When it comes to working your obliques, think tighten and twist. Some of the most effective oblique exercises, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), involve tightening your core muscles as you twist your torso from side to side. That's why the classic bicycle maneuver, which involves lying on your back and drawing one knee to the opposite elbow, is second on ACE's the list of best oblique exercises. If pedaling your way to stronger obliques bothers your lower back, or if you like variety, get off the floor and do your twist with a resistance band instead.
Warm up with seven to 10 minutes of general, low-impact cardio activity. Take a quick walk around the block or jog in place to increase circulation and raise your core body temperature. When you break a light sweat, do some dynamic stretching -- involving continuous, repetitive motion -- to further prepare your obliques for action. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on your hips or behind your head. With your hips facing forward, bend your knees slightly and twist your upper body from side to side 15 to 20 times. Keep the movement smooth and rhythmic.
Attach one end your band to a fixed object at waist height. Stand to the left of the object, feet shoulder-width apart, and grasp the free end of the band with both hands. Extend your arms in front of your chest. If the band isn't taut, adjust your stance. With your knees slightly bent and toes facing front, tighten your abs and obliques and rotate your head, torso and arms to the left. Hold for a count of two, then return to the center. Repeat for a total of one to four sets of eight to 12 reps each. Switch to the other side.
Attach the middle of your band securely to a stationary object at waist height. Grasp one end of the band in each hand and stand facing the object. The band should be taut. Tighten your abs and obliques and step forward on your right foot. As you place your foot down, twist your torso to the right -- moving your right hip forward -- and pull back on the right side of the band. Hold for a count of two, then return to your initial position. Repeat the twist to the left to finish one rep. Complete one to four sets of eight to 12 reps.
Anchor one end of your band to a stationary object at shoulder height. Place a stability ball on the floor to the the left of the object and sit on the ball, hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Reach over your right shoulder and grasp the free end of the band with both hands. Your arms should be straight and the band taut. Straighten your back, press your shoulders down and slightly back, then tighten your abs and obliques. Keeping your elbows straight, pull the band diagonally downward and twist your torso to the left. At the bottom of the movement, hold for two counts, then slowly return to the center. Repeat six to eight times for a total of one to four sets. Switch to the other side.
Follow up strength work with an oblique stretch to prevent tightening and soreness. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, slowly lower your knees to the right. You should feel a light stretch along your left side. Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds, then rotate your knees to the left. Repeat the stretch one to four times on both sides.
Items you will need
- Resistance band or tubing
- Stability ball
- Begin with a band that offers light to moderate resistance. If your muscles don't fatigue after several sets, bump up to the next level of resistance.
- Keep your core muscles -- including your back, hips and abs -- engaged throughout every exercise to avoid arching, and possibly injuring, your lower back.
- For safety purposes, inspect your band carefully before every use. Using a band when it's damaged can lead to injury.
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
- American Council on Exercise: Standing Cable Rotation
- Conditioning for Dance; Eric N. Franklin
- Dance Anatomy; Jacqui Greene Haas
- ExRx.net: Lying Bent Oblique Stretch
- JTPhoto/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images