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Your six-pack gets all the glory when it comes to abdominal training, with its flashy little squares and lean grooves. But when you get right down to it, the muscles that cinch your waist and give you a feminine shape are the real superstars: your obliques.
You actually have two sets of obliques — the internal obliques, which run diagonally from your hips up to your ribs, and the external obliques, which lie on top the internal obliques and run opposite, from your ribs to your hips. Together, they work to rotate your trunk, bend you side to side and support your spine. And as a bonus, well-developed obliques can pull your waist in nice and neat, like an internal corset.
So give your rectus abdominis a break for a while and take your obliques out for a spin. Do this routine up to three days a week at the end of a workout or after a cardio session when your core is warm and ready to work. Remember to breathe with each repetition, exhaling on the exertion and inhaling on the return.
Setup: Attach a D-handle to the cable station at chest height. Stand sideways to the machine and take two large steps away to create tension. Hold the handle at chest height with your arms straight, knuckles pointing toward the machine, hips square.
Move: Keeping your arms straight, draw the handle around in a large arc in front of your body, pulling it all the way to the opposite side while keeping your hips square. Pause, then slowly return to the start, resisting the pull of the weights on the return. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Think of your entire upper body as a solid unit that moves together. Keep your arms locked in place as you rotate from your torso, using your obliques to pull you around to the side.
Setup: Lie on the floor with your hands placed lightly behind your head, elbows flared, and lift your legs over your hips with your knees bent.
Move: Extend one leg away from you as you exhale and lift your shoulder toward your opposite knee, twisting and pausing at peak contraction. Return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Think about wringing out your waist with each rep, exhaling all your air and squeezing hard.
Side Plank Raises
Setup: Lie on the floor with your hips and legs stacked and place your bottom hand directly beneath your shoulder. Straighten your arm and lift your hips so your body makes a straight line. Place your opposite hand on your hip, or reach it into the air.
Move: Lift your hips up 4 or 5 inches and hold, then lower to the start and hold to complete one rep. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Be careful not to let your hips drop too low on the descent. Keep them in line with your head and heels at the start of each rep.
Start: Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders, left leg turned out and right leg toes forward. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand straight up over your shoulder, arm perpendicular to the floor. Look up toward the kettlebell and place your opposite hand on the outside of your hip, arm straight.
Move: Kick your right hip to the side then drop slowly down towards your left ankle, sliding your hand down along your leg until you are about mid-shin. Then reverse the move and pull your body back up to the standing position. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Look up toward the kettlebell throughout the move to make sure it is stacked over your elbow and wrist in a straight line to prevent injury.