The Russian twist is a valuable addition to your training routine that can help build a strong core, but are you sure you’re even doing the exercise correctly?
For this movement, you shouldn’t settle for anything other than perfect form—especially because it’s such a killer exercise that can serve as a highlight of your training plan. Let Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and associate fitness editor Brett Williams guide you through the move’s subtleties, saving you from the bad habits that are keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.
Before you grab a weight, hit the floor, and get to twisting, take note that it’s extremely important to pay attention the movement here. Hitting the proper form is essential to make sure you’re getting the most out of the exercise—particularly because of the subtle details that make it really effective. Let’s break down everything you need to know.
Keep Your Torso Long
Eb says: Make sure your back isn’t rounding forward to start the Russian twist. Instead, get as long as you can. Think about raising your entire torso from your waist, then extending your torso long. This will protect your spine from injury while still letting your obliques reap the benefits from the Russian twist.
Eb says: Yes you can do the Russian twist with your feet floated in the air, but start with your feet flat on the ground and master that. Too many people start floating their feet in the air too early on, because they’re told that it levels up the move. Sure it does—if and only if you’re going to battle to keep your legs steady and not let them flit back and forth.
Keeping your feet on the ground offers you more feedback to learn that battling process. So start here, and know that there can be plenty of challenge from this position alone.
Eb says: Whether you’re using a load or not, reach your arms out as far as possible. The longer a lever you create, the more your core will have to work to rotate. And you want your core to work, don’t you?
Creating this long lever will also help you protect your lower back. You’ll instantly have to load less, but you’ll get more benefit from that lighter load. And your core has to brace from the start to manage that longer lever, instead of winding up in a relaxed position.
Eyes On the Prize
Eb says: One of the most common problems with the Russian twist: People do half-hearted rotations. They don’t rotate their shoulders all the way over, instead just moving their hands, and thus completely missing the full benefit of the ab work they could be getting.
To get the most out of the Russian twist, your shoulders must go along with the ride, rotating as far in each direction as possible. Following your hands will help create that rotation. If you look straight ahead, it’s easy to fail to rotate. By following your hands, your upper body will rotate more too.
Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.