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6 Relentless Variations of Oblique Twists

Man and woman doing oblique twists.

If you’re like me and you love ab workout day–you probably have a go-to set of videos that you prioritize when it comes to working out your abs. 

But if some of these moves are getting stale, and you’re looking for a way to switch up your ab routine, I recommend adding in some oblique twists.

Obliques get the shorthand when it comes to ab workouts, but today we'll explore how adding in oblique twists will: 

- add a fun twist to your ab routine

- strengthen your lower back

- tighten up your core

- help define and chisel your ab muscles, giving you those coveted V-cut abs you’ve always wanted


I’m Ready to Twist It Up. What Are Oblique Twists? 

Okay hold up. Maybe you’re ready to twist it up, but you don’t know what an oblique twist is. There are several variations of oblique twists. Today, we’ll focus on 6. But first, let’s talk about the basic movement. 

Typically, in any oblique twist motion, you will: 

- Keep your lower body still

- While at the same time, twisting your torso from one side to the other

This twisting motion engages your oblique muscles and will build up a whole new side to your abs you’ve never seen before. 


But Also…What the Bleep Are My Obliques? 

Oblique twists utilize the oblique muscle.

If you’re feeling a bit embarrassed right now that you don’t know where your oblique muscles are or what they do, you’re in good company. 

Because these abdomen muscles are not usually in the spotlight, many people don’t know what obliques are, what they do, or where they’re located. 

Where Are My Obliques? 

Typically, what we tend to lump together as “obliques” actually refers to two distinct muscle groups: 

External Obliques: These muscles are, as you might have guessed, your outer oblique muscles. These guys run diagonally from the lower ribs to the front of the pelvis

Internal Obliques: These muscles are the inner oblique muscles, as their name implies. They’re a perfect complement to the external obliques, as they run in the opposite direction, diagonally from the pelvis to the upper ribs. 

These muscles work perfectly together, and for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just refer to them collectively as the obliques. 

What Do Obliques Get Up To, Anyway? 

Obliques–while highly underrated in the workout world–play a huge role in overall physical health. They keep themselves busy with the following: 

Twisting Your Torso: This one’s a bit of a no-brainer. Every time we twist from side to side, our obliques enable us to perform this motion. 

Bending to the Side: The technical term for this is lateral flexion, but it just means bending your torso to the side, such as leaning down to pick up an object. 

Spinal Support: Obliques help stabilize the spine and the pelvis, preventing the spine from moving around too much during daily motions. 

Big Exhales: Breathing is important, and obliques help you breathe whenever you’re exhaling forcefully, such as when you’re on a run. 


Are Oblique Twists Worth the Pain? - Benefits of Working Out the Obliques 

Medicine Ball Oblique Twist

Let’s play an association game: I’ll say a word, and you say something associated with that word. 

Chances are, if I say ab workout, you’ll say: six-pack

And no, we’re not talking about your favorite beverage. We’re talking about those sculpted ab muscles that you see every workout junkie sporting in their instructional videos. 

That’s the gold standard, right? If you’re not gonna get a six-pack–why work out your abs? 

But the truth is: getting a six-pack is just a piece of the puzzle when it comes to having a healthy core. You see, if we’re gonna get scientific, the six-pack refers to the rectus abdominis muscle, which is a thin, paired muscle that runs vertically–from the lower ribcage to the pubic bone. 

It’s the star of the abdomen show because it’s the most cosmetic of the bunch. Right in the front and center, the rectus abdominis stands out among the other ab muscles. 

But technically, it’s this front-and-center location that actually makes this muscle a bit less effective than the others. It makes sense if you think about it: the deeper core muscles provide more spinal stability than the more superficial rectus abdominis muscle. 

So, while going for a six-pack is a great goal for aesthetics, for a more well-balanced approach to working out your ab muscles, I recommend prioritizing some of the other muscles in there as well, such as your obliques! 

As soon as you start showing your obliques some love and attention with oblique twists, they’ll give a little back to you as well, such as: 

Better Posture: Because obliques provide support to the spine and pelvis, when you strengthen them through oblique twists, you directly help improve your posture, allowing your core to support you rather than your lower back. 

Reduced Lower Back Pain: Speaking of…oblique twists work your lower back muscles, which in turn, reduces the chances of lower back pain and builds a more bulletproof lower back. 

Well-Balanced Core: When it comes to working out your abs, don’t just do some crunches and call it a day. To truly achieve a well-balanced core, you’ll need to target specific muscles in the core, including your obliques. With oblique twists, you can focus specifically on oblique strength, adding this muscle to your repertoire. 

Enhanced Daily Movements: If you bend down to pick something up off the ground, you're using your obliques. If you twist your back to give it a stretch, those obliques get engaged. Stronger obliques help optimize your strength for daily movements. 

Better Breathing: As I mentioned before, obliques actually help increase respiratory function during higher intensity workouts that require heavier breathing. 

V-Cut Abs: Ever see someone with V-cut abs? This clearly defined line shows up where the obliques and the transversus abdominis muscles meet together. One of the best ways to get a V-cut look is to work out your obliques with oblique twists. 


6 Variations of Oblique Twists for Stronger Obliques 

The great news is: there are tons of variations when it comes to oblique twists, so you never have to get bored with working out those obliques. We’ll break them down into two categories: seated oblique twists and standing oblique twists. 

