The oblique muscles are muscles that are part of the abdominal muscle group. There are two sets of oblique muscles--the internal obliques and the external obliques. Both sets run in a diagonal direction starting from the side of your waist down towards the center of your pelvis. Strong oblique muscles are essential for the support of your back and they can even help to improve your posture. Listed below are some great exercises for strengthening and stretching your oblique muscles:
- Bicycle Kick. Lie flat on the floor on a comfortable exercise mat with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands besides your head, with your elbows facing straight out--not forward towards your feet. Keep your chin off of your chest. Bring up both of your knees up to about a 45 degree angle and slowly touch your right elbow to your left knee, followed by your left elbow to your right knee. You don't need to actually touch the elbow to the knee, but get as close as you comfortably can reach. This exercise should be done in a slow, deliberate manner. Start out doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Oblique Crunch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Now slowly drop both knees to the left so the left leg is resting on the floor, with the right leg on top of the left. Place your hands back by your ears with your elbows pointing straight out--parallel to the floor. Now lift your shoulders off the floor for a count of three, and then return to the starting position. Start out with 3 sets of 10 on each side of your body. An advanced version of this exercise is to take a 10 pound weight plate from a barbell set and hold the plate on your chest as you do the exercise.
- Side Bends. Stand up with a 10 pound dumbbell (or whatever weight feels manageable) in each hand, with your knees slightly bent. Slowly bend over to your right side, lowering the dumbbell as far as you can, and then return to the starting position. Do 1 set of 15 reps on the right side, pause for a moment, and then do 15 reps on the left side. Start out with 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.
It's very important to think about maintaining correct body alignment while slowly progressing through these exercises. The key to doing effective oblique exercises is not in the quantity--it's in the quality. And, as with any exercise regimen, be sure to check with your doctor before you start working your oblique muscles.