Bulletproof Backs – Part Three: How to Strengthen Oblique Muscles

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How to Strengthen Oblique Muscles for a Stronger Core and Spine

Although most people know the best way to protect their spine is to maintain a strong core, a lot of people simply forget to train and strengthen their oblique muscles. Their focus seems to be on the superficial core muscle or rectus abdominis muscle rather than their lateral stabilisers (the internal and external obliques). Learn how to properly strengthen oblique muscles for maximum benefit.

What Are Oblique Muscles and Why Are They Important?

There are two types of oblique muscles, internal obliques and external obliques, and they both play an incredibly important role in strengthening and stabilising the spine.

External Oblique Muscles 

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The external oblique muscles are a pair of superficial muscles located on the lateral sides of the abdominal region. Your external oblique muscle is important for bending and rotating the trunk as well as stabilising the torso.

Internal Oblique Muscles 

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The internal oblique is a deep muscle so it isn’t visible, but it is one of the main stabilisers of the trunk. Your internal oblique muscle functions to flex the trunk and compress the chest.

It’s important to strengthen both oblique muscles to give your spine superior support and improve your overall posture.

Avoid Injury by Strengthening Oblique Muscles

It’s common for trainers to target the superficial core muscle in fitness training, rather than focusing on targeted training to strengthen oblique muscles . When tested for oblique strength they are weaker due to lessened oblique recruitment. This impacts their major strength lifts and puts them at risk of injury.

Without any specific oblique training, your vital core and spinal stability suffers, which can leave you vulnerable to lower back and shoulder pain, instability or injury.

Exercises to Strengthen Oblique Muscles

To help you get those obliques firing and strong, the following two exercises can be done a couple of times a week.

  • Side Planks 

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You can vary this exercise to suit your strength levels. Choose to start on your knees to go straight into a full plank.  Aim to build up to 30 seconds each side and repeat 2-3 times.

  • Woodchops

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Image taken from Women’s Health Magazine

You can do this exercise using cables or a medicine ball. This adds some rotation into your training and will help strengthen the lateral stabilisers. Repeat this exercise in sets of 3, performing at least 10 repetitions on each side.

Get More Tips for How to Strengthen Oblique Muscles

If you need any extra help with ideas or tips on how to strengthen your core and obliques or if you have any other exercise related questions please get in touch. 

In addition to my chiropractic degree, I also have an exercise science degree and I love helping people with their training. Contact us to receive personal, targeted, and educated advice on how to strengthen those oblique muscles.

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