The Best Oblique Exercises for Women
When it comes to core workouts, it’s easy to get fixated on those front abdominal muscles - the ones responsible for sculpting the coveted six-pack appearance. But wait, there’s so much more! The abs area is actually made up of several muscle groups, including the often-overlooked obliques.
In this guide, Laura Melia, Gym Manager and personal trainer at PureGym Denton, explores the reasons why women can benefit from strengthening their oblique muscles, from improved core strength to postpartum recovery. Laura also shares her favourite oblique exercises for women to incorporate into their workouts for a strong and toned core.
What Are Obliques?
Your obliques, a term which covers the ‘external oblique muscles’ and ‘internal oblique muscles’, are an important group of muscles that run down the sides of your torso, next to the abdominal ‘six-pack’ muscles. They are responsible for rotational and lateral bending movements.
External obliques run diagonally downward from the lower ribs to the pelvis with fibres that angle downward and toward the midline of the body.
Internal obliques are located beneath the external obliques, but the fibres run in the opposite direction, angling upward and toward the midline of the body.
When these muscles contract, they work together to assist in actions like rotating your torso, bending your trunk sideways and flexing your spine forward.
Why Should Women Be Working Their Obliques?
Everyone can benefit from working their oblique muscles as part of a well-rounded fitness routine. The reasons women should include oblique exercises aren’t fundamentally different from those for men, but some of the most relevant benefits include:
Improved core strength and stability: Strong oblique muscles contribute to better core strength and stability. Improving this can help with a range of everyday activities, including lifting, carrying, and maintaining proper posture. A strong core can help reduce the risk of lower back pain and improve overall functional strength, so you’ll be able to lift heavier things and enjoy better flexibility.
Toning and shaping: Developing and toning the oblique muscles can enhance the appearance of the waistline, so if you’re hoping to use your gym time to resculpt or reshape your figure, then exercising these muscles can help with definition.
Assisting postpartum recovery: During pregnancy, many women can suffer from diastasis recti or abdominal separation, which leaves the core muscles weaker and less stable. Having a strong core pre-pregnancy can often lessen the effects of this, and strengthening the obliques afterwards can be particularly helpful for restoring core function and addressing any diastasis recti that may have occurred.
Better back health: Strong obliques can help support the spine and reduce the risk of injury, especially during activities that involve twisting or bending. This is important for maintaining a healthy back, which is essential for daily life and long-term well-being.
Improved athletic performance: If women are involved in sports or fitness activities that require rotational movements, such as tennis, golf, or dance, strong oblique muscles can significantly improve performance and reduce the risk of injury in these sports.
Balanced workouts: A well-rounded fitness routine should target various muscle groups to avoid imbalances. Including oblique exercises ensures that the entire core is trained, promoting overall symmetry and functionality. Plus, if you want to lift heavier in other weight training areas like deadlifts, squats or hip thrusts then not neglecting your core is essential!
What Are The Best Oblique Exercises For Women?
There are plenty of exercises to choose from that work the obliques. Isometric exercises like side plank holds are great for building the strength to keep the core stable, while dynamic exercises like bicycle crunches strength the obliques ability to move.
To level up your oblique training by adding weight or resistance, some other great options include Russian twists, woodchoppers and dumbbell side bends.
Below are 6 exercises to strengthen the obliques. Try adding 1-2 of these to the end of each workout during the week!
- Lie on your side with your legs straight and prop yourself up on your elbow.
- Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.
- Hold this position for as long as you can, then switch sides.
- For an added challenge, raise your top leg while holding the side plank.
- Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, elbows wide, and your knees bent to 90 degrees and raised above your body so your feet are in the air and knees are above your hips.
- Lift your shoulders off the ground and bring your right elbow towards your left knee while extending your right leg out.
- Alternate sides in a pedalling motion.
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat.
- Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight, and either keep your hands free or hold a weight or medicine ball.
- Twist your torso to the right, bringing your hands or the weight towards the floor next to your hip, then twist to the left.
Repeat for a set number of reps.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a weight or medicine ball with both hands.
- Start with the weight above your right shoulder, then twist your torso diagonally across your body and bring the weight down towards your left hip.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for a set number of reps on each side.
Dumbbell Side Bends:
- Stand up straight with a dumbbell in your right hand, keeping your chest up and core engaged.
- Slowly bend to the right at your waist while keeping your eyes forward.
- You should feel a stretch on your left side.
- Focusing on using your obliques, slowly return to an upright position before repeating on the other side for the required number of reps.
Discover more exercise inspiration over on our workouts for women section, including our ab workouts for women article, this guide to some of the best arm exercises for women, and our easy-to-follow leg day workout for women.
Want advice that is tailored to your specific goals? Why not book a session with a dedicated Personal Trainer at PureGym - they’re able to offer a wealth of advice for both fitness and nutrition to help you achieve your goals.