dumbbell-side-bendIt is a common thing to do when we think of abs, we think of the rectus abdominus, that is, the muscle which, following a combination of careful diet and resistance training, forms the much-longed-for 6 pack. What we tend to forget are the external obliques – the muscles that run up and down our sides. They are abdominal muscles located on the sides of our stomach and which, in the case of excess fat storage, form love handles. They provide the “V” shape that frame the lower abs. They also serve as stabilizers, and are engaged in almost every compound lifting movement, and basically almost every physical activity. It is, therefore, of crucial importance that they are strong. A strong core is the base from which most of our movements originate.

By performing the correct exercises, you can improve both form and function of your core muscles.

Dumbbell Side Bends

The dumbbell side bend is probably the best exercise for isolating the external obliques from the rectus abdominus. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and touch the back of your head with your other hand. The oblique on the opposite side of the dumbbell is the one being worked. Lower the dumbbell as far as you can without tilting your pelvis, then move the dumbbell back up by crunching with the working oblique. According to Frederic Delavier in “Strength Training Anatomy,” this exercise also works the deep muscles of the back. Perform sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Side Jackknife

In “The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding,” Arnold Schwarzenegger describes an exercise called the side leg raise. To perform it, lie on your side, supporting yourself on your elbow, then lift the upper leg as far as you can. To contract your obliques even more intensely, instead of leaving your upper body stationary, perform a side crunch at the same time you perform a side leg raise. This exercise is called a side jackknife. Perform sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Oblique Curl

Sit on top of a stability or lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Walk your feet away from the ball until you’re your back is supported. Place your hands behind your head or over your chest. Exhale and lift your torso until your shoulder blades are off the ball, or the floor. Rotate your torso to the right. Return to the centre and lower your torso to the starting position. For your next crunch, rotate your torso to the left. Perform the oblique curls for 60 to 75 seconds.

The Russian Twist

The Russian twist uses a weight plate or a medicine ball for resistance. Sit on the floor with your feet under a stable base such as a couch hold onto the weight with both hands with both hands, with both arms extended in front of you at shoulder height. Lean back slightly so your hips are beyond a 90° angle. Exhale and twist the weight and your torso to the right. Keep your arms parallel to the floor. Inhale and hold this position still for one second. Exhale and return to the start position. Repeat the rotation to your left. Aim to complete 8 to 10 repetitions to each side.

Side Plank

side-plankThe side plank requires no equipment and is very effective in strengthening the external oblique. Lie on your right side with both legs straight to your left. Stack your feet, ankles, and knees on top of each other. Bend your right arm and position your elbow underneath your shoulder with your forearm on the floor. Rest your left hand on your left hip. Exhale, tighten your stomach, and raise your hips and knees off the floor. Keep the side of your right foot in contact with the floor. Inhale and slowly return to the starting position. Complete 8 to 10 on each side.

It is recommended that you speak with your trainer before you embark on any change in your regime: workout frequency, intensity, number of reps you should start with, etc. If you have not yet joined a gym, now’s the time to find the nearest one in your city today! Gold’s Gym in Santacruz, Talwalkars in Andheri East, Talwalkars Transform in Colaba, Fitness Plus in Chembur East, and Prime Physique in Mulund East are some of the best fitness studios you can find in Mumbai. Simply log on to Gympik.com!


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