Russian Twists (Muscles used, with Medicine Ball, and Partner Variations)

In this article we will discuss the Russian twist, a core-strengthening movement that targets the obliques and abdominals. Below, we will discuss the muscles used to perform this rotational movement, some popular movement variations, and the benefits of incorporating this into your workout routine).

Muscles Used in the Russian Twist

The Russian twist is a core exercise that targets the muscles of the torso and spinal stabilizers (core muscles, primarily the obliques). In addition, the Russian twist can help to increase rotational movement of the torso and enhance isometric control of the core. The below muscle groups are specifically targeted when performing the Russian twist (slightly different than the standing Russian twist exercises) either with bodyweight of under load (medicine ball, plate twist, etc).

  • Obliques
  • Abdominals
  • Spinal Erectors
  • Upper Back (scapular stabilizers)

Russian Twist Exercise Demo

Below is an exercise demonstration on how to properly perform the Russian twist, which can be done with bodyweight, a medicine ball, partner, or plate.

Russian Twist with Medicine Ball

The Russian twist can be done with bodyweight in which tempos, ranges of motion, and repetition schemes can be manipulated to increase the difficulty of this moment. It is recommended that coaches and athletes pay attention to excessive flexion on the lumbar spine under fatigue during this movement (as well as most movements). This movement should be done with an emphasis on oblique development and smooth, controlled, movements (with or without speed), which a strong emphasis on not allowing the lifter/athlete to mindlessly perform reps.

Russian Twists with a Partner / Partner Variations

The below video demonstrates how to perform the Russian twist movement with a partner. This is just another variation of the movement that offers another twist to help some athletes use teamwork and support to push themselves harder, stay on a rhythm, or simply to incorporate more team-based training into sessions.

3 Benefits of the Russian Twist

Below are three benefits of the Russian twist, either done with load or no loading.

Rotational Training

Rotational training is key for most athletic sports and development of the core. Movements like the Russian twist can help lifters increase the muscles (obliques) ability to support movement at the spine by countering the rotational forces placed upon it. This is often referred to as anti-rotation training (strengthen the exact ranges of motion/movements that can also be harmful in excess). This can have a great deal of application to strength, power, and fitness athletes as cores stabilization and anti-rotation training can help to assist in the snatch, squat, and deadlift. Increasing your ability to stabilize the spine and torso during loaded movements means greater injury prevention and force outputs.

Isometric Core Strength

When discussing muscle ations, we often think about contraction and lengthening phases (concentric and eccentric). Isometric contractions are key for most strength, power, and fitness movements as well, as they can help us maintain rigidity and tension while in motion. The Russian twist can help us create core isometric strength while adding a dynamic motion into the mix (rotational training) resulting in better core stability and control for things like gymnastics, weightlifting, and endurance training.

Oblique and Lat Movement

To create fluid movement, we need to be sure to address any mobility/flexibility needs, neurological disconnects that may shut down movement, and increase an athlete’s control and force production capacity. The Russian twist, while simplistic in nature, can be done a a variety of tempos and ranges of motion to help athletes establish greater core strength and a sense of movement control applicable to nearly every other sport. Tight obliques, lats, and muscle tension can also have a negative impact on an athlete’s flexibility and/movement patterning during dynamic movements often found within weightlifting, fitness, sports, and life. Once you build strength and movement, you may exhibit better control and range of motion throughout the body and torso (lats, core, etc.).

Core Training for Fitness, Strength, and Power Athletes

Take a look at some of the core training articles below for more athlete-focused core training workout tips.

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