Russian twists are one of the best ways to work your obliques, the muscles that help rotate your torso. The obliques are often neglected by bodybuilders seeking a tapered torso, women who want a smaller waist and fitness fanatics obsessed with the "8-pack."
However, without strong obliques, all the support of the core falls to the abdomen and lower back. Use Russian twists to give your waist a strong and healthy shape.
Main Muscles: Abs and Obliques
There are two sets of obliques, internal and external. The internal obliques originate on the lower ribs and insert on the pubic bone. The external obliques are a layer of muscle over the internal obliques, which also originate on the lower ribs but insert on the hip bones.
The obliques are connected to the abdominal muscles, so any type of ab exercise that includes a rotational movement will strengthen the obliques. The best movements that focus on the obliques include Russian twists.
How to Do a Russian Twist
- Begin seated and lean back slightly. If your abs are strong enough, lift your feet a few inches off the floor. Either hold your hands in a fist at the center of your chest or extend your arms out in front of you.
- Keeping your core engaged, twist your upper body to the right without lowering your feet or arching your back.
- Hold for a second before twisting back the other way.
- Continue alternating sides without compromising your form.
As you perform this exercise, don't bend your spine and keep your core strong and stable.
Variations on Russian Twists
It's important to keep the lumbar and cervical spine sections neutral, or straight, during the twist.
People who have weak lower backs should start by performing Russian twists while sitting on a chair or bench, keeping the hands gripped on the sides of the chair. This aids in keeping the back straight.
Advanced exercisers can make Russian twists more difficult by holding a weight in both hands or keeping the arms straight out in front during the twist.
Reps and Sets
Perform Russian twists as you would other resistance exercises. For example, perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, or 1 set to failure. Russian twists make up a superset with lower-back movements such as bridges and hyperextensions, or a giant set by adding a rectus abdominis movement such as a crunch to the superset.