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12 Beginner-Friendly Oblique Exercises for Rock-Solid Abs

 Written by 

Jordyn Snyder

 Last updated on 

Everyone dreams of chiseled, six-pack abs—but how often do you see people incorporating dedicated oblique exercises into their training sessions? 

The obliques and core are much more than aesthetics. Your obliques are used in countless exercises and daily activities, like rotating the body.

A man doing oblique exercises using a medicine ball
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The right oblique exercises can improve strength, balance, stability, and posture. We cover everything you need to know to get started in the article below. Read on for more information. 

What Are the Obliques?

Your core muscles are much more than your abdominal muscles. 

The transverse abdominis is the deepest layer of the ab muscles that helps with stabilization and posture. The quadratus lumborum and erector spinae help with balance and stability. 

But what about the oblique muscles? What are they?

The obliques are two pairs of muscles running along both sides of the torso. You have an external and internal oblique, each with a different focus for supporting abdominal exercises. 

External Obliques

Your external oblique sits closest to the surface and is the most significant muscle in the entire core. It helps with hip flexion and is used when you pull your knees toward the chest, like in movements with a knee raise. The external oblique also lets you rotate your torso and assist with spinal flexion and rotation.

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A 3D representation of the external obliques

Internal Obliques

The internal oblique sits right underneath the external oblique. This deep core muscle is critical for supporting your abdominal wall and keeping your body stable. The internal obliques help with torso rotation, alongside breathing during high-intensity exercise. 

The Benefits of Strong Obliques

Core exercises are often seen as something you throw into a random day in your training program or a way to get abs quickly. But your core comprises several muscles that are critical for daily activities, regardless if you’re in the gym five days a week or work a desk job. 

Strong obliques have several benefits, including the following: 

  • Enhanced balance and stability
  • Improve posture
  • It may reduce back pain
  • Improve other lifts

There are countless reasons to incorporate oblique training into your weekly schedule. Most exercises are straightforward and can be added at the beginning or end of your routine. Many movements are also accessible and can be performed with or without equipment.

Better Balance and Stability

Your core consists of several muscles in the pelvis, lower back, hips, and stomach. Oblique exercises will engage many of these muscles, improving their strength, endurance, and stability.

This will allow your muscles to work harmoniously, allowing for more balance and steadiness. 

You may find other exercises, daily activities, and sports more manageable. This can be particularly useful if you’re older, as the balance can become problematic and lead to a lower quality of life.

Improve Posture

Whether you’re a server or work at a desk job, posture is critical for comfort and health. Poor posture can lead to health complications, like back pain, spinal dysfunction, and rounded shoulders.

And with more and more people spending time on their smartphones and computers, core exercises are becoming more critical.

Developing oblique and core strength can help you maintain correct posture. This will improve other areas of your life and may reduce the chance of health complications and pain.

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Helps With Back Pain 

Nearly 3 out of 10 adults in the United States experience lower back pain. 

Lower back pain can make other exercises and daily life more difficult. The pain can sometimes impact confidence, mental well-being, and relationships. 

Training your core and obliques may help reduce back pain. 

A stronger core will support your back, improve stability, and allow you to maintain better posture. Oblique exercises are straightforward, and many movements can be performed without equipment, so it’s a no-brainer why you may want to include them in your training regimen. 

Improves Other Lifts

Finally, training your core and obliques will enhance your other lifts. You use your torso for every compound lift. If your core isn’t strong enough, you may not progress on your deadlift, squat, bench press, or overhead press.

What’s more, a weak core may lead to poor technique, bad habits, strain, or injury. 

Adding dedicated core workouts to your training regimen will enhance your lifts and reduce the chance of injury. This is particularly helpful if you compete in powerlifting, strongman, or CrossFit tournaments.

The Best Oblique Exercises

1. Pallof Press

One of the best oblique workouts doesn’t even look like a workout. The Pallof Press is an anti-rotation movement—what’s anti-rotation, you ask? This means you’re preventing torso rotation, which enhances core stability and coordination. 

