Your obliques, the muscles that run up the sides of your core, have one primary job: twisting your torso. When you’re in the car and reach to grab something out of the back seat, your obliques help make it happen. So what better way to strengthen these muscles than by doing oblique twists? This includes a group of core-twisting exercises that target both the internal and external obliques in ways most people’s workouts rarely do.
Rotation is one of the body’s fundamental movement patterns, so it’s important to train your core to resist rotation (like in a Pallof press), flex (as you do with crunches), and extend (achieved with back extensions). It’s also important to train your core to twist when you need it to (you make a quick turn during a game of basketball), and that’s where the oblique exercises come into play. While you would never do a specific “oblique workout,” there are a number of moves you can do to ensure that your oblique muscles get plenty of attention.
How to Do Oblique Twists With Perfect Form
Since there is no “one” type of oblique twist, here are four variations on the movement to sprinkle into your next core workout. And these aren’t just plain old oblique crunches. These moves will give you a nice assortment to stave off workout boredom.
1. C-Sit Tap
- Sit with your butt and heels on the floor, with your knees bent slightly and your arms extended in front of you, palms up.
- Keeping your core braced, lean back slightly, and rotate to your right as you reach back with your right arm to touch the floor behind you.
- Return to the starting position and repeat to your left. Continue alternating sides.
2. C-Curve Weighted Pass
- Sit with your butt and heels on the floor and your knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell with both hands at arm’s length in front of your chest.
- Keeping your core braced, lean back slightly, creating a C-curve in the spine. This is your starting position.
- Passing the weight to your left hand, rotate to the left as you reach back to lightly touch the weight on the floor behind you. Keep your right arm extended in front of you throughout the movement.
- Return to the starting position, and, without stopping, pass the weight to your right hand. Repeat the move to the other side.
- Continue alternating sides, and perform equal reps on each.
3. Bicycle Crunch and Punch
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight and your guard up holding a light dumbbell in each hand.
- Brace your core, lean back slightly, and raise your legs off the ground.
- Simultaneously draw your left knee toward your chest, extend your right leg, and punch across your body with your right hand.
- Switch sides, bringing your right arm back, drawing your right knee toward your chest, extending your left leg, and punching across your body with your left hand.
- Continue alternating sides. Too difficult? One option to make it easier is to ditch the weights. Or, you can also touch the floor with the heel of your extended leg instead of keeping it elevated during each punch.
4. Close-Grip Oblique Twist
- Take an overhand on a pull-up bar.
- Pull your body upward until your chin clears the bar, keeping your back straight and core tight as you pull yourself up.
- Holding the top position of the pull-up, lift your knees toward your chest as high as possible.
- Keeping your knees drawn up and squeezed together, contract your obliques, as if trying to touch the outside of your right hip to your right elbow.
- Repeat on your left side.
- Lower your knees, straighten your arms, return to the starting position, and repeat.
How to Make Oblique Twists Easier
“You can make oblique exercises easier by increasing how many points of contact you have with the floor,” explains Openfit fitness specialist Cody Braun. “For example, by keeping both feet on the floor, you can make the exercise more accessible.” Both the C-Sit Tap and C-Curve Weighted Pass keep the feet on the floor to decrease the demand placed on your core. Master these oblique twist variations before progressing to more advanced ones.
How to Make Oblique Twists Harder
“If you hover the legs, you will place more stress on the core musculature,” Braun says. The bicycle crunch and punch and the seated bike twist do just that, while the close-grip oblique twist, performed from a dead-hang, requires and builds next-level core strength.
Bonus Tips for Doing Oblique Twists
While the focus of oblique twists is strengthening the obliques, remember that the obliques work in tandem with the rest of your core musculature — including your rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis muscles. You should keep your entire core braced during oblique twists to maintain proper form.
The Benefits of Oblique Twists
By focusing on an often-neglected muscle group and movement, oblique twisting movements can help improve functional strength, stability, and power. “They train the oblique muscles to transfer power from side to side, and coordinate the transfer of movement from upper body to lower body,” Braun says.
Strengthening your obliques also helps them with their very important task of protecting the spine from excessively rotating during movements like swinging a bat or tennis racquet, for example. Your obliques also help your posture by keeping your pelvis positioned properly.
What Muscles Do Oblique Twists Work?
Hold onto your hats folks – this move targets your obliques! OK, that part was probably obvious, but what isn’t as commonly known is that your obliques are just one part of your abdominal muscles. It includes the obliques on the sides, the rectus abdominis (aka the “six-pack” muscles that run down the center of your stomach), and the transverse abdominis, which wraps around your torso underneath these muscles.
But that’s not it… there are actually two kinds of oblique muscles: external and internal. The external obliques are visible (if you’re lean enough for them to show) and run diagonally from the sides of your rib cage to the tops of your hip bones. The internal obliques are situated right below them. The right external obliques work in coordination with the left internal obliques, and vice versa. For instance, the right external obliques rotate the body to the opposite side, while the right internal rotate to the same side. Altogether, they help to stabilize your spine and rotate your torso.