Getting a back injury from overtraining at the gym can set you back from getting that sexy body you've been working towards. Isometric training for your obliques and other abdominal muscles can set a foundation to get your body stronger and more stable, reducing your risk of injury. While it is impossible to isolate your obliques during isometric training, you can combine your obliques with other muscles in your abs and torso to perform work.
Isometric exercises involve little or no movement in your obliques other than for breathing. One famous exercise is the plank that increases your body awareness and breathing. There are two types of planks: prone and side. The side plank is where you prop your body up on your side on one elbow and forearm with you legs and feet together, making your body look like a flag on a pole. The prone plank is putting your elbows, forearms and toes on the floor while hovering your body over the floor like a table. You can also do prone planks on one foot or on one arm. For each exercise, hold the position for five to six deep breaths, which is about 20 to 30 seconds in duration.
Chop and Lifts
No more situps and crunches! Isometric chops and lifts work every ab muscle -- including your obliques -- and improve stability and posture that make your abs look firmer. They involve moving your arms in a diagonal line across your torso against a resistsance without moving your body. Physical therapist Gray Cook suggests you use a cable machine to do these exercises. The chop is moving your arms down and across your torso while the lift is moving your arms up and across your torso. You can do these exercises kneeling on one or both knees, standing with one foot in front of you or standing with your feet about hip-distance apart.
Extend Your Spine
Hours of hunching over your laptop can make your obliques and chest feel as tight as tangled wires. Spine extension stretches open the front of your body to free tension from your throat down to your groin. One exercise is the prone cobra, where you start by lying on your stomach and chest on the floor with your feet together. Put your palms on the floor near your shoulders. As you exhale slowly, push your chest and abs off the floor and straighten your arms. Tilt your head back to increase the stretch. Hold this stretch for five to six deep breaths, which is about 20 to 30 seconds in duration.
Lateral Line Stretch
Your obliques never work as loners. They are part of a network of connective tissues called lateral line, which extends from the lateral part of your lower leg muscles, through your outer thigh and ribs and into your lateral neck muscles, according to flexibility specialist Ann Frederick says, coauthor of "Stretch to Win." Stretching this line opens your ribs, shoulders and lateral hip tissues. Start by standing about 2 feet away from a wall with your feet about shoulder-distance apart. Put your right palm against the wall and laterally bend your torso to your right. Bring your left arms over your head and push your hand or fingers against the wall. Hold this stretch for five to six deep breaths.
- Functional Movement Systems: Introduction to the Chop and Lift
- Stretch to Win; Ann Frederick, MS and Chris Frederick, PT
- American Council of Exercise: Side Plank
- Human Kinetics: Functional Anatomy of the Core: The Abdomen
- American Council of Exercise: Cobra
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.