Here’s the Pallof Press technique: 

  1. Start by standing or kneeling beside a cable machine or a resistance band connected to a support. 
  2. Take a few steps back so that there is a constant tension in the band.
  3. Grip the band in both palms, tightening your core and squeezing the glutes. 
  4. Straighten your arms directly in front of you. Do not rotate your body, and keep your trunk completely stable.
  5. Pause for a moment before returning to the starting position. That’s one repetition. 

The Pallof Press is incredibly versatile and can be performed with resistance bands or a cable machine. Remember to keep your core tight and prevent the body from rotating. Perform three sets of 10–15 reps.

2. Suitcase Deadlift

The Suitcase Deadlift, or Single-Arm Side Deadlift, is an uncommon exercise, but it’s a perfect addition to any oblique workout routine. It’s a unilateral exercise, so there’s even muscle activation across both sides of the body. It’s an excellent exercise for heavy loads, building core strength, and improving coordination. 

Here’s how to perform the Suitcase Deadlift:

  1. Set a dumbbell, kettlebell, or loaded barbell next to your right or left foot. 
  2. Now, press your hips back toward the wall to lower yourself to grab the weight. Allow your other hand to hang by your side.
  3. Press through your feet, using the legs and extending the hips to return to a standing position. Be sure to keep a tight core and straight back. 
  4. Finish all repetitions on that side of the body before switching to the other side.

Keep in mind that this is a unilateral variation, so remember your trap bar deadlift or conventional deadlift stance. We recommend performing three sets of 8–12 reps using a heavy dumbbell or weight.

3. Barbell Rollouts

Barbell Rollouts are one of the best exercises for developing a solid core. It’s perfect for nearly any core training routine, as it targets major muscles in the abdomen, including the obliques and deep core muscles.

Here’s how to execute the Barbell Rollout:

  1. From a kneeling position, place a barbell with plates in front of you. Avoid flimsy bumper plates, as they may not support your body weight.
  2. Grip the barbell using a shoulder-width overhand grip. If you have shoulder mobility problems, try using a bit wider hand placement. 
  3. Now, take a deep breath and allow the barbell to roll out in front of you. Your body should come forward.
  4. Continue to roll until you reach a point where your hips need to extend, and the weight will move past your head.
  5. Continue rolling the weight until the barbell passes your head. Lower as far as comfortable or until your shoulders are in line with your core. 
  6. Roll backward using core flexion to finish one repetition. 

This is an effective exercise, but it will challenge your mobility, stability, and your entire core. Heavier loads will make it more challenging, as you have to roll the weight backward to complete each rep. Aim to perform three sets of 10–15 reps.

4. Oblique Raise

Adding Oblique Raises into your oblique training routine can take your progress to the next dimension. This bodyweight exercise can improve core and upper body strength while remaining accessible as long as you have a pull-up bar. 

Here’s how to perform the Oblique Raise:

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar using a comfortable, shoulder-width hand placement.
  2. Maintain a straight torso and stiff core by taking a deep inhale into your stomach.
  3. Now, curl your left knee toward the right side of your rib cage. Envision your left knee, trying to touch your shoulder to use the most muscle fibers.
  4. Pause at the top of the movement and return to the starting position with control.
  5. Repeat the movement on the other side, alternating between each leg. 

Remember to keep your torso stable and core tight with minimal jerky movements. We recommend completing three sets of 8–15 reps per side.

5. Kettlebell Windmill

The Kettlebell Windmill has several benefits that extend well past training obliques. The Kettlebell Windmill is a compound movement that can improve your overhead press, coordination, and core stability. 

Here’s how to perform the Kettlebell Windmill:

  1. Begin by assuming a half-kneeling position, with your feet slightly wider apart than usual.
  2. Lift the kettlebell directly overhead, maintaining a tight rib cage by engaging your abdominal and glute muscles.
  3. Keep your gaze fixed on the kettlebell as you push your hips backward and rotate your chest open, gradually lowering yourself towards the floor. Make sure to keep the weight elevated.
  4. Reverse the movement to return to an upright stance.

