The obliques don’t get as much attention as the showier mirror muscles, such as the abs and butt, that many Nesties work on. But maybe it’s time to give them a bit more love. Strong obliques help you in sports that require rotational movements, such as tennis, squash and racquetball, as well as golf, softball and rowing. And if you love to dance, even if it’s not with the stars, a strong obliques program will pay dividends.
Even if you aren’t a big jock and just love slinging kettlebells for the fun of it, rather than for better sports performance, you’re on the right track. “The oblique muscles are always ‘on’ when utilizing one weight,” notes kettlebell champion and instructor Lorna Kleidman. Any single-armed kettlebell exercise, such as the one-armed swing, snatch or the windmill, works well to enhance oblique endurance and body stability. Kleidman recommends two to three sessions per week with a kettlebell weighing 15 to 20 pounds. She also recommends presses, planks, rows and similar exercises.
The strict press is a one-armed move that requires knowledge of the rack position -- which entails the KB, as kettlebell fans call their cannonball-shaped weights, in the crook of the elbow, with your fingers under your chin. Once you’ve bought the bell to the rack position, with knees soft and abs tight, press the bell straight up so your upper arm is positioned next to your ear, upper and lower arms stacked one above the other, Kleidman counsels. Return the kettlebell to rack. Do not use your legs to move the bell; press only with your arm. You will notice the opposite side obliques are engaged throughout these sets. Aim for three to four sets of eight to 10 repetitions on each side.
Standing or Walking Overhead
If you’re looking for a simple obliques exercises, “just keep the bell in the overhead position, arm straight, bones stacked and walk around: down a hall and back or just in a circle around yourself,” Kleidman suggests. This exercise, sometimes called the waiter walk, creates obliques endurance and shoulder stability. Aim for three to four sets of 30 to 60 seconds per side.
You’ll hit the obliques squarely with the Russian twist. Sitting on the floor, bring the KB to right rack position. Layer your left hand over your right. Rotate your trunk to your right, then quickly rotate to your left, letting the bell flip to the left rack. Alternate sides with brisk movements as you rotate. “Keep your right hand slightly open so the bell can slide within it,” Kleidman suggests. Complete three to four sets of 15 to 20 twists.
Side Plank Row
All your body’s stabilizer muscles enjoy a stiff challenge with the side plank row. Lie sideways on a yoga or workout mat. With your left arm stacked straight under your left shoulder, lift your hips so you’re in a side plank position. You can separate your feet for balance for a easier exercise or stack your legs for a challenge, Kleidman notes. Row the bell just in front of your trunk, with your elbow reaching toward the ceiling. Touch the bell to the mat while keeping your hips lifted. Complete three to four sets, 10 reps per side.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.