The Russian twist is a simple and effective exercise to tone the core
The Russian twist is a simple and effective exercise to tone the core

The Russian twist is a simple and effective exercise to tone the core, shoulders, and hips. It’s an ideal exercise for those trying to burn fat and strengthen their midsection and get rid of love handles. It is also great for athletes because it helps with twisting movements and quickly changing direction during sports. This exercise is easy to master and does not require equipment or much space.

The Russian twist is generally safe for most people and easy to perform. You may consult with a doctor or professional trainer if you have any lower back injuries or health conditions that may be affected while performing the exercise. Avoid the exercise if you have pain or discomfort while performing it. Pregnant women should not do this exercise without consulting a doctor because it exercises the midsection.

There are also various modifications to the traditional Russian twist to make the exercise more challenging. Russian twists should be performed with other abdominal exercises and cardio; also, a healthy diet plan should be followed to see results in the midsection.

What muscles do the Russian twists target?

Russian twists target the following muscles in the core, shoulders, and hips:

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

How to perform a traditional Russian twist?

The steps to do a traditional Russian twist are as follows:

  • Sit on a yoga mat and press your feet on the floor, extend them straight out, or cross your lower legs while keeping your knees bent. Beginners may start with their feet on the floor as you get a feel of the movement.
  • Your spine should be straightened and elongated at a 45-degree angle from the floor, creating a V shape between your torso and thighs.
  • Keep your arms straight out or clasp your hands together in front of you.
  • Engage or tighten your abdominal and back muscles throughout the exercise.
  • Use your abdominal muscles to twist to the right, then back to the center, and then to the left. Exhale while twisting and inhale while coming back to the center.
  • You may do two to three sets of 25 repetitions. You may start with a lower number of repetitions if you are a beginner or go over 25 repetitions if you can.


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Variations to the traditional Russian twist

The variations are:

Weighted twist:

You can add weights (dumbbell, medicine ball, or weight plate) while doing Russian twists. You can also use any household objects that weigh 5 pounds or over instead of weights. Hold the weight with both hands in front of you. This will increase resistance and help achieve results faster. You can start with a weight that you are comfortable with and helps you maintain your form; slouching will make the exercise less effective. If you don’t have a weight, grab a compact household object that weighs at least 5 pounds. Choose a weight that allows you to maintain the proper form or posture.

Leg-cross twists:

Cross your right calf over the left as you twist to the right and uncross as you twist back to the center. Repeat the same on the opposite side.

Punch twists:

You can do a punching motion with your fists instead of using a weight.

Decline twists:

Sit on a decline bench with your hands together or holding a weight and twist in the same way as a traditional Russian twist.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/17/2021
American Council on Exercise. Russian Twist.

The State of Queensland (Department of Health). Russian Twist.