10 Best Alternatives to Dumbbell Side Bend

Published by Roshan S Pillai on

dumbbell side bend alternatives

Dumbbell side bend exercise is very popular in the gym. You can do it while holding dumbbells or plates in both hands and just bending sideways. Many people do it, with the expectation that they will lose love handles and will remove those access fat lying on their side waist. However, this might not be a good exercise for you. Rather there are many other betters alternative exercises which are much more effective than side bends.

So in this article, I will share with you some of the best and alternatives to dumbbell side bend which you can do easily at home or anywhere. All of these exercises will be a great way to strengthen the core and will give better results compared to side bends.

But before sharing those alternatives with you, let me first explain the muscles which are engaged during side bends.

Muscles Worked During Side Bends

Side bends done with either dumbbell or plates target the transverse abodominis, external and internal obliques. Along with that lower back and erector spinae are also engaged slightly to keep your spine and body stable.

However, when you look at the muscle fibers of obliques it runs diagonally. So to train your obliques most effectively, you should follow the muscle fibers. So doing any rotational movement will hit these muscles in a much better way than just bending sideways. So here are some of the best alternatives for you!

Dumbbell Side Bend Alternatives

1. Side Crunches

Side crunch is a great exercise to target the obliques. It can be done easily on the floor. This can be done by beginners and people having trouble doing other difficult exercises. So you should try side crunches instead of side bends.

Targeted muscles – Obliques and transverse abdominis

How to do

1. Lay down on the floor and keep your hand on the backside of your head. Look straight and place the other hand on the obliques you are targeting. This will be your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by lifting your torso with the help of your obliques. Bring your rib towards your hip.

3. Slowly bring your torso down and stop until the head touches the floor. Repeat the same from the other side.

Recommended reps – 15-20

Rest – 10-20 sec

You can also increase the range of motion on this exercise by moving your head slightly back when you bring your torso down. This stretches the obliques and creates an angle that puts extra tension on the obliques.

If you find this exercise easy then don’t worry, many other challenging exercises are coming up. So read the entire blog.

2. Side Plank

This is another great exercise you can do instead of a dumbbell side bend. Side plank is an awesome exercise to improve stability and core strength. As the core muscles are slow-twitch muscles, you should do static exercises like side planks to work these muscles better.

Targeted muscles – Obliques, lower back, and transverse abdominis

How to do

1. Lie on your side and keep your elbows on the floor such that your elbows are under your shoulder.

2. Keep both legs straight on top of each other and bring your hips up by engaging your core and obliques and stop when your hips and waist are in a straight line.

3. Now hold this position for about 30 seconds to a minute according to your strength. Atop the exercise when your hips starts going down.

4. Repeat the same position from the other side.

Recommended time- 30-60 sec

Rest- 30 sec

Make sure that you keep your torso straight and flat. You should feel the tension on your side. You can also keep the other hand on the floor just for balance.

3. Plank With Hip Twist

This is another best alternatives to side bends. If you can do planks easily, then this exercise will be a great variation you can add to challenge your core.

Targeted muscles – rectus abdominus (abs), obliques, and transverse abdominis

How to do

1. Go down on a plank position by placing both hands on the floor with both feet close to each other.

2. Keep your elbows under your shoulder. Your hips and back should be in a straight line. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by moving your left hip toward the floor. Keep your hips up as you move.

4. Almost touch the floor and then use your core muscles to bring your hips up towards the starting position. Repeat the same procedure from the other side.

Rest- 45 sec

Recommended reps- 15 each side

Along with your abs, you will also engage your obliques and transverse abdominis. These exercises will also help you in improving your squats and other big lifts because your core is engaged in a lot of during compound movements like deadlifts and lunges. So do these exercises to improve your overall strength and performance.

4. Side Bridge

A side bridge is one of the best alternatives to a side bend. Here, you will target the same muscles in a much better way than side bends. When you do a dumbbell side bend, there is no continuous force on your obliques and core.

However, when you perform side bridge you will have continuous tension on the core. This is due to the gravitational force. So you must do side bridges instead of side bends.

Targeted muscles – Obliques, gluteus medius, and transverse abdominis

How to do

1. Lie on your side and keep your elbows on the floor such that your elbows are under your shoulder. Lift your hips such that your hips and waist are in a straight line. This will be your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by bringing your hips down towards the floor and stopping until it almost touches the floor.

3. From the down position, lift your hips straight up with the help of your side waist muscle. Move your body straight up instead of leaning back or front.

4. Repeat the same procedure for the other side.

Rest- 45 sec

Recommended reps- 12-15

You can also do this exercise by placing your feet and arms on the bench. This makes it more challenging as your range of motion will increase.

For beginners, I would recommend you do this exercise by keeping the other hand on the floor so that you can balance yourself when you move your hips up and down.

5. Side Plank With Rotation

This is another way to challenge your core to the next level. This is an advanced version of the regular side plank. This is a much more effective way to hit the obliques and to strengthen those core muscles lying close to your love handles. So do this instead of side bends.

Targeted muscles – Obliques, gluteus medius, and transverse abdominis

How to do

1. Get in a side plank position by lying on your side and keeping your elbows on the floor, under the shoulder. Keep the other hand straight up.

2. Start the exercise by twisting your torso and moving your hand down and bringing it under your waist. Keep your hips and torso up as you move.

3. Now move your hands up while bringing your torso back to the starting position with the help of your core.

4. Repeat the same procedure for the other side.

Rest- 45 sec

Recommended reps- 12-15

This exercise is a little advance. So if you are a beginner, then stick with the basic side plank. Once you master the form.

