How to Do Heel Touches to Strengthen Your Obliques

The heel touch exercise is simple, but it ain’t always easy. It targets your oblique muscles, builds core strength and stability, requires no barbells or other equipment, and is scalable for all fitness levels. This guide will bring you through how and why to do alternating heel touches, give you variations and alternatives to try, dig deep into the core muscles it works, and call out some common mistakes to avoid. 

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.

How to Do the Heel Touch

Heel touches are pretty simple, but proper form matters. Here’s exactly what you need to know.

Equipment Needed: Just you and your body are required for this bodyweight exercise — but you should definitely add a yoga mat for comfort if desired.

Step 1 — Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.

Step 2 — Engage your abs and lift your upper back, shoulders, and head off the floor. Keep your chin gently tucked. Squeeze your glutes and keep your lower back on the floor.

Step 3 — Inhale, then exhale to reach your right hand to touch your right heel. Bend through your right side to feel your oblique muscles. Inhale to return to the starting position. Exhale to reach your left hand to touch your left heel. Crunch through your left side to feel your left oblique muscles.

Step 4 — Inhale to return to the starting position. Continue alternating heel touches for your desired number of repetitions. Move slowly with control to feel all your core muscles. 

Coach’s Tip: To get the most out of this move, you want to keep your spine in a neutral position and really engage your abdominal muscles

Heel Touch Variations

The heel touch is one of the best ab exercises to hit your oblique muscles, but we have some variations for you to feel them differently. You can do most heel touch variations with no equipment, or you can add weight for more of a challenge. 

Side Bend

[Read More: The Best Oblique Exercises for a Rock Solid and Stable Core]

Why Do It: You can reap some of the benefits of the heel touch without having to get onto the ground. You’ll be deliberately flexing your torso laterally, which you’ll also do on the floor during the heel touch.

Equipment Needed: While you can move through this one with no equipment, you can also grab two dumbbells or weight plates to add a challenge.

Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.

Brace your core. Inhale to laterally flex, or side bend, to the left. Exhale to return to the starting position.

Inhale and side bend to the right. Exhale to return to the starting position. Continue.

Make it Easier: Do this with just your body weight.

Make it Tougher: Bring your feet closer together to increase the balance challenge.

Russian Twist

[Read More: The Best Upper Ab Exercises for a Stronger Core]

Why Do It: This is a classic core exercise for a reason. You’ll be both leaning into rotational movement and also resisting rotation. That helps create a lot more stability in all manner of positions, including when you’re performing big compound moves like squats and deadlifts.

Equipment Needed: Once again, you can do with this just your bodyweight, or you can up the ante with a dumbbell or medicine ball.

Sit upright with your feet on the floor and knees to the ceiling. Engage your abs and lean back slightly. You can do this as a bodyweight exercise, or you can hold a dumbbell or medicine ball.

Keep your lower body stable. Inhale, then exhale and twist your torso toward your right side. Touch the floor with your hands, or hold your weight.

Inhale to return to the starting position. Exhale to twist your torso toward your left side. Touch the floor with your hands or hold your weight. Continue switching sides for your desired number of Russian twists.

Make it Easier: Keep your heels planted on the floor. Sit up to a pretty high angle so that you’re supporting less of your body weight just above the ground.

Make it Harder: Raise your feet off the ground and perform your twists without your feet touching the floor.

Resistance Band Heel Touch

Why Do It: You’ll increase the challenge of the regular-old heel touch by adding a resistance band to the mix. This is perfect for ab workouts when you’re searching for an extra challenge without getting too fancy with equipment or movement patterns.

Equipment Needed: You’ll just need your body weight, a resistance band, and something to anchor it to (like a squat rack or power rack) — and possibly a yoga mat for comfort.

Perform heel touches, but add a resistance band to increase difficulty.

Loop a resistance band around something stable behind you (perhaps a squat rack). Grab either side of it and pull your arms down by your sides to the starting position. 

Maintain core stability as you pull on the band and perform alternate heel touches.

Make it Easier: Stay close to the anchor point so there’s a little less tension on the band.

Make it Harder: Move farther from the anchor point so there’s more tension on the band.

Spider Plank

Why Do It: No actual arachnids are required for this core exercise. You’ll hold a plank and get dynamic with your legs in such a way that you’re upping the involvement of your obliques and relying on your upper body to keep you even more stable.

Equipment Needed: You technically don’t need any equipment here, but you might be more comfortable on an yoga mat.

Begin in a plank position at the top of a push-up. Engage your abs to maintain core stability. 

Inhale, then exhale and bring your right knee to tap your right triceps. Inhale to return to the starting position. 

Exhale to repeat on your left side, bringing your left knee to tap your left triceps.

Engage your obliques during each tap. The spider plank is an advanced variation on heel touches.

