Standing Russian Twists – Muscles Worked, Benefits, and Exercise Demo

In this article we will discuss the standing Russian twist, a core/oblique exercise variation that can promote muscle hypertrophy in the obliques and abdominals; but not without some potential drawbacks as well. In an earlier article we discussed the Russian twists, which are performed in a seated or lying position and can help newer lifters stabilize the pelvis and lumbar spine easier than this more progressed standing version.

Therefore, in this article we will discuss the muscles worked, exercise demonstrations, and potential benefits of standing Russian twists.

Muscles Worked

The standing Russian twist is a core exercise that targets the muscles that stabilize the spine. In addition, it can work the shoulders, arms, back, and hips depending on the apparatus and/or loading of the movement. Below is a complete listing of the primary muscles worked in the standing Russian twist, regardless of equipment (medicine ball, dumbbell, plate, etc) used.

  • Obliques
  • Spinal Erectors
  • Abdominals
  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Upper Back

Standing Russian Twists Exercise Demo

Below is an exercise demonstration of the standing Russian twist. Note, this movement can be done with a medicine ball, dumbbell, plate. The key is to use a load that allows complete control of the core and obliques without having the lifter disregard form.

Benefits of Standing Russian Twists

Below are three main benefits of performing standing Russian twists. It is important to note that some coaches may suggest that you do not do these, as they can add increase shearing forces on the lumbar spine. Rather than doing strict Russian twists, some coaches recommend doing rotational twists that also allow the hips/pelvis to rotate in unison as well to minimize strain on the spine.

Anti-Rotational Training

The ability to resist harmful rotation forces on the spine and lumbar disc is necessary for nearly every human being regardless of sport. Most strength, power, and fitness athletes train in the sagittal plane of motion, however that does not mean the rotational training should fall by the wayside. Increased rotational strength will allow for greater core stabilization, oblique muscle mass, and bracing capacities when under serious loads. Additionally, lifters will feel more flexible and in tune with their bodies.

Greater Torso/Core Control and Awareness

Rotational training can help runners, sprinters, CrossFit athletes, Olympic weightlifter, strongman, and powerlifter alike. The ability to withstand spinal flexion/extension in the squat can be assisted by rotational training muscle fibers. Additionally, Olympic weightlifters may find that heavier barbells may start to spin creating a high degree of necessity for core stability and anti-rotational training within a program.

Oblique Muscular Hypertrophy

Increased muscle mass in the torso often leads to better strength lifts and aesthetics due to more detailed midsections. As far as performance enhancing benefits of more muscle in the obliques, the body will be able to generate more tension (force) when bracing due to greater muscle masses and can work to stabilize the spine/pelvis greater under heavier loads.

Save Your Lower Back

Rotational forces on the spine (shearing) are detrimental to spinal health and discs, and can lead to serious injury. While many athletes, members, and coaches still perform movements that promote such movement (which may or may not be an issue, depending on who you talk to), rotational training is a good idea for nearly every athlete. The ability to stabilize the lower back/spine/pelvis under load can help to increase stability and performance.

The above exercise (landmine rotation) is a good movement to teach athletes how to allow proper rotational movement patterning to take place without increasing shearing stress on the spine. Nonetheless, both movements (standing Russian twist and landmine rotations are good exercise to develop such above attributes.

Develop a Stronger Core

Check out these top articled and workouts on core training for strength, power, and fitness athletes.

Featured Image: @maxxim_fit on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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