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Oblique Abdominal Crunch For Beginners


Updated September 30, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Oblique Abdominal Workout

Oblique Abdominal Workout

Any back exercise routine worth its salt includes work for the oblique abdominals. The oblique abdominals consist of 2 pairs of ab muscles. There's an internal and an external oblique on each side of the trunk (in front). The obliques enable you to twist and tilt your spine, and they help stabilize the trunk, otherwise known as the core.

This beginner level exercise involves an ab crunch (or ab curl, if you’re into Pilates) combined with a rotational movement of the shoulder. Experts recommend doing a back exercise routine every day -- this exercise can be included in your routine on some or all days.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 3-5 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Lie supine (on your back). Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Try to keep your body in alignment. Your trunk and head should be in a straight line, and your heels should make an imaginary straight line from your sitting bones, which are located on the very bottom of your pelvis. Your arms should be down by your side.
  2. Tuck your chin in toward your chest slightly. This is a very small movement. It takes place at the joint where the head articulates with the the first bone of the neck, which is about at ear level.

    If you overdo this movement, you'll involve more muscles and joints in your neck. This may cause neck strain or interfere with injury healing. Be careful not to power this movement. If you have a neck problem, you may need to skip this exercise. When in doubt, ask your doctor or physical therapist about it.

  3. Inhale. When you exhale, pull your stomach in tight. Repeat once or twice to warm up the muscles of your trunk.
  4. Inhale again. Exhale and curl your head, neck and left shoulder off the floor. Aim your left shoulder toward your right hip bone as you lift. (You won’t actually get it anywhere near your hip; this instruction is just to help you find the direction you need to take your shoulder in to engage your obliques.)
  5. Stay up there for at least a count of 5. Keep breathing!
  6. Come back down slowly, as you exhale. Bring your shoulder back first, then your neck and finally your head.


  1. Lifting your head may cause neck pain, especially if you are not strong in your core. If the pain is too much, support your head with your hand, as shown in the picture. You can also take breaks to let your neck rest, and then try again. If you have a lot of back or neck pain, or if you've been diagnosed with a neck injury or condition, consult with your doctor or physical therapist before attempting this exercise on your own. This is especially true if your injury has not been stabilized, in other words, if you haven't gone for treatment.
  2. You’ll get much more work for your obliques if you refrain from using your arms to push your head, neck and shoulder up. Overcome the inertia by using muscle power. Your back will thank you for it.
  3. If the exercise feels too easy, bend your elbow and place your hand behind your head, as shown in the accompanying photo. Try to keep your elbows wide, as that will add more challenge to the exercise. You can also fold your arms across your chest for a difficulty level that's between keeping your arms straight by your side and putting your hands behind your head.
  4. Respecting the details of the instructions -- moving in the sequence, not using your arms, etc. -- will result in a more challenging workout for your core muscles.
  5. Experts recommend doing back exercises every day for prevention and/or management. This beginner exercise is one way to work your oblique abdominals. There are others. Some are more challenging. Although you should always work at your level, you might consider rotating through a number of oblique strengtheners during the week, to keep things interesting. But you should include at least one oblique abdominal strengthening exercise everyday.

What You Need

  • A clear space on the floor
  • Uninterruped time
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  5. Oblique Abdominal Crunch - How to Do An Oblique Abdominal Crunch

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