Obliques are not only one of the sexiest muscles of the body, they are also one of the most frequently used. The internal and external obliques are used in everyday ambulatory movements, such as walking, running and crawling. The obliques engage every time you cross-laterally move the body. They are also used any time the spine rotates, side-bends or contracts forward with a side-bend. Stretching and strengthening the obliques not only straightens our posture, they keep our spines mobil and healthy. When in action the internal and external obliques also ring out our organs, which detoxify our bodies and keep our digestive system regular. On a more superficial note, the obliques narrow our waistline, toning and defining our midsection and getting rid of those oh-so-loveable love handles. No one I know has ever complained about having too narrow of a waistline. The obliques are bringing sexy back! For the expecting mothers out there, I believe that working your obliques during pregnancy helps support a growing belly (as well as your back) and aids in the pushing process during birth.
Personally... I just love the feeling of sore obliques. To empathize with my passion for strong defined obliques try out 3 of my favorite exercises below. Practice them in your home, at the gym or when you're hanging outside. You'll feel how they produce heat and power throughout the body immediately, and maybe even a little soreness the next day... if you're lucky.
••Awesome Side Note: Most of us are weaker and/or shorter on one side of our body than the other. This may be due to the overuse of one side of the body, scoliosis, tightness around another muscle group or just an asymmetrical bone. Either way, by stretching the side that's concave (shorter) and working the side that's convex (longer) most of the time you can begin to even out both sides of the body. In the long-run this helps with muscular pain and decompression in the joints.
Begin by laying on your back, with your legs at a 90 degree angle and you knees directly over your hips. Place your hands behind your head, with your elbows wide. Then extend your right leg 2 feet off the ground. Point both feet to keep the length in the leg. Lift your shoulders, arms and head off the ground. Twist your right elbow to your left knee, so that your torso twists to the left. Hold for 10 seconds. Keeping your holders and head up, switch legs so that your left leg is straight and right knee is bent. Bring your left elbow to your right knee. Hold for 10 seconds. Continue this pattern 4 times on each side. Then, continue this same cross-cross movement without stopping to hold. Do this 20 times. When you're done, drop your head and neck, bring both knees into your chest and grab them with your hands. Rock side to side, to release the back.
Side Plank: (advanced)
Begin on your hands and knees. One at a time come down onto your elbows, so that the shoulders are directly over your elbows and your palms are down. One at a time straighten your legs and step your feet back to a plank pose. You are now on the balls of both feet. Your body should look like a straight line. Slowly drop your feet the left, rotate your body to the left and stack your left shoulder directly on top of your right shoulder. Rotate your head gently to the left and gaze straight ahead. Reach your left arm up to the sky with power and strength. Press your right forearm into the ground and keep your right palm down. Hold for 20 seconds. To come down, rotate back to plank first and then lower down to your knees. Repeat on the other side.
Begin standing with your legs wide (about arms distance apart). Rotate your hips, legs and feet to the right, so that your right heel lines up with your left arch. Slowly bend your right to a 90 degree angle, so that your right knee so that it is aligned with the 2nd toe. Sink into that right hip as you bend that right leg but do not let the knee go past the toes. Push the right knee back and lengthen that right buttocks down. Ground the left heal and lift the left arch of the foot. Feel like you are pushing the ground away from each other to create divergence through both feet and legs. Reaching both arms straight over the feet open your palms to face forward. Windmill the body up and over to the right, so that the right hand is holding onto the right shin (or ankle for a more advanced pose). At the same time lift the left arm to the ceiling and reach those fingers wide. Gaze forward. Pull your shoulders down and away from your ears. Hold for 20-30 seconds. To stretch deepen into that left oblique, extend that left arm up and overhead. Palm is rotated slightly back and to the ground. Pull both shoulders away from your ears. Hold another 20-30 seconds. To stand back up, reverse your windmill and bring your torso upright over your hips. Rotate your legs and feet to face forward. Repeat on the other side.