So Many Wonderful Ways to Work Your Abs With the Russian Twist
We love the burning sensation in our abs after doing a set of seated Russian twists. This flat-belly move strengthens and tones the obliques, too, for a strong and sleek core. Let us help you learn how to build up your strength to tackle this classic exercise and master the basics, and then you can play around with our favorite variations.
Seated Sidewinder to Prep For Russian Twist
This is the best exercise for building up strength and flexibility to do the seated Russian twist. Since you are seated upright as you twist, this move is less taxing on the abs. It's also a great stretch for the hamstrings, and one of our go-to moves for warming up.
- Begin sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you; lengthen your spine to keep your back straight.
- Pulling your navel in tight, twist from right to left, lightly touching both hands from side to side to complete one rep/rotation.
- Start with 20 rotations per set.
Beginning Seated Russian Twist
As you work on your Russian twist, you can hold your hands in a variety of places: hands clasped at your chest, arms at chest height with palms together, or hands behind your head (which is the most challenging).
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot and a half from your butt.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all.
- Place your hands behind your head with elbows wide.
- Pull your navel to your spine and twist slowly to the right. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating. Inhale through your center and rotate to the left. Come back to center.
- This completes one rep/rotation. Aim to do 12 to 15 reps per set.
Intermediate Seated Russian Twist
Lifting the feet off the ground forces the abs to work more. You will feel this in the lower part of your abs, too.
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Pull your abs to your spine and lean back a few inches while lifting your feet off the floor. Be sure to keep your back straight.
- Reach your arms out in front of you and twist your torso to the right, then to the left, to complete one rep/rotation.
- Start with 12 to 15 reps per set.
Advanced Seated Russian Twist
Adding a weight with the feet off the floor is an advanced version of the Russian twist. The farther you hold the weight from your chest, the more challenging the exercise.
- Holding a dumbbell with both hands, sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your butt.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important, and difficult, to keep your back straight.
- Pull your navel to your spine and twist slowly to the left, bringing the weight to your left side. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center and rotate to the right. This completes one rep.
- Do 10 to 12 full rotations per set to start.
Advanced Variation: Twist With a Punch
- Holding a light- to medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet about a foot and a half from your butt.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine.
- Pull your navel to your spine, exhale, and twist to the left while performing a controlled punch with your right arm. Inhale through center and rotate to the right, punching with the left arm. This completes one full rotation.
- Start with 10 full rotations for one set.
The No-Twisting Russian Twist
In this variation, the abs work to maintain stability as you pull the dumbbell away from your center. It's a great complement to the twisting motion in all the other variations.
- Begin sitting with your heels planted about two feet from your butt, holding the weights at chest level, with a slight bend in your elbows. Lean back a few inches, pulling your abs toward your spine to keep your spine long and straight.
- The left arm remains still as you open your right arm to the side, making sure the weight doesn't go beyond your shoulder.
- Bring your right arm back to center to complete one rep.
- Start with 10 reps with the right arm, and then switch sides for another 10 reps to complete a set.
Standing Russian Twist
Try your twist standing with this variation that's also known as the flashlight. We love it for the intense focus on the abs and obliques. Straighten your arms to increase the difficulty. Once you master the move, try speeding up.
- Stand with your knees slightly soft, holding a dumbbell at chest level.
- Keep your pelvis stable as you rotate your ribcage right and left to complete one rep. Be sure to keep your abs pulled toward your spine as you twist from side to side.
- Start with 20 reps to make a set.