Lazy may be one way to describe Russian twists, but it’s more likely that most people who take on the exercise are doing it the wrong way. Given that high barrier to good oblique training, this move is overrated—and even worse, a potential injury waiting to happen. So stop doing them. Like, immediately.
If you’re looking for a twisting motion to add into you oblique training, there are plenty of more effective and safer options than the Russian twist, says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., and Men’s Health Advisory Board member David Otey.
People often perform the Russian twist toward the end of a workout, when fatigue sets in and breathing becomes heavy and erratic. Add in a less-than-optimal spinal posture while holding a weight, and you’re putting yourself in a bad spot.
All this can lead to all sorts of mechanical breakdowns. As the intent of the twist is to rotate your shoulders from side to side while keeping the hips stationary in order to keep the focus on the obliques, a lot of times sloppy technique leads to our hands do all the twisting, removing the focus on the abs and completely defeating the purpose of the exercise.
Worse-case scenario, putting your spine in this compromised position with a heavy load can lead to long-term spinal issues in the not-so-distant future.
“That’s when you get sloppy—that’s when you invite injury,” Samuel says. “And that’s where we get away from the Russian Twist, and we attack a couple of other moves they can still hit those same notes in terms of functionality — and they’re going to carve your abs even better.
3 Oblique Training Abs Exercises
Here, Samuel and Otey offer up these these alternatives instead
Hollow Rock/Hold with Uneven Load
Because you’re holding a kettlebell with only one arm, your body is going to want to twist and compensate for that, which makes this anti-rotational move a great oblique burner.
“Your first obligation is to own the hollow hold,” Samuel says. “And because of that your spine is never going to want to be in a bad place.”
This functional move forces you to hold the position with a nice static spinal position, keeping your on focus on the position, but while rotating with a weight around the body, which makes it a better alternative to Russian twists.
“I like chops especially because you can really be aware of your glutes, get your abs involved and you really get to focus on keeping your hips and shoulders square in a way that it becomes rotational and anti-rotational,” Otey says.
Hanging Knee to Elbow
What makes this move exceptional, according to Samuel, is that you’re getting solid and safe spinal flexion by working in a horizontal position. And since twisting is the objective, the only way to successfully complete this elbow to knee maneuver is by (you guessed it) twisting.
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