Focus on your external obliques for a happy back and trim middle

In order to obtain better abdominal exercise, last month’s article discussed the importance of building stronger abs for stability. 

We discussed the fact that there is no such thing as targeted fat loss. Men and women who collect fat around the middle often believe crunches and sit-ups will develop a trimmer waist, but only larger muscle group exercises, cardiovascular training and proper eating will remove fat.


Most people perform crunches to address the main abdominal muscle, the rectus abdominus, but there is another critical muscle that accomplishes what the RA cannot. The external obliques lie on each side of the rectus abdominus and have the unique responsibility of sideways bending and rotating the trunk.


The external oblique - lateral to our spine - sounds like the “flat tire” we get from eating fast food before we go to bed or the “love handles” we curse. It’s neither. It’s actually an important muscle whose strength is one we rely on to keep us out of back pain. We’ve all heard of others discuss pain from the area around their L4 or L5 disks.  The strengthening of the external oblique helps limit rotation of the trunk in this region, thereby reducing the chance of disk herniation and injury.


Exercises that move the pelvis sideways and upward will access the external obliques, including hanging bent-knee leg raises and oblique crunches. Also, holding a level, stable trunk during push-ups, lat pull-downs and planks equally call on the external obliques.


One more great way to ensure proper abdominal stability is simply stand on one leg (holding on to a wall if you need) and sweep the opposite leg out to the side. If you’re standing on your left leg and sweeping your right, look to make sure your hips are even throughout the movement and that there is no shifting of the pelvis to the left. 

If there is, engage the muscles in your abdominal area by “tightening” your stomach and try the exercise again. The effort you feel should be focused to the hip area and not the back. By feeling the work in the hip, you can rest assured the external obliques are doing their job in the abdominals. 


Jeff Howerton is a trainer and owner of LEAN Personal Training, where he and his trainers work with clients to lose fat, develop lean muscle and implement strategies for healthier living. LEAN (615) 279-1900 or

National Margarita Day

A lot of us have really picked up an interest in tequila and it's no wonder. Its popularity is soaring in the U.S. and doesn't look like it'll be slowing down any time soon. The only contender would probably be whiskey. Meh, but they have their own day. Now, it's National Margarita Day and we put together some of the best margarita recipes around so you can pick one or maybe even all of them to try.

We have a few surprises in there too. Maybe it's not all about tequila but it certainly has a theme going on. Take a look at some of these great tequila brands and start making some amazing margaritas today!

Keep reading Show less
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Gender-Inclusive Universities and Student Privacy

For many students, attending university is a profound, often life-changing, transition. It is often the student’s first time living on their own without parental supervision. This lifestyle is also accompanied by a period of self-discovery, of defining and redefining a sense of personal identity largely independent of the influence of family and friends from home.

For students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, this rite of passage can also be a deeply empowering one. Indeed, attending university may be the student’s first real opportunity to explore their gender identity in a safe, comfortable, and accepting college.

Keep reading Show less

José Cuervo's Reserva de la Familia agave fields

Disclaimer: My trip was provided courtesy of a press trip but all opinions about the trip and events are my own. Please note there are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you make a purchase.

I had the opportunity to visit Mexico for an event José Cuervo was putting on, the unveiling of their premium tequila brand, Reserva de la Familia. The trip was all about tequila, how to drink it properly, how to pair it with food, and of course, visiting various points of interest in Guadalajara while tasting tequila along the way.

Keep reading Show less