Want perfect posture, reduced risk of back pain and other injuries, plus greater strength for daily living? Look no further than oblique crunches. While, of course, core exercises will help you to sculpt coveted flat abs, working the core muscle group (not only your six-pack muscles but also your hips, pelvis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and lower back) shouldn’t be a looks-only endeavor. Oblique crunches and abdominal activation are vital when it comes to training,’ says Rachael Penrose, trainer at F45. ‘It’s your central stabilizer and, even if you’re focusing on another part of your body, there’ll always be an element of core work.’ Having good core activation is key, which Penrose recommends you check for by drawing your belly button towards your spine and feeling your abdominals tense. ‘This is the feeling you want, not only when you’re doing oblique crunches but also whenever you train,’ adds Penrose. Here are the top tips that trainers swear by with oblique crunches and core training:
1 Stay Engaged With oblique crunches
Don’t like core training sessions? Good news! There are sneaky moves that will work your core muscles if you keep them activated. ‘There is not a set pre-requisite for how often you should be focusing on core training,’ says Penrose. ‘Your core muscles will always be working, whether you’re doing lunges, shoulder presses, or squat jumps.’ If you find it difficult to engage your abdominals during other moves, however, it’s worth adding oblique crunches to your schedule.
2 Perfect Planks
Heralded as one of the best core exercises by fitness training aficionados, the humble plank exercise engages all of the core muscles. ‘It teaches you to brace your entire core, which is useful when performing other exercises, too,’ says Seb Cook, personal trainer at PureGym Leeds. ‘Aim to hold the exercise for a set length of time without losing form.’ Try variations of the plank such as the side plank, rotating plank, up/down plank and more.
3 Breathe with oblique crunches
It can be tempting to hold your breath when doing oblique crunches, but you really shouldn’t – particularly when doing core work. ‘Breathing is probably the most underrated tip because it not only fuels the exercise but also deepens the work,’ says Chiara Becuti, head of Pilates at Fly Ldn. Breathe out during oblique crunches, pulling your belly button towards your spine, and continue breathing out as you are contracting.’
4 Mix and Match
Variety is the spice of life and this is certainly the case where core training is concerned. ‘One mistake people make is that they isolate the abdominal muscles,’ explains David Wiener, training specialist at AI-based fitness app Freeletics. ‘Anytime you do oblique crunches, you should also work on your lower back as this will prevent unnecessary strain.’ Try mixing isolation (single muscle group) moves such as bicycle crunches with compound (multiple muscle groups) moves such as planks.
5 Keep it Short
More is not more when it comes to oblique crunches. ‘Don’t overtrain the core by performing, say, 200 sit-ups in one session,’ warns Zac Yeo, personal trainer at Origym. ‘Overtraining the abdominal muscles will cause them to fatigue.’ And when they fatigue, you’ll lose form and risk injury. Wiener recommends starting with five-to-10 minutes of core exercise.
6 Make a Move
Balancing exercises are great for the core. ‘Core muscles and balance work are deeply connected,’ says Becuti. ‘A controlled wobble during a single-foot standing exercise, for example, activates deep core muscles to help tighten the midsection.’ Pilates is an incredibly safe and smart way to improve core strength, focusing on precise moves, isometric holds and balancing exercises. Why not give it a try?
7 Focus During oblique crunches
Feeling the strain in your back? Tune into your body so that you spot the signs of weak form. ‘Always make sure you’re using good technique throughout your oblique crunches, as this will mean you’re engaging the right muscles,’ advises Wiener.’