Tighten Your Obliques Without Adding Size With These Isometric Exercises

July 16, 2009

I gotta say, great oblique muscles are more rare than six pack abs. In fact, up until a few years ago I neglected this body part.

The thing is, great obliques make the rest of your mid section look fantastic. They “frame” your abs and make them look better. I would go as far to say that I would take average abs and great obliques over great abs and poor obliques.

The problem is that most advice on how to work obliques will make your waist and mid-section look blocky. This post will give you a better strategy to add more detail to your mid-section.

oblique muscles

[Firm obliques not only make your abs look better, they help protect your spine from injury and stabilize your body. I’m going to explain why isometric exercises are your key to great abs and obliques as well as highlight an extremely efficient oblique exercise that I’ve been doing the past 3 weeks.]

Isometrics Exercise = Strength and Density Without Size

I advise most people to avoid crunches, various ab machines, and any type of traditional “ab exercise” to get great abs. I have two reasons for this.

Reason #1…many of these exercise will toast your spine and kill your posture. Reason #2…doing eccentric and concentric contractions can lead to muscle growth (you want to increase the density of ab muscles not size).

Although this muscle growth can be limited by low reps with heavier weights…that is a recipe for a spinal injury when it comes to ab crunching movements. A better way is to tense your abs and obliques against resistance without moving your body (isometric resistance).

Building great abs through isometrics is also a way to protect against injury.

The Reason I’ve Recommended Planks Over the Years

For a full explanation of why I do planks and further reason to avoid crunches, read this post I wrote while back: Six Pack Abs – Without Turning Into a Hunchback

Obliques Also Help Twist the Spine – An Isometric For That?

The one missing ingredient in my isometric ab routine was an isometric movement that addressed the twisting function of the obliques.

Adding side planks to my ab routine 2-3 years ago was a HUGE step in building better obliques, but I still felt something was missing.

I needed an isometric that challenged the oblique’s twisting function. Luckily I found what I was looking for on one of favorite sites… Relative Strength Advantage

Renegade Rows – The Missing Link

Below this is a video of my buddy Yavor doing “Renegade Rows”. He makes this look really easy and is using incredible form.

His video is the best I’ve seen and I’m not just saying that because he is a friend. His form is impeccable. He also did such a good job at explaining proper form and technique, that I will just point you to that post: Renegade Rows – How to Get Ridiculously Hard Abs, Part I.

Brilliant post and great explanation!

[Yavor…I love the black and white checkerboard floor! It reminds me of an 80’s hair salon. Cue the music…”Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand…Just like that river twisting through a dustly land”. Just messing with ya…it looks much nicer than most places I’ve had a membership to…and if this is your home gym, I’m insanely jealous!]

My First Experience With Renegade Rows

My biggest mistake when starting out was keeping my feet too close together. You will need to spread out your legs to where your feet are at least shoulder width apart.

Also, on my very first row one of my legs wanted to come off the ground. I think I pulled to quickly and didn’t brace my body hard enough.

I did 5 sets of 5 reps (per side) and was toast by the last set. I only used 30 pounds, but it was plenty for my first time out.

What I’ve Noticed After Just 3 Weeks of Renegade Rows

My obliques are quickly improving, which was expected…but some great side benefits as well. I have noticed that it is easier to do overhead lifts like military press.

Also, most weights now feel lighter in my hands and things like bench press and curls seem a bit easier. Your hands will quickly toughen up a bit, because you wind up supporting a lot of weight. My lower abs are getting quite a bit firmer as well.

My spine feels better than ever…it feels like this exercise is further protecting my spine. Planks go a long way in spinal injury prevention, but this takes it to the next level.

Ways to Implement Renegade Rows Into Your Routine

I’m doing these 2-3 days per week right after lifting, then I do my 6 minute plank routine followed by HIIT. This exercise warms up the body well for sprinting.

It really seems to warm up the hip flexors, quads, etc. You could do them at any point in your routine and twice a week is plenty (I’m experimenting with 3 just to master the lift).

I’m guessing that you may be one of the only people in your gym doing these.

