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January 13, 2022 8 min read

When you are attempting any new exercise, it is important to follow the correct form as you get started. But before we get into all of the awesome benefits that are offered by Russian twists, let’s first take a look at warming up the muscles and joints you are going to be using for this upper body exercise.

Performing a Solid Warm Up Session

It is a good idea to warm up your muscles before you get started with Russian twists as they can be a good way to  train the strength and stability of your core.

They allow for movement patterns that can also affect your thoracic spine and hips. It is necessary to have enough general mobility before you attempt any kinds of new exercises. You never want to start doing any exercises that are beyond the range of motion of the muscles you are trying to train. 

Although Russian twists can seem a little painful at first, putting your body into these types of positions can lead to many benefits when it comes to improving the health of your core and your spine. For example, you will quickly improve your overall body strength and increase the range of motion of all of the muscles you use.

These are especially important factors to think about as you get older.

The Russian twist is an excellent exercise for building your core and shoulders. It is a popular activity among all kinds of athletes because it helps with rotational movement, which tends to happen often in all kinds of sports. Russian twists may look like simple movements, but they actually take a great deal of strength and support. 

Before Attempting Russian Twists 

You will need a series of different stability functions and controlled movements to master these exercises. One of the most important muscle groups in ensuring stability around your lumbar spine is the core. If you have enough core stability, you can really reduce the chance of injuring your spine. At the same time, you can really improve your hip mobility and the overall stability of your body.

Russian twists develop your core strength

The most important stabilization muscles involved in all of these exercises are going to be your obliques, your abdominal muscles, your spinal erector and your transverse abdominis.

If you haven’t heard of those muscles before, don’t worry too much because they are more commonly referred to as simply the core muscles. With a lot of these exercises, you might find the tension in your deep inner-core muscles becoming more intense. 

More About Core Strength Training  

If you are going to be doing a lot of reps, your lower body and your core muscles will be sure to get a lot stronger as you are doing your toning. Although they are pretty simple exercises, Russian twists offer plenty of benefits. One of the biggest of these is core strength training.

Doing these types of exercises regularly, as well as other  ab workouts like cable crunches or movements with kettlebells, medicine balls, or dumbbells, can help you feel younger, make a lot of your daily tasks seem easier and more manageable, and they can really improve your overall health.

Mastering Russian twists and  increasing your strength and mobility might even help relieve any pain that you might have in your lower back.

Always reduce the amount of pain you experience in any workout by staying as hydrated as possible, stretching, and rolling out your body. And never overwork yourself when you are only just starting a new type of exercise. There is no better way to deter beginners than getting a bad injury right away

How To Do a Traditional Russian Twist

The Russian twist was named after one of the exercises developed for Soviet soldiers during the Cold War, but it is still popular today all around the world.

Follow the step-by-step directions below to learn how to do a traditional Russian twist. After you have mastered the basic movement, we’ll show you a few variations and suggest some additional abdominal exercises. 

  1. Sit steadily and lift your feet from the floor while keeping your knees bent. 
  2. Elongate and straighten your spine at a 45-degree angle from the floor, creating a V shape with your torso and thighs. 
  3. Reach your arms straight out in front, interlacing your fingers or clasping your hands together.
  4. Use your abdominals to twist to the right, then back to center, and then to the left. This is 1 repetition. Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions. 

For beginners, some extra tips are to press your feet into the floor or extend them straight out. Always breathe steadily and deeply. Exhale with each twist, and inhale to return to the center.

As you twist, keep your arms parallel to the floor or reach down to the floor. Engage your abdominal and back muscles throughout the exercise. For more stability, cross your lower legs. Keep a straight spine, and never slouch or round your spine.

Variations on the Russian Twist 

Weighted Twist (or Dumbbell Twist)

Hold a dumbbell, weight plate, or medicine ball between both of your hands. Choose a weight that allows you to maintain proper form. Twist the same way as the original variation, keeping the weight at chest level or lowering it to the floor each time. 

Punch Twists 

With this movement, you’ll be doing a punching motion with your fists instead of using a weight. Sit with bent knees and your feet pressing firmly into the floor, holding your hands next to your chest. Lean back slightly, keeping your spine straight. Exhale as you twist to the left, punching your right arm over to the left side. Inhale back to center, and then do the opposite side for one repetition. 

Leg-cross Twists 

As you twist to the right, simply cross your right calf over your left leg. Uncross as you twist back to the center. Then reverse the action as you cross your left calf over your right and twist to the left. 

