We might not be allowed to socialise at the moment, but one thing we can do according to the government is exercise. So, if fitness is one of your focuses in early 2021 (and, let's not forget that it absolutely doesn't have to be) you might be interested in working parts of your body that you've previously neglected a little. And why not start with your obliques? If you're specifically looking to target your core and abs, this should be right up your street...
What are obliques?
"Obliques are a part of your core group of muscles," explains Danyele Wilson, Lead Trainer for Tone & Sculp app. "You actually have two sets of oblique muscles: internal obliques, which run down either side of your abdominal muscles (what we commonly call the six-pack muscle group) and external obliques, which run down your sides, in between the top of your rib cage and hip bones," Danyele explains.
Because your obliques are what's known as stabiliser muscles, they are key to sculpting your abdominal muscles and can help to define and tone the waist area too. But fitness is far from just about the way you look, and working your obliques will have payoffs in other areas, too. "Oblique exercises will help with balance and stability when performing things like barbell squats and lunges to make sure you maintain the right posture and don’t bend too far forwards or back," says the PT.
What are the best oblique exercises?
Now we're clear on exactly what - and where - your oblique muscles are, let's find out how to work them. Danyele has kindly designed a nifty six-move workout to challenge your obliques and start building those all-over abs. You can use these as a circuit, doing each move for a set duration of time or a set number of reps, before moving on to the next one. Take a short break, and then repeat the circuit as many times as you feel your body will allow.
1. Side plank thread the needle
How to do it: Start in a side plank position, lifting your body but keeping your elbow underneath your shoulder, hips stacked and one foot behind the other. Try not to collapse your shoulder. Engaging your obliques, take your hand underneath your torso into a slight twist. Rotate your hand out and lift your arm straight up into the air, hand pointing up too. Repeat for the required reps before repeating on the opposite side.
2. Plank shoulder taps
How to do it: Start in an extended plank position; hands directly underneath your shoulders, back in line with your head, and shoulders and feet hip-distance apart. Core engaged, lift one hand up to the opposite shoulder, trying not to swing from side to side – keep your body as still as possible. Return your hand to the floor and repeat on alternating sides.
3. Reverse mountain climbers
How to do it: Start in an extended plank position; hands directly underneath your shoulders, back in line with your head, and shoulders and feet hip-distance apart. Core engaged, bring your knee into the middle of your body aiming for the opposite elbow as if you are running on the spot. Repeat on alternating sides.
4. Star crunches
How to do it: Lie on a mat, facing up, keeping your legs straight against the mat with your arms extended above your head. Lift your left hand and right foot at the same time, keeping your leg extended, and aim to touch your right foot in the air. Return to the start position and repeat on alternate sides.
5. Squat to crossbody elbow to knee touch
How to do it: Start with your feet just over hip-distance apart, with your hands at either side of your head. Squat as if you are about to sit on a chair, keeping your knees in line with your toes. Make sure your core is engaged, and keep the weight in your heels. As you return to standing position, lift your right knee and take your left elbow towards it by twisting at your torso. Return to the start position, squat down again, and repeat the crossbody elbow to knee touch on the opposite side. Continue to repeat on alternate sides.
6. Russian twist w/ leg extension
How to do it: In a seated position, lift your legs up straight hovering off the ground, balancing on your seat bones (at the base of your glutes). Keep your core engaged and lean back slightly into a V position. Staying in this position, rotate your torso side to side, aiming to touch the floor on each side with your hands. Be sure to keep your back straight, spine long and shoulders rolled back, following your arms with your eyes as you twist.
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