The importance of Oblique work

March 14, 2016

There are 3 types on contractions : eccentric (think breaking,deccelereation),isometric (stabilization),concentric (action created by shortening the muscle).All muscles are created equal but their function differs.Some are better suited for concentric contraction like the quads or the triceps,whereas some muscles are designed more for eccentric or isometric.This has nothing to do with their composition but more to do again with their function

For example let's take a look at the abdominals (rectus abdominis).Concentric contraction for those means flexion of the trunk,which is not something you need a lot of in lifting.You'll use flexion for bodyweight movement but under heavy load that is something you would try to avoid (hopefully),the abs are mostly there for breaking and stabilizing.We are built a certain way and there is no denying evolution (again hopefully) so even though you can train your abs by doing crunches (flexion of the trunk - concentric) it would be wiser to respect the function of the abs when you are trying to build a strong core

By the way,this can be said about many different muscle groups in the body.I actually classify them in 3 categories : movers - stabilizers - breakers.Muscles can do all 3 obviously but usually are better at one than the others

I admire bodybuilders tremendously,they are the most driven athletes out there (Kai Green being a favorite of mine).but if i had a criticism to make about the training the sport has created/influenced,it is that it treats all muscles equally (contraction-wise)

The traps are a very good example.Can you train the traps by doing shrugs? definitely,but is that truly respecting their function? Look at a more functional movement like the Farmer's Carry,you'll see right away that the traps work as stabilizers,holding the weight.The "low-trap" also is primordial in stabilizing overhead,but has only some use for concentric

So muscles are all capable of all 3 types of contraction but are not neccessarily better suited for all 3.

That takes us to the core and more specifically the obliques.let's talk about the function of the core for weight-bearing exercises

Just like the abs the obliques are better suited for stabilization and breaking,so to build stronger obliques i always prefer to train them in an anti-rotation manner

(btw let me take an example for just a moment.The Split Jerk is a great anti-rotation exercise but can lead to core issue in Oly lifters & "Functional Fitness Athletes" as they split their heaviest weight only on one side and therefore can have very imbalanced oblique development)

 

My favorite exercises for developing the obliques are

  • 1-arm Deadlift

  • Suitcase carry

  • 1-arm sled drags

  • Sandbag Carry

  • Monster Dumbbell C&J

  • Yoke Carry

You'll notice 4 out of the 6 exercises are unilateral.It is very necessary to work in that median plane to make sure the left and right side are balanced.If they are not you are preparing yourself for major hip/back issues

The 1-arm deadlift is by far my favorite for oblique work and i would recommend to do them once a week.Sandbag carries are highly beneficial so do them everyday.Do the other ones on a rotation of 2 per week