The oblique muscles create rotational force and assist with stabilization—vital for any athlete. Just ask the Cleveland Indians' Travis Hafner, the Minnesota Twins' Glen Perkins or the Atlanta Braves' Brandon Beachy—all of whom are on the DL with oblique injuries early in the season. Given the importance of the obliques, STACK is here to show you how to strengthen and stretch them so you can reduce your chances of landing on the DL.
Behind the Movement
First, let's examine how the obliques operate during rotational movement. According to Dr. Len Kravitz on Livestrong.com, creating rotational force and assisting with dynamic stabilization are the two most important functions of the obliques. Thus, athletes should use isometric and dynamic exercises to develop their obliques, including post-workout stretches to lengthen them.
Two types of obliques are part of the abdominal complex: internal and external. When contracted, the internal oblique rotates and bends the trunk sideways, acting with the external oblique on the opposite side to achieve the movement. Example: to bring the right shoulder to the right hip, the left internal oblique and right external oblique contract as the torso flexes and bends. Because they work together, both kinds of obliques must be strengthened to increase power generation in the trunk.
Build stability in your obliques with a Side Plank.
- Lie on side with elbow underneath body
- Keeping body straight, raise onto elbow and outside edge of bottom foot; hold for specified time
- Repeat on opposite side
Reps/Duration: 1x60 seconds each side
Next, build strength with BOSU Side-Ups, a dynamic exercise that stretches the obliques.
- Lie on side with hip on BOSU dome and top leg behind bottom leg
- As partner holds legs down, raise and slightly rotate upper body open
- Lower with control; repeat for specified reps
- Repeat on opposite side
Set/Reps: 2x20-25 each side
After you finish strengthening your obliques, you must stretch them to ensure proper development and avoid tightness, which makes the muscles prone to injury. Several stretches can be included in the cool down portion of your workout.
First, grab a bar or broom stick and place it along your shoulders behind your head. Standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart, exhale as you twist to the left and inhale as you come back to center. Repeat on the other side, coordinating your breath with the movement. Perform five to 10 reps on each side.
Return to center, keeping the same stance as before. While exhaling, slowly bend to the right as if you're trying to touch your right elbow to your right hip. Hold for a few seconds before returning to center and repeating on the other side.
To finish, lie on your back with your hands at your sides, legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Again coordinating your breath with the movement, slowly twist your lower half to the right and hold for a few seconds. Return to center and repeat on the other side.
Tim Grover, Michael Jordan's personal trainer, is a big proponent of oblique exercises, and he makes them a cornerstone of his core training. Some athletes assume core training means strengthening the abs. However, a six-pack doesn't equal a strong core. "Many athletes do hundreds of Crunches and neglect their oblique and erector muscles," says Grover. "Injury can occur if any part of the core is weak. If your core is strong, all of your muscles can produce more force and perform at a higher level."
Strengthen your core with exercises from Grover's training plan. Try these six, MJ-tested moves twice a week to hit all your vital core muscles.
Oblique exercises and stretching, although not glamorous, are essential for maintaining a healthy and strong core. Injury in this region can keep you out of action for weeks. Take time now to ensure strong, flexible obliques so you won't lose playing time later.
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