What is a Russian twist exercise?

Before we talk about how to do Russian twists, their benefits, and variations, it is important to first understand the basics like what is a Russian twist exercise?

For those wondering what are Russian twists, they are abdominal exercises that target your hips, core, and shoulders. This exercise is performed in a twisting motion and has several challenging variations. 

Though it may look like a simple exercise, Russian twists need a lot of strength and focus. 

Russian twists get their name from exercises developed during the Cold War for the Soviet soldiers. It was used as a training exercise for the soldiers that gradually gained popularity around the world for its tremendous benefits. 

How to do Russian twists?

Now that you know what are Russian twists, it’s time to learn the steps and include this exercise in your workout at home or the gym.

These are the steps of Russian twist for beginners: 

  1. Sit on the floor in a comfortable position with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Lean back gently to make an angle of 45-degrees to the floor.
  3. Remember to keep your back straight during this and all other movements during the Russian twist exercise.
  4. Interlace your fingers and in front of your chest and raise your legs off the floor. Do this while engaging your core.
  5. Rotate your arms to one side. 
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps of the Russian twist workout. 

Which are some variations of the Russian twist exercise?

Once you have mastered the Russian twist for beginners, you can try some of its variations. Some of these variations include equipment such as weights and gym balls.

  1. Weighted Russian twist: This is the most popular progression to a beginner Russian twist and involves the use of weights. You can use a dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, or a weight plate for this exercise. This is a seated Russian twist where you grab a single weight with both hands and twist your core from side to side. This challenges your core more than the traditional form of this exercise.

  1. Leg cross Russian twist: This is a seated Russian twist that targets your core and hip muscles more. To do this exercise, get into the starting position bending your back at an angle of 45-degrees. As you twist to the left, cross your left calf over the right one. Uncross and repeat on the other side.

  1. Standing Russian twist: Standing Russian twist helps you get toned abdominal muscles and a stronger core. For this, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your lower body stable, twist your torso from the right to the left. Continue this movement for the set number of reps. This Russian twist variation can be done with or without a weight.

  1. Punch Russian twist: This is a good variation to the beginner Russian twist and involves a punching motion instead of using a weight. In this, each twisting motion is accompanied by a punching motion. 

  1. Lower body Russian twist: This variation, as the name suggests, focuses on your obliques and lower abdominal muscles. For this exercise, lie on your back keeping your arms flat on the ground. Stack your legs straight against a wall. Form a T-shape with your body. To begin, twist your legs to one side till your feet get close to the floor. Remember not to touch the floor with your feet. Repeat on the other side. 

What are the benefits of Russian twists?

Russian twist benefits extend much beyond your core and shoulders. Here’s a roundup of some great reasons to include this exercise in your workout regime:

  • Being a great weight loss exercise, Russian twists help reduce belly fat, which is often the root cause of several serious health issues. By losing this weight, you can prevent the risk of heart problems, diabetes, kidney issues, etc. 

  • One of the best benefits of Russian twists is that they involve anti-rotational training for the spine. This not just helps in making your daily movements easier but also improves the performance of people who play tennis, baseball, hockey, and golf. 

  • Your core forms the base of every movement that you make. By stretching and strengthening muscles such as rectus abdominis and internal and external obliques Russian twist makes your core stronger and more flexible.

  • One of the most important Russian twist benefits is that it strengthens your lower back and reduces pain and stiffness. This is especially beneficial for people who lead a sedentary life.

  • Russian twist exercise helps in preventing a slouchy posture and related problems like a hunched back and pain. 

  • One of the best benefits of Russian twist is that it needs zero equipment and minimal set-up. This exercise is simple to learn and can be practically done anywhere.

  • For beginners, the Russian twist is a simple exercise and has several modifiable versions to suit individual exercise experience, age, and general health.

How to do Russian twist safely?

Just like any other exercise, in Russian twist form is critical not just for getting the benefits of this exercise but also to prevent injuries. Here are some things to keep in mind while doing Russian twists:

  • Learn the proper exercise technique from an experienced trainer. Failure to do so may result in injuries. 
  • If you are using weights during your Russian twist workout, never start with weights that are more than your capacity. Start slow and build your practice gradually.
  • If at any time during exercise you feel pain or discomfort, stop immediately. 
  • To keep the correct Russian twist form, ensure that your back is not rounding forward. Instead, it should be stretched as much as you can.
  • Always rotate your shoulders all the way to get the full benefits of this exercise.


The Russian twist is such a beneficial exercise that it can become the highlight of anyone’s workout routine. However, the key is to keep challenging yourself by trying out different variations of this exercise. Also, be consistent with your practice for that fit and strong body. 


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