Note: This is one of those exercises that doesn’t look like it is doing much, but it requires serious isometric ab contractions when done properly. Over time these hard contractions are going to create serious definition all over your mid-section…including the often neglected obliques.

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{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

David - Fat Loss Tips July 16, 2009 at 10:37 pm

I agree, revealing your obliques is very difficult. I’m new to renegade rows and it looks like a bitch of an exercise.

What do you think of the broomstick twist exercise? Anytime I’ve done these in a controlled manner (without bouncing from side to side) I’ve had some good results.

coffeebaby July 16, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Thanks for the tips Rusty! i’ve never gotten my body-fat low enough to have a six pack but i am lucky to be blessed with a great set of obliques that don’t require too much upkeep lol. i’ll be sure to try the renegade rows (although with much lighter weights 😉 Actually, my main concern right now is my upper ab area. i’m about to turn 40 and that area seems to be getting bigger and bigger. a low cal diet helps reduce the overall size of my stomach, but my upper abs always seems to stick out further than my lower abdomen creating a roll of fat over my jeans and under blouses which is very unattractive. got any advice or tips for me? PS. i absolutely love your site!

Rafi Bar-Lev July 16, 2009 at 11:10 pm


Really cool post and nice video from Yavor. You’re also the first person who I’ve heard say that muscle contractions give definition, and it’s a really interesting concept.

Anyway, that was a solid ab article (pun intended).


flowerd July 16, 2009 at 11:33 pm

hey rusty..i know you said you did the body weight circuit you outlined..can i replace HITT and do the body weight circuit instead? is it the same thing?

Kevin July 17, 2009 at 12:18 am


This is a really awesome and helpful post, been a big fan of your site for a while. and actually have been waiting for you to address the subject of those dreaded Obliques haha. Out of my whole abdomen area, Ive found that certain part of my midsection nearly impossible to define. so its cool to find an exercise that really targets that area.

and another thing. Ive recently been into this show called make me a supermodel and there was this one particular model named jonathan who has crazy obliques. On one of the episodes, theres a scene of him doing this exercise that aims at that section of the abdomen. I tried it once and found that my arms got more of a workout than my abs haha. I just wanted to know what your opinion was on this exercise?


Heres a link to that video of him doing that exercise (he’s the blonde guy):

M0L July 17, 2009 at 12:52 am

oh..looks interesting, if he slips he’s toast!
I find side planks very rewarding tho..they’re cool..I’m fine with my core the only thing giving me trouble is the size of my bicep i want to slim it down…currently doing 3 sets of 5 reps with 5lbs dumbells bicep curls..and 2 sets 5 reps for triceps X2 per week…what do you think about that dear rusty

PS..u where totally right on the **cardio+HIIT will give u better leg definition** thing.

M0L July 17, 2009 at 12:54 am

their current measure is 11″ forgot to mention…

Yash July 17, 2009 at 1:39 am

Interestingly, my obliques are a little more prominent than the rest of my abs, so I’m the other way around. This is an odd physiological quirk, and we all have them, but my right and left obliques are a bit different in shape its weird. Oh well, I guess I’ll never be an ab model.

Overall I could still work on abs a bit, however, I did planks pretty religiously before bed until my collarbone injury, which is the reason for the regression.

I like the point you bring up about renegade rows making other exercises easier. I know you did a post about dropping exercises to get through plateaus, but supplemental isolation exercises can be great too if you can target weak points.

Josh July 17, 2009 at 1:53 am

You have got to be one of the hardest working men in the fitness blog world! Anyways, excellent post. The renegade row is just one of those special exercises that works the heck out of just about everything on your body. You get a lot of the same benefit of doing a bent over dumbbell row, though you will not be able to move as much weight in a RR. You will also indirectly work your chest, arms, and most important your obliques. Form is important on this lift, your weight will shift from side to side (i.e. you will twist slightly to the side when working these) I was making the same mistake of keeping my legs too close together as if to do a pushup. I think a video of the exercise will help most people with the correct form and placement.

