Effective Ways to Do Side Bends and Strengthen Your Core

Effective Ways to Do Side Bends and Strengthen Your Core

Side bends are an easy but powerful exercise that you can do quickly during any workout. They’re a great way to work your oblique muscles for increased core strength, which helps support your body during other workouts. You'll be a step closer to getting that six-pack with strong obliques! As with all other exercises, the right form is very important for a proper side bend, so follow these steps and add them to your routine today.

Method 1 of 2:
The Basic Motion

Image titled Do Side Bends Step 1
1
Hold a dumbbell in one hand. The side bend trains one side at a time, so you only need one dumbbell. Hold the weight on the side you want to start on. [1] X Research source It doesn’t matter which side you start on. You’ll be training both sides by the end of the workout. If you’re just starting out, use a light dumbbell around 5–10 lb (2.3–4.5 kg). The side bend can put stress on your back and you could get hurt if you use too much weight before you get the form right. Some people try to use a dumbbell in each hand and train both sides at once, but this isn’t as good of a workout because the second weight takes tension away from the side you’re working.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 2
2
Stand up straight with your free hand on your hip. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, your back straight, and your chest out. Hold the dumbbell at your side and put your other hand on your hip. Use this as your starting position for the workout. [2] X Research source It’s important to keep your back straight throughout this whole exercise, so don’t lean forward or backward.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 3
3
Bend at your waist towards the side you’re holding the weight on. If you're holding the weight in your right hand, then bend to your right. Inhale and bend from your hips to the side. Keep your back and neck straight through the whole motion, and do not lean back or forward. Go until you feel a stretch and some tension on your opposite hip, and stop at that point. [3] X Research source Don’t worry if you can’t go very far. You don’t need to make a deep motion for a good workout. Just let the dumbbell hang when you bend. Don’t tighten your arm or lift the weight.
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4
Straighten back up into your starting position. Hold your bent position for a second, then exhale and tighten your oblique to straighten back up. Raise yourself smoothly until you’re back in your starting position. [4] X Research source Remember to keep your back totally straight. Don’t bend back or forward at any point.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 5
5
Repeat this motion 12-15 times for a full set. Continue bending to the side and back up with a smooth motion, keeping your back straight and head forward. For a normal set, for 12-15 reps on this side. [5] X Research source If you’re using a heavier weight and going for muscle gains, do 6-8 reps per set instead. If you’re just getting started, it’s okay to do fewer reps until you get used to the exercise.
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6
Switch sides for a complete workout. Once you complete a set on the first side, hold the dumbbell in your other hand and get into a starting position with your free hand on your hip. Do 12-15 reps on this side as well for a well-rounded core workout. [6] X Research source To train both sides thoroughly, do 3-4 sets on each side. It’s normal if one side is a bit weaker than the other. Just focus on using the right form to avoid any injuries.
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Method 2 of 2:
Variations

Image titled Do Side Bends Step 7
1
Perform the exercise without weights for more of a stretch. While the side bend is usually done with dumbbells, you actually don’t need any weight at all to do it. Weightless side bends give you more of a stretch than a muscle workout. Stand up straight with your arms hanging down and your palms pressed against your hips. Bend to one side and slide your hand down your thigh towards your knee until you feel a stretch. Hold this for a second, then bend back up. Bend towards the other side, then keep going back and forth until you complete a set. [7] X Research source Follow the same rules for proper form and don’t lean forward or back. Only bend directly to the side. This is a good option if you have back pain and don’t want to stress your back with too much weight. You could also train one side at a time if you prefer that.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 8
2
Do a seated side bend if your obliques aren’t strong enough yet. If you have an injury or don’t feel strong enough to do a regular side bed yet, you’re in luck! A seated side bend is much easier on your back. Start by sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your arms at your sides. Lean to one side until you feel a stretch in your hip. Do 8-10 reps, then work the other side. [8] X Research source The same rules apply for proper form. Don’t lean forward or back during the motion. This is a common exercise in physical therapy, so it’s perfect if you’re not up to full strength yet. When you feel stronger, you can also hold light dumbbells in your hands during a seated side bend.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 9
3
Vary the weights and reps you use to change up your workout. You don’t have to always use the same weights and reps when you’re doing side bends. Changing it up hits your muscles from different angles. Try a lower weight with a lot of reps one day, then a higher weight with fewer reps on the next. [9] X Research source Be very careful when you increase the weight, since it could overstress your back. Don’t add more than about 10-20% at a time. So if you were using 10 lb (4.5 kg) one day, try 12 lb (5.4 kg) the next day. You’ll know if you did a good workout if your obliques are a little sore the next day. If you don’t feel anything the next day, do more reps or increase the weight a bit.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 10
4
Try an overhead side bend for more of a challenge. While a normal side bend just trains the area around your hips, an overhead side bend trains your whole side. Hold a light weight straight above your head with both hands. Then bend to one side until you feel a stretch in your oblique, making sure to keep your back and neck straight. Stand back up into your starting position, then bend to the other side. Continue going back and forth until you complete a set. [10] X Research source Imagine that you're making a triangle with your hands and holding a weight at the top of the triangle. This can put a lot of stress on your back, so only use a light weight for overhead side bends.
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Method 1 of 2:
The Basic Motion

