Muscles Targeted: Barbell oblique side bends primarily target the obliques (inner and external) which are the muscles responsible for a variety of twisting movements. Originating at the lower seven ribs, the obliques are situated on either side of your torso with the muscle fibers connected to the pelvic and pubic bones. As you do side bends, your spine will flex with the obliques. This exercise also targets the lower back muscles and the abdominal muscles to a lesser extent. Strengthening these muscles also ensures that your stomach is pulled flatter as the oblique muscles run over the abdominal wall pulling it tight like an elastic band.
Exercise Instructions: This exercise works the oblique muscles of your midsection. Grab a light barbell and rest it on the back of your trapezius muscles. Stand up straight with your legs shoulder width apart and simply bend from side to side. Be sure that the movement is slow and controlled, focusing on using your obliques to do the work.
Why This Exercise is Important: As oblique side bends target both the internal and external oblique muscles as well as the lower back and abdominal muscles, they are an effective exercise for strengthening the overall core. When your oblique muscles are strong and that strength is maintained through consistent exercise, you will find that your posture improves. This is because the oblique muscles are responsible for protecting the spine and supporting it while you are upright. If you incorporate oblique side bends into your regular exercise routine, not only will you find your midsection being toned and tight, but everyday movements such as picking objects up and climbing stairs will become much easier to perform. The benefits of having strong oblique muscles include:
- Lifting heavy boxes or walking up stairs will be easier.
- Your balance and posture will improve.
- You won’t suffer as much lower back pain as your spine is sufficiently supported.
- You will be less at risk of spinal injuries such as a herniated disc.
- Your stomach will be flatter as a result of the pull from the stronger obliques.
Things To Avoid: Although oblique side bends are one of the most effective ways to build your obliques, there are several things you should avoid while doing this exercise:
- Do not use a heavy weight. For this exercise, it’s not necessary to use a heavy weight in order to work your obliques. The movement complimented with a light weight is enough. A weight of 15-20 pounds is ideal for oblique side bends and will ensure that you don’t put too much strain on your spine. Too much weight and you risk an injury such as a herniated disk, while performing a lateral compressive movement.
- Do not lean too far to the side. Lean only until you begin to feel tension in your muscles. Once you feel the tension, it means your muscles have been activated and are working to support your body. Avoid unnecessary strain by continuing to lean even further.
- Only bend your waist. Avoid bending your knees or neck during this movement.
- Avoid twisting your shoulders. As you go down, ensure your shoulders do not twist. In the beginning, the twisting motion may be instinctive but make sure you correct it and keep your shoulders straight at all times.
Reps and Sets: For best results do 3 sets of 12-15 reps on each side with a barbell of around 15-20 pounds.
Other Exercises To Use:
While barbell oblique side bends are an effective way of strengthening both the external and internal oblique muscles, it’s important to vary your exercises. This is true no matter what muscle group you are targeting. Your body, being the incredibly efficient machine that it is, can and will adapt to any movement you do repetitively. Therefore, if you use only barbell oblique side bends for your obliques, their effectiveness will decrease with time and the gains will steadily decrease as your body adjusts to the movement. Vary your exercises to get the best results. There are several other variations that you could incorporate into your oblique exercise routine. These include oblique twists, oblique plate twists, seated oblique barbell twists and oblique crunches. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the abs.