Yash July 17, 2009 at 2:49 am

PS – my 2 cents, I have a pretty minimalist ab approach too, thanks in no small part to you and a few others, but one exercise that I thoroughly enjoy is weighted russian twists with a medicine ball or light DB. It combines the iso of a plank [well, more leg raise really] along with the trunk flexion and sideways stability.

wolverine July 17, 2009 at 6:22 am

Hi Rusty, fantastic post, please how many reps should we be aiming for, is it the same concept of 5*5 or should we be doing it for time like in other plank exercises, thanks

Yavor July 17, 2009 at 6:36 am

Renegade rows are a great exercise to strengthen and tighten the midsection. Remember guys, although this is a rowing movement, it is not a back exercise. It teaches you to brace, like when taking a punch.

Rusty, for stability, tightening the leg on the side of the supporting arm will help a lot.

Great article!


Gymless Jim July 17, 2009 at 6:50 am

Hey Rusty! Awesome post! It’s great to discover new exercises like this! I have two questions, if it’s alright. First, would a ‘one hand plank’ kind of exercise help the obliques?
Secondly, this is a very basic question but I’m a beginner to moderating my diet. What is the purpose of low carb diets, as opposed to just having a calorie deficit? Is a calorie not just a calorie? If I have a 500 calorie deficit every day, should it not matter whether I’ve eaten mostly carbs, fat or protein?

Thanks Rusty! 🙂

Greg at Live Fit July 17, 2009 at 7:35 am

All variations of planks are great. I have a side plank cable row that is a regular part of my workouts.

My wife uses them in her yoga classes. Sounds like the women always groan in agony when she starts that part of the class.

roger July 17, 2009 at 7:58 am

Should you do crunch type exercises to build muscle and then stop the crunches and mantain the muscle with planks or should you stop doing cruches altogether and just do planks to get a sixpack. Thanks in advance for any answer because I was unsure whether your other sixpack post recommended stopping crunches completely or just doing them for a while.

Elle July 17, 2009 at 8:38 am

I’m a big fan of the planks, too, and love what they do for posture. Question for you: have any advice for us females out there with that notoriously tough lower-ab (below the navel) paunch? ~E

Lei Lei la Nei July 17, 2009 at 8:56 am

Hey Rusty,

What a trip. I woke up with obliques on the brain, since today is my day off and I have nothing better to do then contemplate body parts.
I have super strong obliques specifically from riding a bike hard around my city.

I put on muscle like a man, and I’ve had to really tailor my workouts to stay little and lean. I can’t perform planks or any sort of specific exercise too often, no more than 2-3X per week, otherwise I look too buff for my personal goals. Even running or doing sprints too often builds up my butt too much. So, hooray for good genetics, but it’s definitely been an adventure finding out what works well and what works too well and what’s just crap.

I’ve definitely learned that that less is more once one’s diet is sound and the routine is in place. Consistency is king.

I’ve learned a metric sh*t-ton from your website, thank you for providing cutting edge information to the people. Thumbs up, I like your style.
Most of the workouts you talk about are geared for semi-fit to fit men looking to bust through plateaus or take it to the next level.
I’d really loooooove to see some female-specific workouts that helped already lean ladies sculpt their bodies to perfection. Muchas Gracias.


Lei Lei la Nei July 17, 2009 at 10:22 am

Oh. What I was trying to get at is, I’m trying to break down my obliques rather than build them up. They are the last body part that’s still too strong on me, and it gives my torso a rectangular look rather than hour glass. I’d like to shrink them down, but it’s really difficult for my body type.

Any advice?

Ken July 17, 2009 at 10:30 am

Looks like a really cool movement. Trouble for me is, I have a bum shoulder that is restricting me from most upper body work. Going to see the Ortho guy on Monday. I don’t know WHAT I’m going to do if I need surgery! I’ve worked so hard to get where I am, and it will kill me to lose what I’ve done. I guess it will be all about diet for awhile.

katie July 17, 2009 at 10:55 am

Wow-that’s a really intense ab routine! People don’t realize that this type of exercise is actually really hard–I have been looking into tightening up my core though so I’ll definately try this! Yoga/running helps, but I want a little more definition. Thanks!

katie July 17, 2009 at 10:56 am

Also-any more tips for lower abs??

