The oblique muscles are part of a group of muscles called “abdominal muscles”. You have four abdominal muscles, the most known is the rectus abdominis, the middle (washboard?) muscle and the whole group are often referred to as just “abs”. There’s the transverses abdominis, which lie along side the rectus abdomenis, and then the pair of muscles called the obliques. Obliques are located on each of the sides of your torso. External obliques are large, thin muscles on top and internal obliques are triangle shaped muscles just underneath the external obliques.
Your oblique muscles help you twist your torso or bend from the side. Building strong obliques support your lower back, which can help reduce back pain and avoid posture problems. Better posture and stronger obliques also slim your waist.
Building strong oblique muscles involves exercise that have you twist and bend at the waist. Effective exercises include: offset dumbbell squats, single-arm overhead presses, farmer’s carry. Core-building exercises like the side plank and bicycle crunch are also effective. .
Oblique muscles also get sore from time to time. Activities that can cause oblique muscle pain include:
- Abdominal scars from surgery
- Over-using muscles (twisting and side bending exercises)
- Rowing (with poor body mechanics)
- Raking leaves (with poor body mechanics)
- Lifting using tools like shovels or pitchforks
- Chronic coughing
- Sitting for long periods of time
- Slouching posture
A qualified massage therapist can help. They’ll access the muscles while you’re on your back or turn you on your side and brace your position with pillows. They’ll use broad strokes and targeted friction to relax and reduce tension and search and destroy trigger points. They work the antagonist muscles and muscle groups surrounding the abdominals, too.
Strong obliques are one piece of the puzzle that makes up a trimmer, healthier you. Don’t neglect them when you exercise, and, if they do get sore, see a massage therapist right away!