How To Do Barbell Side Bend & Its Benefits

If you’re looking for an oblique exercise to include in your gym workout plan, practice barbell side bends. Barbell side bend is a free weight and isolation exercises that works muscle groups on the side of your body—specifically the oblique muscles, and also targets the lower back.

When done with the right form and technique, it can help a great deal in increasing the strength of the oblique, and the overall strength and stability of the core.

In this article, we will discuss how to do standing barbell side bends. We will also discuss the advantages of doing side bends with a barbell.

Benefits of Barbell Side Bend

Including standing side bends in your workout routine can have several benefits. The various barbell side bends benefits include:

  • Barbell side bend helps to contribute to a stronger core, reduce the risk of back pain and improve functional movements.
  • Improves the lateral flexion of the spine and functional mobility.
  • Side bends stretch the abdominal muscles and digestive organs. This aids and regulates digestion, elimination, and metabolism.
  • Side bend also helps to get rid of the extra layer of fat around the waistline.
  • Training the oblique muscles will help in shaping and toning the waistline.
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Standing Barbell Side Bend

The barbell side bend helps to strengthen the internal and external obliques, strengthen the lateral flexion of your spine, improve spinal mobility, and develop a strong core.

For an easier variation, you can do bodyweight side bend and for the other challenging variation of side bend, use a dumbbell, cable machine.

Variations: You can also do this exercise while seating on a bench or with dumbbells in your hands.

Barbell Side Bend

Barbell Side Bend Muscles Worked

The barbell side bend works the obliques—the two layers of muscles Obliques, (the external and internal obliques) at each side of the waist.

The side bend doesn’t work just the obliques. It also heavily hits the AbsSerratus anterior and the quadratus lumborum.

How To Do Standing Barbell Side Bend

  1. Stand up straight while holding a barbell placed on the back of your shoulders (slightly below the neck). Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
  2. With your head up and still keeping your back straight, bend at the waist to the right, holding for a couple of counts.
  3. Return to a standing straight position and then bend at the waist to the left side, holding for a couple of counts.
  4. Return to a standing, straight position.
  5. Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions.

Proper Form And Tips

Here is a guide on how to do barbell side bends with proper form.

  • To work the oblique muscle, perform these exercises slow and steadily.
  • Avoid loading the heavyweight for this exercise. Large, overdeveloped oblique muscles will make your waist appear bulky.
  • Bend as far as possible on either side.
  • Only your waist should move during this exercise.
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
  • The muscles need 48 to 72 hours to do this. So, If you do include cable side bends in your routine, do them at least two times per week on nonconsecutive days.
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Barbell side bend alternative and Variations

There are many best variations and alternative of the barbell side bend, that you can do with dumbbell, kettlebell and cable.

You can sit on a flat bench instead of standing to perform the variations.

Overhead Barbell Side Bend

Overhead barbell side bend is an exercise that primarily targets the obliques

You can try out many different overhead side bend variations that may require different types of equipments, (dumbbell, resistance band, kettlebell) or even no equipment at all.

Overhead Barbell Side Bend

How To Do Barbell Overhead Side Bend

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms fully extended overhead.
  2. Hold the barbell with your arms overhead.
  3. Exhale and bend at your side while keeping your arms directly overhead.
  4. Continue to bend at your side without rotating your torso.
  5. Inhale and return to the starting position.
  6. After all reps are completed, switch sides and repeat the movement.
  7. Do 10-12 reps on each side.

Kneeling Overhead Barbell Side Bend

Kneeling overhead side bend stretches the oblique, arms, shoulders and the psoas muscles.

Additionally, it is beneficial for achieving the correct body position. The elongated spine creates an upper body alignment and benefits the posture.

Kneeling Overhead Barbell Side Bend

If you’ve got bored with barbell side bends or are simply not enjoying them any more, you can try the following barbell side bends alternative exercises


Barbell side bends are easy to do and can be done by beginners.

Perform it with correct form, to strengthen your core muscles and increase their robustness and resistance to injury.

However, if you have any pre-existing health conditions involving your lower back, make sure to consult your physician before you begin.

Know More About Oblique Training


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