Jason the Chinese Guy July 17, 2009 at 12:06 pm

hey rusty i asked some questions on the “Interval Training Improves Your Endurance, Better Than Endurance Exercise!” post of yours. It’d be great if you can answer them. THANKS!

Donkey Lips July 17, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Another great article thanks Rusty. I’ll be implementing these in my next workout. You’re information is awesome by following what you’ve said in just a four months I’ve gone from being a puffy gym looking guy with little to no ab definition to being pretty shredded. I have a six pack and my arms shoulders chest and face all look much more lean. I’d been trying to get this look for several years but following all the mass media (men’s health, other internet sites) information left me spinning my wheels for close to 7 years. I’ve lost 20 pounds in the process but actually look bigger at 175 then I did at 195. I feel more natural and think I look more natural not like I spend all day in the gym. I also spend less time worrying about food and micro nutrients and spend less time working out. Rusty your advie is worth more than you know it’s pretty amazing the simplicity of it and how powerful and against the main stream information is still is consdiering how effective it is. You are a top notch blogger and thank you for all your information. Implementing it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Adrian July 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Great! I’m gonna try those Renegade Rows and add them to planks and spiderman push ups I do. Thanx 😉

Best of luck

Magnus July 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Great post and I think I will implement the Renegade Rows into my routine. Also for obliques I like the mason twist with a little bit of weight and Oblique V ups I like a lot as well, and for sure yoga. I want to add thanks man, I learn a great deal from your site and really like it.

Tyler July 17, 2009 at 6:22 pm


This exercise looks great. I’ve always had pretty good abs, but my obliques were just ok. I cant wait to hit the gym & combine the planks and the renegade rows.

Keep the great info coming!

Liam | EverythingZing.com July 17, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Your friend really does make those renegrade rows look easy. I’m not sure what weight he’s lifting (16kg maybe?) but they’re hard enough to do without weight! Some great inspiration…

Helder July 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm

I knew this exercise, but i never tried it, i don’t know why, maybe because i didn’t realize it could be so good and important. I also need to add side planks to my routine, because my obs are my weak point in the mid section, and you’re right when you say good obliques make a difference, i guess i have always been afraid of growing my obliques and getting my waist thicker.
Good post, we’re always learning good stuff here

Fit Jerk - Flawless Fitness July 18, 2009 at 1:15 am

“The problem is that most advice on how to work obliques will make your waist and mid-section look blocky..”

WHAT? No way… The shape of your abdominal muscles is governed by your genetics, so this statement is something I disagree with. If your abs are shaped “blocky”… then that’s how they will be. Point Blank Period! (The only way to change it’s “shape” is to get a surgical procedure done)

The SIZE of the muscle on the other hand IS something under your control and renegade rows are kick-a$$ no doubt. Glad to see em on here.

Also, keep in mind that abs consist mainly of fast-twitch muscle fibers… learn how to trigger growth in those and you’ll have stellar abs.

Jarl July 18, 2009 at 2:13 am

Hey Rusty,

I never got this answered from an earlier post. For the stubborn fat protocol… is it really necessary to rest 5 minutes after the HIIT part? I mean if you don’t will it not be as effective, or I would think it would not matter since you are doing the lower intensity for 10-20minutes… your thoughts?

Jim July 18, 2009 at 11:00 am

Hey Rusty,

Great site.

Another ab exercise that I find is very helpful is hanging leg lifts straight leg and bent knee.

How do you feel about these.

A set of these before and after pullups kills me and doing them at various angles obliterates my obliques!

David July 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

A terrific workout Rusty!
Though, I disagree with your opinion that great obliques and poor abs are better than great abs and poor obliques.

I am really working hard for a six pack but have had obliques for a couple months due to working side planks into my routine.

I’ve also been doing regular planks but they don’t seem to give me a six pack.. what would you suggest Rusty?

admin July 18, 2009 at 7:05 pm


I don’t like that exercise much, because the results are very limited…plus it has been shown to be rough on the spine. You will get much better results with renegade rows.


