If you’re tired of the usual core exercises like planks and sit-ups, the Russian twist provides a refreshing change.

The Russian Twist is a core-strengthening exercise that primarily targets the muscles in the abdominal area.

See? It targets the same muscles but offers a variety of versions to keep things interesting and challenge your progress!

Here’s a simple guide to get you started.

You might also read: How to tune in to your body? What can happen if you neglect it?

What is the Benefit of the Russian Twist?

When done with proper form, Russian twists effectively engage:

  1. Mid-back muscles (erector spinae)
  2. Hip flexors
  3. Side-back muscles (latissimus dorsi)
  4. Side-front muscles (obliques)
  5. Core muscles (rectus abdominis)
  6. Shoulder (scapular) muscles
  7. Deep core muscles (transverse abdominis)

While many discussions highlight the core benefits, having a strong core isn’t just for exercise enthusiasts; it’s crucial for everyday life.

In addition to enhancing rotational and isometric core strength, Russian twists promote natural good posture. This is especially valuable in a time when more people lead sedentary lifestyles, helping to counteract some of the associated issues.

Moreover, you don’t need any gym equipment to perform this exercise. It’s accessible to everyone, regardless of budget or workout setting. Even if you decide to add weights, you can easily substitute a household item like a medicine ball. This makes Russian twists a convenient and versatile addition to your existing workout routine.

Shot of a young man doing russian twists with a weighted ball and the help of a trainer in a gym.

How to Perform the Russian Twist Safely and Effectively

Executing the standard Russian twist requires precision and concentration to ensure safety. Follow these steps at a measured pace, focusing on proper form:

  1. Start by sitting on the floor, using a mat for added comfort.
  2. Extend your legs in front of you, heels on the floor, and knees bent.
  3. Lean back, lifting your feet off the ground to create a V-shape with your thighs and torso.
  4. Stabilise by engaging your glutes.
  5. Clasp your hands together and extend your arms in front of you.
  6. Move gradually, fully rotating your arms and torso to the left, holding briefly, then repeating to the right.
  7. Return to the starting position (step 5).
  8. Repeat for 2–3 sets of 8–16 reps.

How Do You Master Russian Twist?

Despite its apparent simplicity, the Russian twist involves potential pitfalls that could compromise its effectiveness or lead to injury. Here’s how to navigate them:

  1. Execute each movement slowly and steadily, engaging your obliques, upper back, and shoulders to ensure all muscles are properly activated.
  2. Keep your glutes and core engaged throughout to stabilise your position and protect your lower back from strain.
  3. Pay attention to your breathing—exhale during the twist and inhale as you return to the starting position.
  4. Fully extend your arms and maintain your gaze on your hands to naturally adopt the correct form.
  5. Ensure your spine remains straight; avoid slouching or rounding it.
  6. Cross your lower legs over each other to make it easier to keep them lifted for an extended period.
Fit young white man training at home. Handsome hispanic male athlete working out for wellbeing in domestic gym, training abdomen with Russian twist exercise

What Are the Variations of Russian Twist?

Many individuals move on to Russian twists after mastering basic abdominal exercises like sit-ups and planks. However, once you’ve become adept at the standard twist, you might be wondering what’s next. Here are some variations to add variety to your routine:

  1. Kneeling Russian Twists: If the regular move feels taxing on your back or hips, try this kneeling version to gradually build up to the original. It still effectively targets your glutes and core, albeit with a slightly reduced range of motion:
    • Begin by kneeling on the floor or a mat.
    • Carefully lean backwards until you feel stable, reaching about a 60-degree angle.
    • Exhale as you twist to your left, holding for a moment.
    • Inhale as you return to the centre, then repeat the twist to the right.
  2. Weighted Russian Twists: Incorporating a weight, medicine ball, or a compact item adds resistance and challenges your muscles. Follow these steps for a controlled movement:
    • Start in the standard seated position, heels together and touching the ground.
    • Engage your glutes and core, forming a V-shape with your torso and thighs against the floor.
    • Hold your weight with both hands, extended at chest height in front of you.
    • Rotate your torso steadily to the left until the weight taps the ground.
    • Return to the centre and fully rotate to the right before repeating.
  3. Cross-Leg Russian Twists: Adding a twist to the traditional move, crossing one leg over the other enhances stability and complexity:
    • Begin the Russian twist as usual, with your left calf crossed over your right.
    • Twist to the left, hold briefly, and then return to the centre.
    • Without lowering your feet, cross your right calf over your left.
    • Twist to the right, hold, return to the centre, and repeat.
  4. Punching Russian Twists: A dynamic twist on weighted variations, pay attention to the coordination between your upper and lower body with this exercise:
    • Begin the Russian twist as usual, but keep your hands against your chest.
    • When it’s time to twist, exhale and punch your right arm over to the left.
    • Inhale as you return to the starting position.
    • Twist to the right, punching your left arm to your right side as you exhale.
    • Inhale, return to the centre and repeat.
  5. Decline Bench Russian Twists: Utilising a decline bench, this variation reduces strain on your lower back and incorporates common gym equipment:
    • Sit on the bench with your feet tucked beneath its rests and knees against the upward-facing V pads.
    • Keep your torso straight, forming a right angle with your thighs.
    • Pull your hands into your chest.
    • Exhale as you steadily twist to the right, then inhale as you return to the centre.
    • Repeat to the left and complete a full set.
  6. Heel Touches: Targeting similar muscle areas as Russian twists, this exercise is gentler on your back:
    • Start lying on your back with knees bent and feet near your hips.
    • Stretch your arms down beside your body.
    • Lift your head and upper body off the floor, engaging your core.
    • Lift your right arm and reach it across your body towards your left foot.
    • Hold for a couple of beats before lowering back to the start position.
    • Repeat with your left arm, reaching over to your right foot.
  7. Bird Dog: Incorporate a bit of yoga with Bird Dog, focusing on controlled movements for building core strength:
    • Start on your hands and knees in the tabletop pose.
    • Lift your left arm and right leg, extending both outward while engaging your core.
    • Hold for a few beats, ensuring your spine and neck are aligned.
    • Lower your arm and leg steadily to the starting position without dropping them.
    • Repeat with your right arm and left leg.
High angle side view of determined adult bearded male in sportswear doing crunches while training abdominal muscles during intense workout in gym

How Can I Add Russian Twists into My Fitness Routine?

Integrating Russian twists into your workout requires a decent level of core strength to maintain the initial V-shape position. Beginners may find it beneficial to focus on building this strength before fully committing to this intermediate-level exercise.

If you’re incorporating twists into a regular workout, doing so two or three times a week is a good starting point. However, if your activities regularly involve rotational strength, aim for four times a week.

Key Point

Russian twists offer various options for a moderate advancement from core exercises like planks. Take it slow, especially if you’re new to this type of workout, and consider trying different variations to adjust the difficulty level to your preference.