You might not be aware of it, but chances are, your obliques are too weak. This is not an easy thing for any Free Athlete to hear, so read on to see what Freeletics Training Expert John Kennedy recommends for strengthening this much-overlooked muscle group.
What’s so bad about weak obliques?
Strengthening this abdominal muscle group is imperative not only for the development of athletic movements like sprinting and throwing, but also for the prevention of lower back and hip pain. Strong internal and external obliques enable the rotation and flexion of the trunk, whilst also stabilizing the spine and preventing it from hyperextending to the back and side and causing lasting damage. People who lead a more sedentary life tend to have tighter obliques as, when we sit, the spine becomes stuck in flexion, obstructing the obliques and reducing mobility. Those with an anterior pelvic tilt (when the pelvis tilts forward, arching the back) also often have weak obliques, resulting in back and hip pain.
How do you know if you’ve got weak obliques?
Try lying on your back and rolling all the way over without using your arms or legs. Although it’s easy for a baby to do (babies have the strongest obliques in the world from rolling around all the time, by the way), the average adult can’t do this. 95% of people’s obliques aren’t strong enough because they don’t train them properly. With complaints of lower back pain on the rise, it is more important than ever that we strengthen the relevant muscles so as to prevent long term injury or problems in later life. With that in mind, here are our top three Freeletics exercises for training the obliques.
The Side Plank
You’ve probably done this one before. The ultimate test of static stabilization, the goal of the side plank is to improve the anti-lateral flexion of the trunk or, in other words, to prevent the spine from bending sideways. Not content with merely being an exercise for the obliques, the side plank also works the abdominals, the quadratus lumborum (lower back) and the shoulders and, if you concentrate on your breathing, it can also be a workout for the diaphragm.
Plank Knees to Elbow
A next level side plank, this is a dynamic rather than a static exercise. The added hip movement here challenges the obliques to control the trunk and prevent over-rotation and hyperextension.
This final exercise challenges the obliques to stabilize the core whilst producing force throughout the upper body. According to Kennedy, “when we throw a ball, we generate force from the ground up.” The obliques are the conduits through which this force is transferred to the upper body, generating strength and power. When doing Twists, make sure to keep the legs and hips stiff, moving only the upper body to ensure that the obliques get a full workout.