Usually the upper abs are the easiest to work. It just sounds like you need to drop a bit of body fat. Thanks for the compliments and for being a reader of this site.


I learned the principle of genuine muscle tone from Soviet Master Trainer – Pavel Tsatsouline. Love his stuff!


You can use body weight circuits in place of HIIT and vice versa. The difference is that bodyweight circuits can also be used in place of resistance training when your time is limited. I have used body weight circuits along with lifting in the gym and in place of lifting with great results.


I would avoid that exercise just from a standing of back health. That has to kill the spine over time as well as destroy your posture. It probably works obliques to a certain extent, but not worth the damage done. I’m also betting that renegade rows are more effective anyway. He has really low body fat, so anything he does will appear to work well.


Glad you are getting great results with the HIIT + Cardio combo. To slim down your biceps, you simply just need to drop some body weight and keep the volume and reps low on your arm lifts.


Hopefully your collarbone heals quickly. That is a painful injury from my understanding.


I work pretty hard…mainly just trying to keep up with comments. A lot of guys and girls post more than me, but I certainly put in some time in this site. It i actually a lot of fun and doesn’t seem like work.


I think that one worls well, but you just have to watch your back. I’m guessing that people without back problems could get away with these, but I can’t go near these types of exercises…but like you said, they do work.


I do like doing at least a few reps. I like sets of 3-5 reps. The reason I like to do more than one rep per side and just holding it, is that part of the benefit is shifting your weight from one side to the next. I started with 5 reps, but I’m thinking of reducing it to 3 reps per side and holding slightly longer. Either work well.


Thanks for the tip Yavor…still a rookie with these!

Gymless Jim,

Yes…you can do this without weight and go for a long 1-2 minute hold. I just tried this the other day…works the same muscles.


That is funny about your wife in Yoga class…people typically grown at the effective stuff.


I did mention in a previous post that you could do crunches for a limited time…maybe 6 months, to build up the mind-to-muscle link in your abs…and then drop them and never go back to doing them. Once you have the ability to flex your abs hard, these other exercises work better and are a healthier way to build muscle density in your mid section.


The lower ab paunch in women will be corrected by losing body fat…this is the only way to fix this area.


I will try to do better addressing more workouts tailored to ladies in the future. The principles aren’t different, but women do have to be a bit more cautious to avoid looking too masuline (whenever I say this I get some back-lash…just being honest). Breaking down the obliques will be tough. You can do marathon cardio to reduce the mass over your entire body and your obliques will slim down as well, but it is hard to target a small muscle group in this manner.


Sometimes it is all about diet. I stayed lean when I was injured many years ago by being extremely strict on my diet. It sucks being injured. I feel your frustration.


You will really enjoy this movement. It works extremely well.


Sorry for the wait…I will head on over there and give you some answers. I try to keep up as much as possible…I love comments, but I’m constantly playing catchup.

Donkey Lips,

I love it that you have become shredded in 4 months…that is outstanding! I know what you mean by looking more muscular at a lighter weight…many guys keep adding mass trying to create a look, but never get there because they always have a layer of flab. I appreciate the compliments as well…and thanks for being a regular commenter…the comments are what make this an amazing resource.


Those spiderman pushups are a pain, but work extremely well.


Thanks man…give these a try along with what you are currently doing. They work well.


Planks + Renegade Rows will go a long ways to getting great abs. Obviously the rest comes down to creating a calorie deficit until you reach your body fat level.


Yavor is a badd-ass. He uses great form on every exercise and is extremely strong and fit. The video I posted above along with his 2 posts will teach you how to have perfect form on this exercise.


You will like both side planks and renegade rows. You have very little to worry about when it comes to adding size with these exercises. Give them a try.

Fit Jerk,

I’m not talking about ab muscle shape. I’m saying if you grow the size of your obliques you will have a larger mid section which creates a blocky look. A smaller waist creates a better look in my opinion. Agree that you cant’ shange the shape of the indivdual ab muscles.


