Switch Up Your Plank to Toast Your Obliques
Men’s Health/Eric Rosati
The only way to build a truly gasp-worthy set of abs is to start with a strong, stable core—and if you want to do that, you’ll need to target more than just your mirror muscles, the rectus abdominis. Other parts of your abs, like your obliques, need attention too.
Trainer Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., makes sure that her clients aren’t just crunching their way ab mediocrity (and worse, spinal instability).
“Keep in mind that when talking about core stability our core needs to stabilize the spin so that we don’t rotate (twist), flex (bend), and laterally flex (collapse to the side),” she says. “This collapse to the side is also known as ‘antilateral flexion,’ and include the type of exercises are otherwise known as oblique exercises.”
When you’re working your obliques, there’s one exercise that should serve as your jumping off move, according to the trainer.
“The starting point for all oblique exercises should be the side plank,” says Atkins. “And if you can’t hold a side plank on your feet, shorten the lever and take it to your knees. Why is this important? Our cores should limit the amount of motion we allow for the torso to bend sideways.”
To take on the side plank, you might want a yoga mat to keep your legs off the ground. Check out this self-rolling option from our Backslash Fit brand if you need one of your own.
When you set up in the side plank position, make sure that you keep the essential principles that apply to all versions of the exercise in mind. Keep your head in a neutral position and your spine straight, and squeeze you glutes and core to keep your muscles engaged and tense throughout the entire period.
Try holding 30 seconds on each side for 3 to 5 rounds during your next ab session, then work your way up to holding the position for a full minute at a time. If you’re starting from the scaled version on your knees, extend those legs once you can easily last through the 30 second mark.
Want to learn more moves from Atkins? Check out our series full of her workout tips, Try Her Move.
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