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November 15, 2022 7 min read

Oblique crunches are considered one of the best exercises to include in workout plans for beginners who are looking for ab workouts to tone up the core area and get it stronger.

They are great exercises for all, regardless of whether you are strength-training or a fitness fanatic.

It is a calisthenic exercise, primarily targeting the obliques. Calisthenics are exercises that require no equipment because it relies on nothing but your body weight. However, the range of motion of oblique crunches includes the transverse abdominals, internal and external obliques, and some of your back muscle groups.

The oblique muscles are a part of your core but many gym goers neglect them.

Without strong oblique muscles, core strength can’t be achieved, as they help you bend sideways, and rotate left and right. They also help protect your spine and keep it stable and give you a tight tummy. It is essential for your obliques to work in harmony with your abdominal muscles to improve your core’s lateral stability.

Unlike most core exercises, the objective of oblique crunches is to twist your torso from side to side as you move up.

This allows you to maintain proper form as you emphasize your obliques, which are the muscles that cover both sides of your six-pack, while also training your rectus abdominis.

Muscles activated by oblique crunches

Obviously, oblique crunches work your obliques, but there is a lot more to learn about all the muscle groups that benefit from this bodyweight exercise.

Internal and external obliques

The internal and external obliques run diagonally across your midsection, with the internal obliques lying beneath the external obliques. They work together as your waist muscles.

Rectus abdominis aka abs

The abs is a long, flat muscle that stretches from your lower ribs and sternum to the base of your pelvis. Although the primary function of your rectus abdominis is the flexion of your spine, your abs are also engaged to assist with lateral flexion of the obliques.

Abdominal Muscles - Image from Shutterstock

Quadratus lumborum

This is a deep muscle that runs between the top of your pelvis and the lowest ribs, functioning as an assistant to your obliques and abs with lateral flexion of your spine.

Transverse abdominis

This muscle encircles your rectus abdominis, which runs vertically up the front of your midsection, Aka the TVA, it is beneath other core muscles like your internal obliques and stabilizes the spine by contracting inward. You can increase TVA activation by forcing your breath out as you contract your obliques and abs. Go ahead, try bracing your core muscles and exhaling forcefully at the same time — you’ll feel your TVA pinching.

What are the functions of obliques?

Your internal and external obliques are located on either side of your body next to your abdominal muscles, or six-pack, and they have several functions.

  1. They aid in the stabilization, posture, and rotation of your body during your day-to-day activities.

  2. Your obliques serve as the connection between your pubic crest, hips, and the lower four ribs.

  3. Your internal obliques stabilize your body through movement.

  4. They raise the pressure in the abdomen during forced respiration, such as during exercise.

  5. In conjunction with the rectus abdominis muscles, the obliques help to pull the sternum downward.

  6. They also facilitate same-side bending, side-to-side bending, and opposite-side rotation.

  7. The obliques are responsible for the spinal rotation and lateral flexing of your spine.

How to do oblique crunches

If achieving a defined and muscular abdominal region is your goal, then including oblique crunches, aka side crunches, in your ab workout routine is crucial. Strong obliques give your body that sought-after chiseled look, while also supporting your entire body posture, enhancing sports performance, and aiding the execution of complex compound movements.

Starting position

Lie on the floor or on an exercise mat, facing up and with your knees bent and your feet shoulder-width apart, flat on the floor. Place your hands on the back of your head but don’t interlace your fingers. Keep your chin off your chest by imagining you’re holding a walnut between your chin and neck throughout the exercise. Tucking your chin to touch your chest will break the straight line of your spine.

Here’s how to do oblique crunches

  1. Exhale and engage your abs while using your core strength to lift your head, neck, and chest.

  2. Bring your left elbow diagonally over your body toward your right knee by lifting and twisting your upper body.

  3. Ensure your left hand remains on the back of your head as you reach across to the right side.

  4. Your lower back must stay on the floor throughout the entire movement.

  5. Hold that position for a moment before you inhale and slowly return to the starting position.

  6. Exhale and repeat the crunch, this time twisting to the opposite side as your right elbow toward your left knee, keeping your right hand on the back of your head.

  7. Keep switching sides between crunching to the right and left side.

How many sets and reps of oblique crunches should I do?

For oblique crunches, begin by performing 2 to 3 sets of 10 to15 repetitions on your right and left sides. However, the number of reps and sets of oblique crunches you do should be based on your ability to maintain proper form and technique throughout the core workout. You might want to discuss the number of reps with your personal trainer.

What is the proper form for oblique crunches?

Although oblique crunches are not at all complicated, there are a few things to keep in mind while performing them. If you don’t, you might be wasting your time, targeting a different muscle group.

