Let’s talk about obliques, or as we like to call them, the “crop top muscles.” Known in the scientific world as the external abdominal obliques, your oblique muscles are one of three muscles that make up your lateral anterior abdomen. AKA, your side abs. As much as we love crunches and leg raises, those exercises don’t really isolate the sides of your abs, which you need to do in order to see your obliques (obviously in addition to a healthy diet). If you’re looking for an workout to specifically target your obliques, try doing these six ab exercises.
1. Bicycle Crunches
Bicycle crunches can be one of the best ab exercises for your obliques, but people usually do them so fast that they’re not actually activating the ab muscles at all. Take your time on these and think about crunching the muscles instead of cheating your way through it and just relying on momentum. Lying flat on the floor with your lower back against the ground, put your hands behind your head and lift your left shoulder off the ground while bringing your right knee to touch that left elbow. Alternate sides for 30 seconds. If you’re feeling this in your neck at all, slow down and try to think of reaching your shoulder to your knee instead of your elbow to your knee.
2. Side Plank With Reach
This exercise should be called the muffin top remover. It’s super simple, but it’s amazing for getting rid of love handles and toning up the sides of your stomach. Start off in a side plank with your hand on the ground, your feet stacked, and your body in a line facing one side. Remember to keep both of your hips facing the side you’re looking at. Then, once you’re in a stable side plank, lift the top leg and bend the knee, bringing it up to your waist, and bring the same arm to meet it, crunching inwards on that side. If your balance sucks, just do the leg part, but try for your leg and your arm. Do 10 reps and then switch to the other side.
3, Downward Dog Cross Reaches
People don’t usually think of downward dogs as ab exercises, but in addition to being a great calf stretch, it can be super effective for your obliques if you add a reach at the top. Start in a high plank position with your hands on the ground and your feet about hip-distance apart. Then, raise your hips, bringing your body in a V-shape downward dog. Once you’re in downward dog, take your right arm and tap your left calf or ankle, using your abs to crunch diagonally. Then, do the same with your left arm and right leg. Keep alternating sides for a minute.
4. Hip Dip Side Plank
I know this one looks similar to the other side plank we did, but the hip dip is a game-changer, so doing both ab exercises is a must. The idea here is to hold the same basic side plank as before, but you’re going to dip your hip downwards, slightly tapping the ground on one side and coming back up. You should feel a slight stretch in the side of your body that’s closer to the ground. Keep your hips square the whole time. Do 10 reps on the right side and then switch to your left. You can also hold at the top for a few seconds after each rep to feel the burn even more.
5. Russian Twists
Russian twists can be KILLER for your obliques if you take your time and challenge yourself with the weight. (And no, the name has nothing to do with current events.) Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell, and keep it hovering over your chest, but not pressing into your body. Start by sitting down on the floor and placing your feet out in front of you, raised a few inches above the ground. Your knees should be slightly bent and your torso should be elevated off the ground, making a V-shape with your thighs. Holding the weight with both hands, move it from one side of you to the other, tapping the ground on your right and left sides each time. Do 10 reps on each side, and remember to engage your ab muscles with each rep to avoid carelessly swinging the weight from side to side.
6. Kettlebell Windmills
Windmills are a little more advanced as far as ab exercises go, so if you feel like these seem easy, you need to SLOW DOWN and think about the muscles you’re using. To start, take a light kettlebell in one hand and hold it overhead with your palm facing forward. Keeping the kettlebell locked out the whole time, push your butt outward in the same direction as the kettlebell, and bend your hip, so that you can slowly lean down in the other direction to touch the floor with your free hand. Then, return to starting position, keeping your arm straight before you do another few reps. After about 6-7 reps on your right side, move your kettlebell to the other hand and do the same thing on the left. I know you’ll feel these like crazy tomorrow if you’re doing them right. I mean, it’s like I have ESPN or something.
Images: Giphy (6)
Abs have been a hot topic for a while now, so let’s talk about them: what they are, how to get them, and like, if we even want them. (The answer to that last question is an obvious yes.) Getting abs became trendy in the early 2000’s around the time when people started to realize they wanted J.Lo’s six pack. Then, the ab crack suddenly became the new thigh gap of the internet and we started Googling shit like “Khloé Kardashian workout routine.” All of this important history brings us to today, where we’re left staring at our SoulCycle instructor’s chiseled stomach and wondering how we can look like that before our vacation in 2 weeks. If you’re looking for some real info, it’s time to get some facts straight. Having good abs is more than just a flat tummy—as Meek Mill once said, there’s levels to this shit. Meaning, there are a lot of different parts of your abs and you can’t just do one exercise to tone all of them. So here’s the deal with all your various ab muscles and what exercises you need to do to get amazing abs all over.
