The obliques are the long muscles running up and down the sides and front of your torso, giving your body an hourglass shape. The layer of fat that sometimes covers that part of the body is often referred to as the "love handles." Side dips can help combat those love handles by strengthening the obliques and pulling them in tighter to give your waist a tapered, slim look.
How the Obliques Work
The oblique muscle group is made up of internal and external muscles that form a girdle across your midsection, forming support for your diaphragm and internal organs. Both sets cross the abdomen diagonally; the internal obliques originating at your pelvis and extending upwards and across, and the external obliques originating at the base of your rib cage and extending downwards and across. These muscles also help support your back and pull your belly inwards.
Side dips are a great choice for strengthening the obliques because they force you to use your stabilizer muscles by balancing while you bend. They engage the entire core by using both the internal and external obliques to perform the movement. To perform a side dip, form a straight line with your body by lying on your side, then raise your torso and legs off the ground, and rest on your bottom elbow, forearm and hand, and the outside of your bottom foot. Using a focused, controlled movement, keep your pelvis pointed forward and allow the hips to sink toward the ground. Raise your hips back up to the straight line. Repeat 10 times per side.
Muscles contract with exercise, and it's important to stretch them after exercise so they don't become tight and sore. Any variation of the side stretch will help lengthen your oblique muscles. Standing side bends are performed by raising one arm over your head and leaning away from the arm from the hips. You can also stretch your obliques by lying down with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, then allowing the knees to drop to one side of the body.
More Oblique Exercises
Any exercises that require core strength, such as lunges, planks, or any other balance exercise, including any with a balance board or exercise ball, will engage your obliques. Moves that incorporate twists are especially effective at targeting the sides of your abs. Try cable rotations, hip rotations, standing trunk rotations, Russian twists, or twist-ups to really get a burn on. You can use a medicine ball or weight to increase the intensity of the exercise.
Ari Reid has a bachelor's degree in biology (behavior) and a master's in wildlife ecology. When Reid is not training to run marathons, she is operating a non-profit animal rescue organization. Reid has been writing web content for science, health and fitness blogs since 2008.