How To Do A Russian Twist

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // September 22, 2022

A Russian twist is a powerful core body exercise that strengthens all parts of your abdominals, especially your obliques, for a toned waistline and a stronger core. By learning how to do a Russian twist, you add another excellent core move to your arsenal of exercises and move beyond just ab crunches alone.

Best of all, this functional strength training move not only strengthens your ab muscles but also adds the oblique muscles into the picture as well.

The Russian twist can be done with bodyweight alone or with an added weight like a dumbbell, medicine ball or any heavy object to train your muscles to work harder. If the Russian twist is new to you, be sure to start without any extra weight and learn the proper form. Once you build up strength and become confident in your movement you can bring the extra weight into the picture.


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    How To Do Russian Twists

    The twisting motion of the Russian twist is the key to this move. By using your muscles to rotate from side to side, you are firing up the muscle fibers around your waist (the obliques) as well as pulling in the lower abs for a strong, flat tummy.

    It is crucial to pull your lower abdominals throughout the move in order to protect your back. Imagine zipping up a tight pair of pants; this is the same muscle contraction you should use throughout the twisting of the Russian twist.

    1. Start seated with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding one dumbbell with both hands in front of the chest. 
    2. Keeping the spine long and abdominals pulled in, lean slightly back and lift feet a few inches off the floor. If that is too difficult be sure to keep your feet down on the floor as a modification. 
    3. Slowly twist the torso to the left and bring the dumbbell beside the left hip. 
    4. Return to center, and then slowly twist to the right and bring the weight beside the right hip to complete one rotation. Continue to rotate from side to side using the obliques and not the low back. 

    A reminder that it is important to keep the legs still as you rotate from the obliques and the rib cage, not the lower back.

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    Russian Twist FAQs

    What Muscles Do Russian Twists Work?

    A Russian twist strengthens all core muscles with a special focus on the obliques. Specifically, the Russian twists target the following muscles: 
    – Rectus Abdominis 
    – Transverse Abdominis 
    – Obliques 
    – Latissimus Dorsi 
    – Erector Spinae 
    – Hip Flexors

    Are Russian Twists Good For Beginners?

    Technically speaking, this is not a “beginner” exercise. Because you are holding your entire body up using your core, this is more of an advanced exercise compared to your regular crunches. However, there are ways to modify this exercise and scale it down as you are getting started with this exercise. One way to modify is by placing the feet on the floor and beginning with no weight or added dumbbells. Bodyweight only will help you get the form before adding extra resistance to the move.

    Is It Better To Do Russian Twists Fast or Slow?

    Many people like to do this movement relatively quickly, however, to get the most out of this exercise you will want to slow it down. Slowing your pace down will allow you to twist using the obliques rather than using the back to rotate. By moving slower, you will engage the obliques to twist, plus you are also taking momentum out of the equation and just using the core muscles to move. 

    What If I’m Feeling My Low Back During Russian Twists?

    If you are feeling pain in the low back when performing Russian Twists, be sure to check on your form. Are your shoulders too far behind your hips? Are you arching the low back? Are you swinging your legs from side to side throughout the movement? Start by keeping your hips and low back in a locked position for good form.  As you rotate from side to side, think about this movement starting as a rotation from the obliques and rib cage, not the back. If this movement is too difficult with the feet off the ground, keep the weight in your hand and continue to twist and place the heels on the floor, squeezing the inner thighs together to fight the rotation of the lower body. Secondly, you can ditch the weight altogether and rotate from the obliques using your body weight. 

    How Many Calories Do Russian Twists Burn?

    People often ask how many calories they are burning in their workouts. Most exercises will generally burn about 100 calories for every 10 minutes you are working at a higher intensity. Bottom line – the harder you work, the more calories you burn. The Russian twist is excellent to incorporate into other workouts and will play a part in burning overall calories. 

    Benefits of Russian Twists

    There are many reasons you should incorporate Russian twists into your workouts. Here are just a few:

    1. Strengthens Core Muscles

    A Russian twist is an awesome exercise for strengthening the muscles of the core, especially the obliques. The core muscles are responsible for so much of our daily movement so it’s a good idea to regularly strengthen them.

