This past weekend, I met with my two daughters and their mom for Mother’s Day. My daughters always take lots of pictures on these occasions. We always dress informally and never try to emphasize appearances. It is for a happy reunion of our family, which happens less frequently than I would like.

Nevertheless, when I saw my pictures, I was not happy with how I looked. My external oblique area was puffing out at the sides. This had been a problem area for me for a while, though I had not noticed it so much until I saw the pictures.

The external obliques are sometimes called the “love handles”, though I can’t speak to how this name was initiated. The area of concern is shown below:

I am shown below in a partial picture from a couple of years ago, when I became aware of my oblique puffiness. I thought that, since then, I had addressed the problem. . Apparently I had not! At least, not sufficiently.

Further below, we can see what an ideal abdominal area may look like. There is no fatty area to be found.

Let me make a couple of points:

  • At age 80, I don’t reasonably think that I can develop an abdominal area like that of the young man above
  • But I can improve my abdominal area


Paraphrasing Healthline, the external oblique muscles extend from the lower part of the ribs down to the pelvis. They are on both sides of the trunk.

They help to rotate the trunk, but also help to pull the chest down, which compresses the abdominal cavity. The obliques help somewhat in the rotation of the spine.

The external obliques are involved in walking and running – all ambulatory movements.

Keeping it simple, I like to think of these muscles as the lateral abdominal muscles. The external obliques are the largest and most superficial of all the lateral abdominal muscles.


First and foremost, I know that developing muscles in a specific body part and reducing fat in that same area are two different challenges.

Put in other terms, I know that fat in a specific area of the body can not be reduced separately from the rest of our bodies. Spot reduction is a fallacy. Still, many people believe that crunches will reduce belly fat, for example. Not true, unless we are reducing fat all over at the same time.

A better diet and cardio movements will help me more than doing specific “love handle” exercises. But this is not to minimize the importance of those specific movements to build muscle.

So, I will cut back on calories and emphasize my cardio. With arthritis, my classical cardio movements (running, walking, etc.) are somewhat limited. But doing bodybuilding movements quickly and with little rest is another form of cardio! The proof of this is that I can become winded and be perspiring by fast bodybuilding exercise – and this is indicative of cardio work, probably the best indicator.

So, here is my program for improvement :

  • I will do external oblique exercises and all of my movements will be fast (except the planks)
  • My treadmill work will be maintained
  • I will be much more careful with the calories I consume
  • All of this will be annotated daily as computer entries

My current abdominal routine includes the following:

  • Crunches – 30 reps
  • V-ups – 30 reps
  • Planks – 1 minute (per set, sets vary)
  • Seated twists – 100 reps. For direct engagement of the external obliques. Seated twists (or trunk rotations) are pictured below:

I am going to add a couple new direct oblique movements. This is not to expect direct fat loss, but to add to my cardio and diet. Here are two that I have selected:

  • Side planks – feet are stacked on top of each other, elbow is directly below shoulder. I will begin by doing 30 seconds on one side and then switching to the other side. See below.

  • Russian twists – with knees bent, feet off floor (or on the floor if this is too difficult in the beginning) and torso at 45 degrees, I will rotate trunk to right and left. At least 20 reps to begin, then I will add more reps.

By adding the side planks (both sides) and the Russian twists to my abdominal routine, I will be addressing the issue of my obliques. I want to keep my program simple and uncomplicated.


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This post has been another attempt to relay my workout issues and strategies to make corrections. It can be quite illuminating to see pictures of ourselves that may be different from what we expected. This certainly invigorated my workout this morning, as well as my new commitment to eat more carefully.

At the risk of being too repetitious, let me say again: working intently on a specific body part will not alone reduce the fat in that body part.

But it doesn’t hurt to build muscle in that area and such specific training will at least remind us that we need to cut back on calories and elevate our cardio.

So, why not reduce fat all over and include fat loss in the area of concern? That is precisely my goal.

Please leave me any comments or questions in the “Comments” section below or email me: richard@myworkoutathome.com.

Be well!


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