Tighten Your Obliques Without Adding Size With These Isometric Exercises


I gotta say, great oblique muscles are rarer 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 midsection look fantastic. They “frame” your abs and make them look better.

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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 midsection look blocky. This post will give you a better strategy to add more detail to your mid-section.

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 abdominal exercises 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.

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 my 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!

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 the 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.

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Over time these hard contractions are going to create serious definition all over your midsection including the often neglected obliques.


-Rusty Moore

As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.

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