Why the External Obliques are the Top Oblique

Why the External Obliques are the Top Oblique

There are four major abdominal muscles that act as a girdle for all of your internal organs, from deepest to most superficial: the transverse abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques, and on top (and in front), the rectus abdominis.

Today, though, we’re focusing on the external obliques. I’ve always found it difficult to focus on the direction of the fibers —especially when I’m thinking of the external versus the internal obliques. When put together (rather, when put right on top of one another) the direction of the fibers form an “X”, but that hardly helps me differentiate which part of the “X” is the internal, and more importantly, which is the internal. Since knowing the direction of one muscle, in this case, helps us remember the direction of the other, let’s focus on the external oblique.

The external obliques are the ones “on the sides”, the side of the body…the side dish, if you will.

Awhile ago I tried to remember the direction through this convoluted method (I’m putting it here since it might help someone!).

To remember the external oblique fiber direction I would start by thinking of the internal obliques and how if you extend them they form a peak at the top, mountain-like. And, then from there I would associate that mountain with the letter “i” and “peak” referring to something metaphorically internal. Get it, “i” for internal.  

This is a messy system because by that point I haven’t even gotten to the external obliques. It’s not a far jump though since the fibers are in the opposite direction, so to get the direction of the external fibers I’d think of the internal fibers and then invert them. (I told you it’s a wild brain ride!)

Well, the good news is that I’ve found a better way. I sat down to write about the external obliques in an Instagram post (as one does) and I thought to myself, “there must be a better way!” Low and behold there is one.

It’s simple, but full of a fighter’s spirit.

External obliques form a “V”. [FACE PALM EMOJI]

The left and right external oblique fibers form a “V” when you extend them and connect them at the bottom. But, wait, there’s no “V” in external. Are we back to square one?

HARDLY! V is for victory—everyone knows that—victory that we’re going to remember the direction of the fibers. And victory, because I haven’t even told you about how the external obliques think that since they are the top and most superficial oblique muscle, they are the best, the top contender…the victorious ones. They wear their “V” with pride (too much pride if you ask the internal obliques. In fact, I wouldn’t even bring it up.).

By anatomical advantage the external obliques are, by definition, the top oblique. And, as you have read, it’s definitely gone to their head.

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