The Right Way

Side Bends Are the Core-Working, Side-Stretching 2-for-1 Fitness Move You Need in Your Arsenal

Your obliques are kind of like the two pillars of your core. These key muscles run up and down each side of your body, allowing you to twist and pivot to your heart's desire. On this week's episode of The Right Way, fitness instructor Colette Dong shows you how to do a side bend to strengthen this all-important (but sometimes tricky to target) muscle group.

For the unacquainted, side bends involve standing straight up, placing your hands gently behind your head, and leaning your upper body to one side—like you're trying "to crush a walnut between your ribs and the top of your hips," says Dong. The side that's forming the inner edge of the C-curve gets a nice oblique burn, while the opposite side experiences a seriously amazing stretch. (So, really, side bends are a twofer.)

Like all workout moves, form is super important—and Dong tends to see a few of the same side bend mistakes on repeat in her classes:

1. Don't arch your back

First, it's all too easy to strain your back while you're trying to do something good for your core. Dong says people tend to extend their tailbones backwards, arching their spine. This can cause pinching in your lower back as you bend from side to side—which is so not the goal.

2. Don't round forward

Dong also sees the opposite problem: Folks rounding forward and caving in their shoulders as they bend. "We don't want that. It's going to strain the head, neck, and shoulders as well as hurt the back and spine," she explains.

3. Don't move your feet

Finally, Dong sees people shifting to one foot and lifting up the opposite leg as they bend from side to side, which essentially takes all of the core work out of this workout. "So when people do the side bend, they'll take their leg with them, which puts the pressure and the weight into their standing leg and takes it out of the side body, which is where we want the activation to happen," says the trainer.

Keep an eye out for these three common mistakes and you'll get the full experience of this core stretch-strength fusion without tweaking the rest of your body. Make sure to watch the full video to see how Dong does the side bend the right way.

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