Oblique exercises for beginners – how to improve your waist tone

The obliques form the middle layer of the abdominal muscles. They’re sometimes called the “side abs” because they’re situated either side of the “6-pack” muscles. There are two sets of obliques – the internals and externals. Between them they carry out functions of bending, twisting and core stabilising. Strong obliques will help you to have good core stability and definition in your waist area. If you don’t regularly do exercise that involves twisting and bending movements, then it’s likely your obliques are weak. If this is the case, then you should start with an oblique exercises for beginners program. The program below includes 6 beginner oblique exercises to build a foundation for obliques training.

Oblique exercises for beginners

Benefits of training the obliques

  • As explained above, the obliques are the “side” abdominal muscles, so they add shape and tone to your waist.
  • They play a part in core stability, helping to protect the spine from injury and chronic pain.
  • Having strong obliques helps to avoid injury in everyday activities that involve bending and twisting.
  • Together with the traverse abdominis, the obliques work to pull the abdominal area in flat.

Suitable oblique exercises for beginners

Like all exercises for the core, it’s important not to be over-ambitious when you first start. Because the obliques play a part in stabilising the spine, you could end up with back pain or injury if you don’t build your strength up gradually. These 6 beginner exercises will start to build strength in your obliques, as well as developing your exercise technique, ready for more advanced exercises.

About the workout

The first 3 exercises are done standing and the second 3 are on the floor. Do 2 sets of the standing exercises and then get on the floor for 2 sets of the floorwork exercises. You’ll need cushioning of some sort if you’re using a hard floor. If you don’t have an exercise mat, then use a folded blanked or something similar.


Ideally do the workout 3 times a week, either on its own or as part of a full workout.

Please read these general exercise guidelines before you start.

Warming up set: do 10 warm up side bends and twists to each side. For these, start by only reaching/twisting halfway, then gradually increase the range through the 10 reps. After this, start the workout with your 15 full range side bends.

#1 side bends

Exercises for side abs - side bends

  • Stand with feet hip distance apart, then reach your right hand down towards your right foot.
  • Make sure you don’t lean your body forwards or backwards, try to imagine you are in a narrow gap between 2 walls.
  • Repeat for 15 reps, then change sides.

#2 upper body rotations

Oblique exercises for beginners - rotations

  • Stand with your feet about hip distance apart and lift your arms up in front of you. Clasp your hands together, with your arms bent.
  • Keeping your arms at shoulder height and your hips facing forwards, rotate your arms and upper body to the right.
  • Come back to the centre and then repeat to the left.
  • Continue alternating for 20 reps.

#3 standing elbow to knee

Oblique exercises for beginners - elbow to knee

  • Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your hands behind your head.
  • Lift your right knee and at the same time, rotate your left elbow towards it. Stay standing tall, this is a rotating movement, not a bending one.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Continue alternating side to side for 20 reps.

#4 side reaches

Side abs exercises - side reach

  • Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet about hip distance apart, your right hand behind your head and your left your palm facing inwards towards your body.
  • Lift your head and shoulders slightly off the floor.
  • Reach your left hand towards your left foot.  Complete 10 reps on this side and then lower your head to the floor, change sides and repeat.

#5 oblique crunches

Side abs exercises - oblique crunch

  • Lie with your back flat on the floor, knees bent, feet lifted and your hands behind your head, as shown.
  • Curl your head and right shoulder off the floor in a smooth movement , directing your right elbow towards your left knee.
  • As you return to the floor, make sure the movement is smooth and controlled.
  • Repeat on the other side and continue alternating side to side until you’ve done 20 reps.

#6 elbow side plank

Exercises for side abs - side plank

  • Lay on your side, with your legs extended in a straight line.
  • Take your forearm to 90 degrees with your body and curl your hand into a fist to help support your weight.
  • Engage your core muscles and lift your upper body so that your forearm is supporting you, making sure your shoulder is directly above your elbow.
  • Hold this position for 15 seconds
  • Then lower your upper body to the floor and repeat on the other side.

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Obliques exercises for beginners exercise instructions

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