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How and why to pump the oblique abdominal muscles
How and why to pump the oblique abdominal muscles

This part of the abdominal press is often forgotten by many. But in vain.

How and why to pump oblique abdominal muscles
How and why to pump oblique abdominal muscles

Where are the oblique muscles of the abdomen

The external and internal oblique muscles are the parts of the abdominal wall located on the sides of the abdomen. They lie in layers: the first layer is represented by the external oblique muscles of the abdomen, under them are the internal oblique muscles.

Together with the rectus abdominis muscle - the one that looks through the skin as "abs cubes" - the oblique muscles create a protective layer for the anterior abdominal wall.

By reducing them, we can tilt and rotate the body to the side, or, conversely, keep it from rotating. Also, the oblique muscles help to bend the trunk straight with fixed legs and, conversely, raise the legs if the body is motionless.

Why swing your oblique abdominal muscles

There are several reasons to pay attention to working out these muscles:

  • Back pain protection … The abdominal muscles form a rigid cylinder that stabilizes the spine and holds it in position. Exercising these muscles helps reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders associated with poor posture and sedentary lifestyles.
  • More efficient performance of everyday motor tasks … The condition of the core muscles directly affects the quality of movement in everyday life. By pumping your obliques and other parts of your core, you can run better, lift weights more efficiently, push and pull harder.
  • Improving sports performance … Together with other parts of the body, the oblique abdominal muscles transmit forces from the lower limbs to the upper ones and vice versa. For example, when serving in tennis and baseball or striking in martial arts, muscle activation begins in the lower extremities, extends upward through the torso, and only ends with the movement of the arms. Strong abdominal muscles will improve the transfer of power, make movements more powerful and precise, which is useful in any sport.
  • Reducing the risk of injury. Since the oblique muscles of the abdomen, along with the rest of the core, are responsible for the stability of the spine and the ability to maintain balance, pumping them allows you to reduce the risk of injury.

What exercises to do to pump the oblique abdominal muscles

The external oblique muscles of the abdomen are well activated in dynamic exercises, while for the internal ones, static ones are more suitable, when the muscles tense in order to maintain a position, rather than change it. Therefore, to pump both layers, combine dynamics and statics and change exercises periodically.

Below is a list of movements that engage both the external and internal oblique muscles and give them enough stress to increase strength and endurance.


An experiment from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) tested popular abs pumping movements.

According to the results of electromyography (EMG) - tracking the electrical potential of working muscles - "bicycle" was recognized as one of the best exercises for strengthening the oblique muscles of the abdomen. And this is not surprising, because it combines both the tilt of the pelvis back, and the flexion of the body, and the turn to the side.

Lie on your back, press your lower back to the floor and tighten your abs. Then remove your hands behind your head, bend your knees and pull them closer to your chest.

Turn the body to the side and stretch your elbow to the opposite knee, and straighten the other leg, but do not put it on the floor. Continue alternating sides, turning your torso well and not releasing tension in your abdominal muscles.

Do not put your hands on your head so as not to put undue stress on the neck, let only your fingers touch the back of the head. And don't put your feet on the floor until the end of the set.

"Lumberjack" on the block simulator

During this movement, you not only twist the body to the side, but also keep the muscles of the abdominal wall in constant tension so as not to allow the handle of the block trainer to turn you to the side.

Place the handle of the block trainer at the level of your shoulder and grasp it with both hands, with your fingers locked. Take a step to the side, pulling the cable, and turn sideways. Bend your elbows slightly and strain your arms, keeping them to the side of your body.

Exhale and pull your navel towards your spine to tighten your abdominal muscles. Without bending your arms, move the handle of the block trainer to the opposite thigh, while turning the body to the side.

Keep your hips away from your body and try to minimize arm movement. Concentrate on turning the body: feel the muscles contracting on the sides.

Knees to shoulder hanging on a horizontal bar

The same experiment with the participation of ACE recognized the lifting of the legs in the captain's chair as the best movement for pumping the oblique muscles of the abdomen.

Trainer and kinesiologist Jeremy Ethier suggested modifying this movement a little in order to better pump the oblique muscles.

Hang on a horizontal bar, tilt your pelvis back and draw in your stomach. Raise your bent knees, while simultaneously turning the body to the side, as if you are going to reach one shoulder with your feet. Then gently lower your legs, tense your stomach again and repeat the movement in the other direction.

