Russian twists are a core resistance training exercise but to see results, you have to do them in the right amounts. Discover some general recommendations.
The first thing to note is that the main goals of Russian twists are typically growing, strengthening, and improving endurance in core muscles like your obliques and abs.
Secondly, Russian twists are interesting in that they work your obliques dynamically (isotonically) and abs statically (isometrically). The recommended amounts of Russian twists vary for what muscles you want to work the most.
To grow and strengthen oblique muscles you want to do around 2 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 Russian twists with a weight where you can barely complete the sets. Sets with more repetitions can be effective up to a point too.
To grow your ab muscles you want to do about 3 to 30 seconds of Russian twists per set and more than 80 to 150 seconds per workout at a 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC).
MVC is unfortunately something that is measured with devices most people don’t have at home.
You can start by doing Russian twists with weights where you can barely complete the durations above and adapt your workouts from there to see different ab growth results.
Even better if your body can deal with them, you can do more dynamic ab exercises since these are generally more effective than isometric workouts to see muscle growth and strength progress.
How many Russian twists to grow and strengthen core muscles
Russian twists are mostly a resistance training exercise. In simpler words, that means you generally do this movement to grow and strengthen the muscles you work. In this case, your core muscles.
To achieve these fitness goals you have to put the muscles under enough pressure and do the right number of repetitions or do the exercise for long enough in the case of static exercises (and eat and rest enough).
How much is enough depends on the current strength of your core muscles.
Luckily, implementing a Russian twist workout routine and waiting for the results is not the only way to figure out these things. There are a few general guidelines that can point you in the right direction.
The Russian twist is an interesting exercise in the sense that it works your ab muscles isometrically (in a static way) and your obliques in an isotonically (in a dynamic way).
What muscles will get the most challenging workout will depend on their relative strengths. Additionally, the repetition/duration and set guidelines for dynamic and static exercises are somewhat different.
To grow oblique muscles
Let’s say your oblique muscles are the weak factor in Russian twists.
In that case, if you can barely complete around 3 sets of 6 Russian twists (on each side) to 6 sets of 50 Russian twists, the bodyweight version could be enough to grow and strengthen your oblique muscles.
You do really need to push yourself to failure in these sets to see results.
Doing these repetition ranges of bodyweight Russian twists may be or become too easy. Additionally, you may want to reduce the time required to get a good core workout.
In these cases, you can do weighted Russian twists where you hold something like a dumbbell or medicine ball in your hands to make the movement more challenging.
For these, you want to do somewhere around 2 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 Russian twists with a weight where you can barely complete the sets to grow and strengthen your obliques.
To grow abs
On the flip side, your ab muscles could also be the weak factor in Russian twists. One thing to note about this is that to my knowledge, doing isometric exercises for muscle growth is a lot less well-studied.
That being said, there is still a review of studies from 2019 that gives a few ranges of durations and pressure for people who want to grow and strengthen their muscles with isometric exercise (1).
The authors recommend doing isometric exercises like Russian twists for the abs for 3 to 30 seconds per set and more than 80 to 150 seconds per workout at 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction to grow muscles.
Additionally, they recommend doing isometric exercises like Russian twists for the abs for 1 to 5 seconds per set and more than 30 to 90 seconds per workout at 80-100% of maximum voluntary contraction to strengthen muscles.
Maximum voluntary contraction is a type of strength measurement. A big downside is that this is measured with devices most people don’t have at home.
While I am not sure this is the right way to think about it, it sounds at least decent to me to do Russian twists with a weight where you can barely complete the recommendations from the study mentioned above to grow your abs with this exercise.
That being said, more dynamic exercises are typically better for growing and strengthening (ab) muscles.
So for these goals, it is generally even better to turn to exercises like crunch variations instead of Russian twists.
Russian twist repetitions and sets improve muscle endurance
Another goal you could have with Russian twists is improving muscle endurance in your abs and obliques.
You will likely improve this to some extent with the repetitions and sets above but there are more optimal amounts for this fitness goal too.
More specifically, to improve oblique muscle endurance, you want to do 2 to 6 sets of 25+ Russian twists. You generally don’t want to push until muscle failure but you do have to challenge yourself enough.
When it comes to ab muscle endurance, similar principles apply. You want to do Russian twists for slightly shorter durations and with slightly lower weights than the ranges mentioned above.
Should you do Russian twists every single day?
During resistance training exercises like Russian twists, you damage the muscles you work. This may not sound good but actually starts a variety of internal processes that can make the muscles stronger in the long term.
One thing to keep in mind about this is that your body still needs time to complete these processes.
Especially after training bigger muscles, it is generally recommended to give these muscles an extra day of rest before training them again.
In the case of Russian twists, the core muscles you work are relatively small.
That means you could recover quickly enough from Russian twists to do them every day.
At the same time, you can already see nice results by doing Russian twists 3 days a week. Most people will want to play it safe and implement this routine instead of doing Russian twists every day.
How many Russian twists to burn calories
Russian twists are mostly effective for core-muscle-related fitness goals. That being said, because you move more intensely than usual, you will also burn a few extra calories.
The exact numbers will likely look different for you but there are some ways to make rough predictions.
Some of these rough estimations for people of different body weights doing Russian twists at a moderate pace for 10 minutes include (2):
- 125 pounds (56 kg) body weight: 28 calories
- 155 pounds (70 kg) body weight: 34 calories
- 185 pounds (83 kg) body weight: 41 calories
- 215 pounds (97 kg) body weight: 47 calories
If a 185-pound person does around 20 Russian twists on each side per minute, this person can expect to burn around 20 calories per 100 Russian twists.
This should make it clear that while Russian twists help to a tiny extent, they are relatively bad for burning calories.
Luckily you can also lose weight without an intense workout program and even without any exercise at all. Other lifestyle habits like nutrition play a big role in this process.