How To Do Side Bends Abs Properly

The side bends abs are a beginner-level isolation workout that primarily targets the oblique muscles located on the sides of your body.

It is a hypertrophy workout that strengthens the core muscles and the shoulders while improving your overall mobility.

This exercise relieves spinal and hip tension and also increases spinal mobility. Begin with a slight bend and focus on stretching the muscles in question.

Also known as: Standing side bend pose, the Standing lateral flex pose

Targeted Muscles: Obliques, Core, Shoulder

Required Equipment: No Equipment

Exercise Type: Compound

Exercise Mechanics: Hypertrophy, Calisthenics

Difficulty Level: Beginner


  • Begin with a Mountain pose and position your feet such that your big toes nearly touch your heels. Move your shoulders behind your ears and focus your gaze forward.
  • Interlock your fingers above your head. Leave out your index fingers and point them towards the ceiling. This grip is called the Steeple Grip.
  • Position your biceps to align with your ears and contract your inner thighs to tighten your core for a steady balance.
  • Inhale and slowly bend your body towards your right side as you breathe out. Move your left arm over to your right side.
  • Brace your core, you may start feeling a bit shaky. Work to keep your body still and take a deep breath.
  • Concentrate on moving your body up and over instead of just bending sideways. Tighten your right side as you lengthen the opposite side.
  • Inhale and resume the starting position. Exhale and repeat the movement on the opposite side.

If you can’t maintain a steady balance with your feet close, assume a hip-width stance. Remember to keep your feet close and work the core muscles harder to keep you balanced throughout the workout.

Up for a challenge?

Use dumbbells for a standing side bend. For a start, use lightweight and begin with a wider stance for better balance. Hold the weights at your chest level and bend towards your right the same way you would with a regular side bends abs. Pause and hold the position for a few seconds and repeat on the opposite side.



The obliques are made up of internal and external heads, therefore when you execute the workout, both heads are worked. As you bend towards your right, the right internal and external obliques are worked. As you bend towards your left, you’re the heads on the right side lead the motion.

The obliques are responsible for rotation and lateral flexion of the trunk, which aid stability and compress the muscle of the core and the mid-section for better workouts.



As you perform the side bend pose, the upper and lower body are aligned to guarantee the best results from the workout. Side bends abs are an asymmetrical move, therefore, the side bending motion of the torso should be in line with your hips, ensuring the shoulders are at a static position at the same time. When the workout is performed with the correct technique, the entire body posture is improved especially the shoulders and the spine. Spinal flexibility guarantees spinal health, which is responsible for a good body posture.


Side bends abs primarily target the internal and external obliques which consequently gives you physical strength. As you execute the workout, you will engage your core and the spinal erector muscles to keep you steady as you bend to your sides. The main goal of this drill is to target the mid to the lower core.


The side bends abs are an easy core workout to perform even at home. If you are a beginner, start by doing the exercise with your bodyweight only. Level up gradually to using dumbbells as you perfect your technique or use a pulley machine or kettlebells.



The side plank is a hypertrophy core workout that works your obliques as the side bends abs do. It is a compound exercise, that works the hip, shoulder and chest muscles as well.


  • Place a mat on the floor and lie on it.
  • Place your forearm below your shoulder, stack your legs and ensure your knees and hips are straight.
  • Support your body with your elbows and push your hips upward. The goal is to raise your hips until your entire body is aligned from your head to your foot.
  • Pause and hold this position for a few seconds then resume the starting position.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

If you are a mother to be, be keen to pay attention to your body. If you are experiencing any standing difficulties, place your bottom leg on the floor for a modified side plank.


Below are some common mistakes often made that you should avoid to get the most benefits from this workout.


This is one common mistake that exercisers often make while executing this workout. Bending the arms make you generate momentum from your biceps as you execute the lateral extension. You will be making your biceps the prime movers and not work your obliques to their full potential.

Correct this mistake by keeping your arms straight. Perform the lateral extension by concentrating on your oblique muscle of the opposite side such that if you are bending to your left side, extend the back without arching your arm.


Many people who choose the dumbbell variation of this workout often hold the weights in both hands while performing the lateral flexion. Doing this makes the workout ineffective as using resistance in both hands is counterproductive since it makes you stable, minimizing the full potential of the muscle in question.

Check on your form and make side bends abs an effective workout by performing the set using a dumbbell in each hand at a time.


Side bends abs are quite easy to master and perform and can be performed even with beginners. If you have existing health issues in your back, ensure you consult a certified trainer before settling for this workout. If you’re looking to strengthen your core and obliques, then the side bends abs are an ideal option for you.

Remember not to push yourself too hard, start slow and focus on perfecting your technique by executing the drill using the correct procedure. Each step will help build you core strength, flexibility and the mobility you desire.

All the best!



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