Among the many exercises that can strengthen your core, there are Russian twists. Find out how to do these and whether you should.
Russian twists are an exercise where you start sitting on your butt with your feet elevated. After that, you twist your upper body to the left and the right. Often with some form of weight in your hands.
This exercise is mainly good for growing and strengthening your oblique muscles responsible for upper body rotation.
Make sure you use enough resistance and do enough repetitions for these training goals.
Besides that, Russian twists can also grow and strengthen your abs. However, for this, more dynamic ab exercises tend to be more effective.
One potential downside of Russian twists is that they can be painful if you twist too far and/or if your body is not strong enough to deal with them.
For this reason, core training beginners and potentially even intermediates and experts may prefer other oblique exercises with lower injury risk over Russian twists.
How to do a Russian twist
Something like a yoga mat or another soft surface can make this exercise more comfortable.
That aside, take the following steps to do a Russian twist:
- Sit down on your butt with your feet flat on the ground.
- Tilt your upper body back slightly to about a 45-degree angle to the ground and raise your feet so they hover above the ground. Keep your spine straight throughout the rest of the exercise.
- Slowly rotate your upper body as far as comfortable to one side.
- Rotate your upper body as far as comfortable to the other side in a controlled motion.
- Alternate between steps 3 and 4 for a certain number of repetitions.
Keeping your movements slow can help you avoid twisting too far and really works your muscles.
Another helpful tip is that you can look at your hands to make sure your head and neck rotate together with your upper body.
If you currently find keeping your feet in the air during Russian twists too challenging, you can also start with sitting twists.
Muscles worked with Russian twists
Some of the main muscles worked with Russian twists include:
- Hip flexors
Additionally, you could engage a few upper body muscles if you do Russian twists with weights.
An interesting aspect of Russian twists is that they work your obliques in a dynamic way but your abs in a static way.
This is relevant because static ab exercises tend to be less effective than dynamic ab exercises for muscle growth and strength increases.
Because of this difference, how many Russian twists you should do also depends a lot on what muscles you want to work and in what ways.
As an example, you want to do 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 (and potentially even 50) Russian twists per side to grow and strengthen your oblique muscles.
If needed, you want to hold some type of weight like a dumbbell, a medicine ball, or even a heavy backpack to make these ranges challenging enough.
That means something like doing 100 Russian twists a day could actually offer nice results if you use enough resistance.
Russian twists benefits
It is true that people with back issues may want to avoid Russian twists to play it safe.
At the same time, doing this exercise can still offer positive effects too. Some of the benefits of Russian twists are:
- Stronger muscles: Doing Russian twists in a good exercise routine can make your abs and obliques stronger.
- No equipment or location required: To do Russian twists all you need is your body and a place to sit. This makes Russian twists a time-friendly and budget-friendly exercise.
- Can help with losing weight: The number of calories burned with Russian twists is not that impressive but likely more than many of your daily activities. In turn, you can say this exercise can help you lose weight although you may need positive changes in other areas too.
- May prevent back pain: Growing and strengthening your core muscles with Russian twists can reduce your risk of back pain (1, 2). If you already have issues in this area you likely want to play it safe and stay away from Russian twists.
Russian twists are not always the number one exercise option for these benefits but they can help to at least some extent.
This could make it worth implementing this exercise into your core workout routine.
While Russian twists can be good for people who can handle them, it is also worth mentioning that some individuals will find them painful for their backs and necks.
If you have issues in these areas, you likely want to stick to anti-rotational oblique exercises like Pallof presses for now.
As your core muscles get stronger over time, you could potentially consider more dynamic oblique exercises like Russian twists again.
Even if you don’t have issues in your back or neck, you want to be careful when doing Russian twists and avoid twisting too far.
Russian twist alternatives
At this point, you may conclude that Russian twists are not for you or that you at least want to know what other options there are.
Some Russian twist alternatives include:
- Pallof presses
- Lying leg raise twists
- Bicycle crunches
- Side planks
- Sideways leg raises on the captain’s chair
- Ab wheel V-rolls
- Side bends
- Cable upper body rotations
To work your oblique muscles responsible for upper body rotation without actually rotating your upper body, the Pallof press and ab wheel V-rolls are your main options.
Besides that, you may also like these other Russian twist alternatives to work different core muscles.
Is the Russian twist a good exercise?
The Russian twist can be a good exercise for people who want to work specific oblique and ab muscles at the same time and have bodies that are strong enough for this movement.
If you are more experienced when it comes to core workouts, you may need to hold extra weight to see optimal results.
That aside, it is worth mentioning that some people will find Russian twists uncomfortable on their spines and necks.
If you are in this category, you likely want to do exercises like the Pallof press that tend to be more comfortable in these areas.
Additionally, there are ways to work your oblique muscles responsible for upper body rotation without as much isometric ab muscle engagement. You may prefer this over Russian twists.
What do Russian twists do to your stomach?
Russian twists will mainly make certain muscles around your stomach bigger and stronger. You should not really expect anything from this exercise in terms of stomach fat loss.
Why do some people say Russian twists are bad?
Some people say Russian twists are bad because a good amount of people find the twisting involved in the exercise uncomfortable on their spines.