Tip: Strong Obliques, Strong Body

Try this rotational exercise to build real-world core strength. Bonus: Thick obliques are sexy.


Most strength training programs have a devastating lack of rotational and anti-rotational work. Most exercises fall under the sagittal plane (front and back movement), but we neglect exercises in the transverse and frontal planes.

Why? Because most people enjoy training their "mirror muscles" more than their functional counterparts. Also, many just don't understand how to perform rotational exercises.

Training is about resiliency. No matter how you train, the result should lead to a stronger, healthier, and more resilient body. Limiting your program to only one plane of movement does not lead to resiliency. We don't move like robots or machines with pre-determined paths.

If you want to build a body that can handle life's stresses and outperform the competition, train in different planes. Here's one way to do it.

All rotational and anti-rotational movements fall under the transverse plane. One common transverse movement is the standard cable twist (shown below), but people screw it up.

Cable Twist

Two of the most common cable twist mistakes:

1. Pulling with the arms.

The cable twist is an oblique-dominant exercise focusing on trunk rotation, but lifters tend to pull with their arms as opposed to rotating using their core. The Swiss ball variation takes care of this mistake.

Even if you're doing a standard cable twist without the Swiss ball, grab the handle with your outside hand first. This encourages rotating with the core as opposed to pushing with the arms.

2. Rotating the lumbar spine.

Your feet shouldn't be "stuck in the mud" during cable twists. If your inside foot isn't pivoting in correlation with your trunk, you're turning a great core exercise into a spine-destroyer. Not good. Pivot your inside foot so your hip rotates in unison with your torso to keep the stress off your spine and the engagement in the obliques.

  1. Set the cable pulley to just under shoulder height.
  2. Hold a Swiss ball and grab the cable handle with your outside arm.
  3. Hug the ball with your outside arm just slightly below the inside arm. This stops the cable from crawling up the ball and smacking you in the face.
  4. Rotate with your head following the ball and your inside foot pivoting inward.
  5. Return to your starting position with a 2-3 second eccentric or negative.
  6. Do 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets each side.