If you’re looking to firm up your core, engaging your obliques (“love handles”) is a vital component.
Due to their location, on either side of our midsection, it’s easy to unintentionally neglect the obliques from our workout unless we specifically perform movements that require strength from our sides as well as our core.
And when it comes to supporting your spine, the obliques are a key player… so not only do oblique exercises help provide aesthetic benefits, they also help avoid lower back pain, improve upper body mobility and help you move with ease and joy.
So, if we’re all in agreement of the benefits of training our obliques… let’s talk specific exercises, namely the oblique crunch.
Whilst there are similarities to a regular sit-ups, oblique crunches involve a diagonal lift or twist of the upper body rather than vertical. This means the exercise is able to specifically isolate the obliques as well as the abdominals. A win-win workout!
As a bodyweight exercise, with no equipment required, oblique crunches leave you with no excuses for neglecting such important muscles.
This guide provides everything you need to know to start incorporating oblique crunches into your workout (including a video demonstration).
How to Perform Oblique Crunches
- Step 1. Start laid down on your back, in sit-up position. This means holding your hands either side of your head (not behind your neck to avoid straining here). Have your feet flat on the floor, ankles in line with hips and bend your knees at around a 90 degree angle.
- Step 2. Tense your abs, and raise your upper body in a twisting motion (think diagonal not vertical) so that your left shoulder and elbow reach up towards your right knee. The twist should mean you feel the stretch predominantly in the muscles in your sides as well as your abdominals.
- Step 3. Raise your upper body as far as your body will allow, making sure not to let your chin touch your chest (top tip – imagine you are holding an apple between your chin and neck to maintain the correct head position), before returning your shoulder and upper body slowly back to the floor. Whilst the aim of the movement is for your elbow to reach the opposite knee, only twist as far as is moderately uncomfortable but without any pain. Even without your elbow and knee making contact with each other, the twist will still work the obliques and abdominals as intended.
- Step 4. Repeat the movement but this time reach your right shoulder and elbow diagonally up towards your left knee.
- Step 5. Continue to repeat the movement, making sure you alternative the twist from each side of your body with the same number of repetitions on each. If you prefer, you could perform the movement for the desired number of repetitions on one side of your body and then swap to the other rather than alternating sides with each twist.
Oblique Crunches Variations
Some prefer to perform oblique crunches by resting one leg over the knee of the other leg. To do this, think back to the sit-up starting position, knees bent with your feet flat on the floor in front of you, ankles aligned with your hips. Keep one leg in that same position (this will act as a stabilizer) but lift the other so that your foot is resting on the knee of the stable leg. You’ll then raise your upper body, as before in a twisting motion, so that you reach the alternate shoulder and elbow towards the knee resting on your stable leg.
This variation makes little difference to the intensity of the exercise, it is more a matter of choice and what feels most comfortable for you.
You can increase the difficulty of oblique crunches by performing the same twisting movement but whilst lying your upper body on a soft training/swiss ball. Have your knees bent, feet flat on the floor to stabilise your body. The extra balance required to stay put on the ball adds further challenge to your obliques and abdominals.
If you’re on the hunt for a quality stability ball, check out our review of the Terra Core.
Lying oblique crunch
Rather than lying flat, start by lying on your side with your legs bent at the knee in front of you. Leave your lower arm resting on the floor out straight, and hold your upper arm to your temple. Raise your upper body as high as possible from the floor so that you feel the crunch in your obliques.
As with regular crunches, slowly lower back to the starting position and remember to work both sides of the body with an equal number of repetitions on each. Although this variation can be more intense on the obliques on your sides, some trainers prefer this vertical rather than twisting motion, as it is considered safer option for your spine.
Benefits of Oblique Crunches
Your obliques are key when it comes to the supporting your spine. They are responsible for stabilising the torso whilst also allowing for better range of motion from the trunk including twisting or rotating and flexing (the fancy word for bending).
Strength in your abdominal muscles gives more stability to your core, which is needed for good posture. This is so important for many reasons including reducing unnecessary pressure on other body parts when standing or sitting, and keeping you stable during everyday movements and therefore reducing the risk of falling.
As oblique crunches help to strengthen the abs, the exercise is popular amongst those who desire the physical look of toned and defined stomach, often referred to as a ‘six-pack.’
Ease lower back pain
By engaging the muscles that work to support and stabilise your spine, oblique crunches can help to reduce the pressure on your lower back, ease pain here and protect it from injury.
Muscles Worked During Oblique Crunches
The clue is in the name for this one, with oblique crunches predominantly working both the internal and external obliques. These are located on either side of your body and the front of your abs. This means that the exercise also gives your abs a good workout too.
As a bodyweight exercise, with no equipment required (unless you’re ready for the challenge of a stability ball!), oblique crunches are a great way to work the muscles in your torso from the comfort of your home. Remember that any isolation exercise will require you to rest the muscles worked to allow for recovery, so make sure you don’t overdo it particularly if you’re only just beginning to build strength in your obliques and abdominals.