You really don’t need to rest if you start the steady state at a super low level…5 minutes after that you will just speed up a bit. I’ve done HIIT on a treadmill, walked at a snail’s pace for 5 mintues and then spead up the treadmill for 15 minutes. Note: most of the time I use seperate pieces of equipment and use the time in between to get a water break.


I think these exercises work well…but they can make the hip flexors tight. I have found that planks work just as well, without the muscles being tight. Someone who does sprints on a regular basis has to be very careful with tight hip flexors. If you do use these, make sure you maintain flexibilty in your hip flexors and watch your posture as well.


The best idea is to probably have great obliques and great abs. You sound like you need to drop a little more body fat. Also…it takes a period of time and experience level to get really good ab definition. Some of it depends upon genetics. Some guys and girls get good abs after 6 months…other take a year or two. The thing to look forward to is that it gets better with age (as long as you get to low body fat levels).

Great comments!


Norbi July 19, 2009 at 5:42 am

Thanks for the great post Rusty!

It’s really interesting to see that how many muscles are ‘there’ to work out, that you’d never think of when you start out. 🙂 Anyway, for now I think I’m just going to stick to the side planks… there are just so many things already that I want to / should do, that I’m already having a big problem to figure out a way to include everything without brutally over training myself. 🙂

Michiel July 19, 2009 at 10:07 am

Hey Rusty
Could you please reply to some of the question in your guest post “Improve Your Life by Improving Your Posture”.
Thanks allot

Greetz Michiel

Alecia July 19, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Hey Rusty, Great post!
This is why I just added you as a link to our website. I want everyone to be enlightened by your insight. Thank you!

keith July 19, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Hey Rusty great post but this comment doesn’t really have anything to do with it. You say that you go and travel a lot around the world but how do you regulate how you eat while on vacation and still stay lean? I am going to Hawaii next month for a week and am wondering how to still stay lean while still being able to enjoy all the great food and still also being able to look good on the beach. What do u normally do without depriving yourself on vacation? Thanks. By the way i am already pretty lean ( 6ft / 160 pounds ) and just want to maintain during vacation. Sorry for the long comment

Greeno July 20, 2009 at 12:25 am

nice post Rusty…is FBB going to get a facebook fan page at some stage? would be good to see and chat with all the contributors to your posts and probably bring in a lot more readers for you…

sangita July 20, 2009 at 2:58 am

I had read the post by Yavor but its definately better seeing the video so thanks a lot. I also wanted the answer to Elle’s question so thats another thanks. These days all I need to do is wait a little after your post and someone always asks what I need to know and you answer it lol!

john July 20, 2009 at 7:13 am

hi rusty
i agree with ur opinion on squats and deadlifts but was wondering wat would hapen if they were performed for low reps of about 3 or so. the reason i want to know is i play sports like soccer and tennis and from other sites people tlk about these lifts to build strength in the legs for increased power and speed. would doing these for low reps still widen the hips?
and wat about sigle leg lifts like pistol squat stepups etc?

Randy July 20, 2009 at 9:50 am

Hey Rusty,

Should I be doing the ab exercises before or after my HIIT + Cardio.

baz July 20, 2009 at 11:00 am

Hey rusty,

I know that you preach definition over size and i couldnt agree more, but i just wanted to ask you is there any time you should do the usual ab excercises such as crunches? In my ab workout i have crunches, reverse crunches, bicycle(dont exactly know what its called but its an oblique excercise) along with planks and side planks. Now i ask becasue i think theres only so much definition your mucles can have and in order to look better i think they need to get a little bigger. Not like massive but more than normal, if you get what i mean. What i was thinking was to get my abs to grow with the traditional excercies along with planks then once i feel they have gotten big enough i will ditch the crunches and stick with isometrics. What do you think about this? Would you recommend it at least for a little while for someone who has no abdominal developement at all?

Summer is 4 months away for me, so i need my abs developed by then in terms of size etc. I’m not worried about the fat covering them as i am in the process of reducing my body fat levels so im only worried about the size and correct way to go about it for now. When my stomach is tensed it feels like i have abs but when it is not tensed all it feels like is, well nothing really. No muscle at all. I’m looking to develope abs where at a single touch you can fell them without the need to sqeeuze.