Oblique Crunch - Image from Shutterstock

It is always best to pay proper attention to the form.

The most important aspect of the form required for oblique crunches is to focus on using your core strength exclusively. It is easy to lose focus and start engaging your arm and thigh muscles to perform the movements.

Always squeeze your abs. If you do not engage your abdominal muscles during the exercise, the movement will not yield the physical dividends you expect.

Take enough time to rest between sets.

Common mistakes to avoid

Some people believe that the easiest exercise routines are the ones most often spoiled by execution errors. According to this  report by researchers:  “As a rule, there are no “bad” exercises, just improper prescription and application for a given individual.”

Rushing the reps

In the case of oblique crunches, rep quality is more important than rep speed. One of the most basic mistakes with oblique crunches is rushing through reps. When that happens, each repetition is less effective and ultimately defeats the purpose of the exercise. Maintaining proper form is easier if you do slow reps and feel the correct muscles working throughout.

Arching Your Lower Back

Arching your lower back and pulling your shoulder blades back is another mistake frequently made with oblique crunches. When you do that, the work is done by your hip flexors instead of your obliques and abs. To avoid this error, focus on keeping your lower back flat on the floor, pinching your glutes, and maintaining the correct spinal position every time you raise your torso to lift your knee toward your elbow.

Pulling Your Neck Forward

Another error to be aware of is using your hands and arms to pull your head forward as you lift your upper body into the crunch. Instead of making the exercise more effective, yanking your neck could cause strain and resulting pain in the neck area.

Avoid the mistake by concentrating on merely supporting your head with your fingertips, and consciously resisting the urge to pull your neck forward — which typically happens as you struggle to get through the reps when you are already tired.

Trainer’s tips

Muscles worked in oblique Crunches - Image from Shutterstock
  • Brace your core muscles as if you are expecting a punch in the stomach to keep your lower back on the floor during oblique crunches.
  • To ensure you activate the targeted muscles, initiate the rotation of your torso from your core and not your arms and shoulders.
  • Focus on your breathing. Inhale during the easier move – the lowering part, and exhale during the strenuous part — the elevation phase of the oblique crunch.
  • Hold the contraction at the top of the crunch for a moment before descending to the starting position.
  • Do oblique crunches toward the end of your workout program. Doing the crunches slowly and controlled can serve as post-workout cooldown stretches.
  • Perform repetitions slowly. Make sure you can feel the correct muscles working throughout the range of motion, If you rush, you will soon use the momentum rather than the muscle power to get through the reps and set in quick time.
  • Combining cardio and core makes a complete workout. Add oblique crunches or do them instead of sit-ups. Use oblique crunches in your cardio-core combo and get full results in less time!
Oblique crunch on ball- Image from Shutterstock

What are the benefits of oblique crunches?

The greatest benefit of oblique crunches is their simplicity. With no need for equipment, not even a set of dumbbells, this exercise can be done at home or at the gym.

Oblique crunches are suitable for all — regardless of experience, age, and fitness level.

Oblique crunch exercises can improve your overall core strength, while also toning your abdominal muscles for that chiseled look.

The exercise works more than just the obliques. It also engages the erector spinae, abdominal wall, and Quadratus lab arum.

Oblique crunches can improve lateral stability and increase your core strength, which helps prevent back injury.

Oblique crunches protect your lower back. They strengthen your core muscles, which, in turn, protect the lower back from injuries, while also improving flexibility and balance.

If you do everything right, oblique crunches will yield a load more than just a chiseled six-pack. Your workout will improve blood flow and  burn calories, allowing you to build muscle and improve body composition and overall health.

Oblique Crunch Variations

Oblique crunches come in many variations, guaranteed never to let your workout routine go stale. Don’t allow your workout routine to go stale. This video will help you design the perfect 10-minute oblique workout for your unique needs, from side planks, and side bends, to standing oblique crunches.

Here’s what you’ll see:

  • Lying Leg Raise with oblique hip twist at the top
  • Side Oblique Crunch — Elbow to knee
  • Russian Twist — Full torso rotation
  • Plank Knee Ins with twist
  • Plank Rotations
  • Plank Knee Ins — Alternating sides
  • Heel Taps with torso up in a crunch position
  • V-Sit Crunches
  • Standing Knee Raises — Explosive reps
  • Rotational Punches
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Sliding Crunches

In Closing

Oblique crunches in all variations tone and shape your waistline by strengthening the oblique muscles that wrap around and sculpt your waist.

Training your core  is vital for overall stability, as well as for transferring power throughout your body. Target it with a couple of exercises (like those above) at the end of your workout.

It might be best for you to do your oblique crunches toward the end of your workout routine because your core muscles are activated during all the other exercises you do; you would rather not fatigue them by doing your oblique crunches first.