Home Lifestyle The simple core exercise for anyone looking to improve mobility & posture

The simple core exercise for anyone looking to improve mobility & posture

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Photo credit: jacoblund - Getty Images

Photo credit: jacoblund – Getty Images

From Harper’s BAZAAR

The Russian twist is a hardcore exercise that works multiple abdominal muscles in one core-shaking movement.

According to Fitness First’s Head of Fitness Product and personal trainer Tim Andrews, multi-muscle moves that involve rotation – like Russian twists – are a much better way to train the core than traditional sit-ups or crunches.

The benefits of Russian twists

One of the biggest benefits of the Russian twist is that it’s performed in the transverse plane, Andrews explains. That’s PT-speak for moves that involve rotation.

“Chances are that most of an individual’s exercise selections are from the sagittal [front-to-back] or frontal plane [side-to-side] so it’s ultra-important to include this twisting element, especially if you’re introducing as part of an “abs” routine.”

Russian twists also beat straight up and down movements like sit-ups, crunches and reverse curls because they work the obliques – the muscles on the sides of your abdomen.

“Regular work on the Russian twist movement can be great for improving mobility around the spine and benefits your posture. If your sport requires plenty of twisting and quick multi-direction changes, there is no better core exercise.”

What muscles do Russian twists work?

We’ve covered those all-important obliques, but that’s not the only muscle challenged by Russian twists. The exercise also works the rectus abdominis (your ‘six-pack’ muscles), transverse abdominals (deep core), your lower back and hip flexors.

How to do Russian twists

  1. Sit on the floor, with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the ground. Lean yourself back until you feel that you need to brace your abdominals to stop yourself falling backwards, your upper body should be at around 45 degrees to the floor. “At this point, try not to round your shoulders – it’s easily done,” Andrews says.

  2. Once your upper body position is set and the abdominal wall is still braced, lift your feet off the floor. You can leave your knees bent, and at this point, your body will be forming a V-like shape. Ensure you’ve got your balance, link your hands together in front of your chest.

  3. Keeping your legs relatively still, rotate your arms all the way over to one side, return to the centre and then twist to the other side. Continually twist from one side to the other, maintaining a straight spine as best you can.

Should you use weights for Russian twists?

“It really depends on the individual’s ability to maintain good form,” Andrews says. If the addition of weight is dragging you out of alignment from your original set up, then reduce the load.

“Only your torso should be twisting,” Andrews says. “You also have the option for grounding your feet to maintain form.”

Are Russian twists a safe exercise?

Generally speaking, the Russian twist is safe for most people, Andrews says. “But it does put additional pressure on the lumbar spine [lower back], so anyone with injuries in this area should use caution.”

The same applies if you’re pregnant, he adds. “The Russian twist obviously targets the mid-section, so if you’re pregnant, don’t do this exercise without first consulting a medical professional.”

“They are not recommended after the first trimester, although a controlled seated torso twist is a great alternative. Having a strong core will help mums-to-be cope with postural changes throughout pregnancy.”

Russian twist form mistakes

1. You’re slouching or rounding of the spine

No one wants extra pressure on their lower back. “Aim to maintain a straight spine throughout,” Andrews says.

2. Your knees are swinging about

Try to keep your knees as still as possible to really target your core. If you’re struggling, put your feet on the floor to maintain form, Andrews suggests.

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