30 Exercises to Make the Most of Your Oblique Workout

person wearing a turquoise tank top and pink and blue leggings performing a side plank in their living room

Whether you’re working toward a six-pack or just aiming for a stronger core, we know working the abs is a smart move.

But your core is made up of more than just the six-pack muscles — have you addressed your obliques too?

The obliques, which run along the sides of your core, are important for rotational movements, bending from side to side, and protecting your spine.

Strengthening them, specifically, a few days per week is a great idea for your overall health.

Below, we’ve curated beginner, intermediate, and advanced routines to make the most of your oblique workout. Dive in and give those “side abs” some love!

Beginner routine 

These moves — all bodyweight — are great basics, and you should feel free to use them even when you’re no stranger to the gym.

That being said, when you feel like you need more of a challenge, move on to the intermediate or advanced routine.

To target your obliques directly, choose 2–3 of these exercises and add them to your workout twice a week. Aim for 3 sets of 10–12 reps of each exercise.

Bird dog

person performing a bird dog

This move targets your abs and will also test your balance.

Besides the obliques, it also works the:

  • lats
  • glutes

How to do it:

  1. Start on all fours with your hands in line with your shoulders and knees in line with your hips.
  2. Inhale, brace your core, and reach your right arm and left leg straight out so they’re both parallel to the ground.
  3. Ensure that your lower back stays stable and your hips stay square to the ground.
  4. Exhale and return to start. Repeat with the left arm and right leg.

Heel tap

person performing a heel tap

Target your obliques with this move, which is essentially a side crunch on the ground.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat.
  2. Arms should be down by your sides with palms facing up or down — your preference.
  3. Inhale and use your core to lift your head and upper back off the ground.
  4. Reach down to your left side, tapping your heel with your left hand. Think of this movement as a side crunch, and resist the urge to lift your upper body further off the ground.
  5. Return to center.
  6. Repeat on the right side.

Side plank

person performing a side plank

Planks — everyone loves to hate them!

Whether on your knees or your feet, this move not only targets your side abs, but your upper body and one of the muscles in your booty called the gluteus medius, an important stabilizer for your pelvis.

Other major muscles worked include the:

  • shoulder
  • gluteus medius

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the ground on your left side.
  2. Come up onto your hand or forearm, supporting your upper body.
  3. Bend your knees at a 45-degree angle and stack your right leg on top of your left. You can also extend your legs and stack your feet if you have the strength.
  4. Your body should form a straight line from either head to knee or head to toe, whichever setup you choose.
  5. Keeping your feet touching, use your obliques to pull your right hip toward the sky, allowing your right arm to rest on your side or extend overhead.
  6. Hold here for the desired time, then switch sides.

Side plank with a reach-under

person performing a side plank with a reach under

Adding a reach-under will provide even more of a twisting motion to target those obliques.

Other major muscles worked include the:

  • shoulder
  • gluteus medius

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the ground on your left side.
  2. Come up onto your hand or forearm, supporting your upper body.
  3. Bend your knees at a 45-degree angle and stack your right leg on top of your left.
  4. Keeping your feet touching, use your obliques to pull your right hip toward the sky.
  5. Extend your left arm overhead.
  6. Inhale, and reach your hand down and under the left side of your body, adding in that twist.
  7. Return your arm overhead, then repeat.

Cross-body mountain climber

person performing a cross body mountain climber

Often done as a form of cardio, mountain climbers target the core — namely the obliques — as well.

Go slower here than you would for a cardio mountain climber to really focus on the abs.

Other major muscles worked include:

  • delts
  • triceps
  • quads

How to do it:

  1. Start in a high plank position, but with your glutes slightly higher than they would be in that position. Wrists are under shoulders and your neck is neutral.
  2. Drive your left knee forward toward your right elbow, keeping the rest of your body stationary.
  3. Return to start, then repeat with the right leg.

Bicycle crunch

person performing a bicycle crunch

This twisting ab move will have your obliques on fire. Another benefit is that it’s scalable, too.

If you have trouble keeping your lower back flush to the ground, place your feet on the ground instead of extending your legs.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the ground on your back, bringing your legs to tabletop position.
  2. Bend your elbows and place your hands behind your head.
  3. Using your core, lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground, and bring your right elbow to your left knee, straightening your right leg.
  4. Release slightly and twist to the other side, bending your right leg, straightening your left leg, and bringing your left elbow to your right knee.

Standing core stabilizer

person performing a standing core stabilizer

Don’t underestimate the benefit of this standing ab move. Ensure that you’re twisting your whole torso, not just your arms, to get the full benefit.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and bring your arms straight out in front of you, hands touching.
  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 in response. Your gaze should follow this movement.
  3. Return to center and repeat for the desired number of reps, then repeat on the right side.

