To develop a strong and stable core, you need to train your obliques. And though many people overlook them in their training, the obliques are just as important as any other muscle in the core.
That's because strong obliques make you more athletic and better able to train effectively. And, as a result, when developed properly, they look great.
What are the obliques, exactly?
Most people are fully aware of the popular muscle groups - the chest, the biceps, the quads, etc.
But go to the gym and ask someone about the obliques and you’ll be met with crickets.
Having a basic anatomical understanding of a muscle will allow you to train it more effectively and form a better mind-muscle connection.
The obliques can be split into two categories: external and internal.
The external ones are broad and thin sheets of muscle that lie on the side and front of your torso. Their basic function is to rotate and laterally flex your trunk.
The internal sit below the external obliques and run diagonally upward your torso toward your abdominals. They have a similar function to the external obliques and work synergistically.
The Best Exercises to Build Your Obliques
1.Loaded Side Bend
This is one of the best movements to start with, especially for beginners. Due to the facts that it's simple to do, you can continuously overload it as your obliques develop, and it’s very safe.
To perform it, stand up straight with a weight that is heavy enough in one hand. From there, bend at the waist of the opposite side of the weight, aiming for a good contraction in the obliques.
Hold it for a second or two and straighten up your trunk. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions and do the other side.
Similar to a regular crunch, assume the starting position on a bench or the floor. Your feet should be restrained. From there, slowly crunch up as you are rotating your torso to one side. Again, aiming for a solid contraction in your obliques.
To ensure proper rotation, you can place your hands behind your head and aim to bring together the elbow to the opposite knee.
You can do all repetitions for one side first or do them in an alternating fashion (left elbow-right knee; right elbow-left knee).
To increase the difficulty, you can do these on a decline bench or hold a weight in your hands.
Planks are excellent for building isometric strength and stability in the core. Above all, they train the core muscles as intended - they improve its ability to keep us stable for prolonged periods.
To perform the side plank, position your body sideways to the floor with the bottom elbow, directly below the shoulder, serving as a balance point.
Stack your top foot atop the bottom one and lift your hips to form a straight line with your body.
Hold the position for as long as you can before you notice your technique breaking down. After that, repeat on the other side.
To make the movement more challenging, you can straighten up your bottom arm and use the hand as a balance point instead of the elbow.
In addition, you can lift your top leg toward the ceiling as you’re holding the side plank position.
Quality > Quantity
Finally, the quality of repetitions or time under tension matters much more than the actual quantity.
Ten solid side bends or oblique crunches where you focus on good technique and proper contraction beat twenty half-assed repetitions any day of the week.
The same goes for the plank. Aim for a quality time under tension. Your obliques should be on fire by the end of the set. Holding a proper side plank for thirty seconds is much better than half-assing a 2-minute hold.