How To Do Weighted Side Bends Properly

Weighted side bends are a common yet quite controversial exercise that works the oblique muscles on the side of your abdomen.

Most fitness trainers love standing ab movements because they put less pressure on your neck muscles.

But for a few reasons weighted side bends do not fall within the category of well-liked core workouts.

For starters, its movement pattern is believed to put your spine in a compromising position which strains the soft tissues and lateral joints on your spine, and could cause or worsen back

Also, some people are of the opinion that it does not load the lateral flexors of the upper body sufficiently.

However, like most strength training movements, it’s effectiveness and safeness largely depends on your ability to do it with the correct form.

In this article, we navigate how to do it with the least possible risk of injury while maximizing its strength benefits.

Steps:

  • Begin by holding a weight in your left hand and standing straight with your feet shoulder or hip-width apart. The weight could be any free weight you are comfortable holding such as a dumbbell or a kettlebell.
  • Bend your knees slightly and make sure your shoulders are directly over your hips. Your head and neck should remain neutral throughout the exercise
  • Then, place your right hand behind your head without pulling the neck forward.
  • Bring the weight by your side. Your palms should be facing forward and your arm vertically placed with the elbow slightly bent.
  • Keep your hips and shoulders stable, and brace your core. This is the starting position.
  • Bend your waist slowly to the right so the weight moves downwards, just outside your leg.
  • Keeping bending until the weight is slightly above your knee.
  • Squeeze your right oblique muscles and pause for a second or two.
  • Then, straighten your spine slowly and launch into another rep.
  • Do 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps each.

WHAT MUSCLES DO WEIGHTED SIDE BENDS WORK?

All side bend variations, including the weighted one, work your oblique muscles.

Your obliques are located on either side of your six-pack muscles (rectus abdominis). They help laterally flex and rotate your torso, and also stabilize your core.

This exercise also, to a minimal extent, recruits the erector spinae muscles on your lower back.

BENEFITS OF WEIGHTED SIDE BENDS

IMPROVES SPINAL MOBILITY

With regular practice and proper form, weighted side bends can enhance lateral flexion of the spine, which can help improve your functional mobility during your daily activities.

ENHANCES CORE STRENGTH

There aren’t many popular core exercise that target the sides of the core; most of them tend to focus completely on your other ab muscles at the expense of your obliques.

Unfortunately, you cannot attain full core strength without engaging all your core muscles, including the obliques.

By working your oblique muscles, you get to strengthen your core in its entirety.

ALTERNATIVES TO WEIGHTED SIDE BENDS

SIDE BRIDGE

A side bridge ensures there’s continuous tension on your core (especially the obliques) throughout the exercise.

Apart from your core, it also recruits your gluteus medius to help with hip flexion.

Steps:

  • Lie on one side and press your elbow to the floor, directly under your shoulder.
  • Stack your legs to bring your working leg on top of the one pressed to the ground.
  • Lift your hips so that they are in the same line as your waist. This is the starting position.
  • Bring the hips downwards, stopping just before they touch the floor.
  • Lift the hips up again with the help of your obliques. Make sure your body doesn’t lean to the front or back.
  • Keep repeating this motion for 12-15 reps.

If you find the side bridge challenging, keep your other hand on the floor to help you gain enough balance as you move the hips up and down.

SIDE PLANK WITH ROTATION

This is an advanced side plank variation with a little twist of rotation that targets your obliques with as much resistance as weighted side bends.

It also trains your transverse abdominis and gluteus medius.

Steps:

  • Assume a side plank position by lying on the floor on one side, keeping one elbow one the floor and stacking your legs on top of each other. Your entire body should be in a straight line.
  • Once you’re settled into the side plank position, tighten your core and twist your upper body by bringing your free hand under your waist. Your torso and hips should stay lifted during the rotation.
  • Now, bring the torso back to the starting position by moving your hand back up. All these movements should come from your obliques.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps.

SIDE CRUNCH

The side crunch is arguably the most popular oblique exercise. It is quite simple, hence suitable for beginners and advanced lifters alike.

Steps:

  • Lie on the floor face up with one hand on the back of your head and the other on the floor.
  • Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
  • Without moving your torso, lower your knees to the right side and stack them on top of each other.
  • Lift your shoulders of the floor as you squeeze your left oblique muscle, moving your left elbow towards the left hip.
  • Pause at the top for a few seconds.
  • Lower to the starting position slowly while keeping your obliques tensed.
  • Repeat as many reps as you desire.

WEIGHTED SIDE BENDS MISTAKES TO AVOID

BENDING YOUR HIPS

Try not to sway your hips or bend forward as you do this exercise.

Bending only at the waist ensures your oblique muscles get maximally activated for a better workout.

RUSHING THE REPS

Being an isolation exercise, weighted side bends require that you perform your reps slowly and steadily to put your muscles under maximum tension.

USING HEAVY WEIGHT

For this movement, choose a weight you will not strain holding as you bend your waist to one side.

If you are a beginner, start with a light weight so that you can focus solely on mastering the form, then increase the weight as you get stronger.

CONCLUSION

Contrary to popular opinion, weighted side bends are not entirely bad for you. Sure they are risky, but only when done incorrectly.

Follow the instructions in this article and steer clear of the mistakes to do it in the safest way possible.