques Exercises

Spider-Man plank

Sets 3 Reps 15

Start in a high plank position with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Bring your right leg out and up towards your right hand, turning your head to the right. Then take your leg back to the start position and repeat on the left side – that’s one rep.

Hanging obliques knee raise

Sets 3 Reps 10

Hanging from a rig or pull-up bar, pull both knees up towards your left side. Keep the rest of your body stationary and focus on crunching with your obliques. Slowly lower back to the start position, then repeat to the right side. That’s one rep.

Bicycle crunch

Sets 3 Reps 15

Lie on your back with your feet raised so your legs are at roughly 45° to the floor. Place your hands behind your head and engage your core to sit up and twist your right elbow towards your left knee, extending your right leg at the same time. Return to the start position and repeat on the other side for one rep.

More Obliques Exercises

Once you’ve worked through the exercises from Brindley above, expand your obliques training by using these moves.

Woodchop

You can perform this rotational move with pretty much any type of weight, or no weight at all if you have none to hand. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the weight in both hands in front of you (or just with your hands clasped together). Keeping your arms extended, bend at your knees and rotate your torso to bring the weight down and across to the outside of your right thigh, then rotate your torso to take it across your body and above your left shoulder. Then slowly take the weight back across your body to the outside of your thigh. Do all your reps on one side, then switch.

Decline plank with foot touch

This challenging plank variation is great for your entire core, but the extra toe taps will bring the burn to your obliques. Start in a plank position with your feet on a raised surface like a bench. Make sure you don’t move your hips as you slowly bring one foot down to tap the floor with your toes, then replace it on the bench and repeat with the other foot.



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