Obliques: how to pump up your side abs

In fitness, the obliques are not particularly popular. Men focus on their six-pack, paying more attention to the rectus muscle. For women, exercises on the oblique abdominal muscles are often completely “taboo” due to the stereotype about the expansion of the waist in volume. However, everyone needs to do oblique exercises. These muscles not only play an important role in performing various movements in fitness and everyday life but also have great anatomical significance. Weak tone can lead to a number of consequences that will negatively affect both the musculoskeletal system and the functioning of internal organs.

Anatomy, structure, and functions of the oblique abdominal muscles

Oblique muscles anatomy
In the body, the oblique muscles represent the lateral part of the abdominal region. Act as the main rotators of the body. They are represented by two separate muscles, depending on the depth and layer:

  • External oblique muscle – forms the surface layer. This is precisely the goal of training in sports.
  • Internal oblique muscle – lies under the outer one, and does not need separate elaboration.

The external oblique muscle of the abdomen anatomically begins from ribs 5-12. Attached in the area:

  • White line.
  • Inguinal ligament.
  • Pubic tubercle and ridge.

The internal oblique muscle originates from the thoracolumbar fascia, iliac crest, and inguinal ligament. Attached in the area of ​​the linea alba, are the cartilages of 9-12 ribs and the pubic crest.

The main task of the oblique abdominal muscles is to rotate the torso. Although, in addition to the main one, muscles perform a number of functions.

Functions of the extrinsic muscle

  • Rotation.
  • Torso tilt.
  • Flexion.
  • Lowering of the ribs.
  • Tension of the anterior abdominal wall.
  • Bilateral reduction.

Functions of the internal oblique muscle

  • Turn.
  • Incline.
  • Tension and protrusion.

Despite some differences, both muscles act together. Therefore, to pump up the oblique abdominal muscles, you do not need to perform separate movements for a specific part.

How to pump up the oblique abdominal muscles

There is only one main feature that is worth considering – to pump up your side ab, you must be able to focus the load on the desired area. Otherwise, a technically correct side ab exercise will be most effective for developing the target zone. If the technique is not performed, then the main load will fall on other muscles.

It is worth touching on the myth that you should not train the oblique abdominal muscles in girls so as not to widen your waist. These muscles are very weak in hypertrophy, so to even partially increase the lateral abdominal muscles will require years of powerful strength work with heavy weights. That is, we are talking about targeted downloading, which is unlikely to be done by anyone consciously. Even for men, exercises for the obliques will not give such results in the short term, although they are more prone to hypertrophy.

Because for girls to develop the same oblique abdominal muscles as men, it will take a lot of effort.

Performing exercises on the lateral abdominal muscles with minimal weights and in a high-repetition mode, there will be no risk of increasing your waist.

Moreover, this will allow you to create excellent relief (only with a low percentage of fat) and an aesthetic, athletic appearance.

Regarding the frequency of training, it is enough to perform exercises on the target muscles 1-2 times a week. This zone is hardy and recovers quickly. Therefore, women and men can perform exercises on the oblique abdominal muscles to develop strength and endurance every 3-4 days. It is optimal to do 3 exercises in one workout, in 3-4 sets of 15-20 repetitions.

The best exercises for the oblique abdominal muscles for home and gym

Let’s look at the top 3 exercises to work the oblique abdominal muscles, which can be performed in any condition. It should be noted that each of the three types of movement has many variations. Therefore, it is worth considering only classic exercises for the oblique abdominal muscles, and not their subtypes.

1. Hanging leg raises with abduction

The movement is great not only for pumping up the lateral abdominal muscles but also for properly working out the lower abdomen.


  1. Hang on a horizontal bar or in an exercise machine with an elbow support.
  2. Slowly raise your knees bent to the right side (try to move your legs as far as possible).
  3. Pause and slowly lower your legs, performing the same movement on your left side.

In this exercise for the side ab, it is important to ensure that the body does not sway and that the legs are lifted using the side ab.

Leg lifts can also be performed with a turn at the top point. To do this, the legs are raised straight (bent at the knees), after which at the top point they are rotated to the sides alternately. This is a more difficult version of the exercise.

Hanging leg swings

2. Crunches

This is a whole group of exercises for the oblique muscles, which include:

Twisting on the floor photo

  • On a Roman chair.

Bench crunches

  • Exercise “book” lying on the floor.

Exercise prayer for strong abs

Side crunch photo

Even though these are different exercises, they all belong to the same type of movement. They are united technical features:

  • The housing must be securely fixed.
  • In each movement, jerks, inertia, or fast pace of execution are excluded.
  • Twists are performed as much as possible as physical capabilities allow (but without strong rounding of the back).
  • At the peak point there should be an exhalation and a short pause.

Otherwise, the technique will depend on the position and characteristics of the specific movement.

3. Standing/sitting body rotation

Another group of similar exercises that have the same principle is performing torso rotation. This is precisely the function of the external oblique abdominal muscle. Unlike other movements, rotations are performed at a moderate or even fast (relatively) pace. The group includes:

Dumbbell crunches

  • Rotate the disc laterally while standing.

Oblique muscles with disc

  • Exercise “lumberjack” in a crossover or with a rubber band.

Crunches from the top block

  • Rotating a fitball while standing.

Turns with a fitball

You can also perform regular dumbbell bend-overs separately, although this movement is not very effective for the target area. Moreover, it is precisely this that girls who do not want to increase their waist size should be afraid of. A static load from a side plank is ideal to complete your workout.
Side plank photo

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