Abdominal Exercise: Dumbbell Side Bends
The side bend concentrates more on the obliques. Broomstick twists and side bends are two of the most common exercises people perform to develop the muscles on the side of the waist. This is because side bends are the easiest way to work your obliques – the muscles that help to stabilize your core and maintain the good posture needed to get the most benefit from other resistance exercises.
This exercise can be performed with light dumbbells, weight plate, using a low pulley cable or even with wooden or other bar (barbell) placed behind your head.
Standing Dumbbell Side Bend Perfect Technique
Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and facing forwards, knees slightly bent.
With a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight at your sides, slowly lean side to side, accentuating the range of motion. Both sets of obliques will work in each direction as you lower and raise.
If you prefer, you can work one side at a time. Hold a light dumbbell in your left hand at your side, and place the other hand behind your head for optimal balance or place it on your waist. Lean your torso to the right as far as possible, bending only from the waist. The dumbbell in your left hand will act as a counterweight to help you lower and raise your right side smoothly. Straighten your torso by contracting your obliques.
Once you have finished your set, repeat the action with the dumbbell in your right hand. Slowly side-bend your trunk to the left, reaching down the side of your left leg to try to touch the outside of your knee. Contract your obliques to straighten your torso. You should concentrate on the oblique muscles on the side holding the weight. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
Also, it is not a mistake to hold a dumbbell in your right hand and bend your torso to the right, lowering the dumbbell toward your right knee. Straighten your torso back up to the starting position, contracting the left oblique muscles. When you bend to the right side, you work the left obliques, and vice versa.
Exercise Key Points to Remember
- Be sure to use light weight and perform high reps—about 20 on each side.
- Make sure that you do not lean forwards or backwards as you perform the side-bend. Move your torso only laterally.
- Do not allow the weight to swing.
- Keep your shoulders and hips square throughout the movement.
- As you reach downwards, control the descent of the dumbbell, don’t allow it to pull you quickly.
- Your torso should bend approximately 45 degrees or until the dumbbell becomes level with your knee.
- If you use a dumbbell in each hand, the weight of one lowering assists the other to lift and they effectively cancel each other out.
Make It Easier
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart.
Do It Harder
- Stand with your feet close together (your feet and legs should be touching).
- Keep the hand with the dumbbell farther away from your side.
This exercise works the internal and external oblique muscles on the side of the torso you bend, although most of the effort is actually made by the quadratus lumborum.
Main muscles involved: quadratus lumborum, internal and external obliques
Secondary muscles involved: muscles of the spine, rectus abdominis, psoas
Antagonists: the same muscles on the other side of the body
Side Bend Variations
- Side bend using low pulley (cable side bend). Stand sideways next to a D-handle low pulley cable. Your right side should be closest to the machine. Grab the handle with your right hand, using an overhand grip, palm facing in. Keep your left hand on your left hip (or behind your hand). Slowly bend sideways to the left. Keep your body facing forward; don’t turn into the bend. Go as far as you can, then slowly return to an upright position. Finish a set, then repeat on other side.
- Side bend with wooden pole. Place wooden pole behind your head and grasp it in an overhand grip, resting it on your trapezius and rear deltoid. Firmly contract your abdominal muscles and bend left and right to the side.
- Barbell oblique side bend. Use a bar weighing 16-24 lb. instead of wooden pole. This increases the intensity of the exercise, but it also increases the potentially dangerous pressure between vertebrae. This is for advanced athletes, although it is not an essential exercise.