How to Do Dumbbell Side Bend Properly

The dumbbell side bend is an isolated exercise that targets your abdominal muscles.

It is great for losing weight in your sides, building the muscles in the sides of your torso and helping improve your spine health.

It is important to do this exercise correctly. It’s an easy exercise that is often performed poorly.

They are great to add to your usual workout routine.

To do this exercise:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold a dumbbell with your right hand.
  • Place your left hand on your waist.
  • Slowly, with very controlled motion, lower the dumbbell down to your side. Stretch as well as possible and reach as low as you can.
  • Once you’ve reached the lowest level you can, slowly rise back up until your spine is straight. Don’t extend to the left side.


The dumbbell side bend primarily targets the obliques. These are the muscles found on the side of your abdominals.

The abdominal muscles are made of four groups, external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis.

The rectus abdominis is two independent parallel muscles that run up the middle of your stomach. They are responsible for the six-pack often seen in trainers and athletes.

They help with spine and core flexion.

The transverse abdominis wraps around your core like a corset. It helps maintain abdominal pressure.

The internal and external obliques lie with one set below the other. They work antagonistically to complete a move.

To complete a movement, the left external oblique and right internal oblique will be activated.

The obliques run down the side of the lower torso and wrap around the sides of the body.

They help provide rotational power. When you’re swinging your body for a golf swing or a crocket bat, the obliques are engaged.

The obliques also prevent rotation or over-flexing of the spine as needed to ensure you remain stable. They help keep you steady when you’re pulling a heavy stationary object. The obliques help protect the spine and internal organs from trauma.

Obliques also help keep your lower back steady when you’re making swinging motions with your lower body such as running.

Obliques are activated when you bend sideways. Training with a weight like a dumbbell helps strengthen the abdominis and obliques.



The dumbbell side bend builds your obliques. This in turn strengthens your core.

Having a strong core helps improve your balance. When you have a strong lower back, it’s easier to maintain balance.

This also helps improve your posture. If you live a sedentary life, adding this exercise to your routine helps keep your back straight when you sit at your desk or stand at your station.


Strengthening your obliques helps strengthen the lateral flex of your spine.

This means it makes bending easier.

It can help make everyday activities that include bending and lifting easier.


If you have an active lifestyle such as being a trainer or an athlete, stronger obliques mean you protect your internal organs from trauma.

The obliques protect the kidneys, spleen, liver, stomach and other organs that are found behind the abdominal wall.


A stronger core and lower back help reduce the risk of lower back pain.

When your spine is stable and more flexible, it is less likely to experience pain when you remain in one position for too long or perform tasks that involve bending and lifting.


The dumbbell side bend can be easily butchered. To ensure your obliques get the best chance at strengthening, it’s important to add or mix up your routine with other oblique exercises.


To do this exercise:

  • Sit on the floor with your knees flexed in front of you.
  • Bring your torso up and forward until you are sitting at an almost 45-degree angle.
  • Place your arms in front of your body.
  • Rotate your torso to one side. You can do this correctly by rotating your shoulders to face one side. When you’ve completed this motion, touch the ground then the other side so your shoulders face the other side.

You can lift your legs off the floor while doing this exercise to engage your core further. Additionally, you can hold a weight such as a medicine ball or a dumbbell to increase the intensity.


This isolation exercise works opposite to side bends. It is a great complementary exercise to the dumbbell side bend.

To do this exercise:

  • Lay on your side on the ground.
  • Keep your legs straight out, with both knees bent or with one knee bent.
  • Place your lower hand against your obliques. Place your free hand behind your head with your elbow pointing down your side.
  • Crunch up the side of your body with controlled movement.
  • Due to the small range of motion, squeeze for at least three seconds at the end of the movement to maximize the tension.


This dumbbell side bend alternative gets its name from the wood chopping motion exercise.

You will need a cable machine or a resistance band to perform woodchoppers.

To do this exercise:

  • Set the cable above your head.
  • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Your shoulders should be parallel to the resistance. Stand back about arm’s length distance from the cable machine or where you have mounted the resistance band.
  • Grab the handle and straighten your arms.
  • Keep your arms straight and let the resistance pull your arms back.
  • Keep your hip rotation minimal as your arms go up at an angle.
  • Ensure you keep your arms straight as you rotate the resistance away from the source down at an angle. The angle aligns with the angle your arms are pulled up.
  • Ensure you bring your arm down with control.


Avoid holding another weight on your side that isn’t bending. The dumbbell side bend needs the off-balance to activate the obliques.

Don’t rush through the bends. Control your movements, keeping them slow to make sure you engage your core.

When rising from one side back to the standing position, don’t bend too far in the other direction. It adds no value to your workout.



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