Make it Easier: Perform this move against an incline like a weight bench or a wall to put less weight onto your upper body.

Make it Harder: Move as slowly as you can and really squeeze at the top of each rep.

Heel Touch Alternatives

Let’s break down the heel touch into a few different core exercises. They still make a great addition to any core workout for people of all fitness levels. 

Leg Raise

Why Do It: The leg raise is a classic core-builder for both beginners and more advanced athletes. By bringing your legs up, you’ll be teaching yourself to use your core while also engaging your hip flexors. Aim to keep your torso and upper body still and relaxed for maximal core engagement.

Equipment Needed: You won’t need anything but yourself and possibly an exercise mat here.

Lie on your back with both legs on the floor. Keep your arms by the sides of your body and press into the floor.

Inhale to brace your core. Exhale and lift your legs as high as you can. Keep your legs straight, hips stable, and lower back on the floor. Inhale to lower back down with control.

Resist any movement through your lower back and hips. You can also raise and lower both legs together for more of a challenge.

Make it Easier: Keep your knees bent instead of straight. Rest your heels on the ground between each rep.

Make it Harder: Perform these while hanging from a pull-up bar to do a hanging leg raise.

Side Plank

Why Do It: This is a very well-known core move for a reason. It’s an isometrics classic, forcing you to keep still while you hold a challenging position. Turning the plank onto its side is a great endurance and oblique-builder.

Equipment Needed: You don’t need anything except a yoga mat here.

Lie on the floor on the side of your body. Place your bottom forearm on the ground. Stack your top foot on your bottom foot. Place your top hand on your hip or reach your arm to the ceiling. Keep your shoulders, hips, and feet in one straight line.

Inhale to brace your core. Exhale to lift your bottom hip away from the floor, pushing into your bottom forearm and foot. Squeeze your glutes and keep your abs engaged. Hold your side plank for 15 to 30 seconds. 

Lower down with control and repeat on your other side. Focus on feeling your oblique muscles on your bottom side by lifting away from the floor.

Make it Easier: Keep your bottom knee on the floor if needed.

Make it Harder: Add a few hip taps to the end of each set when you’re approaching failure.

Bicycle Crunch

[Read More: How to Do Crunches (And All Their Variations) for Stronger Abs]

Why Do It: You’ll boost your coordination and oblique strength, as well as your ability to deliberately contract your core instead of pulling from your hip flexors, shoulders, or neck. This is a very versatile exercise, which is often key in ab workouts.

Equipment Needed: You just need your body weight and a yoga mat here.

Lie on your back with your legs bent at 90 degrees and shins parallel to the ceiling. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows wide. 

Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground. Engage your upper back to lift so you’re not pulling on your neck. Inhale, exhale and twist to bring your right elbow toward your left knee. Straighten your right leg toward the ground.

Inhale to return to the starting position. Exhale to twist, bringing your left elbow toward your right knee. Straighten your left leg toward the ground. Continue alternating sides in your bicycle crunches.

Make it Easier: Rest your non-working leg on the ground between each rep.

Make it Harder: Maintain both shoulder blades off the floor throughout your reps.

Who Should Do the Heel Touch

The heel touch is a great exercise for people of all fitness levels. Here are three groups who will want to add it to their next core workout.


Heel touches can be considered an isolation exercise for your oblique muscles, making them an ideal choice for bodybuilders. Bodybuilding is about revealing each individual muscle to pop onstage (or off). You can increase difficulty by bringing your feet farther away from your body or adding a resistance band or dumbbells.


The heel touch is a great exercise for beginners in their fitness journey. It’s straightforward and can help you feel your oblique muscles to build the mind-muscle connection you’ll need for your training. They also teach you core stability as you keep your lower back still and help to strengthen your hip flexors. You can bring your feet closer to your body to make them more accessible.

On-the-Go Athletes

Traveling without equipment? You can do heel touches any time, any place. They’re a perfect core exercise to add to a bodyweight workout on the go. Throw a resistance band in with your luggage if you know you need more of a challenge. 

Heel Touch Sets and Reps

Since heel touches are an isolation core exercise, they don’t work quite the same as you would follow these volume rules for something like a deadlift or back squat. You can “load” them, to some extent, with a resistance band or dumbbells. You can also increase the range of motion by bringing your feet farther away from your body.

Here are some set and rep ideas for different goals.

For Muscle Mass: Perform four sets of 12 heel touches per side.

For Strength: Do five sets of six heel touches per side, using a resistance band or holding dumbbells.

For Endurance: Perform three sets of 15 to 20 heel touches per side.

Benefits of the Heel Touch

Heel touches can improve the function and aesthetics of your core. They may also be a bit easier on the lower back for some people, and they’re great for at-home workouts. Here are the top benefits of heel touches.