    2. Helps Prevent Back Injury

    Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints of those visiting their doctor each year in the U.S. Since this is often due to tight muscles in the low back. Exercises like the Russian twist will help build a stronger core to prevent back injury and lower back pain. 

    3. Improves Athletic Performance

    A Russian twist builds strength throughout your entire core which will assist you in the rest of your workouts.  A strong core means a strong body and the ability to perform other exercises with ease.

    Russian Twist Variations

    Whether you want to lessen the difficulty or increase it, try these variations below.

    1. Russian Twists with Feet On the Ground (Modification)

    1. Start seated with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding one dumbbell with both hands in front of chest. Keeping the spine long and the abdominals tight, lean back slightly.
    2. Slowly twist the torso to the left and bring the dumbbell beside the left hip. Return to center and then slowly twist to the right and bring the weight beside the right hip to complete one rotation.

    2. Russian Twists with Punches  

    This bodyweight variation adds an element of cardio and engages the lats. 

    1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent. 
    2. Rock back onto your sits bones and lift your feet off of the floor (still in a bent position). 
    3. Continue to keep your core active by drawing the belly button into the spine and place your fists in a “guard” position in front of your face. 
    4. Twist through the spine, rotating through the core and punch with the right hand across the body. 
    5. Rotate to the opposite side, punching across the body with the left hand. 
    6. Continue to rotate using the obliques and punching alternating sides. Keep the lower body still as you rotate and punch with the upper body. 

    3. Medicine Ball Russian Twists

    1. Begin in a seated position with knees bent, feet off the floor and holding medicine ball in front of chest a few inches.
    2. Twist the ball to your left hip bone, keeping body centered.
    3. Twist the ball to your right hip bone, keeping body centered.
    4. This is one repetition. Continue to twist back and forth for desired number of repetitions or length of time.

    Other Exercises Similar To Russian Twists

    If you like this exercise, consider trying other abdominal moves to compliment your core work such as:

    Incorporate Russian Twists Into Your Workouts

    The Russian twist is a great exercise to practice any time on its own. However, you could also incorporate it into other workouts! Here are some ideas to make that happen.

    Beat Menopausal Belly Fat Workout

    There are a lot of factors that can contribute to an increase in abdominal fat during your menopausal years. This workout incorporates a Russian twist and will help you lose belly fat!

    [adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”xhyIrY4G” upload-date=”2020-12-23T21:56:44.000Z” name=”9 Ways To Get Rid of Menopausal Belly Fat” description=”Your 25-Minute core workout that will target your belly by using ab-strengthening movements! ” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]

    Love Handles Workout

    Learn the five toning exercises (that include Russian twist) that specifically target love handles. This video will have you feeling the burn! Combine this workout with the advice above and you’ll watch that belly fat “waist” away.

    [adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”FijVF7oR” upload-date=”2019-05-30T19:40:14.000Z” name=” Lose the Love Handles” description=”Are you frustrated with your love handles? These five exercises will help you get rid of your love handles and get on your way to with a smaller waist.” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]

    No-Equipment Total Body Strength Workout

    A Russian twist can be incorporated into a full-body strength training workout. It is important to strengthen all your muscles from head to toe, including your core.

    This workout strengthens all the muscles in your body and doesn’t need any equipment to get it done! Try each exercise below for 20 repetitions with just a few seconds in between to rest. No equipment is needed!

    20 Basic Squats
    20 Push-Ups
    20 Backward Lunges
    20 Tricep Dips
    20 Side Lunges
    20 Russian Twists

    Repeat x 2 times through the circuit.

    Cross-Training Workout

    The Russian twist is a great move to add to a cross-training workout. Cross-training incorporates strength and cardio for a well-rounded, complete session. 

    Do each exercise below for 1 minute with no break in between moves! Repeat the whole circuit x 3 times through to take it up a notch! 

    Jumping Jacks – 1 minute
    Basic Squat – 12 Reps
    Skiers – 1 minute
    Skaters – 1 minute
    Side Lunges – 12 Reps
    Mountain Climbers – 1 minute
    Push-Ups – 12 Reps
    Lateral Shuffle – 1 minute
    Russian Twist – 12 Reps
    High Knee Run – 1 minute
    Tricep Dips – 12 Reps

    Exercise Form, Fitness

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