standard crunches strengthen the muscles down the center of your core, oblique crunches target the ones down your sides. These muscles play a role in all sorts of nifty things, like core stability and good posture, and thus deserve a little extra attention.
Oblique crunches are similar to regular crunches, except they tend to incorporate some sort of twist or rotation as you crunch, say
Lauren and Kelly Collins, Paceline fitness trainers and owners of SISSFiT. “The slight twist is what activates the muscles in the sides of your abdomen,” the sisters tell Bustle. You can do them while standing or sitting, making them pretty versatile.
Once you strengthen your obliques, you’ll likely notice that you
feel more stable as you move about your day. “Having strong obliques helps support your back and overall posture,” the Collins say, “which is important for avoiding back pain.” Strong obliques also help you maintain good form when exercising and running, they add, and they also promote good balance by helping you stay upright.
They recommend focusing on this area two to three times a week as part of a
core workout. Here, 9 different oblique crunch variations to get you started. 1 Side Crunch Joe Samara, a personal trainer and owner of Delray Boxing Club, suggests trying this classic crunch variation that hits the oblique muscles.
- Lie on a mat on your right side with your legs stacked and knees slightly bent.
- Place your left hand gently behind your head.
- Engage your oblique muscles.
- Exhale and bring your elbow towards your feet.
- Return to the starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 reps per side.
2 Side Plank Dip
The Collins recommend this move to target the sides of the core.
- Set up in a
side plank with your shoulder stacked above your elbow.
- Engage your core as you drop your hips down toward the ground.
- Raise your hips back to the starting position.
- If the dip is too much, hold the
side plank instead.
- Complete 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.
3 Mountain Climbers
The Collins also suggest a round of
mountain climbers to work the obliques. For this move, it’s the knee-up motion that crunches the sides of your core.
- Begin in a
high plank with your shoulders stacked over your wrists.
- Keeping a tight core and flat back, drive your right knee toward your hands.
- Return your right knee and immediately drive your left knee toward your hands.
- Continue alternating legs in a running motion.
- Complete 3 sets of 30 reps total.
4 Side V-Up
Laura Wilson, a trainer and founder of Natural Pilates and Natural Pilates TV, a “V-up” side crunch will deeply engage the obliques.
- Lie on your side with your bottom arm outstretched, top hand on top hip, and legs squeezing together.
- Alternatively, prop your head up with your hand.
- Inhale and lift legs and torso simultaneously off the mat.
- Exhale and roll your pelvis posteriorly, reaching your top hand towards your toes to create a V-shape.
- Inhale and pause shortly at the top
- Exhale and round through the lower back.
- Rotate the ribcage as you bring yourself down to starting position.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times and switch sides.
- Do 2 to 3 sets.
5 Standing Side Crunches
Denise Chakoian, the owner and founder of CORE Cycle.Fitness.Lagree, the standing side crunch is another basic move that’s great for beginners.
- Stand upright.
- Bring both hands behind your head with your elbows turned out.
- Step your feet shoulder distance apart.
- Slowly move your body into lateral flexion by bending to one side.
- You can also stand upright and bring your knee and elbow together.
- Repeat 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
6 Standing Side Crunch With Pulse
Chakoian says you can enhance the standing side crunch by adding a few extra steps.
- From the standing side crunch, lift your left arm up by your ear and slowly bend to the right side.
- Add a small pulse by reaching your arm further.
- Or, if bringing elbow and knee together, add a pulse with the lifted leg.
- Repeat for one minute on each side.
7 Boat Pose With A Twist
You can also try this variation of an
ab-strengthening yoga pose. “This is a great exercise that gets a lot of work done at once,” says personal trainer Michele Riechman, DPT.
- Sit on your mat with your knees bent.
- Lift your feet off the mat.
- Lean back slightly.
- Place your hands at your ears.
- Keep your core engaged.
- Begin to twist gently side to side.
- Repeat for 30 seconds, 2 times.
8 Side To Side Crunch
Christina Dorner recommends this Pilates-inspired side to side crunch.
- Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor a few inches wider than your hips.
- With your hands behind your head, lift your shoulders off the floor. (Don’t pull on your neck!)
- Hold this crunch position as you reach your left hand down toward your left ankle by bending to the side.
- Return to the center and then reach your right hand to your right ankle.
- As you bend at the side, feel the “crunch” in your obliques.
- Do 10 reps on each side.
- Take a break, then repeat 3 sets.
9 Standing Side Bend With Dumbbells
incorporating some weights for a little extra oomph.
- Stand straight up with a dumbbell in your left hand facing your body.
- Bring your right hand behind your head and stand tall with good posture.
- Slowly bend to the left side, allowing the dumbbell to slide down the side of your left leg.
- When you feel the stretch in the right side, use your obliques to pull back up to the starting position.
- Be sure not to lean forward or back.
- Do 10 to 12 reps on each side.
- Repeat 3 sets.
Studies referenced: Nakai, Y. (2021). A self-oblique exercise that activates the coordinated activity of abdominal and hip muscles–A pilot study. PLoS One. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8360586/ Sources: Lauren and Kelly Collins, Paceline fitness trainers, owners of SISSFiT Joe Samara, personal trainer, owner of Delray Boxing Club Laura Wilson, trainer, founder of Natural Pilates and Natural Pilates TV Denise Chakoian, owner, founder of CORE Cycle.Fitness.Lagree Michele Riechman, DPT, doctor of physical therapist, personal trainer Christina Dorner, fitness trainer
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