Thanks as always rusty!

baz July 20, 2009 at 11:06 am

rusty i just clicked onto the link for abs without a hunchback and right in front of me your words were “Do Crunches for a Short Period of Time Then Maintain”.

I guess that answers my question. I just hope they can develope before summer.

Oh how many times a week would be enough to work the abs? I was thinking every second day?


Studio Element Personal Training July 20, 2009 at 8:47 pm

The Renegade row are great and I use them often with my clients. I believe that the key to great abs is consistency and the implementation of a wide variety of entire core exercises. Diet is key as well.

Simon July 22, 2009 at 8:54 am

Ooh, just tried these for 3 sets of 5 each side using ‘light’ 6kg weights, these are tough, love them.

Wazzup July 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

What does it mean for a muscle to be “dense”. Is it about the number of muscle fibres per square inch ? (so that must mean fibres should be small), or what ?

I think the secret to great looking abs is having some muscle mass and a low enough fat% to see them.

Monica July 22, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I started them as well on Sunday, 4 sets of 5 with just 10 lbs and repeated on Tuesday. I can feel some soreness from it. they sure are harder than they look.

Baz July 23, 2009 at 2:24 am

Rusty, my current ab routine is done on the days in between my weights training. I do this so my weights dys don’t go for too long leading to me skipping excercises. I work my abs at home on the off days because I dont really need equipment to do them all I need is a floor really. Now I do planks ect on this day but I don’t have dumbells at home so I can’t do the renegade rows at the same time. If I did the renegade rows on my weights day and all other ab wrokouts on my abs day would this be too much? Cause even though I am not doing the same excercises each day I’m still kind of working the same muscle area. Is this a problem?

Thanks rusty

danny July 23, 2009 at 8:17 am

i did these for the first time on Tuesday, ive gotta say my abs are as sore as they have ever been, also my arms are sore too, which is good! Thanks for another informative post rusty, good stuff as always!

Chris July 23, 2009 at 9:06 am

Nice to see this exercise is starting to get more publicity. I first starting implementing this into our training with the NZ rugby team a year ago when a colleague from Mens Health recommended it.

Just one thing, I have to disagree with what Yavor says about it not being a back exercise, it most definitely is, and more so in some respects as you can’t cheat on it as much as you can in bent over rows and one arm rows.

A one-arm bent-over dumbell-row (with no rest for the other arm) will also work the obliques in a very similar and effective way, just avoid twisting yourself, thats the key.

Mathew July 23, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Hey Rusty. Thanks for the information. Its gonna help me and also it will help in bringing new clients

Ken August 12, 2009 at 5:54 pm

I like doing the planks, but I don’t notice any after workout soreness like after doing non-isometric ab work. Is that just because I’m not tearing down any old muscle to build more new, and rather just strengthening whats already there?

Bertie August 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Just wanted to say, been adding these to my abs routine which I do twice a week and it’s made an awesome difference, really helped tone up my mid-section, especially when I take it nice and slow letting the dumbell down, really really solid exercise right here

Brandon August 17, 2009 at 2:43 pm

did the renegades after the 6 minute plank today…i never really felt obliques tightening with 30s and today i tried with 40s, and i could really feel my obliques tightening. Thanks for the exercise!!

Rahim August 17, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Great post! I’m always looking for ways to improve my abs especially since I feel like I’m hitting a ceiling with my progress. I had actually seen some guys in the park doing a similar looking exercise in the park one day. But the technique in the video above looked more controlled.

vacoder August 20, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Hi Rusty,
I couldn’t agree more, excellent post. I love planks and follow your routine from the earlier post to the T.
I want to find out if there is any harm in doing the planks routine more than once per day?

keep up the good work!

Ron August 21, 2009 at 1:27 am

GREAT post Rusty. I’m going to implement the renegade row into my routine

drew August 28, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Can I do isometrics as much as I want? I do not want to overtrain so I have been keeping sets and reps of all exercises low but focusing on intense muscle contraction. Because they do not break down muscle can I overdo isometrics or will I continue to notice an increase in definition based on the residual tension it creates? Thankyou so much, amazing site.

