Oblique Crunches (How To & Alternatives)
Oblique Crunches are a slight twist (bad pun intended) to regular crunches that puts more of an emphasis on the obliques (hence the name).
In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to properly do Oblique Crunches, the best rep schemes to use and a few alternatives in case you need them.
How To Do Oblique Crunches
- Start with back flat on the ground, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then, lift your right foot up and place it on your left thigh – just above the knee.
- Place your left hand behind your head and let your right hand rest on your abdomen.
- Crunch up by contracting the abs and lifting the shoulder blades up off the ground. As you rise, twist towards your right, taking your left elbow towards your right knee.
- If your elbow actually touches your knee, great. If not, reach it as close as possible. Do NOT pull on the back of your head to try to force it.
- Relax back down to the starting position and repeat. Once all reps are completed for the right side, switch positions and continue on the left.
The biggest mistake that I see with Oblique Crunches is athletes pulling hard on the back of their head and unnecessarily straining their neck. The hand is meant only to support the head, not aid in the actual crunch.
Don’t rush through the exercise. It’s very easy to lose focus on high rep bodyweight ab exercises and mindlessly churn through reps. Stay focused on the movement and the quality of each rep.
Oblique Crunches, as you might expect, focuses heavily on the Obliquus Externus Abdominis and Obliquus Internus Abdominis muscles – or just Obliques for short.
They also work the Rectus Abdominis muscles and a to a lesser extent the prime hip flexors – Iliopsoas, Tensor Fasciae (TFL) and Rectus Femoris.
Best Rep Schemes
So, how many sets and reps of Oblique Crunches should you do in one workout?
I like to program Oblique Crunches as part of a high volume, bodyweight ab giant set.
For example, a bodyweight giant set would look something like:
- Crunches x 25
- Oblique Crunch x 25 (R/L)
- Sky Crunch x 25
A hundred reps back to back to back are sure to get those abs burning.
Oblique Crunch Variations
Looking to mix up your workout a bit? Here is a more challenging variation that you can try out.
Weighted Oblique Crunch
Once you get to the point where Oblique Crunches aren’t really a challenge at all, it may be time to give Weighted Oblique Crunches.
Instead of placing your left hand behind your head (for a right over left leg position), use that arm to hold a weight. A medicine ball held snugly against the top of the shoulder is my first choice, but a plate or even a dumbbell can work as well.
Keep the movement itself the same.
Side Crunches are another bodyweight crunch that focuses on the obliques. In fact, they are often called Oblique Crunches themselves.
Start on your back, knees bent and feet flat. However, instead of moving one foot over the knee, bring both knees together and then lower them down to the right. Now, place your left hand behind your head and crunch up, bringing the left elbow toward the left hip.
Repeat for the desired number of reps and then switch sides.
Oblique Crunch Alternatives
If you can’t do Oblique Crunches, for whatever reason, here are a few alternatives that may work better for you.
DB Side Bends
DB Side Bends are a great alternative if getting up and down off the floor is an issue.
Start standing with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in your left hand.
Bend your torso to the right side and then back to the left. Once all reps are completed switch the dumbbell over to the other hand.
Keep Legs Straight
Finally, if bending one (or both) of your legs is an issue due to a knee brace or something similar – just keep your legs straight.
Essentially, this would look similar to a twisting Sky Crunch with legs straight on the ground. You’ll still get the same benefit to the obliques regardless of leg position.
More Links and Info
Looking for more Core Exercises? The Horton Barbell Exercise Library has a growing collection of Core Exercises, all with step-by-step instructions and all for free.