Wide side crunch

person performing a wide set crunch

Add some leg work into your side crunches with this move. The focus is on the obliques here though, so if your legs fatigue, come out of the squat a bit.

Other muscles worked include:

  • quads
  • glutes

How to do it:

  1. Take a wide stance with your toes pointed out.
  2. Sink into a squat position, and lift your arms out to your sides with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Staying in the squat position, bend at your side, taking your right elbow toward your right knee.
  4. Return to center and crunch to the left.

Standing knee tuck extension

person performing a standing knee tuck extension

Take your side crunches standing with standing knee tuck extensions.

Really reach that elbow to knee, while focusing on the side bend, to get the most crunch for your buck.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out. Bend your elbows and put your hands behind your head.
  2. Brace your core and bend sideways at the waist, bringing your knee up and your elbow down simultaneously.
  3. Return to center and repeat on the other side.

Walking lunge with rotation

person performing a walking lunge with rotation

When you add a rotation to an exercise, you can count on your obliques firing. Spice up walking lunges with a twist of the torso over your front leg.

Other muscles worked include:

  • quads
  • glutes
  • hamstrings

How to do it:

  1. Start standing straight with your feet together and your arms out in front of you, elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  2. Lunge forward with your left leg until your thigh reaches parallel, twisting your torso over your left thigh to hit the oblique.
  3. Return to standing, twisting your torso back to center.
  4. Step forward with the right leg, repeating the movement.

Intermediate routine 

Once you’ve mastered the beginner moves, try out this intermediate routine.

Pick 2–3 exercises and do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

Side plank rotation

Adding a rotation — rotating your side planks from side to side — creates a challenge.

Muscles also worked include:

  • delts
  • quads

How to do it:

  1. Assume a high plank position with shoulders in line with wrists and your neck neutral. Place your feet right next to each other.
  2. Lift your right hand off the ground and begin to rotate into a side plank position, opening your torso to the room.
  3. Your right arm should follow your body, remaining extended.
  4. Pause here and then return to the high plank, repeating on the other side.

Hip dips

Deceivingly difficult, don’t force this move — go slowly and controlled, and if you can’t drop your hip all the way to the ground, that’s OK!

Muscles also worked include:

  • delts
  • quads

How to do it:

  1. Get into a forearm plank position.
  2. Bracing your core, rotate your body to the right, dropping your right hip as close to the floor as it will go.
  3. Return to center, repeating on the other side.

Windshield wipers

Picture your legs as this car accessory, moving back and forth from center.

Start with your knees bent, but you have the option to extend your legs if you feel up to it.

How to do it:

  1. Lie with your back flat on the ground and your legs in the tabletop position. Your arms should be out perpendicular to your body.
  2. Bracing your core, slowly allow your knees to fall to the right, maintaining control all the way down. Otherwise, stop when you feel your upper back coming off the ground.
  3. Return to start, then repeat on the other side.

Woodchop

Although it’s the opposite direction in which you’d actually chop wood — yes, we know! — this twisting move with added weight will work your full body.

Major muscles also worked include:

  • delts
  • quads

How to do it:

  1. Grab a dumbbell and hold it by each end to the right side of your body.
  2. Squat down slightly and rotate your trunk to the right.
  3. Stand up and, keeping your arms extended, swing the dumbbell up and across your body in a controlled motion by twisting your torso to the left.
  4. Pivot on your right toe as you go, bringing the dumbbell to end over your left shoulder.
  5. Return to the starting position, do the desired number of reps, then repeat on the other side.

Oblique side bends

Hold a weight and drop to the side as far as you can!

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight and hold a dumbbell in one hand at your side. Your feet should be close together but not touching.
  2. Bracing your core, bend sideways at the waist, allowing the dumbbell to drop down toward the floor.
  3. Using your oblique, pull yourself back to start, repeating for the desired number of reps.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Russian twist

Core control is key to execute the Russian twist. Rest your heels on the ground here if you need the extra stability.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lean back and lift your feet off the ground, balancing on your tailbone.
  3. Extend your arms and twist your torso, allowing your arms to drop to your right side.
  4. Twist back, dropping to the left.

Lunge with rotation and added weight

Muscles also worked include:

  • quads
  • hamstrings
  • glutes

How to do it:

  1. Complete this lunge the same way you would without weight, and hold a dumbbell out in front of you with your arms extended, twisting as you go.

Medicine ball side toss

Grab a partner or position yourself next to a sturdy wall for this oblique-targeting move.

Muscles also worked include:

  • deltoids

How to do it:

  1. Grab a medicine ball and position yourself 3–4 feet away from a solid wall. Turn so your right side is facing the wall.
  2. Hold the medicine ball with both hands at the side of your left hip.
  3. Squat down slightly, twist your torso, and propel the ball toward the wall, extending your arms as you go.
  4. Catch the ball, twist your torso back to center, lower the ball back to hip level, and immediately toss it again.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps, then switch sides.

