Oblique crunches are abdominal exercises, similar to sit-ups which focus on the oblique muscles — muscles in the stomach area located towards the sides of the body. The difference between these crunches and sit-ups or regular crunches happens once a person has lifted the upper torso off the ground. Instead of lowering immediately back down, he continues the crunch by rotating the torso to one side or the other thus targeting the oblique muscles. These oblique exercises help reduce love handles and obtain six pack abs.
There are four oblique muscles. The two outermost abdominal muscles, also known as the external oblique muscles, are the large, rectangular shaped muscles that run diagonally down the sides of the waist. Directly underneath the external obliques are the internal oblique muscles. These muscles are triangular shaped and are smaller and thinner than the external obliques.
Oblique crunches are relatively easy to do and do not require any extra equipment. While there are many variations of this exercise, a common version begins with a person lies on his back with his knees bent and his feet flat on the floor. He then lightly interlaces his hands behind his head. Before moving, he takes a deep inhale and on the exhale lifts the head, neck and shoulder blades off the floor. Once he has lifted his upper torso off the floor, he begins to twist his upper body to the right crossing the left elbow over his torso towards the right knee. To finish he releases his torso back to center and lowers down to the starting position.
There are several points that are important to remember when performing oblique crunches. One should strive to keep the head and neck relaxed, as tension or strain can cause injury. It is often recommended to do several sets, or rounds of approximately 12-16 repetitions. Also, in order to increase the work in the oblique muscles, it is suggested to finish the repetitions on the first side before moving to the second side. Some, however, alternate sides with each lift.
There are numerous leg variations to the standard oblique crunch. The variations are often done to increase the difficulty of the exercise and work the other abdominal muscles while simultaneously working the obliques. One can do this by lifting the feet off the floor so that the knees are directly over the hips and the shins are parallel to the floor. An easier version uses a wall or exercise ball to keep the feet in this position.
Other variations allow movement in the lower body as well as the upper body. He can alternate drawing the opposite knee towards the elbow being crossed over the body. For example, pulling the right elbow and left knee towards one another. At the same time he could extend his right leg straight out allowing it to hover above the floor.