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Bodyweight exercises can be great up to a certain point. Sooner or later you need equipment to keep gaining a lot of oblique muscle.
The way you build muscle in places like your obliques is by straining and damaging your muscles. This may seem counterintuitive but this makes it so your body starts processes to repair them and build a little extra to be better prepared for similar efforts in the future.
Generally the more weight you have to move, the easier it becomes to strain your muscles enough for muscle growth in a short amount of time.
Initially, bodyweight exercises can be enough to strengthen your oblique muscles. However, at some point, you may need to do oblique exercises with equipment to keep seeing a lot of muscle gain. The right equipment can also simply speed up the process.
In short, you will likely benefit from implementing some of the equipment on this list in your oblique workouts. Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.
Oblique exercise equipment at home
Most people know that you can build muscle at the gym. Luckily you don’t need the full setup of an entire gym to get in a good oblique workout. One inexpensive piece of fitness equipment is often enough.
The ab wheel is a small and inexpensive piece of fitness equipment that is a wheel with two handles. It may not look like much but ab wheel exercises can offer a great ab and oblique workout.
The data from one study even suggests that a regular ab wheel knee roll-out is a more effective alternative than more standard exercises like sit-ups and crunches for engaging oblique muscles (1). A V-roll is an even more effective exercise for engaging your oblique muscles.
If you do the V-roll right the ab wheel should draw an imaginary V-shape on the ground. By using the ab wheel this way you target your oblique muscles more than in regular knee roll-outs.
The most convenient way to make ab wheel V-rolls weighted is by wearing a weighted vest. However, if you give this exercise a try you will notice it is very challenging even with just your body weight.
An advantage of the ab wheel is that it is a relatively inexpensive oblique equipment option. At the same time, it is still extremely good for training your obliques.
Free weights are heavy pieces of fitness equipment that are not attached anywhere. Some examples of free weights are a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, certain sandbags for working out, wrist weights, etc.
You can hold these in your hands or on your body to make oblique exercises more challenging. Especially a medicine ball is often used in these types of exercises since it doesn’t matter as much if you drop this weight, sometimes on yourself, compared to other options.
One of the benefits of free weights is that you can use them in a wide variety of exercises for many body parts. Besides that, they generally last an extremely long time. One dumbbell can potentially improve your workouts for many years and potentially even decades.
On top of that, many free weights do not really lose their value. This means that if you decide to stop using dumbbells or other free weights you can likely sell them for a very similar price as what you put into them.
The disadvantage is that free weights often require a slightly bigger investment compared to more short-term fitness equipment like resistance bands.
A stability ball, also known as an exercise or yoga ball, is a soft elastic ball that can be used to improve multiple fitness components. This piece of equipment is generally used for core exercises that means a lot of good options to work out your obliques.
One example is an opposite side knee tuck. For this oblique exercise you start with your hands on the ground, face to the ground, and legs on the stability ball. In the next step, you move your knees toward your chest. Mainly one knee to the opposite chest. Roll back to starting position and repeat with the other knee first.
An advantage of the stability ball is that it can be used in other exercises for other body parts too. It is also a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment.
Because pull-ups mostly focus on back muscles, many people forget the pull-up bar when talking about oblique workouts. However, there are actually a good amount of core exercises you can do with just a pull-up bar.
An example of a great pull-up bar oblique exercise is the sideways knee raise. Start hanging from a pull-up bar. After that raise your knees held together upward with one knee higher than the other. Leave your lower legs hanging. Lower your knees again in a controlled motion and repeat with your other knee higher.
One downside of pull-up bar oblique exercises is that for some people their grip strength gives up faster than their obliques. To prevent this you can train your forearm muscles.
Even if you currently don’t have a pull-up bar or gym subscription, doorway pull-up bars are relatively inexpensive. On top of that, they can be used in many exercises for a variety of body parts.
Fitness sliders are small patches of fabric that easily slide on the floor. This makes it so you can use this piece of equipment to train your core muscles which includes your obliques.
A great example of an oblique exercise with fitness sliders is the cross-body mountain climber. To do this exercise you start on your hands and feet. Your body is stretched and each foot rests on a fitness slider.
For the next step, you bring one knee as far as you comfortably can to the shoulder of the opposite side. Do not raise your foot but let it slide over the ground. After that, return the foot to starting position and repeat with the other side.
One of the benefits of fitness sliders is that they are extremely inexpensive. You can also use them to train your hamstrings. The main downside is that they are only mainly useful for core and hamstring and core exercises.
Resistance bands are an inexpensive type of fitness equipment that are basically elastic cords. This piece of exercise equipment is not ideal for training your obliques but it can work.
Some of the benefits of resistance bands are that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and very portable. They can also be used in other exercises to train your arms, legs, back, and chest muscles.
One downside is that resistance band sets are not the type of gym equipment you can use for the rest of your life. At least every few years you will need to replace the last set with new resistance bands.
For oblique exercises you will have to anchor your resistance bands somewhere behind you or above you to use it similarly as in a cable machine crunch.
Sometimes you can attach them to objects that are already around the house. Even so, it is likely safer to get an inexpensive resistance band anchor to avoid any problems.
Gym or home gym oblique exercise equipment
It is also possible to use gym machines for oblique muscle workouts. Below you can find some examples of these machines.
The captain’s chair, also known as a “knee raise station” and often part of a power tower, is a type of gym machine you can describe as an elevated chair without a seat. Its armrest and backrest are usually padded to make it more comfortable since your arms and back will be the body parts that keep your feet off the ground.
This gym machine allows you to keep your legs hanging freely without too much effort from the rest of your body. Because of this setup, there are a wide variety of captain’s chair exercises that allow you to work out your obliques and other core muscles.
An example of an oblique exercise on the captain’s chair is the same example as the pull-up bar, the sideways knee raise. The captain’s chair is generally better than a pull-up bar for oblique exercises since you don’t have to worry about grip strength.
Back extension machine
The back extension machine is a steel set up with a place you can anchor your legs behind and a pad to lean on with your hips. If you take place in it and keep your body straight you are at about 45 degrees to the ground. This machine is made to do the exercise with the same name, a back extension.
However, you can also use the back extension machine (and a roman chair) for oblique exercise. Take place sideways in the back extension machine and do a sideways raise.
Make sure you don’t bend too far to avoid any injuries. Even with the right technique doing sideways raise like this is not for everyone. If you have any back you likely want to pass on this exercise.
An advantage of the best back extension machines is that have a reasonable price. If you plan on improving your oblique, hamstring, glute, and lower back strength you can consider investing in this machine so you don’t have to make the trip to the gym.
The sit-up bench is a slanted bench with foot anchors. This setup allows you to do sit-ups at a more challenging angle compared to sit-ups on the ground. The bench is also generally more comfortable.
To train your obliques on this piece of fitness equipment you would do ab exercise like sit-ups in more of a sideways movement. For example with your hands behind your head reaching with your elbow to the knee of the other side.
Some of these devices also implement a back extension machine part but in general, a sit-up bench is mainly for core exercises.