Decline Twists 

Sit comfortably on a decline bench with your hands clasped together or holding a manageable weight such as a medicine ball. Twist in the same way as you did for the original version of the Russian twist. 

Muscle Groups Worked

Russian twists are full-body exercises because they really work all the parts of your body in various ways.

They mostly offer an effective core workout, and they specifically target the following muscles:

  • Obliques 
  • Rectus abdominis 
  • Transverse abdominis 
  • Scapular muscles 
  • Hip flexors 
  • Erector spinae 
  • Latissimus dorsi 

Safety Considerations

In general, the Russian twist is safe for most people. Be sure to consult a physician or your personal trainer if you think you might have any injuries or health conditions that may affect your performance.

Use caution when you are starting this exercise if you have or develop any pain around your neck, shoulders, or low back. For some people, Russian twists can cause or exacerbate pain in these areas. 

Other Exercises You Can Do

Here are a few other abs workouts that will work all of these same muscles. You can do these exercises in place of, or in addition to, the Russian twist. Some of these options may be more gentle on your lower back or simply feel better for your specific body, so give them a try if Russian twists are not working out for you.

Heel Touches 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor near your hips.
  2. Extend your arms alongside your body. 
  3. Engage your core as you lift your head and upper body slightly. 
  4. Reach your right arm forward toward your toes. 
  5. Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds. 
  6. Return to the starting position. Then do the left side.
  7. Continue all of this for up to a minute. 

Side Plank 

  1. Lie on your left side with your feet stacked or with one foot in front of the other. 
  2. Place your right forearm or hand on the floor in front of you and lift your hips off the ground.
  3. Keep your hips lifted to form a straight line from the feet to the head. 
  4. Hold this position for up to a minute. 
  5. Do each side 2 to 3 times. 

A few variations of this exercise include placing your bottom knee on the floor, lifting your top leg, and lowering your hips to the floor and back up again. 

Bird Dog 

  1. Begin from a tabletop position. 
  2. Engage your core as you extend your left arm and right leg. 
  3. Gaze down toward the floor, keeping your spine and neck in a neutral position. 
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds, keeping your shoulders and hips square. 
  5. Return to the starting position. Then do the opposite side. This is 1 repetition. 
  6. Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions. 

Forearm Plank Twists 

  1. Start from a forearm plank position. 
  2. Rotate and drop your hips over to the right side. 
  3. Gently tap the floor with your hip before returning to the starting position. Then do the left side. This is 1 repetition. 
  4. Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. 

Workout Analysis

Russian twists and the above variations and alternatives are good core exercises to add to your workout routine or to use as a base to build one. For each movement, start slowly in the beginning and allow yourself plenty of time to recover. Observe how your body reacts to each exercise and adjust your actions accordingly, even if it means choosing an easier variation or taking longer breaks.

For optimal results, do your Russian twists in addition to cardio, stretching, and strengthening exercises.

Keep in mind the fact that doing endless ab exercises will not get rid of the fat that hides your abs. Instead of spending many hours a week doing just abdominal exercises, more time should be devoted to weight training of the whole body with multi-joint movements such as squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, or dips. These exercises will help you burn more calories during each workout session and also afterwards due to their stimulating effect on your metabolism. 

In addition, you should never neglect cardio work if your primary goal is fat loss.

The most effective time to do cardio workouts is either in the morning on an empty stomach before you eat breakfast or straight after your weightlifting sessions. In both of these cases, your body is depleted of glycogen so you use fat for energy, which is desirable. 

You can choose any form of cardio but running or using a cross-trainer type of equipment instead of a stationary bike due to the higher calorie expenditure of the first activities. You should also never forget your diet when you are trying to get lean. 

Your diet should be high in protein and moderate to low in carbs and fats.

As with other exercises, be sure to do a proper warm-up to avoid any type of risk of injury. Warming up properly is a vital factor that many athletes sometimes overlook when they are starting a new training routine. It may seem like a waste of time and energy to spend a large portion of your workout simply warming up, but it is well worth the effort when you consider how well it can prevent injuries.

Building Better Abs

High-intensity training intervals (HIIT) can lead to greater fat loss because training this way improves your metabolic hormone levels and your ability to mobilize body fat and burn it for energy. You can lose belly fat faster this way by increasing your oxygen consumption during the recovery period after your workout. This is your body’s way of repairing damaged tissue cells.

Muscle is better than fat for health and it is really associated with longevity.

Muscle is your metabolic engine because it burns three times as many calories as body fat. Too much cardio can reduce your muscle mass, so lifting weights in conjunction with cardio helps keep you strength and still fire up your metabolism.