Strengthening Oblique Muscles For A Stronger Core And Spine
Although most people know the best way to protect their spine is to maintain a strong core, a lot of people simply forget to train and strengthen their oblique muscles. Their focus seems to be on the superficial core muscle, or rectus abdominis muscle, rather than their lateral stabilisers (the internal and external obliques). While defining this core muscle has obvious appeal, it’s not always the practical fix for strengthening your core and spine.
Understanding the basics of your oblique muscles is important, for many reasons. Not only will you be aware of what muscles you’re targeting, but you’ll also know what to do if you injure them. This blog post will take you through how to properly strengthen oblique muscles for maximum benefit.
What Are Oblique Muscles And Why Are They Important?
Oblique muscles help your body move from side to side. They play a big role in strengthening your lower back and improving your posture. Within this muscle group, you have two groups of oblique muscles: internal obliques and external obliques. They both play an incredibly important role in maintaining healthy posture.
External Oblique Muscles
The external obliques make up one of the largest parts of your trunk area. There are two external obliques on either side of your body, located on the lateral sides of the abdominal region.
External obliques play an important role in rotating your trunk and supporting spine rotation. Along with this, they assist with pulling your chest downwards to compress the abdominal cavity. External obliques also help with bending from side to side.
These muscles play a crucial part in your body’s daily movements. As such, any strain or injury to these muscles can be serious. It’s important to maximise your external oblique strength to ensure you maintain a strong core.
Internal Oblique Muscles
The internal oblique is a deep muscle located on the lateral side of your abdomen. While its position means it isn’t visible, it still plays a crucial role in your body’s movement. The internal oblique muscle is one of the main stabilisers of the trunk and functions to flex the trunk and compress the chest.
This muscle can function bilaterally, meaning both sides can function at once. Similar to the external oblique, it’s important to understand the basics of this muscle and how it works to keep your body moving properly.
It’s important to strengthen both oblique muscles to give your spine superior support and improve your overall posture.
Avoid Injury by Strengthening Oblique Muscles
It’s common for trainers to target the superficial core muscle in fitness training, rather than focusing on targeted training to strengthen oblique muscles. While training your superficial core muscle has appealing visual benefits, it doesn’t do much to strengthen your back and posture. In fact, when tested for oblique strength, those only training their core are weaker due to lessened oblique recruitment. This impacts their major strength lifts and puts them at risk of injury.
Without any specific oblique training, your vital core and spinal stability suffers, which can leave you vulnerable to lower back and shoulder pain, instability or injury.
Exercises to Strengthen Oblique Muscles
Thankfully, there are a number of simple exercises to help strengthen your oblique muscles. To help you get those obliques firing and strong, the following five movements can be done a couple of times a week:
- Side Planks
A side plank is a reasonably simple exercise that targets your abdominal obliques. If you’re a beginner, you can start by taking a full plank on your knees and slowly taking it over to one side. Aim to build up to 30-seconds on each side and repeat 2-3 times a week.
Image taken from Women’s Health Magazine
Woodchops are a fun and simple exercise that involves imitating the movements of chopping wood. You can do this exercise using cables or a medicine ball. This adds some rotation into your training and will help strengthen the lateral stabilisers. Repeat this exercise in sets of 3, performing at least 10 repetitions on each side.
- Bicycle Crunches
Bicycle crunches are a staple in any oblique workout. They involve laying on your back with your hands behind your head and taking turns on each side to bring the opposite elbow to the opposite knee. Bicycle crunches are a great introductory exercise, and provide a good workout to your abdominal muscles. A good way to incorporate this exercise into your routine is in 30-second repetitions.
- Cross-Body Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers are a great oblique exercise. Starting in a full plank position, reach your opposite knee towards the opposite hand. To best target your obliques, this exercise should be taken at a walking pace. You’ll also be targeting your triceps and quads while doing mountain climbers, so it’s a great all-round movement. Aim for 30-second repetitions for this exercise.
- Heel Taps
Heel taps are an easy oblique exercise that do a great job of strengthening your core. They involve lying on your back with your knees bent, using your core to lift your upper body off the ground and reaching your arms towards your heels. This twisting motion burns quickly and is great for strengthening those obliques. 30-second repetitions of this exercise are a great addition to your workout.
Get More Tips for How to Strengthen Oblique Muscles
If you need further help with ideas on strengthening your core and obliques, we’re here to help. The chiropractors at Dynamic Chiropractic have years of experience training themselves, and assisting their patients to train in a way that prevents injury and creates healthy core function. If you’d like to speak with our team, please get in touch to receive personal and educated advice on strengthening your oblique muscles today.