If you can't hang on the bar for a long time, you can try this exercise in the captain's chair or lying on the floor.

Side bar

The side plank is excellent for pumping both the external and internal oblique muscles of the abdomen and is often used to assess the strength of these muscles.

Oblique Abdominal Exercises: Lateral Forearm Plank
Oblique Abdominal Exercises: Lateral Forearm Plank

Lie on the floor on your right side, place your feet on top of each other. Place the forearm of your right hand on the floor with your elbow firmly under your shoulder. Lift your pelvis off the floor and extend your body in one straight line. Extend your free hand up.

Keep your body straight, do not let your pelvis drop and your neck and shoulders do not come forward.

Lateral body hold on GHD

This static exercise pumps your obliques even better than the side plank. And, unlike her, it does not tire the shoulder girdle and upper limbs.

True, for him you need a GHD trainer or a bench and a partner who will support your legs while you perform.

Sit on the machine and place your feet under the holders. Roll onto your side and pull the body parallel to the floor. Check that the edges are touching the protruding pelvic bone (iliac crest), and adjust the length of the machine if it is not.

Fold your arms over your chest or stretch forward, as in the video, and hold the position. To complicate the movement, you can hold the pancake from the bar in your hands.


The front plank is one of the best exercises for pumping your internal oblique muscles. In order to load them to the maximum, it is important to observe two points: keep the press in constant tension and twist the pelvis.

Stand upright, place your forearms on the floor, straighten your knees. Tighten your abs and tilt your pelvis back. To better understand how to do this, imagine pulling your pubic bone towards your navel.

Maintain a position without relieving tension in the abdominal muscles. To increase the load, bring your shoulder blades together.

Hip Extension Ball Plank

In this exercise, you will not only have to maintain balance on an unstable support, but also raise your legs one by one, providing the muscles with additional load.

Stand upright with your feet on a fitness ball. Tighten the abs and buttocks, check that the lower back does not fall down. Take turns lifting your legs and bringing them back onto the ball.

"Stirring" on the ball

This movement looks simple, but due to instability, the oblique muscles of the abdomen - especially the external ones - get a very good load.

Stand in a plank on your elbows with an emphasis on the fitness ball, tighten your abs and twist your pelvis back.

Make circular movements with your shoulders in a small range, as if stirring something in a large cauldron. Make sure that the shoulders do not rise to the ears, the body remains level, and the lower back remains neutral.

Bulgarian Weighted Split Squat

As a rule, the Bulgarian split squat is used to pump the legs and buttocks, but due to the instability and execution on one leg, it also perfectly pumps the oblique muscles of the abdomen.

Oblique Abdominal Exercises: Bulgarian Weighted Split Squat
Oblique Abdominal Exercises: Bulgarian Weighted Split Squat

Stand with your back to a low, stable support such as a bench or chair. Place one foot on a support and do squats on the other. If at the bottom of the movement the heel of the supporting leg comes off the floor, step back half a step further from the support.

Make sure that the knee of the supporting leg does not twist inward: this position under load can harm the knee joint. To avoid this, twist your knee slightly to the side while lifting.

Try moving without weight first. If you're feeling confident, try the dumbbell split squat. Pick up the weight so as to perform 15-20 repetitions without flaws in the technique.

Swing kettlebell

Kettlebell swings primarily engage the glutes and back extensors, but also pump the internal oblique muscles of the abdomen well.

Choose a kettlebell of a suitable weight and place it between your legs. Tilt your body with your back straight, grab the kettlebell with both hands and slide it between your legs.

Then, with a sharp movement, unbend in the pelvis and swing the kettlebell to shoulder level. Let the projectile fall down under its own weight, again lead it behind the line of the body between the legs and repeat the swing.

Continue in the same spirit, actively unbend your back and tighten your buttocks, sending the kettlebell forward.

How long and how often to pump the oblique abdominal muscles

Dynamic exercises should be performed in 3-4 sets of 10-20 repetitions. When choosing a specific number, be guided by your feelings. If at the end of the approach you feel increasing pain from working muscles, the amount is chosen correctly.

Perform static exercises in 3-4 sets of 30-60 seconds or until serious flaws in the technique appear. For example, when you can no longer hold your body weight in the plank and your lower back begins to collapse, despite your efforts.

As for the frequency of exercises, the abdominal muscles are quite hardy, they tolerate stress well and quickly recover. Therefore, you can do one oblique abdominal exercise per workout.