Side bends are designed to target the oblique muscles, more commonly referred to as the “love handles”. Side bends can be performed with various exercise equipment like cables or dumbbells. Additionally, hands can be hanging down or raised upward over the head holding onto the weight.
The oblique muscles are located on the outside of the rectus abdominus. They have taken on several different names over the years like the waist, hips, “love handles”, and “sides”. These muscles are responsible for the lateral flexion, rotation and flexion of the lumbar region of the back. In a side bend, the obliques are performing a lateral flexion of the lumbar region.
Numerous muscles of the back assist the obliques in this exercise movement like the trapezius muscles, the erector spinae, and the levator scapulae. Additionally, the glutes aid in stabilizing the hips when performing the side bend.
How To Perform
- Stand with feet roughly shoulder width apart.
- Grab the weighted plate or dumbbell in the left hand.
- Allow the left arm to fully extend downward.
- Place the right hand on the hip and bend laterally toward the ground.
- Slowly return to an upright position and repeat.
- Make sure to perform this exercise on both sides.
- Perform this exercise for the desired amount of sets and reps.
There are numerous variations for making side bends more difficult or challenging. Here are a few common variations:
Overhead Side Bend – This variation requires the arms to be raised above the head, typically holding a cable or a weighted plate. It places more emphasis throughout the back and spine.
Side Crunch – The side crunch is similar to the side bend but instead of leaning away from the weight, the individual leans toward the side that is holding the weight.
Bosu Side Bend – Adding a bosu ball makes the exercise less stable and forces the core muscles to be activated at all times to maintain balance. This increases the stress placed upon the obliques.
With all exercises, safety and proper form are vital to a successful workout. Make sure to pay attention to the following:
- Do not rock side to side when performing this exercise. The momentum will decrease the effectiveness of the exercise.
- Side bends are not recommended for elderly individuals or for those who have problems with maintaining their balance.
- Overhead side bends are not recommended for individuals with shoulder, elbow, or back issues.
- Side bends can be performed in a seated position for those with issues standing. However, they are not as effective due to a compromised range of motion.
- Always hold onto the weight with a firm grip to avoid dropping said weight and risking injury.
- There is no such thing as a “spot reduction method” therefore this exercise will not reduce excessive body fat that’s covering the obliques.