The 25 Best Exercises for Your Obliques
These movements will help you sculpt and strengthen these key core muscles
When it comes to creating a lean, strong torso, developing your obliques—the muscles that run along the sides of your core—is a must.
These muscles help bend your torso to the side, help rotate your torso to the left and right, and perhaps most important, actually act to resist your torso from rotating, which helps to stabilize and protect your spine.
The following 25 exercises train your obliques in all the ways they function, by using uneven loads, instability, or rotation. The result: You’ll challenge your obliques from every angle.
Grab a medium-weight dumbbell with one hand and hold it in the racked position, so one end rests by your shoulder with your elbow bent. Lower your hips toward until your quads are at least parallel to the floor. Pause, and then reverse the movement to the standing position.
Keep your back in the upright position. Perform all prescribed reps on one side, switch hands and repeat.
Grab a dumbbell with one hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core—like you’re about to be punched in the gut—and press the dumbbell overhead. Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
Perform all prescribed reps on one side, switch hands and repeat.
Grab a heavy dumbbell in one hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold it with your palm facing your side and the dumbbell hovering a few inches away from your body.
Brace your abs like you’re about to be punched in the gut and walk for a prescribed distance.
Lie on one side with your legs straight and prop up your upper body on your forearm. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels.
If you want to make it harder elevate your feet or add a torso rotation.
Get into the side-plank position. Keeping your back straight and your body facing forward, slowly lift your leg toward the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds.
Only perform this exercise if you’ve mastered the side plank (see previous slide).
Lower the pulley on the cable machine so it’s only a foot or so off of the ground. (You can also tie a continuous-loop exercise band around a post.) Get into a side-plank position facing the cable or band. Bend your elbow and pull the handle to your rib cage, pause and reverse the movement.
Only perform this move if you’ve mastered the side plank (see previous slide).
Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Hold a weight plate straight out in front of your chest and lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Brace your core as if you’re about to be punched in the gut.
Without moving your torso, rotate your arms to the left as far as you can. Pause for 3 seconds before doing the same on the right.
Grab a dumbbell with one hand and hold it next to your left shoulder, your palm facing in. Step backward with your left leg and lower your body into a reverse lunge as you simultaneously press the dumbbellstraight above your shoulder.
To return to the starting position, lower the dumbbell as you push yourself back up. Complete all of your reps on the left side, switch sides and repeat.
Get into a tabletop position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Simultaneously lift your left arm and right leg. Pause for 5 to 10 seconds before lowering. Repeat on the other side.
If you want to make it harder, elevate your knees so they hover just a few inches off of the floor.
Get into a tabletop position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Dig your toes into the floor and slightly elevate your knees so they hover just a few inches above the ground.
Simultaneously rotate your torso to the right and drive your left knee and your right elbow toward each other so they meet in front of your chest. Pause, and then reverse the movement. Alternate sides with each rep.
Lie on your left side, right arm extended so it’s perpendicular to the floor. Prop yourself up on your left forearm and raise your hips so your body is straight from ankles to head. Lower your left hip, and then raise it again until it’s in line with your body.
Finish all your reps on your left side before switching to your right side.
Get into a pushup position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. One at a time, swing your legs out to the side without bending your knee.
Perform it in a slow and controlled manner, or speed it up for an extra metabolic boost.
Grab a continuous-loop exercise band and tie it around a vertical post—the inside of a squat rack works well—so it’s just below shoulder height. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the right side of your body facing the post.
Pull the band in front of you so it’s even with the middle of your chest. Holding it with both hands, take a step or two away from the post to create more tension in the band.
Extend your arms out in front of you, pressing the band away from your body. Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Kneel down next to the handle so your right side faces the machine. Your outside knee should be on the floor and your inside knee should be at a 90-degree angle.
With both hands use an overhand grip to hold the rope and pull it from above your right shoulder to below your right hip rotating your torso as little as possible.
Perform this movement in a split-squat position for an additional stability challenge and muscle burn.
Grab a medicine ball and stand sideways, about 3 feet away from a solid wall. Your left side should be close to the wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and hold the ball at chest level with your arms straight and parallel to the floor.
Rotate your torso to the right and release the ball. Catch it as it bounces back and return to the starting position.
Lie faceup with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees so that your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Place your fingers not he sides of your forehead and lift your shoulders off of the floor.
Twist your upper body tot he right as you pull your right knee in as fast as you can until it touches your left wrist. Simultaneously straighten your left leg.
Return to the starting position and repeat on the right.
Place a bench under and perpendicular to a pullup bar. Hang from the bar, directly above the bench with your legs to one side, feet together and knees slightly bent.
Without changing the bends in your knees or elbows, lift your legs over the bench to the opposite side.
Grasp a pullup bar with an overhand grip and hang from it at arm’s length. Lift your legs until our hips and knees are bent at 90 degrees. Raise your right hip toward your right armpit.
Pause, and then return to the starting position.
Assume a standard pushup position. As you lower your body toward the floor, lift your right foot off of the floor, swing your leg out sideways and try to touch your knee to your elbow.
Reverse the movement as you push your body back to the starting position.
Grab a dumbbell with one hand and lie on your back on a flat bench, holding the dumbbell over your chest. Brace your core as if you’re performing a plank, and then lower the dumbbell to the side of your chest.
Pause and push back up without moving your torso. You may need a lighter dumbbell than you traditionally use for the dumbbell bench press.
Place both feet toes first into the foot cradles of a TRX. Press into a plank position, keeping your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Swing your legs to the left, allowing your hips to rotate slightly.
Bring your knees to your elbow, pause, and then reverse the movement and perform the same on the opposite side.