This can be a complex movement at first, but once you get it down, it’s a game-changer. We recommend performing three sets of 6–8 reps using a moderate weight.

6. Spider Push-Up

Push-up variations can increase your overall body strength while engaging the core and obliques. The Spider Push-Up strengthens the upper body, improves your coordination, and helps you develop a tight core. 

Here’s how to do the Spider Push-Up:

  1. Get into a standard push-up position.
  2. As you lower your body toward the ground, raise your right foot off the ground. Swing your right leg out to the side and try to touch your knee to your right elbow.
  3. Pull your leg back to the starting position and repeat the movement with your opposite leg. 

You can hold for a moment when your knee is close to your elbow to increase the time under tension and challenge your stability. We recommend performing three sets of 8–10 reps on each side.

7. Side Oblique Bends

The Side Oblique Bend is a popular exercise, as it’s incredibly straightforward and convenient. It’s great when you add it to other activities that engage and strengthen the core. The correct technique is essential so you get the most out of the movement.

Here’s how to complete Side Oblique Bends:

  1. Assume a standing athletic position. Grab a weight in one palm, like a dumbbell, weight plate, or kettlebell. Use your empty hand to grab your wrist. 
  2. Slowly pull the weight down the side of your body, feeling a nice stretch.
  3. Once you reach a nice stretch, maintain control and return to the standing position. 
  4. Repeat this movement for your desired rep range before swapping sides.

This movement is all about controlling and squeezing the muscles. It’s best to take your time and focus on a mind-to-muscle connection. We recommend completing three sets of 8–12 reps per side.

8. Cable Chop

Cable Chops or Woodchoppers are fantastic exercises. The movement pattern is similar to chopping wood but uses anti-rotation. It’s best to maintain straight arms extended in front of you, as you want the movement to engage the glutes, not the arms. 

Here’s how to perform the Cable Chop:

  1. Set up next to a cable machine using the highest position above your head.
  2. Assume an athletic stance and grab the handle. Straighten your arms out in front of you.
  3. Maintain straight arms and a tight torso.
  4. Begin by pulling the handle downward and diagonally across the body in a slow and controlled manner until you pass the opposite thigh. Rotate your entire core as you perform the exercise while keeping your arms fully extended.
  5. Hold at the bottom of the movement for a brief second.
  6. Return to the starting position to finish one rep. 

Remember, this exercise is about rotating your core, not using the arms to move the cable. We recommend performing three sets of 10–15 reps.

9. Mountain Climber

Mountain Climbers are another accessible movement that can work for oblique training. 

This exercise can be performed anywhere, improving your cardiovascular health, core strength, running capacity, and coordination. 

Here’s how to execute the Mountain Climber:

  1. Start in a high push-up position. The hands should be firm on the ground directly underneath your shoulders, with the elbows turned outward. Keep the feet a bit wider than the hip distance and shoulders higher than the hips.
  2. Tighten your shoulders, abs, and glutes for full-body tension. Maintain a neutral head position by looking down at the floor.
  3. Now, push one knee up toward your chest like you are running. Return the leg to the starting position and repeat with the other side.
  4. Continue alternating legs, maintaining full body tension throughout the entire range of motion. 

You can shift the engagement directly to the obliques by crossing the knees to the opposite elbow if you prefer. We recommend completing three sets for 30–120 seconds.

10. Side Plank

One plank variation to incorporate into your oblique training regimen is the Side Plank or Elbow Plank. Plank variations are isometric movements, meaning you hold a static position for a period of time. Isometric exercises can help improve your mind-to-muscle connection, allow you to break through plateaus, and add more time under tension. 

Here’s how to do the Side Plank:

  1. Assume a standard plank position. From there, shift your weight to one side of your body with your legs straight. 
  2. Use your left elbow and forearm to balance your body. Raise your hips to create a straight line with your body from top to bottom.
  3. Now, squeeze your core and glutes to hold the position.

