The internal and external oblique muscles comprise the sides of the abdomen. These muscles assist with flexing the spine forward, flexing the spine laterally, or sideways, and rotating the torso in both directions, explains Dr. Susan Hall, author of the textbook “Basic Biomechanics.” You can strengthen the oblique muscles by performing resistance exercises through these ranges of motion. This will help them function better and prevent injuries.
The hay bailer exercise, featured by the American Council on Exercise, or ACE, strengthens the oblique muscles through trunk rotation. Stand upright with your right foot about 12 inches in front of your left and hold a medicine ball in front of your abdomen with your arms extended. Rotate to the left, keeping the ball at the same height, then to the right, raising the ball over your right shoulder, and then back to the left, lowering the ball back down. Continue twisting back and forth in this manner for your desired number of repetitions. Repeat with your left foot forward, raising the ball over your left shoulder.
For hip rotations, the oblique muscles help stabilize your body while you move your legs. According to ACE, assume an elevated push-up position and draw your right knee toward your chest. Repeatedly move your knee sideways across your upper body as far as possible and then away from your body as far as possible. Keep your hands and left foot anchored to the ground. Be sure to repeat the exercise with your left knee.
Resistance Band Rotations
Like the hay bailer exercise, resistance band rotations exercise the oblique muscles through trunk rotation in both directions. Attach a resistance band to a sturdy object as high as your stomach. Hold the band with both hands in front of your abdomen and step away from the object to remove any slack from the band. While keeping your hands in front of your belly, rotate away from the object to stretch the band and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for as many repetitions as you want and then turn around to perform the exercise in the opposite direction.
Side crunches strengthen the oblique muscles through lateral spine flexion. Stand upright, hold a dumbbell in your left hand and place your right hand against the right side of your head. Lean to the left to lower the weight about 6-inches and then return to the starting position. After multiple repetitions, do the exercise in the opposite direction with the dumbbell in your right hand.
Side throws are a plyometric exercise that helps build power in the oblique muscles. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a medicine ball in front of your abdomen with both hands. Slowly turn to the right, keeping the ball in front of your belly, and then powerfully turn to the left and release the ball, throwing it as hard as you can to the left side of your body. Perform multiple repetitions and then repeat in the opposite direction.
About this Author
Matthew Schirm has worked in the sports performance field for 10 years. He has professional experience as a baseball coach and weight training instructor. He recently earned a Master of Science degree in human movement from A.T. Still University in Mesa, Ariz.