Russian twists offer a few positive effects but there are more effective alternatives too. Find out what these exercises are and what they do.
Some of the main benefits of Russian twists are strengthening core muscles like obliques and abs and making them stand out more.
Luckily there are alternatives to Russian twists that offer the same advantages.
Whether you don’t enjoy Russian twists, you want a more back-friendly alternative, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to Russian twists can help you train similar muscles.
1. Oblique crunches
Regular crunches are a popular exercise for isolating your ab muscles. By making a change in the position of your legs you can make the same exercise focus more on obliques instead.
Take the following steps to do an oblique crunch:
- Lie down with your legs completely sideways. Tilt your upper body sideways a small amount. Make sure you don’t twist too far.
- Slowly raise your shoulders from the ground as much as comfortably possible while keeping your lower back on the floor. Move your head along with your shoulders while keeping it in a normal position.
- Lower your shoulders and head in a controlled motion until you are back in the starting position.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side.
Oblique crunches are an alternative to Russian twists to isolate oblique muscles more and focus less on ab muscles. You can also stick to regular crunches to focus on ab muscles instead.
2. Ab wheel V-rolls
The ab wheel is a small and inexpensive piece of fitness equipment that is a wheel with two handles. It may not look like much but ab wheel exercises can offer a great ab and oblique workout.
A V-roll is an even more effective exercise for engaging your oblique muscles than the regular rollout.
Take the following steps to do an ab wheel knee V-roll:
- Start with your face facing the floor on your knees and with your hands on the ab wheel.
- Stretch your hips so that your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Roll forward and to one side in a controlled motion, preferably until your stomach is right above the ground.
- Slowly roll back into the position of step 2.
- Roll forward and to the opposite side as in step 3.
If you do this exercise right the ab wheel should draw an imaginary V-shape on the ground. By using the ab wheel this way you target your oblique muscles more than in regular knee roll-outs.
These and other ab wheel exercises can be excellent alternatives to Russian twists that are slightly more back-friendly. One downside of these is that they are not as convenient to do with extra weights.
3. Reverse crunches
The reverse crunch variation where you go in a straight line with your knees can be a good Russian twist alternative for only focusing on your abs and less on your obliques.
Take the following steps to do a reverse crunch:
- Lie down on your back with a 90-degree angle in both your hips and knees. Your arms start resting on the ground at 90 degrees out from your shoulders or just next to you for stability.
- Slowly move your knees towards your chest while keeping your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle. To do this your hips and lower back will come off the ground. Stop right before the middle of your back would come off the ground too.
- Lower your lower back, hips, and legs back into starting position in a controlled motion.
If you also want the oblique training, you can do a sideways reverse crunch. In this variation, you bring one knee to the chest of the opposite side. After that, you repeat the same but with the other knee to avoid muscle imbalances.
At some point, bodyweight reverse crunches may become too easy. If this is the case you can wear a pair of ankle weights or clamp some type of weight between your legs.
4. Windshield wipers
Take the following steps to do one windshield wiper:
- Lie down on your back with a 90-degree angle in both your hips and knees. Stretch out our arms to the side for balance.
- Slowly tilt your legs sideways to one side as far as comfortable. One side of your hips will come off the ground.
- Raise your legs into starting position and repeat the movement on the other side.
Due to the twisting movement, windshield wipers work a wide variety of core muscles including your obliques.
A simple no-equipment way to make the exercise more challenging is to stretch your legs in the air. Another option is clamping some kind of weight between your legs.
5. Bicycle crunches
The next Russian twist alternative requires slightly more coordination but its effectiveness is worth the extra effort. Take the following steps to do two repetitions of bicycle crunches:
- Lie down on your back with a 90-degree angle in both your hips and knees. Hold your hands against the side of your head with your elbows pointing sideways.
- Raise your shoulders and push your lower back against the ground with the help of your ab muscles.
- Slightly turn your upper body to one side and reach with your elbow to the knee of the opposite side (for example your left elbow to your right knee) while stretching the leg of the side of the elbow you use while still keeping it off the ground (continuing the example stretching your left leg).
- Bring the stretched leg back into the starting position and repeat with the other side. Keep your shoulders off the ground during the exercise.
For a good core workout keep your movements slow and controlled. If you don’t feel your obliques and abs fatiguing your bicycle crunch technique can likely use some improvement.
Similar to Russian twists, bicycle crunches are great for working out both your obliques and abs. You can also easily hold weights to make the exercise more challenging.
6. Side bends
The next exercise is a standing alternative to the Russian twist. This can also make it slightly more lower back friendly. Take the following steps to do a side bend:
- Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart, an upright posture, one arm hanging by your side with a dumbbell in your hand, and the hand of the other hand behind your head. Let gravity do its work on the hanging arm so it points downward.
- Slowly tilt your body sideways so that the dumbbell moves down as far as you comfortably can.
- Return your body to starting position and do the same number of repetitions with a dumbbell in the other hand.
The side bend may not look very impressive but it can be a helpful Russian twist alternative to focus on your oblique muscles that help you bend your body sideways.
To make side bends challenging enough you do preferably want to hold some type of weight, for example dumbbells, in one of your hands.
7. Side plank dips
Take the following steps to do a side plank dip:
- Sit sideways on the ground leaning on one of your lower arms with the upper arm of that arm vertical to support your upper body.
- Walk away from your upper body with your feet until you can put your body in a straight side plank.
- Move your hips as far down as comfortable.
- Move your hips as far up as comfortable.
- Return your body into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions while leaning on your other arm.
If the ground stops you from bending down further you can consider doing side plank dips with your arm on an elevated object like for example a weight bench.
Side plank dips are mostly for training your oblique muscles but you will certainly also use your abs and other core muscles.