Smooth and toned sides are in style all year round. These four exercises will help you strengthen your side body and tame back bulge.
Crunches may have lost their luster with the very fit crowd, but bicycle crunches really work when it comes to toning your obliques:
- Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground (pull your abs down to also target your deep abs). Interlace your fingers, and put your hands behind your head.
- Bring your knees in toward your chest, and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.
- Straighten your right leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow toward the left knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
- Now switch sides and do the same motion on the other side to complete one rep (and to create the "pedaling" motion). Do this exercise with slow and controlled motion.
- Perform two sets of 10 to 20 reps.
Seated Russian Twist
While this ab exercise mainly targets your obliques, your back muscles will be engaged to strengthen and support your spine. To increase the difficulty of this exercise, hold a five-pound medicine ball or dumbbell at chest height:
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your bum.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important, and difficult, to keep your back straight, but don't let it curve.
- Place your arms straight out in front of you with your hands one on top of the other. Your hands should be level with the bottom of your rib cage.
- Pull your navel to your spine and twist slowly to the left. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center and rotate to the right. This completes one rep.
- Do 16 full rotations.
Side Plank pose challenges your core and strengthens your side body. If you always struggle when this pose is called out in yoga class, then read through these Side Plank tips before you move into the posture:
- Sit on your left side with your legs slightly bent and your feet stacked.
- Place your left hand about 12 inches from your pelvis.
- Push your hand into the ground, and straighten your legs as you lift your pelvis off the ground. If you have trouble balancing, stagger your feet so the top leg is in front.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and switch sides to complete one rep.
Twisting Side Plank
Add a twist to spice up your Side Plank and challenge your core even more with this Side Plank variation:
- Come into a Side Plank on your right side, with your feet stacked one on top of the other and your weight on your right elbow with your fingers reaching away from your body, palm down.
- Place your left arm behind your head and inhale to prepare.
- Exhale and pull your navel to your spine to engage your deep abs and rotate your left rib cage toward the floor. Stay there for a second and deepen your abdominal connection pulling your navel in toward your spine even more.
- Return to starting position and repeat seven more times for a total of eight reps, then switch sides. Repeat series again on both sides.