‘How to get abs in four weeks!’

‘Get the six pack you’ve always dreamed of.’

Headlines like these on fitness blogs and Instagram posts are not uncommon. Everyone who’s anyone wants to lose abdominal fat, build a strong core, and have a beach-worthy middle that they can show off in bikinis and trunks.

And while there’s nothing wrong with focusing on building your core, the problem arises when we focus too much just on the middle - i.e. the rectus abdominis.

A truly holistic approach to building a strong core is one that also involves training the oblique muscles, also popularly known as ‘side abs’. Fitness Expert, Spoorthi, takes us through it all.

What are obliques or side abs?

These muscles - running from the hips to the rib cage - help you bend from side to side, rotate from left to right, and assist with movements such as crunches and sit ups. They’re a key muscle group in that they protect your spine and ensure your body remains stable as you twist and turn.

Benefits of training your oblique muscles

Alleviating back pain

Chronic back pain is often a result of poor core strength and weak obliques. Studies have shown that balanced core training that includes oblique-focused work can help alleviate back pain.

Improving your balance

If you find yourself wobbling too much during any kind of balancing work (e.g. during yoga), losing balance when you bend over, or even when you walk, weak obliques may be the culprit. 

When oblique muscles aren’t strong enough, your hip flexors work overtime and curve your spine, which can disturb your sense of equilibrium. Stronger oblique muscles will improve your balance, your gait, and also your sense of confidence.

Boosting core movement speed

When it comes to playing sports that involve swinging the torso - such as tennis and golf - improving oblique strength can improve the speed of core movements. Daily movements such as carrying, bending, and twisting also become easier.

Beginner level oblique exercises

Standing core stabilizer

Step 1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bring your arms straight out in front of you, hands touching. 

Step 2. Brace your core and begin to twist your upper body to the left, leading with your hands and allowing the right toe to pivot alongside.

Step 3. Return to center and repeat for the desired number of reps, then repeat on the right side.

Bird dog

Step 1. Extend one arm out straight in front and extend the opposite leg behind you, forming a straight line from the tips of your fingers to the toes. Keep your hips squared to the ground.

Step 2. Hold for a few seconds, then return to your hands and knees. Keep your core engaged throughout the entire exercise and keep your hips stable.

Step 3. Repeat with the other hand and leg for desired number of reps.

Heel tap

Step 1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. 

Step 2. Place arms down by your sides with palms facing up or down.

Step 3. Inhale and use your core to lift your head and upper back off the ground.

Step 4. Reach down to your left side, tapping your heel with your left hand.

Step 5. Return to center and repeat on the other side.

Intermediate level oblique exercises

Russian twist (3 sets, 15 reps)

Step 1. Sit with your legs on the floor in front of you, knees bent and heels on the floor.

Step 2. Lean back so your torso is at roughly 45° to the floor, holding a medium weight close to your stomach with both hands.

Step 3. Keeping your back straight, twist to the right and then to the left to complete one rep.

Sit-up twist (3 sets, 15 reps)

Step 1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

Step 2. Place your hands at the side of your head and engage your core.

Step 3. Do a full sit-up and once at the top of the movement twist your right elbow to your left knee, and twist your torso towards that side.

Step 4. Lower back down to the start and repeat on the left side.

Side plank

Step 1. Lie on your side with your bottom elbow on the ground underneath your shoulder and your forearm perpendicular to your body.

Step 2. Place your top foot on the ground in front of your bottom foot.

Step 3. Place your top hand on your hip.

Step 4. Raise your hips to form a straight line with your body from head to toe.

Step 5. Tighten your abs, glutes and quads, and hold.

Step 6. Repeat on the other side.

Advanced level oblique exercises 

Side plank knee to elbow crunch (10 reps on each side)

Step 1. Lie on your side with your bottom elbow on the ground underneath your shoulder and your forearm perpendicular to your body.

Step 2. Stack your feet together and place your top hand on your hip.

Step 3. Raise your hips  to form a straight line with your body from head to toe.

Step 4. Raise your top leg into the air as far as you can and extend your top arm overhead.

Step 5. Bring your top knee to your top elbow without moving your torso.

Step 6. Extend your leg and arm to return to the starting position.

Hanging obliques knee raise (3 sets, 10 reps)

Step 1. While hanging from a pull-up bar, pull both knees up towards your left side.

Step 2. Keep the rest of your body stationary.

Step 3. Slowly lower back to the start position, then repeat to the right side.


1. Start in a high plank, arms extended and palms under shoulders.

2. Bring your left knee to your left elbow. Use your upper body to turn toward your knee.

3. Continue the movement, alternating sides.

Remember! Just like any other workout, always begin with a light warm up routine. Keep yourself hydrated throughout and don’t end your workout without a short cool down. This will not only allow your heart rate and breathing to normalize after a strenuous exercise but also avoid any serious injuries from happening.

To sum up…

For most, core work is largely about aesthetics. A flat, defined stomach can do wonders for one’s self esteem and body image. But it’s essential to remember that there’s a lot more to a strong core. A holistic core routine that incorporates oblique work results in a kind of strength that will improve the quality of all your workouts, boost balance, reduce your chances of injury, and so much more - we’d say those are pretty compelling reasons to get started!

Nov 23, 2021

More from 



View All
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.