What are Russian Twists?

The Russian Twist is a great exercise that develops all parts of your core, especially the obliques, it also targets the shoulders and hips. This exercise involves rotating your torso from side-to-side while maintaining a sit up position with your feet off the ground. This rotational movement often occurs in sports, which makes it a popular exercise amongst athletes. It is speculated that this was developed during the Cold War by the former Soviet Union as a training exercise for the Russian Soldiers.

What muscles do Russian Twists work?

The primary muscles worked are the obliques and rectus abdominis. The secondary muscles worked are the hip flexors, erector spinae, scapulars and the latissimus dorsi.

What level are Russian Twists?

The Russian Twists is for beginners as it is very simple to do and you'll feel the burn in your core after doing a few reps. If the standard version of this exercise is proving too difficult, then you can place your feet on the ground to reduce the load on your core to make it easier. You can increase the difficulty by raising your legs off the ground or holding weights between your palms to increase resistance.

How to do Russian Twists?

1.Sit On The Floor

Start by sitting down on the floor with feet together, keeping your knees bent, then lift your feet 2-3 inches off the floor. However, if this is too challenging on your core and hips, you can keep the heels on the ground and master this before lifting them up.

 

2.Engage Your Core

Keeping your core tight, elongate and straighten your spine at a 45 degrees angle, creating a V-shape with your torso and thighs. Make sure your back isn’t rounding forward to begin the Russian Twist, this will shield your spine from injury. Interlace your fingers at the centre of your chest. This is your starting position.

3. Slowly Twist Your Torso

Rotate from your core and twist your torso to the left. Twist your torso only, not your head! And your shoulder should follow along with each twist, rotating as far in each direction as possible. Keep your neck in a neutral position. Exhale every time time you twist, and inhale every time you return to the starting position. Breathing properly can lower stress and muscle tension, it calms your nerves, heightens your focus and most importantly, it reduces fatigue, and promotes your stamina.

4.Repeat

Do this action for about 30-60s for 4 sets.

How many reps, sets, and how often should you do Russian Twists?

Beginners should work between 20-60 seconds, for 4 sets, and do this 3 times a week. They could either place their heels or the ground or lift them up to adapt to their fitness level.

Intermediate to advanced level athletes should aim to perform this for 60 seconds or more, for 4 sets and do this 3 times a week. They could also do weighted Russian Twists with a dumbbell or a medicine ball at a lower weight, and gradually increase it. 

What are the benefits of Russian Twists?

Strengthen Your Core

Russian twists target all the muscles in your core, especially the rectus abdominis and obliques, which makes this exercise an all inclusive ab workout. This will result in a stronger core that reaps the benefits of improving balance, and creating stability in the spine all together. A stronger core facilitates better posture, which can result in advantages such as a reduction in back pain.

Burn Calories

This is a great calorie burner if you do it at a high intensity. A 10-15 minutes core workout might leave you soaked in sweat and feeling satisfied with aching mid-section. You can increase the load by performing the Russian Twist for a longer duration or adding weight which will help you to burn calories. The harder you work the more calories you will burn. This should be supplemented with a good diet to create a caloric deficit which will make your abs pop!

No Equipment Needed

You can start with just body weight as it requires no equipment to get your abs blasting. As you get stronger you progress by doing this with weights, and the good thing about this is that you don’t need dumbbells as it can be any kind of heavy object, such as a big heavy bottle, or a bag filled with books. This exercise can be performed anywhere with ease, whether it's at home, at the gym, or whilst you’re away on vacation. 

Easily Modifiable

This exercise is easy and adaptable based on your current strength, and it can be used in almost any training environment as it is easy and simple to modify for any skill level. You can easily add more resistance by adding weight, or using resistance bands.

Russian Twist Variations

To keep your training fun and interesting, you can blast your obliques with these three Russian Twist variations. By creating variation and changing exercises in your routine, you can create a new motivation, which in turn generates more progress over time. 

Weighted Russian Twists

This is a progression to the body weight Russian Twist. The principle and technique is the same, but this time It will be done with any kind of heavy object in your hands, such as a dumbbell, a medicine ball, or a big water bottle. The extra weight will increase resistance on your core and you will feel the burn more in the obliques region. Twist the same way as the original variation and engage your core throughout the entire movement.

Heel Touches

Heel Touches is an abdominal and oblique focused variation that involves lying down and contracting your core muscles to reach alternating hands out to touch your heels one at a time. To perform Heel Touches, you will lie on your back on a flat surface with your knees bent and heels being positioned close to your bottom. Place your arm by your side with your shoulders slightly off the ground, make sure to not work your neck, but rather your abs. Next, using your core, rotate your right hand down until you touch your right heel then rise back up. Do the same motion on the left side and alternate back and forth for a desired amount of repetitions.

Side Plank

This is an isometric core strengthening variation, which means there will be no movement during this exercising as you will be maintaining a static position. It also targets your abdominal muscles especially the obliques. To do a Side Plank you will lay on your right side with your forearm flat on the floor, placing your right elbow under your right shoulder. Keep your legs straight and feet stacked on top of each other. Your hips should be off the mat to form a straight line from your head to your feet. Keep your neck in a neutral position, engage your core and hold this position for 15s or more, then repeat on your left side. This is one set.

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.