Mike September 11, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Hey Rusty,
I have pretty big obliques and a pretty small and toned midsection everywhere else. Im thinking they could be bigger from hockey or rock climbing. Could you give me any tips on how to maybe lose some mass in the oblique area and tighten them up a bit?
Thanks so much I love your site

michael January 12, 2010 at 6:04 pm

how did that guy get his obliques to look like that?

Emilio March 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm

When I read your article, I was fascinated by the approach to take on ab workouts. I have been following your posts on exercise techniques and have to say I am a big fan of your approach to workouts. I have been doing renegade rows for few weeks and pleased with results and just recently picked up on plank workouts and my back does not hurt like it use too.

thanks for the advice

pr July 17, 2010 at 6:24 pm

hey i’m liking the exercise to try

saying it gives rock abs….is this more dependent on body type ? could someone get good progression from this and someone else not see the same results ?

obv diff ppl will see different results, but (all respect) i get a bit suss when someone says this exercise will do ‘it’ for you

but the info you have put is good sh*t definitely thx

Ab King Fool September 1, 2010 at 5:51 am

I always wanted good abs. What I did was buy the Ab King Pro, don’t laugh. Well it didn’t work so I went on to follow the abs diet by David Zinczenko. The workout and the diet. Well it worked. Your post is fab I’m going to do that exercise when I get home tonight. I agree the obliques do frame the abs and it just looks awesome.

Thanx again.

Jackson January 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Rusty, I think I have a problem with my obliques, I think that they are underdeveloped. I tried to do a serch on the web and found this one guy who called this a “wasp” body? Have you herd of this? I was wondering if this could be fixed with isometrics. Some additional details are that my body fat % is about 12, I’m 5’11 and 17 years old. PLEASE REPLY!!! I have searched multiple placed and am relying on you for help

Ron July 14, 2011 at 1:12 am

These are a great exercise. Very tough to do. I also like using lighter weights and lifting the weight to the side for the delts and rhomboids and in front to work the rotator cuff and the rest of the shoulders.

Bob July 31, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I love this exercise! It’s actually the main reason I go to the gym nowadays (bodyweight goes a long way)

I am looking for equivalents of this exercise with minimal equipement (ideally bodyweight only), does anyone have any ideas? The best I’ve come up with are one-arm pushup (without bending…) or one-arm plank in rings (watch out for your back if you’re not stable!). Would they produce a similar effect?

Great post as always!

Jared October 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm

When I do the renegade rows I like to do a push in between every rep so say I do ten rows each arm i do a push up every time that weight touches the floor this feels great.

Michael McIntyre @ somebodylied.com October 23, 2011 at 12:57 am

If these ever become to easy for you Rusty, would say add some clutch flags and press flags to your routine. When I get strong enough I will definitely be incorporating them from the new convict conditioning

Josh Vales October 23, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Planks are such a killer exercise, I didn’t realize you used them as your main ab buster! Isometric exercises have made my stomach flat and firm, not bloated like many of the traditional ab exercises.

mike December 24, 2011 at 1:50 am

hi m8. terrific site. i have a question regarding my obliques and this one applies to all muscles in my body. the left side differs in size and shape to the right. there is no symmetry. is there any way to achieve this especially for the obliques? is it possible for me to lose the muscle that i’ve built on the obliques and start from the scratch? i’m on this crazy schedule where i’ve gone into burn out mode and i’m trying to lose all the muscle that i’ve built all over kinda like bale in the machinist. i know it’s crazy. i’d like to know what you think. cheers!

Brian July 12, 2012 at 9:53 am

Did I read that correctly? Low reps and using resistance doesnt add muscle. What does that mean? The way you attain a “six pack” is through your eating habits.

Austin October 30, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Hey man great article.. I was just wondering, I do a lot of “windshield wipers” (the oblique exercise hanging from the bar) and I really like the stretch and core strength I get from it. Anyways my question is, will those make my obliques(love handles bigger)? It’s not worth it to me if it’s going to take away from my V taper

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