6. Cross Knee Plank

Cross knee plank is an advanced version of the plank. Here you will touch your knee with one hand while being on a plank position. This will be a great alternative to a side bend because it will engage your obliques and many other small muscles present near the waist and love handles.

Targeted muscles – Obliques, abs, and transverse abdominis

How to do

1. Get down on the floor and place your arm on the floor such that your elbow is under the shoulder. Keep your toes on the floor with your back flat and glutes tight.

2. Start the exercise by lifting one arm and the opposite leg from the floor. Bend your knees and bring your knee towards the torso.

3. Touch your knee with your hand while maintaining proper form and then place your arm and foot back to the floor.

4. Repeat the same procedure for the other side.

Make sure that your hips, waist, and back is in a straight line. Don’t bring your hips or torso down. Hold a plank position as you perform the movement.

This exercise is also good for those who want to challenge their core by making plank difficult. If you can do plan easily for 1-2 minutes, then you should make plank difficult by adding these movements.

7. Single Arm Farmers Carry

This is the easiest exercise you can do to strengthen the core muscles. You just a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell to perform this exercise. When you do farmers carry with a single hand, the other side of your core muscles has to work hard to keep your body straight and neutral. This puts an extra load on the obliques and other core muscles. Thus it is a better alternative to a side bend.

Targeted muscles – Obliques, transverse abdominis, traps, and forearms

How to do

1. Hold a heavy dumbbell or a kettlebell in one hand and stand straight. Keep both arms straight down to the side and keep your head neutral. This will be your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by walking straight in the gym, ground, or at home. Keep your body straight and don’t lean or bend your back. Keep your chest up and shoulder retracted.

3. Switch your arms and then do the same from the other hand.

Rest- 1 min

One of the great advantages of this exercise is that you are strengthening various other muscles apart from the obliques and core. Farmers carry also increases the grip strength, increases the size of your traps, and helps you in lifting heavier weights. So this exercise will complement increasing the performance during a squat or deadlift.

8. Landmine Oblique Twist

In order to target the obliques, you should do twisting movements. Just bending to the side will not give you the best results. That’s why you should do exercises like landmine oblique twist. In this exercise, you will activate all of the core muscles which will help you in improving balance and stability.

Targeted muscles – obliques, transverse abdominis, and deltoid

How to do

1 Attach a bar to the landmine setup and then grab the other end of the bar. Hold the bar with one hand above the other. Then bring your arms up as you hold. This will be the starting position.

2. Start the exercise by bringing the bar down to the left side with the help of your arms. Twist your torso as you move and make sure not to bend your back too much.

3. Stop when your hand reaches the waist level and then move the bar up and take it to the right side while keeping your arms straight.

Recommended reps- 12-15

Rest- 45 seconds

Make sure that you do this with proper form and technique. You should feel your obliques firing as you twist. For that, you should focus on the obliques as you move the bar rather than just swinging the bar.

9. Cable Woodchop

Cable woodchop is another great exercise for your obliques. It is much more effective than a dumbbell side bend as you are twisting your torso and there is a direct force on the obliques. You can do this on a cable machine or you can also use a resistance band.

Targeted muscles – Obliques and transverse abdominis

How to do

1. Attach a rope or a handle on a cable pulley fixed at about your head level. Grab the rope from both hands and stand in the middle of the cable machine. This is your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by pulling the rope and bringing it to the other side. Twist your torso and rotate your feet as you move.

3. Bring your arm down to the other side while keeping the tension on the core.

4. Then slowly move your arms back to the starting position while keeping your back straight.

Recommended reps- 12-15

Rest- 30- 45 seconds

You can also do this exercise with a resistance band. Just hook a band at the upper corner of the rack and follow the same procedures mentioned above.

10. Hanging Side Knee Raise

Hanging side knee raise is a great exercise to target the obliques. It is one of the difficult exercises as you need to hang and perform the movement, which requires a lot of balance stability, and core strength. However, if you can hang and can balance yourself, then you should do this exercise.

How to do

1 Hang on a bar and keep your arms extended. Balance yourself and try not to swing. This is the starting position.

2. Start the exercise by lifting your legs and bringing your leg up to the side. Do it with knees bent if you are a beginner.

3. Try to lift your hips as well such that your hips are visible from the front. Use your abs and obliques to lift your legs.

4. Stop at the top and then slowly return to the starting position.

Recommended reps- 8-10 ( even 1 rep is fine if you can do it with the right form and can feel the obliques)

Rest- 1 min

You can either do this with your knees bent or by lifting the legs with your knees extended. If you are a beginner and you cannot hold the bar properly or if you are swinging too much, then do this exercise on a pull-up and dip station where you can keep the elbows on the pad and can perform the exercise.

Final Words

So these were some of the best alternatives to side bend exercise. You can do any of these exercises in place of a side bend because all of them are much better options when it comes to training your obliques and transverse abdominis. Make sure that you choose those exercises that you can do with proper form and technique.

Some of these exercises discussed above might be difficult for you, so do it only if you can maintain the right form and can feel on the right muscles. For example during a side plank, you are feeling your shoulder getting exhausted and not your obliques, then you might choose some other easier exercises. So make sure you select exercises properly according to your fitness level.

If you found this blog helpful, then do share it with your friends or share it on social media so that we can reach more people and can grow our audience. Also, if you know of any other alternative exercises, then do mention that in the comment section below. Your feedback will help us in improving our content and website.


Roshan S Pillai

Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He has worked as a personal trainer in gyms and is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com. He is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.

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