Oblique Mojo – How To Get Your “V” Muscles
I wish I could take credit for bringing the word mojo back, but actually I’ll have to credit Perry Nickelston for that.
At the Strength Matters Summit here in Chicago a little over a month ago, Perry talked extensively about “oblique mojo” and why it is so important.
In a nutshell your obliques (those “V” shaped muscles on the sides of your stomach that every man and women wants) are the true powerhouse of your core. Lack strength in your obliques and you lack power and most importantly control throughout your entire body.
So, how do you get ‘em strong?
- The suitcase carry
- The 1-handed swing
Both will develop the oblique strength you need/want in order to have that sexy “V” line on your stomach. Of course you’ll need to do your fair share of “table push-aways”, as Mike Boyle says, in order to get those babies to pop out, but that’s for another article.
The Suitcase Carry
Quite possibly the easiest exercise to perform, in fact most people do these at the airport and grocery store and don’t even realize it.
Here’s what it looks like:
Here’s why it’s great:
- Shoulder Stability
- QL Work
When you hold a weight in one hand you create an opportunity to help gain stability by packing the shoulder on the opposite side.
Yes you have to be strong enough to hold the weight but the magic happens on the side opposite of the weight being held.
The offset in weight triggers your obliques to fire, just remember to keep that weight off your leg.
Pack your opposite shoulder and you’ll get even more bang for your buck.
Walking in general activates the QL (Quadratus Lumborum). Add extra weight and you get added stress to the QL. This is a big reason why the farmer’s carry is another great core/postural exercise.
Lastly your obliques fire to do two things…
- Rotate you from one side to the other
- And resist you from rotating from one side to the other
The latter is where you stand to gain a lot more strength.
Stand tall, squeeze your grip, pack your shoulder, and walk.
It’s the simplest core exercise you’ll ever do. Not easy, simple.
The 1-Handed Swing
Insert all the information about the suitcase carry here then add a dynamic component to it.
That’s the beauty of yet another swing variation you can do to shred your abs and develop life-changing strength and power in the process.
- Shoulder Stability
- Dynamic Component
The 1-handed swing is difficult to perform properly for many people. For that I recommend practicing and owning the 2-handed swing first (traditional hard-style swing).
Once you’ve mastered the 2-handed swing there are a few coaching cues that will help transition your skills over to the 1-handed swing.
- Forearm to the inner thigh
- Allow the opposite arm to do what it wants
- Focus on a strong lockout
Picture a triangle in the upper portion of your inner thighs, upon swinging down make your forearm meet the upper inner thigh.
This will help make sure the weight stays in your hips and not transition lower pulling power away from the hips and towards the lower back.
There are a few things you can do with your opposite arm to make the swing easier. Personally I’ve found that allowing the client to do what they want with it first is a great way to start. After finding their groove we can add more coaching cues.
The biggest point to make about the opposite arm is to make sure, just like the 2-handed swing, that your shoulder remains packed throughout the swing.
This goes for both shoulders.
Focusing on a strong lockout at the top is only going to help you swing the weight up using your hips. This will also give you that “floating” effect you look for in the swing when the bell is essentially weightless for a split second before traveling back down between the legs.
And of course, breathe!
This is the number one thing that fails when the body encounters a challenge. Breathing halts and now the respiratory system functions as a postural stabilizer.
This is not what you want, ever!
Check yourself and make sure you’re breathing when swinging.
“A hard tss!” At the top will help your lockout. Performing a quick double-sniff through your nose on the way down will help you regain your breath for the next swing.
Putting It All Together
You don’t need much to get a great workout using these two exercises.
I like alternating between sides performing 10 1-handed swings for a total of 100 reps. After I’ll perform 1-2 rounds of heavy suitcase carries.
Heavy enough to trigger your obliques, light enough that you aren’t forced to use your leg as a crutch to walk the weight back and forth.