With so many variations of this exercise, you might be wondering which is better for isolating the obliques.
At Fitness Savvy, we’ve tried all variations and will show you how to perform each one – in written and video format.
Table of Contents
What are oblique crunches?
Oblique crunches are an abdominal exercise designed to isolate and target the obliques.
As we get leaner, the obliques help with the tapered look and give the image of a tighter waist and a better six-pack. They’re also the muscles that are covered by love handles.
There are two types of oblique muscles – internal and external.
- Internal obliques are muscles that run vertically from your lower ribs to your hip. They aid in rotating the torso (with the help of the external obliques) and help with the exhalation part of our breathing.
- External obliques are a thin muscle layer that sits on top of your internal obliques and operates in symphony with the internal muscle on the opposite side to rotate the torso. They also work with the rectus abdominis (better known as the six-pack muscles) to flex the trunk forwards.
Oblique crunch benefits
- Isolates the obliques to help build strength.
- The obliques are essential for keeping stable during compound moves such as squats. By improving strength in this area, you can also enhance your squat power, too.
- There are a wide variety of oblique crunches to choose from.
- This type of crunch can be done with little or no weightlifting equipment.
How to do oblique crunches
Here we explain how to do the standard oblique crunch. We’ve also listed the most popular variations of this exercise and linked to more detailed explanations of how to do each of them.
Find a suitable place to lie down
You can use a gym mat or something similar to make this exercise more comfortable. Lie on your back in the same way as you would for a regular crunch or sit-up.
Lower your knees to one side
With your back flat on the floor, lower both legs to one side.
Set your hand positions
Place one hand gently behind your neck (but don’t apply pressure – your hand is there primarily to support your neck) and rest the other on your obliques.
Perform the crunch
Once you’re in position, it’s time to crunch. Try to touch your legs with your elbow, breathing out as you do.
Return to starting position
Squeeze and hold for a moment at the top, before returning to the starting position; breathe in as you lower your body.
Perform the prescribed number of reps
Repeat for as many reps as your programme suggests. Typically, this move will form part of a more extensive ab workout routine. A good starting point is ten reps on each side, and work your way towards 30 reps each side.
When performing these crunches, research highlights additional benefits when you retract your abdominal muscles (bring your belly in) and tuck your ribs down and in towards yourself, so your lower back is flat on the ground to produce a posterior pelvic tilt – so be sure to implement these techniques.
Foward neck flexion
It’s easy to bend your neck forwards until your chin touches your chest – especially if you’re applying too much pressure to your neck while supporting it.
Over time, this can lead to imbalances and posture problems.
Ensure you’re not putting too much pressure on your neck or that you are tucking your chin forwards. A couple of fixes include imagining you have a piece of fruit, such as an orange or apple, between your chin and chest, or pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth and top teeth to activate deeper neck muscles.
Using your back too much
When crunching, you should aim to isolate the muscles as much as possible.
A common mistake for oblique crunches – and all crunches, for that matter – is using the back during the motion.
Your lower back should stay on the floor, allowing only the upper body to move while crunching.
Going too fast
Performing exercises in a slow and controlled fashion enables better mind-muscle connection and results.
Oblique crunch variations
As we said at the start of this article, there are many variations of the oblique crunch.
You can choose variations based on your current equipment, ability level, and general preference. All are great exercises, so just make sure you try them all and choose those you feel most comfortable with.
- Decline oblique crunches – how-to guide coming soon!
- Oblique cable crunches – how-to guide coming soon!
- Side oblique crunches – how-to guide coming soon!
- Standing oblique crunches – how-to guide coming soon!
- Swiss ball oblique crunches – how-to guide coming soon!
- Hanging oblique crunches – how-to guide coming soon!
- Weighted oblique crunches – how-to guide coming soon!
Oblique crunch alternatives
While the above moves are all variations of the oblique crunch, we’ve taken time to highlight some other great alternatives to this exercise.
Head on over and check out these moves and see which works best for you.
- Russian twists
- Side planks
- Side plank rotations
- Pallof Press
- Single-arm Farmer’s Carry
Below are some additional video tutorials to help you perfect your oblique crunch form.