There is a big debate going on at my gym about side bends and whether or not they are an effective way of working the obliques. Some of my fellow trainers hold the stance that side bends are an excellent way of working the obliques, but they have to be done correctly and performed in a certain manner (not in the way that most of our gym members perform the exercise). The rest of my co-workers have the opinion that in order to effectively work the obliques, some form of twisting motion has to take place since the obliques are diagonal and twist the body. Which opinion is correct? And if side bends are not effective in working the obliques, what muscles are actually being worked when a side bend is being performed?
My question back to you is, WHAT'S THE GOAL? All of the above are functions of the obliques and MAY BE valid exercise options in a given scenario depending upon the needs and goals of your clients. Hopefully we've all put the notion of "SPOT REDUCTION" to rest (i.e., attempting to isolate the obliques will NOT burn off the love handles). Please read my PTontheNET.com article titled "Avoiding the Traditional Pitfalls of Training - Part 2.” This article gives indepth analysis to ALL of the trunk/core musculature's isolated and integrated functions, as well as scientific rationale for and against several traditional trunk/core exercises.
- Muscle fiber alignment as it relates to direction of resistance (i.e., gravity, dumbbells, etc.) will ultimately dictate which muscles are working as prime movers.
- The EXTERNAL oblique (EO) is superficial to the INTERNAL oblique (IO) as they criss-cross each other. The obliques' actions are virtually impossible to separate; when acting together bilaterally, the internal and external obliques play a major role in pure spinal flexion, while counteracting their individual rotational components. Unilaterally, the internal and external of one side will work to perform lateral flexion to that side. Pure rotation will occur as a combination of internal oblique on one side with the contralateral external oblique, therefore reducing the distance between one shoulder and contralateral iliac crest. In right rotation, the right internal oblique is synergistic with the left external oblique (and vice versa). Although anatomically thought of as two separate muscles during active rotation of the trunk, the EO and IO from opposite sides function as one muscle joined in the midline by the linea alba. Demands on these muscles are relatively large during high-power axial rotations such as sprinting, wrestling and throwing.
- Research has shown that intense training of the large superficial movement based muscles prior to proper training of adequate lumbo-pelvic-hip stabilization can result in further muscle imbalance and postural distortion.
- To ensure this does not happen, it is wise to follow a FLEXIBILITY--->STABILITY--->STRENGTH--->POWER plan of periodization.
Enjoy my article. It should certainly put your "big debate" to rest once and for all!
- Chek, P. (1998). Scientific Core Conditioning
- Neumann, DA. (2002). Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System
- Purvis, T; Simon, M. (2001). Resistance Training Specialist Manual
- Hittner, N. (2003). Avoiding the Traditional Pitfalls of Training - Part 2