Planks are common core exercises but are fantastic for developing strength and stability. They add more workout time to your training and challenge the muscles in a new way. We recommend performing three sets for 30–120 seconds each.

11. Copenhagen Side Plank

For an advanced core exercise, try the Copenhagen Side Plank. This is an advanced variation, requiring more inner thigh power, balance, and coordination. The Copenhagen variation enhances the challenge of plank movements by raising both legs off the ground.

Here’s how to complete the Copenhagen Side Plank: 

  1. First, you’ll need a sturdy weight bench or box that’s close to the ground.
  2. Assume a side plank position, placing your top foot on top of the bench or box. Your other foot can hang beneath it.
  3. Tighten your core and hold the position for your desired time frame before switching sides.

This is a complex movement that can seriously challenge your entire core. Don’t allow your hips to sink, and tighten your glutes and quads to avoid engaging the lower back. We recommend performing three sets per side for 30–120 seconds.

12. Russian Twist

The Russian Twist is a popular exercise for improving core rotational strength. It’s a great conditioning movement, but the wrong technique won’t effectively engage the core muscles. It’s best to use a medicine ball, focusing on rotating your entire torso. 

Here’s the correct Russian Twist technique:

  1. Start by sitting on the ground with your knees bent.
  2. Lift your upper body so that you are at approximately a 45-degree angle.
  3. Extend your arms out in front of your body, holding a medicine ball or weight plate. 
  4. Begin rotating your torso to one side, ensuring that your shoulders turn in that direction. Touch the floor with the weight, then rotate to the other side, facing the opposite direction.
  5. Continue this alternating motion, moving back and forth between the two sides.

Remember, the Russian twist is about rotating the torso, not touching your hands to the ground. Take your time, controlling the movement pattern and feeling the burn in your abdomen. We recommend performing three sets for 30–60 seconds using a moderate weight.

Training Tips

There are several factors to keep in mind while training your obliques. To get the most out of your training regimen, you’ll need to factor in the following elements: 

Don’t Forget to Warm Up

It’s essential to warm up before each training session, including when you’re targeting the core and obliques. This can include a light jog to get your heart rate up and muscles warm. 

It’s best to start with some basic, unweighted variations of the exercises you will perform. For example, you might use light weights for a few sets if you’re about to perform a Single-Arm Side Deadlift. 

This will prepare your muscles for the actual weight and reduce the risk of injury, overuse, or strain. 

Use Controlled Movements

Many lifters will rush through core exercises, performing each set without much intention. This has downsides, like incorrect form, poor muscle engagement, and a higher chance of strain or injury.

Instead, focus on the exercise. Use controlled movements, feeling your muscles squeeze and prioritizing a mind-to-muscle connection. This will give you more time under tension and increase growth, strength, and stability. 

Select the Right Exercises

When programming exercises for your fitness goals, look for movements that suit your body, circumstances, and preferences. You might not want to incorporate overhead activities if you have a shoulder injury. 

Alternatively, you might need to select exercises based on your available equipment. Choosing movements based on your fitness level can also ensure timely progress. 

Advanced plank variations might be too difficult for your fitness level, so you’ll need to adjust accordingly.

A man with a toned torso after doing oblique exercises
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Exercises Target the Obliques?

Many core exercises and compound movements will engage the obliques. Some activities to consider include side planks, Russian twists, oblique raises, leg raises, and suitcase carries. Many of these exercises can be performed with or without weights.

Do Planks Work Your Obliques?

Planks engage the abdominals alongside the internal and external obliques. Side plank variations, like the Copenhagen plank, can engage the glutes more. These variations will help you develop strength, stability, and endurance.

Should You Train Obliques Directly?

Yes, training your obliques directly is a fantastic idea. Try Incorporating a few dedicated exercises into your core day or at the end of your gym sessions. Targeting the obliques directly can improve core strength, balance, stability, and other lifts.

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