Side Bend Exercise Guide

Oblique muscles are an essential part of the core as they help us in bending and stabilizing our bodies, but they are oftentimes neglected. Side Bend is a fantastic way to work the oblique muscles and improve core stability. 

Side Bend Exercise

How to Do Side Bends

Setting Up

To start, stand up with your feet in a wide stance, about shoulder-width apart. Make sure you have your back straight and chest out. If you are using weights such as a dumbbell or kettlebell, hold it in your left hand on the side.

Place the other hand on the side, on your waist, or behind your head, whichever is more comfortable for you. This is your starting position. 


While keeping your back straight and the rest of your body still, slowly bend your spine to the left as far as possible. Breathe in as you do this and hold this position for 1-2 seconds.

In a controlled manner, exhale as you begin to pull your body back to the starting position, still keeping the rest of the body in a steady position.

Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions, and switch sides. 


  • Choose an appropriate weight that will allow you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.  Holding too much weight can cause injuries.
  • Slightly bend your knees to keep them from locking out.
  • Remember to keep your core engaged to maximize the benefits of this exercise.


  • Increases flexibility of the spine
  • Promotes better posture
  • Helps lose love handles and define your waistline
  • Strengthens the core

Illustrated Guide

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles

  • Obliques

Side Bend Variations

Barbell Side Bend

Barbell Side Bends target the internal and external obliques, as well as the lower back.

Place the barbell on the back of your neck while you stand up upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend sideward as you would with a regular side bend.

If you are suffering from back pain, perform this exercise with caution or avoid it completely to avoid further injuries.

Stability Ball Side Bend Exercise

A stability ball allows more resistance and challenge to your regular side bend exercises.

To perform this variation, you will need to lie on the stability ball so that you’re on your side. Keep your body straight, place your arms behind your head or cross your arms on your chest, then crunch upward while engaging your obliques.

Slowly lower yourself back to the initial position and repeat for the desired number of reps. Switch sides. 

Side Bend Alternatives

Russian Twists

Russian twists are a go-to exercise for building obliques and are usually included in home, HIIT workouts and calisthenics workout routines.

The twist motion of this exercise specifically targets the direction in which the muscle fibers run within the obliques, making it one of the most effective oblique exercises you can do.

Sit on a comfortable flat surface with your legs extended and lifted off the floor. Maintaining this position, twist your waist from side to side while contracting your core as hard as you can.

A good tip is to turn your shoulders – not just your head – and bring each elbow back as far as possible.

Side Bridge

Side bridges are the perfect beginner exercise for hitting your obliques, or transversus abdominis. 

Another bonus of the side bridge is that it also targets your shoulders and biceps.

Rest on your forearm (elbow bent at 90 degrees) with your body facing to the side and your feet extended and placed together. Lower your hips until they touch the floor, then bring your hips back up as high as possible, while maintaining a squeezed core.

Side Crunch

Side crunches are a popular exercise for people who want to get rid of their love handles because of their effectiveness in targeting internal and external obliques.

To do a side crunch, lie on your side with your legs straight.

With one hand extended out in front of you and the other on the side of your head, crunch your obliques down and tuck your knees up so that your elbow and knees meet in line with your waist, before returning to the starting position.

Ab Exercise Guides

Kevin Harris