Image titled Do Side Bends Step 1
1
Hold a dumbbell in one hand. The side bend trains one side at a time, so you only need one dumbbell. Hold the weight on the side you want to start on. [1] X Research source It doesn’t matter which side you start on. You’ll be training both sides by the end of the workout. If you’re just starting out, use a light dumbbell around 5–10 lb (2.3–4.5 kg). The side bend can put stress on your back and you could get hurt if you use too much weight before you get the form right. Some people try to use a dumbbell in each hand and train both sides at once, but this isn’t as good of a workout because the second weight takes tension away from the side you’re working.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 2
2
Stand up straight with your free hand on your hip. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, your back straight, and your chest out. Hold the dumbbell at your side and put your other hand on your hip. Use this as your starting position for the workout. [2] X Research source It’s important to keep your back straight throughout this whole exercise, so don’t lean forward or backward.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 3
3
Bend at your waist towards the side you’re holding the weight on. If you're holding the weight in your right hand, then bend to your right. Inhale and bend from your hips to the side. Keep your back and neck straight through the whole motion, and do not lean back or forward. Go until you feel a stretch and some tension on your opposite hip, and stop at that point. [3] X Research source Don’t worry if you can’t go very far. You don’t need to make a deep motion for a good workout. Just let the dumbbell hang when you bend. Don’t tighten your arm or lift the weight.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 4
4
Straighten back up into your starting position. Hold your bent position for a second, then exhale and tighten your oblique to straighten back up. Raise yourself smoothly until you’re back in your starting position. [4] X Research source Remember to keep your back totally straight. Don’t bend back or forward at any point.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 5
5
Repeat this motion 12-15 times for a full set. Continue bending to the side and back up with a smooth motion, keeping your back straight and head forward. For a normal set, for 12-15 reps on this side. [5] X Research source If you’re using a heavier weight and going for muscle gains, do 6-8 reps per set instead. If you’re just getting started, it’s okay to do fewer reps until you get used to the exercise.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 6
6
Switch sides for a complete workout. Once you complete a set on the first side, hold the dumbbell in your other hand and get into a starting position with your free hand on your hip. Do 12-15 reps on this side as well for a well-rounded core workout. [6] X Research source To train both sides thoroughly, do 3-4 sets on each side. It’s normal if one side is a bit weaker than the other. Just focus on using the right form to avoid any injuries.
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Method 2 of 2:
Variations

Image titled Do Side Bends Step 7
1
Perform the exercise without weights for more of a stretch. While the side bend is usually done with dumbbells, you actually don’t need any weight at all to do it. Weightless side bends give you more of a stretch than a muscle workout. Stand up straight with your arms hanging down and your palms pressed against your hips. Bend to one side and slide your hand down your thigh towards your knee until you feel a stretch. Hold this for a second, then bend back up. Bend towards the other side, then keep going back and forth until you complete a set. [7] X Research source Follow the same rules for proper form and don’t lean forward or back. Only bend directly to the side. This is a good option if you have back pain and don’t want to stress your back with too much weight. You could also train one side at a time if you prefer that.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 8
2
Do a seated side bend if your obliques aren’t strong enough yet. If you have an injury or don’t feel strong enough to do a regular side bed yet, you’re in luck! A seated side bend is much easier on your back. Start by sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your arms at your sides. Lean to one side until you feel a stretch in your hip. Do 8-10 reps, then work the other side. [8] X Research source The same rules apply for proper form. Don’t lean forward or back during the motion. This is a common exercise in physical therapy, so it’s perfect if you’re not up to full strength yet. When you feel stronger, you can also hold light dumbbells in your hands during a seated side bend.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 9
3
Vary the weights and reps you use to change up your workout. You don’t have to always use the same weights and reps when you’re doing side bends. Changing it up hits your muscles from different angles. Try a lower weight with a lot of reps one day, then a higher weight with fewer reps on the next. [9] X Research source Be very careful when you increase the weight, since it could overstress your back. Don’t add more than about 10-20% at a time. So if you were using 10 lb (4.5 kg) one day, try 12 lb (5.4 kg) the next day. You’ll know if you did a good workout if your obliques are a little sore the next day. If you don’t feel anything the next day, do more reps or increase the weight a bit.
Image titled Do Side Bends Step 10
4
Try an overhead side bend for more of a challenge. While a normal side bend just trains the area around your hips, an overhead side bend trains your whole side. Hold a light weight straight above your head with both hands. Then bend to one side until you feel a stretch in your oblique, making sure to keep your back and neck straight. Stand back up into your starting position, then bend to the other side. Continue going back and forth until you complete a set. [10] X Research source Imagine that you're making a triangle with your hands and holding a weight at the top of the triangle. This can put a lot of stress on your back, so only use a light weight for overhead side bends.
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