Editor’s note: This post was written by Stephanie Smith, writer at Bodybuilding.com, and published with permission by Skinny Mom.

Let’s face it—most ab workouts are designed to target your core. And, with summer in full swing, the talk surrounding carving out that six-pack is everywhere. But a strong core is nothing without shapely obliques—the muscles to the left and right of your abdomen. While most ab workouts aim to help you whittle your middle, many overlook the oblique exercises needed to round out a well-developed center. Hit your sides and create a well-rounded, stabilized stomach with these five key movements.

1. Rotating, Single-Leg Toe Touches: We’ll start this workout slow with single-leg toe touches to warm up your core.

  • Your legs should be flat on the ground at the start and your hands placed overhead. 
  • Laying on your back, reach one hand to the opposite foot as you come up into the crunch position. Make sure your shoulders come off the mat with each rep as you bring one leg towards your chest and touch it with your opposite hand.
  • By rotating slightly at the top of each rep, you’ll engage your obliques.
  • Insider tip: Looking for an extra challenge? Lift the non-working leg off the ground to further engage your abdominals and provide an added stability challenge.
  • Click here for more info.
    Alternating Toe Touches

2. Dumbbell Side Bends: This isolation movement really hits your obliques with the punch of a one-two crunch.

  • Standing straight, hold a dumbbell in one hand and rest the other hand on your waist. 
  • With your feet shoulder-width apart and back straight, bend at the waist—leaning towards the side holding the dumbbell. Breathe in as you bend, hold for a second at the bottom position, and exhale back to start. Repeat on the other side.
  • Insider tip: During this movement, make sure to bend at the hips and keep the rest of your body stationary. Your body shouldn’t sway back and forth and instead move only in the frontal plane.
  • For an added challenge, try holding dumbbells in both your hands. Check it out here.

Side bends

3. Russian Twists: Not only do seated Russian twists target your obliques, the balance they require when your feet are off the ground helps to engage your lower back and strengthen the muscles along your spine.

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet slightly off the ground. 
  • Lean back and place your arms ahead of you. It’s important here to keep your spine neutral as you twist slowly to the left and then slowly to the right.
  • Insider tip: Looking to up the ante? With the added weight comes an added challenge. Hold an exercise ball or plate out in front of you as you twist your torso to really feel the burn. Make these even harder by straightening your legs.
  • Click here to learn more.
    Russian twists

4. Bird Dog Crunches: This exercise might have a funny name, but it’s effective at carving your core and targeting your obliques. The balance needed to stay stable and drive one arm to the opposite leg will pose a real challenge to even the most stable middles.

  • Start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, your hips square, and your back flat. 
  • With your core tight and engaged, drive one arm straight out as you lift the opposite leg straight out behind you. 
  • Next, pull both your arm and leg in—driving from the shoulder and hip, respectively. Hold for a second in the crunch position before reaching back out for another rep. Once you’ve completed all of the reps on one side, switch.
bird dog crunch

Photo Credit: Women’s Health

5. Cable Woodchop: You don’t have to be a lumberjack to appreciate the workout a woodchop offers. The downward, twisting motion is what seals the deal here—it progressively targets the obliques as well as the abdominals and serratus, the muscle group to the side of your rib cage.

  • After adjusting your pulley to the highest setting, grab the handle closest to your body. Step about arm’s length away from the pulley. You should feel the tension of the weight on the cable. 
  • Plant your feet shoulder-width apart and, with your arms straight and fully extended and both hands on the cable, pull the handle down as you bring your arms across your body by rotating your torso. 
  • Maintain a tight core as you pivot off the leg closest to the cable and bend your knee to get a full range of motion. 
  • Return to neutral position and repeat on the other side.
  • Don’t have a pulley? Try it using a resistance band! Click here for more details.
    Wood chopper

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