Obliques are a powerful muscle group of the abdominals but working them is tricky. I don’t like to use the word ‘target’ because I believe in working all muscles in a balanced way, so I will use the word ‘isolate’ in terms of these exercises, but I encourage you to train all the areas of the abdominals equally.
Obliques can be isolated in the following positions: seated/standing, quadruped (prone but elevated off the floor), supine (on the back) and side lying.
-Sit either cross-legged or standing in a squat with legs wide and knees pointing over your second toe.
-Place the arms in a circular position (as if you were hugging a giant beach ball in front of your chest, or put your hands behind your head.
-Torso upright, tailbone reaching toward the floor and navel pulled in toward your spine, Inhale to prepare.
-Exhale as you rotate from your mid-section to the left and inhale as you rotate back to center.
-Your hips/pelvis should stay fixed in position facing forward.
-Repeat as you rotate to the right and then back to center.
-Feel your spine lengthen as you rotate (visualize wringing out a sponge)
-Do 3 reps of 10 twists in each direction.
*Added bonus: If you do this in the squat position, you will get a nice leg/glute burn too.
Tick Tock leg
This is the modern take on a bicycle or criss-cross exercise.
-Lying supine (on your back) and feet on the floor with knees bent.
-Place your hands behind your head.
-Inhale through your nose as you pull the navel in (visualize sucking air through a straw).
-Exhale as you curl your shoulders off the floor just to the bottom tips of the shoulder blades. Hold.
-Draw your right knee up so that it is directly over your hip and your shin is directly parallel to the floor. Hold.
-Do the same with the left leg. Hold.
-Rotate just the torso towards the right knee. Hold.
-Extend the left shin straight up to the ceiling and hold.
-Stay in your rotation to the right and without moving the pelvis/hips proceed to lower the left leg to hover off the floor and then lift it with the abs back up to its starting position.
-Repeat 10 times and then hold the leg at a 45-degree angle as you pulse the chest toward the right knee 10 times.
-Repeat this same process rotated to the left knee.
-Make sure your rotation is from the torso and not just the shoulders twisting.
*Added bonus: The works the legs and shoulders also.
Side Plank with Pulse
Can be done on either the hand or forearm if you have wrist issues
-Lay on your right side with your legs stacked and your right palm under your shoulder but slightly inward towards you. In other words, initially you want your shoulder joint to be slightly in front of your wrist joint. Fingers can face in whatever direction feels more comfortable on your wrist.
*If on your forearm your forearm must be perpendicular to the body.
-You want your body extended in a completely straight line with your feet flexed.
-Press your hand or forearm into the floor slightly (as if you are trying to push the floor away from you) so that you engage the lat muscle and secure the shoulder joint.
-Slightly tuck your tailbone keep your abs pulled in and chest lifted. The left arm should be along your left leg.
-Inhale as you pull your navel to your spine.
-Exhale as you engage your abs to float your hips off the floor slowly. Your left hipbone should still be in line with your waist and leg so that you are in a straight, but diagonal line from the head (highest point) to your feet (lowest point). Squeeze your inner thighs together and tense (but not clench) your glutes.
-You can hold this or add a variation by lowering the right hip to toward the floor about 2 inches and engaging the abs to lift it back up.
-Hold the plank for 20 seconds and do 10 pulses or just hold the plank for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
*Added bonus: Plank of any sort is a whole body exercise.
Mountain Climber Twist
Can also be done on the forearms.
-Come into a forward facing plank position with the legs about 6 inches apart.
-Keep the abs pulled toward your spine as you inhale
-Exhale as you draw your right knee toward your left elbow by twisting from the torso.
-Inhale as you untwist and place the foot back at the starting position.
-You can alternate sides for 10 sets or repeat 10 times on each side.
-Be careful not to twist the shoulders. They stay completely fixed and over the wrists (or elbows).
*Added bonus: Plank of any sort is a whole body exercise and once you perfect this at a slow pace you can increase the speed to increase the heart rate a bit.
Try these moves slowly. Precision and form are important in all exercises but especially with the obliques as its very easy to work from the low back instead which can lead to pain and injury.
Summer is coming ladies and gentleman so whittle down that waist!
Jessica Kuiken is a Los Angeles based Certified Pilates Instructor. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook