Your obliques—aka the muscles on the side of your core–are the star of the show in moves like side planks and bicycle crunches, but they can also get their fair share of work in when you’re doing other moves, too. “Engaging your obliques can support you while you’re doing other target exercises,” says Fithouse trainer Sandra Tana, calling out curtsy lunges, standing inner thigh moves, and certain arm exercises as a few that fit the bill.
To keep it engaged in these types of moves, she suggests that you “focus on bringing your spine to a neutral position, then pulling your rib cage down to your navel as you use your breath to support by exhaling and tightening your core.” You’ll know you’re doing it right if you feel a small, pinching sensation in your working side.
“You will feel your navel pull up towards your spine as your ribcage closes in towards your navel,” she says. “As you exhale, your entire abdominal wall should tighten and engage the working internal and external oblique muscles even more.” That way you’ll be able to hit the main muscle you’re working as well as giving those obliques a little bit of extra love.
Below, five moves that will give you some glorious second-dare soreness in your side body—without even realizing you’ve worked it.
5 moves that secretly work your obliques
1. Jab & cross punches, side to side
Boxing workouts not only spike your heart rate and tire out your arms, but they can also hit your obliques. Starting in your fighting stance (with your feet apart, knees slightly bent, hands up, and elbows in), engage your core to maintain good posture. For your jab, punch your non-dominant hand (which should be in the front) straight out, and pivot your foot to pop your hip forward and engage your oblique. For your cross, punch your dominant hand (which should be in the back) across your body, pivoting your foot to pop your hip forward and engage your oblique. Continue to engage your core as you alternate punches.
2. Curtsy Squat with lateral leg lift
Cross one leg behind you and sink down into a squat, keeping your butt in and your hips facing toward the front. Return to stand, then lift the leg that was behind you out to the side to engage your oblique. For more of a challenge, add a mini band around your ankles.
3. Tabletop fire-hydrant glute kickback
From a tabletop position, raise one foot up with your leg bent, as if you were trying to stamp the ceiling with the bottom of your shoe. Then, with your leg still bent, bring your knee toward your elbow to feel a pinch in your glute. Work one side to exhaustion before repeating on the other.
4. Side lying inner thigh leg lift
Laying on one side with your elbow directly under your shoulder, plant one foot on the floor in front of you to create a sort of “figure four” with your legs. Raise and lower the bottom leg, engaging your obliques so that you feel a pinch when you lift.
5. Clamshell with mini band
Lay on your side with your head propped up by your bottom hand, your knees slightly bent and a resistance band around your thighs. Open the top leg like a clam, squeezing through your hips and obliques. For an added challenge, raise hips off of the floor as you open your legs.
If you *do* want a workout that specifically hits those obliques, follow along with the video below:
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