The Best Obliques Exercises For A Strong Core

If you spend many weeks looking after your diet and strictly following a smart workout plan, you might just start to develop a six-pack. Most of that work will have been done on the rectus abdominis muscles. which run down the centre of the front of your stomach. They form the washboard, essentially, and if you can get them showing through in the classic six-pack style you’ll no doubt be delighted.

However 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 mid-section that merit at least as much attention as the rectus abdominis. These including the internal and external obliques, along with the transverse abdominis, all of which are vital for supporting your spine and improving your athletic performance, especially when it comes to sports involving a lot of turning this way and that.

RECOMMENDED: Circuits for Upper Abs, Lower Abs, and Obliques and Core

The obliques run down the outside of your midsection and enable you to twist your torso, As a result, twisting your torso is one of the best ways to train the obliques, along with keeping them under tension. We’ve put together a variety of excellent oblique exercises below and rated each by difficulty, to help you go in with your eyes open and avoid overdoing it the first time in.

Side bend

Difficulty rating 1/5

Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell, kettlebell or weight plate in each hand by your sides. Leaning down to one side, lower that side’s dumbbell as far as is comfortable without bending your body forwards or backwards. Keep your feet firmly on the floor with legs straight. The dumbbell held in the opposing hand will come up as you lean over. Keep your reps slow and controlled, and when you feel your obliques contracting and stretching, pause for one second.

Side plank

Difficulty rating 2/5

Lie on one side, supported by your forearm and hand. Lifting your hips off the floor, ensure your body remains in a straight, neutral line from head to toe with only one foot and forearm on the floor, stabilising your body. Keep your shoulders fixed, feel the contraction and hold the position for 30 seconds. Lower back to the start and repeat on the other side. Progress by holding the plank position for longer.

Military press

man doing miltary press

Difficulty rating 3/5

Stand upright with your feet together, holding a barbell or dumbbells at shoulder height. Squeeze your core and glutes, keeping them engaged at all times for a strong midsection that also eases the pressure on your lower back. Press the barbell or dumbbells overhead until your arms are straight. Lower under control, being careful not to drop any lower than your chin so as to prevent excessive internal rotation of the shoulders.


Difficulty rating 3/5

Stand upright, and hold a dumbbell in both hands above your head and to one side. Bring it down diagonally across your body, as if you were chopping at a tree. Focus on squatting as you go, hingeing at the hips and keeping your back straight. Finish with the dumbbell just outside your opposite knee. Return to the start. If doing a set of woodchops, complete all the reps on one side, then switch to the other.

Pallof press

Difficulty rating 4/5

Stand side-on to a cable machine, holding one handle in both hands close to your chest. Step out sideways about 60cm from the cable machine, and take the weight, using your core abdominals to resist rotation. Press your arms straight in front of you to increase the rotational pull on your core. Pause, then return to the start position. Repeat for ten to 15 reps.


Difficulty rating 4/5

Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand (pronated) grip, hands shoulder-width apart and legs straight with feet together. Tense your core and raise your legs until your feet touch the bar. Lower slowly under full control, placing the emphasis on your obliques and avoiding swinging or using momentum.

Kettlebell windmill

Difficulty rating 5/5

Stand with your feet around double shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell in your right hand overhead. Keeping your right arm straight, slowly lower your body to your left side – hingeing from the hips – until you feel a slight stretch in your right side. Hold the stretch for a second and then contract your obliques as you bring your body back upright. Repeat on the other side.

Windscreen wiper

Difficulty rating 5/5

A similar set-up to toes-to-bar, so you begin by hanging from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, with your hands shoulder-width apart, legs straight and feet firmly together. Ensure your core is fully activated and raise your legs above the bar in a controlled motion. Lower your legs to one side until they’re parallel to the floor, then raise them again and lower them to the other side. Continue, alternating sides. This is an effective method to hit the obliques on both sides in little time, but it requires advanced core strength.

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