5 Oblique Exercises That Will Give You Major Side Abs

By mark barroso | March 30, 2018


It’s a safe bet that you’ve been incorporating crunches, planks, and mountain climbers into your Tough Mudder training, but if there’s one part of your core that could probably use a little more attention, it’s your obliques (aka your side abs). The obliques aid in breathing, rotating/bending your torso and creating intra-abdominal pressure while you hold your breath. While exercises that target your abs usually involve lots of crunch-type movements, exercises that hit your obliques involve a lot of twisting and side-bending. We've put together our favorite core busters, but stop by Tough Mudder Bootcamp to get fired up and learn how to take your training to the next level.

Add these 5 exercises into your workouts to develop major side abs and overall core strength.


(Twisting) Crunch

  1. Lie on your back on the floor.
  2. Keep your legs bent in the air at a 90 degree angle. 
  3. Place your hands at the sides of your head so that your elbows are flaring out to the side. This is the starting position.
  4. Twist (rotate) your torso to move the right shoulder toward the left thigh until the upper back is off of the floor.
  5. After completing the crunch, allow your torso to untwist back down to the starting position.
  6. Alternate the direction of the twist with each repetition.
  7. That's one rep each side. 
  8. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps each side.

Trainer Tip: To decrease the intensity, rest feet on box or bench instead of keeping in air. 


Stability Ball Elbow Bridge

  1. Kneel in front of a stability ball and place your elbows and forearms on the ball to create about a 90° angle at the elbows, shoulders, and knees. This is the starting position.
  2. Keeping your toes on the floor and your elbows on the ball, begin the exercise by extending your knees to roll the ball forward until your elbows, shoulders, hips, and knees are nearly in a straight line and the back of the upper arms are on the ball.
  3. Roll the ball back towards you to return to the starting position.
  4. That's one rep. 
  5. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.


Bird Dog

  1. Start on all fours so that your hands and knees are on the ground.
  2. Make sure that your core is engaged and there is minimal flexion in the back.
  3. Keeping your back flat, reach your right arm forward while simultaneously reaching your left foot back.
  4. Hold for 1-2 seconds.
  5. Return your arm and leg to starting position.
  6. Alternate sides. Keeping your back flat, reach your left arm forward while simultaneously reaching your right foot back.
  7. That’s one rep.
  8. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.


Weighted Side Bend

  1. Stand holding a dumbbell or kettlebell at your side with one hand, palm facing in.
  2. Bend your torso on the side that you are holding the weight. Allow the weight to pull you down. Do not let your body twist. Don’t bend forward.
  3. Return the weight to your side, standing straight up. Don’t bend to the opposite side.
  4. That's one rep. 
  5. Do 10-15 reps bending on one side, then place the dumbbell in the other hand and do 10-15 reps towards the opposite side.
  6. Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 reps per side. 


Russian Twist

  1. Sit on ground with legs raised straight out in front of you. Bend your knees to form a 90-degree angle and plant your heels on the floor.
  2. Hold a weight-plate, medicine ball, or kettlebell between your hands.
  3. Keep a flat back and twist your torso to the left. The weight should twist with you.
  4. Stop twisting when you feel a stretch in your obliques and tap the weight to the ground.
  5. Then rotate torso and tap weight to the ground on the left side of body.
  6. That’s one rep each side.
  7. Do 3 sets of 10 reps each side.

Trainer Tip: Your head should follow the path of the weight throughout the movement.