That Line Down the Middle
What is it? You may know this line down the middle of the stomach area as an ab crack, which is unfortunately not a drug you can take to get abs. But if our dealer was selling that, we’d save so much on workout classes. Anyway. The ab crack isn’t actually a muscle and so it doesn’t get a real name, but the best way to get it is by having good genes and doing basic toning exercises. Genes are a huge part of it, and some people can have like, no body fat and a strong core, and still not have that line. We’re all built differently, so let’s work with what we’ve got.
How do I get it? Planks. It may sound basic AF, but planks are an amazing way to target the entire front of your core, so stop overthinking fancy and complex exercises and start planking. If you’re a beginner, start on your hands, but starting on your elbows really targets the muscles better. Basically, you want to start facedown with your forearms on the floor and your knees raised up so that only your toes and arms are touching the ground. Make sure you’re contracting your abs and not sticking your butt in the air, or else you’re literally doing nothing. Also, make sure to keep your back as flat as possible the whole time. Hold for anywhere from 30 seconds to two full minutes. If you’re looking for an added challenge, try doing your plank in a TRX suspension trainer at your gym—if you don’t even know what that is, it’s best to stick to the regular planks for now.
Those Side Lines
What are they? The “side lines” you see all over Instagram, especially during bikini season (probably while fake laughing on an inflatable swan in East Hampton), are actually called your obliques. Obliques are the most superficial muscle out of the muscles in your abdomen, which means they look hot but actually don’t help you that much in terms of being strong. But who cares about strength? They’ll look amaze in your Instagram pics.
For the ladies asking where I got these pants from, they are just Nike tech fleece ones. I just pulled them up at the bottom. Pretty sure they are in all of the shops at the moment?? I don’t normally talk about where my clothes are from because I don’t do sponsored posts and I don’t want you ladies thinking that’s what I’m about. I only mentioned this one because I noticed all the girls asking and I KNOW how hard it is to find good track pants!! Have a good day ladies www.kaylaitsines.com/app
How do I get them? Russian Twists. There are tons of exercises that target your obliques (others include bicycles and side planks), but Russian twists are really the most effective way to tone those side muscles. Start by sitting on the floor with a weight in your hand (think anything from 8 to 15 pounds) and your feet slightly raised off the ground. Your legs should be bent at your knees and your upper body should be elevated to create a folding V shape with your legs. Move the weight from one side of your body to the other, ideally touching the weight to the ground on each side of you during every rep. Do this for 30 seconds to a minute, then rest for a few seconds and repeat again. It might hurt when you laugh tomorrow, but in that case I guess it’s a good thing we have permanent RBF.
That V-Shape At The Bottom
What is it? No one would ever comment on an Instagram pic to compliment someone’s lower abs, but like, why not? That shit is really hard to achieve and honestly I could use a post-workout snack just thinking about all that work. Even if you don’t necessarily want chiseled abs, working your lower abs can help eliminate love handles in the process.
How do I get it? Well first before anybody asks, you do NOT need to become Terry Crews to get the V-cut thing; that was just the best (read: hottest) picture I could find. Anywho. Leg raises. This move looks super easy when you see someone doing it, but once you start, you’ll be crying pretty fast. Lying on the floor, place your legs straight out in front of you and your hands on the ground or under your lower back if you’re prone to lower back pain. Lift your legs up, keeping them as straight as possible with your knees slightly bent until they make a 90-degree angle with the floor. Hold the contraction at the top for the second, then SLOWLY lower your legs down to the floor in front of you. You’ll want to make sure you use a mat to protect your tailbone and stop fucking holding your breath. Seriously, what is it with people not breathing while working their abs? You’re not underwater and people around you are starting to get worried.
Inner Core Muscles
What are they? The workouts we’ve discussed so far will all help tone your abs, but as we mentioned earlier, your core muscles go much deeper than you realize, so you should prob be working those inner layers too. A lot of people get caught up in working the area around their stomachs, but they don’t realize that most of your core stability comes from your lumbar spine and lower back area, so try hitting those muscles too if you care about really strengthening your entire core area.
How do I get them? Superman lifts. Everyone has these inner core muscles, but they’re pretty weak if you don’t work to strengthen them, and Superman lifts are the best way. Lie facedown on your stomach with your arms and legs extended and keep your neck in a neutral position. Then, keeping them straight and your torso tight, lift your arms and legs toward the ceiling, arching your back and getting your hands and feet like, five inches off the floor. Hold for a couple seconds at the top and then lower back down. If you’re doing it right, you’ll feel like an idiot. Try doing 10-15 reps before the embarrassment takes over resting and then repeating again.
I know it sucks to spend extra time at the gym to do some work that’s low-key good for you, but you stuck around last week for like, 15 minutes to find good selfie lighting, so we’re gonna assume you have the time.
Images: Christopher Campbell / Unsplash; Giphy (4); Emily Ratajkowski, Kayla Itsines, Terry Crews / Instagram