ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Obliques & Intercostals

Updated on January 31, 2012
Photography by Trine de Florie
Photography by Trine de Florie

Left unattended and ignored (and downright neglected) the obliques will ally themselves with the equally slothful abdominals to result in a what is known as a 'beer gut'. While the abdominal may do all the work for said beer gut, the obliques will finish it off nicely with some love handle action.

Got the picture so far?

Now I'm not a fitness freak gym junkie and talking down on those lacking washboard abs. I'm one of the unwashed. And I find that the slim and trim stomach THE hardest part of all the body parts and muscle groups. So this hub (and the flat stomach chiseled abs one) is all about me motivating me. I've been searching high and low for the best, most effective exercises to blast these areas. And I'm incorporating these into my own exercise program.

My arms, shoulders, chest and legs respond well to working out, but for me, the torso is a hard and stubborn region. What probably doesn't help is my wife's excellent culinary skills (or my love of ice cream and chocolate, which I've banned from the house since I've started working out seriously).

So it's going to take more than weight training to bring these babies into shape. I'll be needing to get some other fat burning exercise happening. I hate aerobics, and cycling isn't practical around where I live. I think I'll have to rely on some walking.

Not to mention cutting down on my meal sizes.

Can I do it?

A Closer Look At The Obliques And Intercostals

The obliques are on the the side of your midsection (right next to where your abs should be). They start at the bottom of your rib cage down to your pubic area.

The obliques are made up of external and internal obliques. Imagine for a moment (the R&B singer) Usher: those bits down near his belt line that he likes to show off to the ladies (and it drives them wild apparently) are the internal obliques.

My 16 year old son has them. Without ever having worked on them. I'd hate him for it but he is my firstborn, so I must learn to let go and move on.

Your obliques help you bend from side to side and also twist your torso (flexion and rotation). Your lower back gets extra support by having strong obliques and therefore reduces the chances of back pain and posture problems.

On top of the obliques, and to the side of the chest are the intercostals. Between the intercostals and the lats is the serratus.

The serratus and intercostals work together, which I'll probably mention again in the Serratus hub. You'll hit them when you get to the extreme point of upper abdominal contraction. Otherwise you can just let them go along with the ride and be trained with the pecs and lats. A lat pulldown and a pec pullover will give them enough attention unless you're seriously focused and determined to be a competitive bodybuilder.

1. Abdominals, 2. Serratus, 3. Intercostals, 4. Obliques
1. Abdominals, 2. Serratus, 3. Intercostals, 4. Obliques

Kinesiology & Physiology

Doing oblique exercises properly can speed up achieving the tight waistline result that you're after

Keep in mind that you can't 'spot reduce'. Exercise builds muscle, and can burn calories, but if you want noticeable fat reduction it will happen all over, and that can only come about by maintaining a healthy diet and including some kind of cardiovascular activity in your routine.

Prior to exercising the muscle group be sure to warm-up and stretch. While exercising the muscle group, be sure to breathe properly. Don't hold your breath. Breathing allows oxygen to get to the muscles via the blood stream. Your muscles need that oxygen.

Dumbbell Side Bends

This develops lateral stability of the spine by strengthening the obliques. Lower a weighted dumbbell slowly down your side. Keep your other hand behind your head, elbow bent. Repeat on the other side.

Dumbbell Side Bend Demonstration

Abdominal Side Twists

One exercise that should never be done with a heavy weight is the twist, which will build up the obliques (the muscles on the sides of the waist). A light broomstick is enough resistance for most people and twists should be done for high reps — 100 or more per set. The twist also works the intercostals (those muscles on the sides of the waist below the serratus)

Imagine that your lower body is set in concrete and you can only turn the upper body. Now twist from side to side. Do the first set slowly to warm up and to stretch the muscles out, but on the remaining sets you should be twisting quickly and vigorously. Do 100 reps per set.

Abdominal Side Twist Demonstration


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • darkside profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Australia

      Genetics will play a part, as some might only be able to show a "4 pack" or even an "8 pack". While a "6 pack" seems to be the norm there's also even and uneven defined abs. Some line up neatly while others seem a bit off-skew.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great post Darkside. The illustration helped a lot. I'm just now learning there are more than abs and obliques. I've been working my abs for a couple months now and I'm noticing that they really aren't getting bigger. I started off with small abs and barely any fat, packed on some muscle with a bit of fat, and now the fat's coming off and my abs really don't seem any bigger.

      Is there a genetic factor to the shape and development of abs? If I have the flat stomach look is it just going to get denser or are my abs going to start developing peaks?

    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 

      10 years ago

      This hub motivates me as well when it comes to those hard washboard abs I can only dream of such a physique, janet jackson is the person who comes to mind when I think of tight, fit and sexy abdominal, thanks for the helpful tutorial videos.

    • darkside profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Australia

      rb11, is that a big ball for sitting on in front of the computer?

    • Kevin Peter profile image

      Kevin Peter 

      10 years ago from Global Citizen

      now looking for a 6 pack body

    • rb11 profile image


      10 years ago from Las Vegas

      For cardio and weight loss I've read people who can't (due to illness) or inactive that infrared heat is a deep penetrating cardio stimulator. A friend of mine who is a bodybuilder (not I) had me use the big ball, it really makes you use all muscles for balance and strength without hurting your back. Somewhere within there is a 6 pack waitng to emerge.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)