Seated Russian Twist

Seated Russian Twist

If you’re after a statuesque chiseled look in your obliques, listen up.

The seated russian twist, or SRT targets the internal and external obliques while simultaneously engaging the entire core.

An advanced abdominal exercise, the SRT should not be performed until you have acquired the advanced abdominal strength required to properly stabilize the spine throughout the movement. 

When beginner-level core trainers attempt a difficult move such as this, their bodies cannot avoid “cheating” by allowing their neck and back to carry the brunt of the load. This leads to severe damage to the spine and degeneration over time. 

It is recommended to start with simpler ab moves and progress as you gain ab strength. Only perform as many reps as you can while maintaining proper form. 

History

No one is quite sure where and when supine ab exercise originated, but we do know that the sit-up was the premiere move and predates the dawn of the 20th century. The classic crunch and its many modern iterations came later as modifications. 

While we don’t know where exactly it came from, we can tell you about its subsequent demise. These days, very few fitness trainers are recommending supine ab work due to new scientific research showing its harmful effects.

Dr. Stuart McGill, working with the United States National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, performed tests on the spine during the sit-up. These tests show how it damages the spine over time. 

As a result, The U.S. Armed Forces no longer performs sit-up drills, and does not use them in their basic fitness testing. 

Fitness experts have also recommended against performing the Russian twist due to similar issues. Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training strength coach, Mike Robertson, says it puts a large amount of stress on the spine. 

Robertson elaborated, explaining that any time we lean back without adequate upper body support, it puts our lumbar spine at risk. Furthermore, he mentions that adding a weighted, twisting maneuver to this exercise only increases the level of damage it can cause. 

How to Perform a Seated Russian Twist

*If you have back or neck problems, do not perform this exercise.

*Do not complete the recommended reps in your set if you cannot maintain proper form.

* This exercise is typically performed with weight plates, though any type of weight will work. 

Step 1: Select a plate of your desired weight, starting a bit lighter.

Step 2: Lie on your back on a mat or other smooth surface and extend your legs.

Step 3: Raise your upper body off the floor in a slightly lower than upright position. Grip your weight in both hands in front of your naval. 

Step 4: Cross your legs at the ankles and keep a slight bend through the knees, raising them off the floor as you engage your abdominals.  

Step 5: Twisting your midsection back and forth to the right and left side, perform the motion in a slow and controlled manner. Do not allow your neck or back to participate in the effort.

Step 6: Repeat until your desired number of repetitions has been achieved or you can no longer correctly perform the move. 

Benefits

  • Utilizes cross-lateral movement
  • Enhances midsection aesthetic
  • Activates both sides of the brain
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Tones, shapes, and strengthens the obliques
  • Builds core strength and stability
  • Increases flexibility and agility

Variations

  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Cross-Body Crunch
  • Oblique Twist
  • Standing Russian Twist
  • Oblique crunch
  • Side Plank

Do the Twist with Proper Form

While McGill effectively shut down the majority of supine ab exercises, he did leave a safe alternative in their place. Along with recommending planks as safe and effective, he developed a modified crunch. 

The McGill Curl-Up, or McGill Crunch, keeps one leg flat on the floor and plants the hands under the lower spine in an effort to stabilize it throughout the crunching process.

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