The obliques are, together with the other abdominal muscles and the muscles of the lower back, responsible for the stability of the spine and pelvis as well as the protection of the inner organs. They consist of different muscles that are aligned in separate layers and vary in shape.

Obliques – different parts

The obliques are represented by the musculus obliquus externus abdominis (abdominal external oblique muscle) and the musculus obliquus internus abdominis (abdominal internal oblique muscle). The musculus transversus abdominis (transverse abdominal muscle) does not belong to the oblique abdominal muscles but also is located on the side of the trunk.

Musculus obliquus externus abdominis

The external oblique muscles originate from the external surfaces of the fifth to the twelfth rib. From here they cover the sides of the trunk running obliquely downward. They are attached to the iliac crest and the rectus sheath.

The functions of the musculus obliquus externus abdominis are:

  • to pull upper body and pelvis toward each other or to raise pelvis and/or upper body from supine position (both sides contract),
  • to erect the pelvis and work against a hollow back (both sides contract),
  • to stabilize the pelvis,
  • to rotate the trunk to the opposite side (one side contracts), and
  • the abdominal crunch.

 

Musculus obliquus internus abdominis

The internal obliques represent the muscle layer below the external obliques. They originate from the iliac crest and fibrous structures of connective tissue of the lumbar region (lumbar aponeurosis). From here they run obliquely upward and insert at the lower ribs (9.-12.) and the rectus sheath.

The functions of the musculus obliquus internus abdominis are:

  • to pull upper body and pelvis toward each other or to raise pelvis and/or upper body from supine position (both sides contract),
  • to erect the pelvis and work against a hollow back (both sides contract),
  • to rotate the trunk toward the same side,
  • to laterally incline the trunk, and
  • the abdominal crunch.

 

Musculus transversus abdominis

The transverse abdominal muscle does not belong to the obliques but is also located at the sides of the trunk. It represents the muscle layer below the musculus obliquus internus abdominis and originates from the seventh till the twelfth rib, the iliac crest, and the fibrous structures of connective tissue of the lumbar region (lumbar aponeurosis). Transversely to the body it runs to the front where it inserts at the rectus sheath.

The functions of the musculus transversus abdominis are:

  • to rotate the trunk to the same side (one side contracts),
  • to enclose and constrict the organs of the stomach and form the waist (both sides contract), and
  • the abdominal crunch.

 

Obliques – characteristics

The obliques rotate the trunk. Here, the muscles work in pairs. For the right rotation the left external and the right internal oblique muscles work together, and vice versa. Optically the muscles create a bulge on the side of the trunk right above the iliac crest.

Together with the other abdominals and the muscles of the lower back the obliques form the muscular corset of the trunk. They protect the inner organs and stabilize the pelvis and spine. In terms of body posture great importance can be attached to these muscles.

Obliques – training

Due to that the training of the abdominals is very important. Solely a well-pronounced musculature can fulfil all muscle functions properly. The obliques support the rectus abdominis and will also be trained with straightly performed abdominal exercises. But we can emphasize different muscle parts by choosing respective exercises. Especially variations of the side plank, side lift, and twisted crunch reinforce the workout for the obliques.

Working out the abdominals please consider the activation of the hip flexors musculus iliopsoas and musculus rectus femoris. Also, please avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways). Both topics are discussed in the article musculus rectus abdominis. Also essential is the training of the muscles of the lower back that represent the antagonist of the abdominals. A good balance between these muscle groups ensures optimal functionality.


The obliques form an entity with the rest of the abdominals. Together with the lower back they are extremely important for the stability of the pelvis and spine. The abdominal muscles protect the inner organs and are responsible for a desirable body shape.

 

Obliques

The obliques are very important for the stability of pelvis and spine and protect the organs. They form the waist in an athletic way. Learn more.

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