Oblique Crunches

Oblique Crunches

Obliques, those notoriously hard-to-target side abs, can make or break the aesthetic of your midriff. 

As the name suggests, oblique crunches primarily work your obliques, using your hip flexors and rectus abdominis to complete the movement. 

Aimed at improving lateral stability while increasing core strength, Oblique crunches are a bodyweight resistance exercise that may help in prevention of back pain or injury. 

Sometimes referred to as a twisting crunch, the movement consists of crunching upward from one shoulder to the opposite knee in a twisting cross-body motion. 

History 

The origins of abdominal work are hard to pinpoint. We know that the sit-up predates the crunch, the former having been a fitness stable in much of the world since before the turn of the 20th century and the latter being a mid-century modification of the sit-up aimed at reducing strain on the back. 

In the last few years, there has been much controversy surrounding not just the sit-up, but also the classic crunch. 

In 2016, Dr. Stuart McGill, one of the world’s most renowned back pain specialists and author of Back Mechanic effectively laid the sit-up to rest. He made definitive statements in conjunction with the US National  Institute for Occupational Safety and Health urging the US Military to remove sit-ups from basic military training fitness tests. 

They noted that when they measured the stress put on the spine during sit-ups, they reached the limits that can cause damage over time with repetitive movements. 

McGill was quoted in the 2016 Toronto Star as saying, “If [your goal] is to become faster, stronger, or if it’s to become injury resilient and have less pain in life and make yourself generally fit to enjoy life, then the answer is don’t do sit-ups.”

He did, however, mention that planks offer a safer and more effective abdominal core workout and gave us a revised crunch. The McGill curl-up prevents the lumbar vertebrae from flexing during the crunching motion by straightening one leg and positioning both hands under the lower back. These support stabilizers effectively minimize stress to the lower back.  

We do not yet know how this will affect the future of various crunch spinoffs like the Oblique crunch, but similar accommodations could be made. 

How to Perform an Oblique Crunch

Step 1: Lying flat on your back with your lower back firmly on the ground, place your left hand beside your head and press your right hand to the floor at your side. 

Step 2: Elevate your feet on a flat surface so they bend from the knee at a 90-degree angle. 

Step 3: Inhaling, lift your left shoulder and upper torso forward across your body until your left elbow touches your right knee. 

Step 4: Slowly lower your upper torso and right shoulder back to the floor in a controlled motion as you exhale 

Step 5: Switch sides and repeat this process until the desired number of reps has been achieved. 

Benefits

  • Tones, shapes, and strengthens the obliques
  • Utilizes cross-lateral movement
  • Activates both sides of the brain
  • Develops coordination
  • Builds core strength and stability
  • Increases flexibility and agility
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Enhances midsection aesthetic
  • Stabilizes the spine

Variations

There are several oblique-working crunches to choose from, including:

  • Cross-chested oblique crunch: Placing your arms across your chest to make this exercise easier for beginners. 
  • High-handed oblique crunch: The higher up your hands are, the more challenging the exercise is. 
  • Weighted Oblique Crunch: Holding dumbells to your head presents an additional strength challenge.  
  • Bicycle Crunches: This dynamic movement has you pumping your legs as well as alternating shoulders to touch your elbow to the opposite knee. 

Trim Your Waistline with Caution

Always perform any ab exercise maintaining slow and controlled movements, avoiding using your lower back, momentum, or swing to “cheat” as this can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain or injury. Only perform as many reps as you can while utilizing proper form. As with any new exercise, consult your physician before incorporating oblique crunches into your fitness regimen.

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