Oblique crunch

A standard oblique crunch will target those side abs specifically.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Roll onto your left hip at a 45-degree angle, bracing yourself on your left forearm.
  3. Lift your feet and knees off the ground, and put your right hand behind your head.
  4. Crunch up, bringing your lower body and upper body to meet.
  5. Release back to start and repeat for the desired number of reps.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Single-arm toe touch

Hit your whole core with this move. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground if extending your legs is a bit too challenging.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs out in front of you and your arms at your sides.
  2. Bracing your core, lift your right arm and left leg up, twisting to tap your left foot with your right hand.
  3. Release back down and repeat with the left and right leg.

Advanced routine

If you have a core of steel, this advanced routine is for you.

Aim for 3 sets of 10–12 reps of each exercise.

Single-leg side plank

Balance on one leg to take a side plank up a notch.

Muscles also worked include:

  • delts
  • quads

How to do it:

  1. Get into a side plank position on your feet.
  2. Then lift the top leg, supporting your weight on the bottom leg.

Spiderman crunch

Channel the superhero with these crunches, which will require upper and lower body strength, too.

Muscles also worked include:

  • chest
  • deltoids
  • quads

How to do it:

  1. Get into a high plank position.
  2. Bend your knee and pull it out to your side, bringing your knee to your elbow.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

Hanging windshield wiper

Take your windshield wiper to a bar, adding a huge upper body strength element to this exercise.

Muscles also worked include:

  • lats
  • quads

You’ll complete a standard windshield wiper, but instead, you’ll be hanging from a bar and your legs will be extended. Phew.

Landmine rotations

Use a barbell to work on power and explosiveness as well as your obliques.

Muscles also worked include:

  • delts
  • biceps
  • quads

How to do it:

  1. Position yourself in front of a barbell in a landmine attachment.
  2. Grab the end of the barbell with both hands overlapping.
  3. Keeping your arms extended, move the barbell to your right hip, twisting your torso to meet it.
  4. Bending the knees slightly and keeping the arms straight, rotate your torso, bringing the barbell up and over to the left hip.
  5. Pivot your feet to make this move smooth.
  6. Repeat, alternating sides until reaching the desired number of reps.

TRX oblique rollout

Whether you complete this move standing or kneeling, your obliques will be feeling it.

Muscles also worked include:

  • deltoids
  • lats
  • chest

How to do it:

  1. Start kneeling in front of the TRX bands, adjusting them to the appropriate length.
  2. Hold one handle with each hand, straightening your arms.
  3. Slowly begin to drop your chest, driving your arms out and to one side.
  4. Lower down as far as you can go while keeping your spine neutral.
  5. Return to center, then drop to the other side.

TRX oblique crunches

TRX straps add a balance and stability challenge, taking oblique crunches up a notch.

Muscles also worked include:

  • deltoids

How to do it:

  1. Adjust the TRX straps so that when you place your feet in the handles, your body forms a parallel line with the ground.
  2. Assume a high plank position, tops of feet down in the handles.
  3. Begin to bend your knees, bringing them in toward your right elbow to hit the obliques.
  4. Return to start, repeating on the left side.

TRX side plank

Side planks on the TRX aren’t for the faint of heart!

Muscles also worked include:

  • deltoids

How to do it:

  1. Adjust the TRX straps so that when you place your feet in the handles, your body forms a parallel line with the ground.
  2. Place one foot in each handle, turning your body to the right side.
  3. With your left foot in front, come up onto your forearm or hand into a side plank.
  4. Hold here for the desired time frame, then switch sides.

TRX side plank crunch

If TRX side planks aren’t enough, adding a crunch targets your abs even more.

Muscles also worked:

  • deltoids

How to do it:

  1. Adjust the TRX straps so that when you place your feet in the handles, your body forms a parallel line with the ground.
  2. Place one foot in each handle, turning your body to the right side.
  3. With your left foot in front, come up onto your forearm or hand into a side plank.
  4. Crunch, bringing your knees toward your chest, and repeat the desired number of reps. Then switch sides.

Single-arm toe touch with weight

Adding a small hand weight to a single-arm toe touch increases the intensity of this exercise.

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, completing a single-arm toe touch.

Russian twist with weight

Take the Russian twist up a notch with a dumbbell.

  1. Hold a dumbbell by each end, completing the move with extended arms.

The bottom line

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced exerciser, there’s an oblique exercise for you.

Strengthening these muscles provide lots of benefits — too many to pass up. So get crunching — and bending, and rotating, and planking — today.


Nicole Davis is a writer based in Madison, WI, a personal trainer, and a group fitness instructor whose goal is to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. When she’s not working out with her husband or chasing around her young daughter, she’s watching crime TV shows or making sourdough bread from scratch. Find her on Instagram for fitness tidbits, #momlife and more.

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