There are countless abdominal exercises to choose from, but you definitely shouldn’t neglect the obliques. These are the muscles located on either side of your stomach, and getting them into peak condition will give you a streamlined, sculpted appearance that will draw stares at the pool and questions about your exercise secrets.
The oblique muscles actually consist of two sets of muscles, the external and the internal. The external obliques are larger and stretch across the side to the front of the abdomen. They work with the other muscles in your abdomen to pull the chest downwards.
Pick up two dumbbells and hold them on either side of your body. Lean to the left, feeling a good stretch and letting the weight approach your knee. Contract the side of your abdomen and return to an upright posture. Now lean to the left. When performing side bends, really focus on a strong contraction to lift the weight. Remember, the abdominals are lifting the dumbbell. Your arm is simply holding it. At first, you may not be able to feel the obliques, but with time and practice, your mind-muscle connection will improve.
Arthur Saxon was a old time German strongman and circus performer. Some of his lifting records still stand today. Sometimes a return to old-school methods will reap valuable rewards. To perform this advanced variation of a side bend, pick up two dumbbells and raise them overhead. You'll want to go very light on this exercise. Push your ego to the side because these are a killer. Keeping the dumbbells overhead, lean to the left and right just as you did with the regular side bends. Twenty of these and your obliques will be begging for mercy.
No, it’s not a Cold War era dance step. It's a brutal abdominal exercise that especially targets the obliques. Lay down and bend your knees like you’re going to do a conventional sit-up. Keeping your feet flat on the ground, raise your torso to 45 degrees, making sure to keep a neutral spine. Stick your arms out in front of you and clasp your hands. Now slowly move them down toward one side. Back up, and then toward the other. The key with this exercise is constant movement and to perform slowly. Don't pause until the set is complete, and don't swing your arms. No momentum allowed. To increase difficulty, hold a medicine ball or weight plate in front of your body.
Another twisting movement, this one is a favorite of boxers and martial artists to develop punching power. Get an Olympic barbell and position it so that one end rests firmly in the corner of two walls. Put some weight on the other side, and bend down and grip the bar on the outside of the weight plate, interlocking your fingers. Stand up with the bar and hold it in front of you at a 45 degree angle. Make sure to keep your back and arms straight, and slowly lower the bar to one side. Contract those abs to bring the barbell back in front and then repeat to the opposite side. Remember, your arms are just a lever here. Don’t jerk the weight up with your biceps and shoulders.
This exercise will build muscle all over your body and also give you a killer grip. It will also blast your obliques and entire midsection. Grab a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell and stand to one side of it. Bend down, making sure to keep a flat back, and keep your chest high. Contract your entire core and stand up with the weight as if you were lifting a suitcase. Lower and repeat for reps on one side. Take a breather (you'll need it) and repeat for the opposite side.
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