The side bend is a strength-training exercise that targets your oblique muscles, or side abs. Hold a dumbbell in one hand to add resistance to the exercise and make it more intense. Although some lifters perform the exercise with two dumbbells, it is better to use just one and focus on one side at a time.
You have four oblique muscles — an external oblique and an internal oblique on each side. Your oblique muscles run diagonally down your side from just below your chest to just above your hip bone. Lateral flexion, bending to the side, is one of the main movements of the oblique muscles. Do 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise, on each side. Complete all the repetitions for one side then switch sides.
Basic Side Bend
The basic side bend is done in a standing position holding a dumbbell in one hand. If you hold the dumbbell in your right hand, your left obliques are doing the work. You start the movement by bending in the direction of the dumbbell; this places the working obliques in a stretch position. Exhale and bend to the opposite side. Think of pulling your shoulder down toward your knee. Do not move your hips. The movement only occurs at the waist.
45-Degree Side Bend
The 45-degree side bend is done on a back extension machine. It allows you to work against gravity and helps eliminate hip movement because your hips are against a pad. Position yourself on the machine so your side is against the hip pad and your feet are locked under the ankle pad. Hold the dumbbell in the hand that is closest to the floor. If your left side is against the hip pad, your right obliques are doing the work. Lean toward the floor for a stretch then bend toward the opposite side.
Stability Ball Side Bend
The stability ball introduces an element of instability into the side bend exercise. The exercise is similar to the 45-degree side bend except you lie on your side across a stability ball. The side not on the ball is the working side. Hold the dumbbell behind your head or in front of your chest. Lower your shoulders toward the floor for a stretch then pull your upper shoulder toward your knee, squeezing your obliques.
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