Do Deadlifts Help You Get Thick Obliques?

April 11th 2019

Deadlifts are great. They really keep you guessing on whether or not you will be sore the next day. This full body compound lift has a great rep in the lifting community for its ability to grow size and strength.

All lifters know the importance of bracing before committing to the pull. Do deadlifts help you gain thick obliques?

Thick obliques and deadlifts

Within a couple of months, many lifters have experienced several inches of waist thickness from including deadlifts in their program. Deadlifts can help gym-goers develop thick obliques through consistent and heavy training.

Can my obliques get too big from deadlifts?

Unless you are a world class athlete, there is a very low chance that you will actually develop over-sized obliques from deadlifts. There are lifters that are more prone to exercise stimulus. These are your competitive and world-class athletes where growing muscle is not a challenge for them. All they do is sleep, eat and train. Some of these athletes you know also do not live a great lifestyle but also seem to pack on muscle like it is free Halloween candy.

Your core is heavily engaged

Your core consists of your internal obliques, external obliques, rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus. Together, your core muscles experience a lot of stress while doing deadlifts. As a response, they grow in size and strength as you continue to do more heavy deadlifts.

Your external obliques run down the sides of your abdomen and are the muscles you see when people twist and bend to the side. The internal obliques run underneath the external obliques and sit above the transverse abdominus. Other functions of the obliques are that they help with forced breathing, help with support of the abdominal wall, and help rotate and flex your trunk. As you may notice, the deadlift will require your core to be stabilized and tense. So, this will prompt your obliques to be activated and worked as well. Also in addition to your heavy breathing, your entire core will be impacted.

The transverse abdominus is the deepest of the three ab muscles and completely wraps around your mid-section.

The rectus abdominus is one of the most aesthetic looking muscles in the upper body. It is frequently known as the six-pack abs. These are the outer most layer of your ab muscles. Its function is to hold organs in place and to flex the spinal column.

Will lifting helps help keep my obliques smaller from deadlifts?

Lifting belts help create intraabdominal pressure used to help stabilize your spine and core. Thus, strength training with a lifting belt will not help keep your obliques smaller if you do deadlifts frequently.

Small hips and thick obliques

Having thick obliques may be unaesthetic with a small waist since it ruins any potential of a V-taper. However, most lifters cannot accurately determine how large their obliques are unless they diet down and cut down their body fat percentage.

In reality, only a few bodybuilders and very shredded athletes can determine how large their obliques really are. For most of the population, there will always be some fat over the obliques. Depending on your nationality and where fat loves to accumulate, this can either hide your obliques completely or make little or no difference.

If you are concerned about whether or not you have thick obliques ruin your aesthetics, one of the only ways is to diet down and to lower your overall fat percentage. Though you could be sacrificing some strength gains, you will have a better understanding of how well-developed your obliques are.

Beginner gains can be real

If you decided to strength train recently for the first time, all athletes will let you know how fast the newbie gains come in. Size increases a lot if you are eating a caloric surplus. Strength gains seem to never end. For these athletes, almost all of them have not developed any noticeable oblique development from the past.

So, once they started to do deadlifts, any rapid growth of obliques may seem a little scary and if it continues to happen, it could ruin their physique! Not exactly the case.

I am certain that most athletes will not “overgrow” their obliques to the point where it is incredibly unappealing. That is just not how the body works. The body adapts and grows to a point where it is most efficient for your body to keep and retain that muscle. It will grow your obliques to a point where it can help stabilize your core when doing heavy deadlifts. Granted, some lifters will grow more obliques faster and better-looking than others. But for almost every lifter on the planet, it will not be an excessive growth.

Can having weak obliques affect my deadlift?

Core stabilization and strength are crucial for a safe and effective deadlift. Having weak obliques will hamper your attempts of gaining any huge PRs in deadlifts. Ever wondered why so many Strongman athletes deadlifts over 1000lbs every event? Have you examined their core? It is the size of a tree thunk!

The bottom line is this, stop worrying about the small nuances of which particular muscles can affect the deadlift. Start deadlifting and the answers will be revealed to you when ready.

Oblique strains during the deadlift

Oblique strains are not common during the deadlift but they can happen when stress passes a certain point. Your obliques will feel like they “gave out”, which may be followed by weakness, pain and/or swelling. You will immediately know if you have strained any muscle in your core. Breathing, laughing, or talking may hurt. It may hurt to twist, bend, or flex your spine. Bracing your core may hurt. There are many different levels of oblique strains and it is important to avoid anything that causes you pain and discomfort.

Exercise to rehab an oblique strain

If you ever suffered an oblique strain, you will know that it is one of the most unpleasant things to have ever experience. Thus, it is important to make sure you strengthen your obliques, as well as your entire core so that these injuries are limited.

If your oblique strain is recent, it is usually not recommended to do any exercises that would further cause micro-tears in the oblique muscles. Resting should be your number one priority. Maybe after about 10-14 days after your obliques have healed, you can begin to do some strengthening exercises in order to rebuild your oblique strength and endurance.


In a pushup position, get onto your elbows instead of your hands. This is usually referred to as the plank exercise. Hold that position, really emphasizing on bracing and tightening your core. Do not try to twist or bend your trunk yet as this may cause excessive stress to your obliques.

Plank to pushup sequence

Instead of just doing static plank holds, you will go from the plank position into a pushup position, while bracing your core. This adds more movement into the exercise and focuses you to be more aware of your core tension. You can hold the top pushup position for about 3-5 seconds before switching back to the plank setup. Hold for 3-5 seconds and continue to do that for as many desired reps. You can try to aim for 8-10 reps for 1-2 sets.

Plank variations, with twisting

As your obliques get stronger, you can incorporate many plank variations that include twists and bends. Here is one variation that would be effective for anyone trying to gain more functional strength with their obliques.

From the plank position, lift one arm to the sky. While doing this, try to not lean too far on the other side. Remain closer to the center of your body. Keep both feet on the ground. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and then bring your arm down. Now, do this for the opposite arm. Do this for about 8-10 reps for 1-2 sets.


It will be nearly impossible to overly develop your obliques to a point where you want to get rid of them. The great Arnold alluded to many times, it is not easy to develop a great physique. If you really want to develop huge obliques, chances are you are not even doing anything close to reaching that goal soon. With just deadlifts, you will develop functional obliques used for heavy training. And for some lifters, they may even develop aesthetic abs in the process. But to try and blame deadlifts for growing oversized obliques is just nonsense.

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