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.
The obliques refer to both internal obliques and external obliques which are located on the sides of your abdomen. They are involved in many movements including bending your torso to the left and right and twisting your upper body.
Obliques are also involved in what’s called anti-rotational movements like keeping your torso from bending left or right when carrying a heavy object in one hand or preventing your upper body from twisting when holding open a heavy door.
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 everyday activities like keeping your torso upright while sitting or walking.
Strong internal and external obliques enable the rotation and flexion of the trunk, whilst also helping the rectus abdominis (abs) in 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 lower back) also often have weak obliques along with weakened abs and glutes, and tight hip flexors, resulting in lower 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 (relative to their size, babies have the strongest obliques in the world from rolling around all the time), 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.
Side Plank Hold
You’ve probably done this one before. The goal of the Side Plank Hold 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 Hold 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.
This exercise can be easily adjusted according to your requirements. Switch to the Modified Side Plank Hold with your elbow and knee touching the ground to make this slightly less difficult. And if you’re looking for more of a challenge, give the High Side Plank Hold a try by fully extending your posted arm.
Target the obliques using a lateral component which you don’t get in Situps or Crunches by touching your opposite hand and foot above your body while laying on the ground. Many people struggle to keep the leg entirely straight throughout this exercise and that’s fine, you should try to keep the leg as straight as possible.
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.
If you’re struggling with Twists, keep your feet in contact with the floor and first master Ground Twists. Alternatively, you can make this exercise more difficult by using a weight for Plate Twists.
When doing any variation of the Twists, make sure to keep the legs and hips stiff, moving only the upper body to ensure that the obliques get a full workout.
The core is responsible for transmitting forces from the lower body to the upper body and vice-versa, which is especially important in sports when running, throwing, swinging, kicking, or any changes of direction. A strong core is also essential to help protect your spine as well as maintain proper posture during everyday activities like sitting or walking.
The obliques are a crucial, yet often overlooked muscle group of the core. Help protect yourself from lower back issues by including exercises for all of your core muscles, not just focusing on getting a six-pack.