Seated Oblique Twist #1: The Russian Twist

The Russian Twist is your regular, basic oblique twist. When most people say “oblique twist,” this guy is what they’re referencing. 

How to Perform This Oblique Twist:

  1. Sit down on the ground with your knees up and feet on the floor. 
  1. Now, lift your feet up off the floor, engaging your core. 
  1. Lean back a bit, so your spine creates a 45-degree angle with the floor, making a V shape between your abs and thighs. 
  1. Hold out your arms in front of you, grasping your hands together and interlacing your fingers. 
  1. Twist your torso from one side to the other, bringing your hands down to your hip bones on either side. Keep your core engaged throughout this entire motion. 
  1. Repeat this side-to-side motion for 10-15 reps: 1-3 sets

Seated Oblique Twist #2: The Medicine Ball Twist

Man performing an oblique twist with a medicine ball.

Once you become a pro at the Russian Twist, the Medicine Ball Twist is the perfect way to level up your oblique twist game. The added weight helps target and tire out your obliques for more hypertrophy and muscle gain.

How to Perform This Oblique Twist:

The instructions for this version are the same as the Russian Twist–with these changes: 

  1. Grab a medicine ball of your desired weight. 
  1. Rather than placing your hands together in front of you, hold the medicine ball out in front of you. 
  1. Twist your torso, and bring the medicine ball to each side as you perform the exercise. 

Fun tip: If you prefer, you can also use a weight plate instead of a medicine ball! 

Seated Oblique Twist #3: Bicycle Russian Twist

This one gets your legs involved, and it’s a great way to spice up the oblique twist. 

How to Perform This Oblique Twist:

  1. Start in the same seated position, leaning back to a 45-degree angle–with your feet off the ground in front of you. 
  1. This time, as you twist toward a specific side–let’s say the right side –bring the right knee up toward the left elbow. 
  1. Then, extend the right leg back out as you begin the twist toward the left side 
  1. As you twist to the left side, bring the left knee in to touch the right elbow. 
  1. Once you get into a flow, this will form a cycling motion along with the Russian twist. 

Fun tip: This is already an advanced oblique twist exercise, but you can bring it up yet another level by adding in a medicine ball or weight plate–making it a Medicine Ball Bicycle Russian Twist. Fancy, huh? 

Now, if you’re ready to get off your rear, you can also get oblique activation through several standing variations of oblique twists. I’ll break them down for you. 

Standing Oblique Twist #1: Cable Woodchopper

If, like me, you’re a fan of the cable machine, this one will be a great option for you. Especially if you’re adding oblique twists to a gym routine, cable woodchoppers are an easy option. 

How to Perform This Oblique Twist:

  1. Attach a D-handle to a cable pulley. 
  1. Set the pulley to about chest height. 
  1. Standing to the side of the pulley, grab the D-handle with both hands–one over the other. 
  1. Step slightly more out to the side of the cable machine, so you feel some resistance from the cable. 
  1. Using both hands, pull the cable across your body and over to the opposite side as far as it will go. Keep your upper body as still as possible as you rotate your torso with this motion. 
  1. Slowly return to the starting position, and repeat. 
  1. You’ll then repeat this on the other side. 

Fun Tip: You won’t need a ton of weight with this oblique twist exercise to feel it in your core. Keeping your eyes on your hands during the entire motion helps keep your upper body still, preventing your shoulders and upper body from wobbling around. 

Standing Oblique Twist #2: Standing Dumbbell Oblique Twist

Using dumbbells for this exercise provides some flexibility to do this at home as well as at the gym. 

How to Perform This Oblique Twist:

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your legs wider than hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. 
  1. Lift your arms out to either side–forming a straight line with your shoulders and squeezing your shoulder blades together. 
  1. Keeping your neck and hips as straight as possible, rotate your torso to the left, bringing the right arm across your body. 
  1. Then, use your momentum to rotate your torso to the right, bringing your right hand back out to the side–and this time, allowing your left arm to extend across your body. 

Fun tip: Keeping a good speedy momentum during this exercise is clutch because the harder the twist, the higher the oblique activation. 

Standing Oblique Twist #3: Standing Bar Oblique Twist

This exercise is very similar to the dumbbell oblique twist, but if you find a PVC pipe or bar more easily accessible, this is an option as well. 

How to Perform This Oblique Twist:

For this exercise, you’ll follow the same exact prompts as the Dumbbell Oblique Twist; however, you’ll use a PVC pipe or bar. 

  1. Place a PVC pipe on your shoulders. 
  1. Then, extend your arms out, wrapping your hands over the bar on either side. 
  1. You’ll then twist your torso just like the Standing Dumbbell Oblique Twist


More Than Oblique Twists: Take Your Obliques Even Further With 3 Oblique Exercises for Lower Back Health

If I sold you on the importance of obliques, and you want even more than oblique twists to strengthen your obliques and fortify your lower back, check out the video below. 



In this video, we introduce you to 3 more exercises to light up your obliques: 

- Mountain Climber Twist

- Side Plank Twist

-  Paloff Twist

Trust me: you’ll wanna check these oblique exercises out as well. Altogether, you’ll be able to piece together the perfect combo of oblique exercises to get solid, V-cut abs, a stronger core, and a healthier lower back! 

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