To literally get into the swing of an exercise routine, you can’t beat kettlebells. After all, you’re not going to have much luck swinging a barbell. But the kettlebell’s distinctive construction, with a curved handle on top and a solid mass below, makes it ideal to perform a variety of swinging exercises. As a nice bonus, a kettlebell routine burns about 20 calories per minute. If you’re looking to tone up that midsection, you’ll find plenty of kettlebell swings that target your oblique muscles.
Your oblique muscles are on the lower sides of your torso. You have one internal and one external oblique on each side. These muscles are involved in flexing and rotating your spine to perform movements such as bending your torso forward or twisting your upper body from side to side. Exercises that target the obliques typically employ one or both of those torso movements.
The classic kettlebell swing between your legs has several variations. But the bottom line is that this swing does work your obliques as your torso bends forward. To perform swings, use a wide stance with your feet more than shoulder-width apart. Flex your knees, lean your torso forward, then swing the weight between your legs, as far back as possible. Straighten your torso as you lift the weight as high as you can in front of your chest, then bend forward again as the weight descends. You can perform between-the-legs swings by holding one kettlebell with one or two hands, or by holding a kettlebell in each hand. Do 20 repetitions or work up to that level.
Any time your trunk rotates laterally while your lower body remains in place, you know that you’re working your obliques. To perform waist swings with a kettlebell, stand straight with your feet spread about shoulder-width apart. Hold one kettlebell with both hands. Extend your arms directly in front of your upper chest, then swing the weight as far as you can in each direction. Keep your feet in place, although you can lift your heels off the floor to help lengthen your swings. Swing the weight from the right to the left and back again to complete one repetition. Try to do 20 reps.
The seated shaker is another side-to-side exercise that strengthens your obliques. Sit with your legs in front of you. Bend your knees and set your heels on the floor. Keep your legs in this position throughout the exercise. Hold one kettlebell in two hands, near the floor and as far to your right as you can, then swing the weight as high and as far to the left as possible. Lower the kettlebell toward the floor, then swing it high and to the right to complete one repetition. Aim for 20 reps. Do a more challenging variation by lifting your feet off the floor and moving your legs in the opposite direction of the kettlebell swing. For example, when you swing the kettlebell from right to left, move your legs to the right, pointing your knees in the direction of your movement.
Speak with a physician before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you’ve been inactive or have any previous injuries. Stop performing kettlebell exercises if you feel pain. Warm up before doing kettlebell exercises by performing five to 10 minutes of light cardio activity. Perform trunk rotations without weights to further loosen your muscles. Use kettlebells that are sufficiently heavy to make your final reps challenging.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.