Kettlebell exercises can be one of the most effective means for training the obliques, as they make it very easy to train the resisting rotation and resisting lateral flexion movement patterns. Training these movement patterns allows for great improvements in both the obliques rotational strength and static strength. The list below contains movements from both these movement patterns that you can incorporate into your core work or full body resistance training sessions.
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The obliques are used in a variety of different sporting activities, from shot-put to rugby, the obliques are a key muscle group. This is especially true for both throwing and contact sports where aggressive rotation movements are required. This aggressive rotation will all come from the lower body and be transferred through to the upper body from them core musculature, including the obliques.
All of these exercise are extremely beneficial to the obliques and the spinal stabilisers. These play key roles in ensuring the spine doesn’t move through unwanted or unprotected ranges of motion. Having strong obliques and spinal stabilisers will allow you to mitigate some injuries both in contact sports and in the weight room. This therefore makes them an important component of your training programme
There is a reason why professional olympic weightlifters do accessory work on their obliques, thats because it will allow improvements in performance in the weight room. No, these exercises will not have a large impact on your numbers or your totals, but as part of your accessory work, they enable you not to have any weak links in your chain.
Resisting rotation and resisting lateral flexion make up the entirety of these exercises and are the movement category that works the obliques. This resistance of a weight allows the core musculature to contract and adapt in a very effective way. I use these in place of side bend or exercises where there is a lot of lateral flexion and extension.
The KB Side Plank is one of the most advanced exercises in this list, it requires complete mastery of the side plank without any weight. One thing to be very cognisant of is elbow placement, if the elbow is placed too far away or too close to the body it can cause a lot of pain. Putting the KB in position can also be a little difficult, be sure to find a stable side plank before placing the KB high. This exercise may be a little challenging and have a high start up cost, but once your in position it will do wonders for both your obliques and should stability due to the extended kettlebell hold. Start with a light weight that you can be confident with, then progress slowly over time.
The KB Suitcase Hold is the inverse to the KB side plank in the sense that it is potentially the most simple exercise in the entire movement library. Do not let simplicity make you complacent, this movement will work your obliques just as well as any of the others in the list. You will need to fight to keep the shoulders square, a slight bend in the arm holding the kettlebell and a tight upper back.
The Single Arm Front Rack Carry requires control, precision and a well developed front rack position. You need the kettlebell to be placed in such a way that it is the core that is resisting the rotation, rather than just putting the weight onto the deltoid, which will make the exercise substantially easier.
The Single Arm KB Farmers Carry has very similar effects to the suitcase hold, however due to the movement involved it also works on hip and knee stability. The key part of this exercise is the time you spend on one foot, so walking quickly is completely counter intuitive and will reduce the amount of adaptation you get from this exercise. Take your time, keep your shoulders square and you back tight.
The Single Arm KB Farmers March is again similar to the farmers walk and suitcase hold in terms of how it challenges lateral flexion (pulls of the obliques) but this exercise requires the most balance compared to the others, standing on one leg with a weight in the other hand will force you to use both you foot, knee and hip as well as your core musculature to stabilise.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.