Learn more about the Oblique Muscle groups, how to train them, avoid injury and improve your body and health.
What is the Oblique Muscle?
The external oblique muscle is one of the outermost abdominal muscles, extending from the lower half of the ribs around and down to the pelvis. These muscles help pull the chest, as a whole, downwards, which compresses the abdominal cavity.
The internal oblique is an abdominal muscle located beneath the external abdominal oblique. This muscle supports the abdominal wall, assists in forced respiration, aids in raising pressure in the abdominal area, and rotates and turns the trunk with help from other muscles.
Oblique Muscle Function
The external oblique functions to pull the chest downwards and compress the abdominal cavity, which increases the intra-abdominal pressure as in a valsalva maneuver.
It also performs ipsilateral (same side) side-bending and contralateral (opposite side) rotation.
The internal oblique performs two major functions.
Firstly, as an accessory muscle of respiration, it acts as an antagonist (opponent) to the diaphragm, helping to reduce the volume of the chest cavity during exhalation.
When the diaphragm contracts, it pulls the lower wall of the chest cavity down, increasing the volume of the lungs which then fill with air. Conversely, when the internal obliques contract they compress the organs of the abdomen, pushing them up into the diaphragm which intrudes back into the chest cavity reducing the volume of the air-filled lungs, producing an exhalation.
Secondly, its contraction causes ipsilateral rotation and side-bending.
It acts with the external oblique muscle of the opposite side to achieve this torsional movement of the trunk. For example, the right internal oblique and the left external oblique contract as the torso flexes and rotates to bring the left shoulder towards the right hip.
For this reason, the internal obliques are referred to as “same-side rotators.”
Oblique Muscle Strain
Strain of the internal oblique muscle, also known as side strain, is a rare injury and is characterized by the sudden onset of pain and focal tenderness over the rib cage.
This unusual injury has occurred during various sports, including baseball, cricket, javelin throwing, golf, and tennis.
Oblique Muscle Workout Exercises
Add any of the following Oblique Exercises into your training to further develop and strengthen your core.
Cross-Body Mountain Climber
This exercise is extra useful as it doubles as a cardio movement that also targets the core, mainly the obliques. The high-intensity exercise will engage your midsection while keeping your heart rate up, helping you to burn calories and reveal that hard work.
Make sure the movements are fairly slow, to target the obliques. To perform the cross-body mountain climber exercise:
- Move into a high plank position, making sure your wrists are under your shoulders and your glutes are slightly higher up.
- Bring your left knee towards your right elbow, while trying to keep the rest of your body as still as possible.
- Return the leg to starting position.
- Repeat with the right leg, and continue to repeat, making sure to move fairly slowly.
If you’ve done this exercise before, you’ll know what we mean when we say it’s a killer for the obliques.
It targets your centre core too- your whole stomach will feel like it’s on fire! Always remember, control is the key here. While it is easy to start slipping and sliding around on the floor, keep your core tight and try not to move from your base on the floor. To complete the bicycle crunch:
- Lie on the ground on your back and bring your legs to a tabletop position.
- Place your hands behind your head, bend your elbows.
- Engaging your core muscles, lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground.
- Bring your right elbow to your left knee, while straightening your right leg in a simultaneous movement.
- Release and twist to the other side so you bend your right leg and straighten your left leg, making sure your legs don’t touch the ground.
While this may be a simple movement, it is one of the best oblique exercises to target the forgotten parts of our core.
It is essentially a side crunch that sees you assume a familiar position. Throughout the movement, make sure to keep your shoulders off the floor, as this creates further tension on your oblique muscles.
As a result, you’ll feel a far greater burn, indicating the exercise is doing its job. To complete heel taps:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat and arms down by your side with palms facing up or down.
- Lift your head, using your core and keep your head and upper back off the ground.
- Reach in a sideways movement with your left arm to your left side, tapping your heel with your left hand.
- Return to the centre and do the same movement with your right arm.
Oblique Muscle Location
The oblique muscle group is located in the anterolateral abdominal wall. We also have a paired inferior oblique muscle and superior oblique muscle that are part of the extrinsic muscles of the eye orbit.
Oblique Muscle Pain
Do you suffer from pain in your side muscles while sitting, lifting, or bending over? A side strain can impact almost every part of your life, making everyday tasks almost impossible. Also known as an oblique muscle strain, a side strain can develop into a serious injury if proper treatment is not found in a timely manner.
What are the symptoms of an oblique muscle strain?
Weakness. stiffness. pain or difficulty stretching or flexing the muscle. muscle spasms or cramping.
How long does it take for an oblique strain to heal?
While some mild oblique strains can be resolved in just a few days, severe strains can require surgery with a recovery time of 3-4 months.
Can you Tear your External Oblique?
The non-dominant abdominal obliques are more commonly injured compared to the dominant side. Internal oblique (IO) and external oblique (EO) injuries have been reported as strains or tears of the musculotendinous attachment in the vicinity of the lower ribs.
Are Obliques Love Handles?
Love handles lie on top of the obliques, which are a very specific group of abdominal muscles. In order to really work those suckers, you have to target them precisely.
That being said, it’s a myth that you can spot reduce fat loss.