Builds Core Strength and Core Stability

Core strength and core stability are two different things; heel touches can help you out with both. As you hold your upper body slightly up, you’ll build strength in your upper abs. During the primary movement of the exercise, you’ll be strengthening your oblique muscles on the sides of your body during each side bend to touch your heels.

[Read More: Should You Train Core Every Day?]

Core stability refers to keeping your trunk rigid and preventing spinal movements while other muscles or limbs move. You’ll engage all your core muscles, particularly your lower abs, to keep your lower back still throughout your heel touches.

Targets Oblique Muscles

During the side bend of the heel touch, your oblique muscles engage. Bodybuilders or anyone looking to build these muscles can benefit from isolating them in heel touches. 

Pairing heel touches with side planks in a core workout is a great way to build strength and stability in the sides of your body. During heel touches, your oblique muscles assist in the side-bending movement. In a side plank, you engage them to prevent your body from laterally flexing or side bending, which increases stability.

Low-Impact on the Spine

Heel touches are a great, low-impact exercise that keeps most of your spine — particularly your lower back — in a neutral position. They may be safer for beginners or people with back pain than ab exercises like sit-ups, which require you to move your entire spine during each rep.

Core exercises that keep your back on the floor, like heel touches, are also a great way to strengthen your abs so that you can perform sit-ups (if you want to) without hurting your lower back.

No Equipment Needed

Heel touches are a great bodyweight exercise with no equipment required. If you do home workouts, they’re a great addition to work your oblique muscles and your core. They bring some variety to other bodyweight core exercises like planks or crunches by focusing on the sides of your body.

If you’re a busy parent or work from home all day, they’re also quick and easy to do a few sets whenever you have a break outside of a complete at-home bodyweight workout.

Muscles Worked by the Heel Touch

The primary muscles worked by heel touches are your core muscles. Your lower body also helps as you squeeze your glutes and activate your hip flexors to keep your legs in position. Here’s a quick breakdown of each muscle group used by heel touches.

Transverse Abodominis

Your transverse abdominis are your deepest core muscles. It helps create abdominal pressure and stabilizes your lumbar spine. During heel touches, your transverse abdominis helps protect your lower back and prevents it from moving.

Rectus Abdominis

Your rectus abdominis is your six-pack, the abominable muscles closest to the surface you can see when you have low enough body fat. Your rectus abdominis assists in spinal flexion (bending forward) and lateral flexion (side bending). In heel touches, it helps lift your upper back and assists in the actual side bending.

Internal and External Obliques

Your internal and external oblique muscles are on the sides of your body. They assist in rotation and lateral flexion, or side-bending. During each rep of a heel touch, your left or right obliques help create the movement. 

[Read More: How Often Should You Train Your Abs? Plus Tips from Celebrity Personal Trainers]

Common Heel Touch Mistakes

While heel touches are pretty simple, there’s always room for error. Here are the top common mistakes to avoid.

Not Engaging Abs

If you’re super flexible, touching each heel and quickly alternating may feel easy. However, you may not get as many core strength and stability benefits without actively engaging your obliques and feeling your core muscles contract during each rep. 

[Read More: These Are 8 of the Best Lower Ab Exercises Out There]

Slow the movement down and build a mind-muscle connection. Engage your deeper abs to keep your spine still. Feel your oblique muscles crunch with each heel touch.

Not Breathing Deeply

Deep abdominal breathing is important in all types of exercise. When performing a core exercise like heel touches, focusing on those deep breaths is essential to get the most out of each rep. Breathing helps your muscles contract better and also sends them more oxygen.

Pulling from Your Neck

Avoid pulling from your neck to keep your upper body slightly lifted. It’s common to compensate for upper body muscles by straining your neck. Instead, retract your head and gently tuck your chin. Engage your upper back, shoulders, and chest to lift. Think of your neck and head as coming along for the ride rather than initiating the lift.

Touching Up

Heel touches are a great exercise to build and strengthen your oblique muscles, along with the rest of your core, and a little work for your hip flexors. Focus on using proper form, taking it slow, breathing deeply, and building a mind-muscle connection. Heel touches are versatile; you can do them at home, on the go, or as a beginner.


Let’s wrap up with some common questions on heel touches.

What are heel touches?

Heel touches are a core exercise where you lie on your back with your feet on the floor, lift your upper body slightly, and alternate touching each heel with each hand.

What do heel touches do?

Heel touches build and strengthen your oblique muscles on the sides of your body. They also engage your other abdominal muscles and increase core stability.

How many heel touches should I do?

Beginners can start with three sets of 10 reps per side. Depending on your goal, you may want to increase the difficulty with a resistance band and do fewer reps or build muscular endurance by doing three sets of 15 to 20.

Featured Image: Golfweek on YouTube

The post How to Do Heel Touches to Strengthen Your Obliques appeared first on BarBend.


您的电子邮箱地址不会被公开。 必填项已用 * 标注