On the one hand, it’s an accessory respiratory muscle: They pull your chest down when you exhale, explains Hodges. They help you bend and rotate your torso when you turn to close a door or when you bend over to lift something off the ground, Savage says. And they help you too resist bend and rotate your torso in other situations, like when you’re holding a suitcase and your body naturally wants to tilt to one side, says Hodges.
A big job of the obliques is to stabilize your spine, ribcage and pelvis, Hodges adds. And they do it when we stand, walk, run, bend or turn, he explains. Spinal stability is extremely important because it helps promote good posture and protects the lower back from excessive strain or injury, says Savage.
How to work your obliques?
You can engage your obliques with any movement that involves internal or external rotation around the midline of your body, says Savage, for example in exercises like the Russian twist, single-leg jackknife, and rowing your boat. . You can also target them with movements that have you dynamically leaning to the side, such as with side bends, windmill, or alternating side crunch. Your range of motion here plays a big role in how well you engage your obliques in these movement patterns, says Savage.
Finally, movements that involve resist rotation (anti-rotation exercises, like a renegade row and bird dog) and side bends (anti-lateral bend exercises, like carrying a suitcase and side plank) also stimulate the muscles along the sides of your abdomen, says Hodges.
What is the best way to train your obliques?
You don’t need dedicated oblique workouts to effectively smoke this muscle group. Hodges suggests choosing two to three exercises that specifically target your side abs and incorporating them into your regular routines.
There are many ways to do this: Some bodyweight oblique exercises, especially anti-movement ones, work very well in a warm up to stimulate your muscles for the work to come. Others fit right into your main set: Try performing oblique movements as a superset, moving from one to the next without rest, says Hodges. You can stack two specific ab exercises or do one oblique exercise with another that targets a different area (for example, like a side lunge or a barbell squat).