With such an exotic name, you'd think the Russian twist exercise would be complicated to perform. On the contrary, it's a simple exercise that does not require equipment and can be done anywhere you can grab some floor space.
It's also a highly adaptable, making it suitable for both beginners and more advanced exercisers. There are several ways to do a Russian twist, and each variation targets a different muscle group.
Seated Russian Twist
This version is performed seated on the floor or an exercise mat, and it targets the abdominals, obliques and lower back.
- Lie down on the floor or a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
- Tuck your feet under a heavy object or have a workout partner hold them down.
- Lift your upper body off the ground so that your torso and thighs for a V-shape.
- Extend your arms in front of you parallel to the ground. Bring your palms together.
- Keep your abs contracted and twist your torso to the right, bringing your arms out to the right as well.
- Rotate back through center, then twist to the left.
Breathing technique is important. Exhale as you rotate to the side and inhale as you come back to center.
Once you can easily do 10 to 20 repetitions (one repetition is twisting to both sides), you're ready to advance to the next level by adding some weight. You can use any weighted object — dumbbell, weight plate, kettlebell, medicine ball or even a jug of water.
Hold it out in front of you with your arms straight and move your arms with the weight, just as you did in the beginner exercise. Keep your abs contracted, and don't let your back round.
For another advanced variety of the basic Russian twist, elevate your legs. Bend your knees so that your calves are parallel to the floor. Do this version with or without added weight.
Lying Russian Twist
This variation focuses more of the work on the abs and obliques and takes some of the work out of the lower back.
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat.
- Raise your legs up so that your thighs form a 90-degree angle with your torso. Your knees can be slightly bent.
- Extend your arms out to either side of you, palms facing down.
- Contract your abs and rotate through your torso, bringing your legs down and to the right. Use control — don't just let your legs fall to the floor.
- Stop when your legs are hover above the floor, or when you are no longer able to keep both shoulder blades on the mat.
- Using your abdominal strength, raise your legs back up to center, then repeat on the other side.
Stability Ball Russian Twist
Using a stability ball to perform any exercise makes it more difficult because it provides an unstable surface. This version also activates your glutes and thighs.
- Arrange yourself on a stability ball so that the ball is underneath your upper back, your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Lift your hips so that your body is in one plane from your shoulders to your knees.
- Extend your arms above your chest, palms pressed together.
- Twist through your torso, rolling on the ball onto your right shoulder so your arms come parallel to the floor on your right side. Don't let your hips drop as you rotate.
- Come back through center and rotate to the other side.