How to Do the Perfect Russian Twist Exercise to Really Fire Up Your Core

“Any time you get challenged in a direction that isn’t just forward or backward—like you get knocked off balance or pushed against something, or are just carrying something on one side—you have a better chance of successfully navigating that force if you have strong core stabilizing muscles,” Miklaus says.

Are Russian twists bad for you?

If performed correctly, Russian twists can be a safe addition to your core routine, but there are some safety considerations you should keep in mind first. Mainly, you need to make sure your form is on point throughout the exercise. To do so, first you want to make sure you are keeping a neutral spine, Miklaus says.

“A lot of people tend to round forward at their shoulders, or round their upper backs—they sort of collapse and crouch down,” he says. “You want to stay tall throughout the move, with your neck long and shoulders back, which will help you keep your back flat.”

Another safety issue with the Russian twist has to do with over-rotation. When the move is done effectively, the rotation should come only from your thoracic spine, or from your ribcage and up, says Miklaus. But some people end up creating rotation lower down in their lumbar spine when performing the move, which does not have as much natural rotational ability as the T-spine, he says. This is what can lead to overstressing your lower back.

“You want to make sure you’re not rotating too much, and that the rotation you are doing is coming from north of your belly button,” Miklaus says.

Are Russian twists good for beginners?

Because of the great importance on proper form with this exercise, the Russian twist is a more advanced core exercise. If you’re a beginner just starting out, you may want to focus more on more beginner-friendly core exercises first, Miklaus says. For instance, this beginner core strength workout will teach you how to fire up your abs, which is an important step to master before you start more dynamic core moves. Russian twist alternative exercises for beginners include moves like planks, bird-dogs, and dead bugs.

How can you make the Russian twist exercise easier?

After you’ve mastered the traditional anti-movement core moves, you can progress to some rotational crunches or twist crunches, Miklaus says. Then you may be ready for some Russian twist modifications. First, start with just your bodyweight. You can add external resistance when you become more familiar with the move.

When you’re first getting started, you may want to keep your feet on the ground rather than elevated, Miklaus says. You can also start by performing all the twists on one side. Then once you get more comfortable with the move, you can rotate from side to side.

If you want to make the Russian twist more challenging? You can always add weight to the move, like with a dumbbell or medicine ball. Bringing your feet off the ground and keeping your arms longer (rather than tucked in at your side or clasped at your chest) can increase the difficulty too, he says.

How to do the Russian twist exercise:

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  • Sit with your knees bent out in front of you, feet flexed, and heels on the floor.
  • Hold your hands in front of your chest and lean your torso back until you feel your abdominal muscles engage.
  • Slowly twist your torso from right to left. Remember to keep your core tight (and breathe!) throughout.

To make this easier, rotate from center to one side, then back to center, and continue. Repeat on the other side when your reps are done. To make this harder you can raise your feet off the ground, keep your arms straight, or hold a weight.