russian twist alternative
Exercise Alternative

11 Russian Twist Alternatives For A Well-Defined Core

In their efforts to sculpt a perfect waist, a lot of people rely on the Russian Twist exercise to target the obliques at the sides of the waist. While this exercise will definitely target the internal and external obliques, it also brings some inherent problems with it.

The lower back is put in a vulnerable position when you do this exercise, and the more weight you use, the more compromised it becomes. That’s why it makes sense to have access to a range of alternative exercises that will work your oblique muscles without potentially damaging your lower back.

In this article, I provide you with 11 Russian Twist alternatives that you can use as the basis of your core workouts.

1. Swiss Ball Side Crunch

Why it’s a great alternative

The side ball crunch is an advanced version of the standard crunch exercise that targets the obliques. The instability of the ball also activates stabilizer muscles around the core.

Muscles worked

Obliques

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Sit on an exercise ball and move forward until your mid back rests on the ball and your shoulders hang off it.
  2. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms so that your fingers are touching your shoulders.
  3. Roll forward onto your left side so tht the ball is positioned against your left ribs.
  4. Contract the right side as you pull your ribs into your hips.
  5. Lower and repeat.
  6. Do the exercise on both sides for 3 sets of 12 reps.

Equipment used 

Swiss Ball

Tips 

Concentrate on contracting the oblique muscles; keep your neck aligned with your spine.

2. Dumbbell Side Bend

Why it’s a great alternative

The dumbbell side bend is a core exercise that targets the obliques as well as the glutes and hamstrings

Muscles worked

Obliques, glutes, hamstrings

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with a dumbbell in your right hand and held at your side. Place the other hand on your hip. Spread your feet a little wider than shoulder level. 
  2. Lean to the right side by bending at the waist and hips to bring the dumbbell down your right leg.
  3. Reverse and repeat.
  4. Work both sides, doing 3 sets of 15 reps.

Equipment used 

Dumbbell

Tips 

Do not move your hips forward or back.

3. 45-Degree Side Bend

Muscles worked

The 45-degree side bend is an advanced oblique exercise that uses your body weight to provide a resistance load to the sides of the waist.

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Adjust a 45-degreeback extension machine so that  the top of the pad is at the level of your hip.
  2. Get on the platform so that your right thigh is on the padding. Place your feet on the platform.
  3. Lower your torso by bending downward at the waist and hips. 
  4. Lift back up, laterally flexing your waist in the opposite direction.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.
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Equipment used 

45-degree back extension machine

Tips 

Do not use momentum to bring your torso up; focus on oblique contraction.

4. Bodyweight Side Crunch

Why it’s a great alternative

The side crunch is an excellent beginner exercise to target the obliques.

Muscles worked

Obliques

Step by step how to

  1. Lie on an exercise mat with your left side on the floor. bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, positioning your top leg over your bottom leg. Bring your knees slightly off the floor.
  2. Put your hands across your chest, and position your upper back so that it rests on the floor.
  3. Pull upward, contracting your obliques so that your rib cage moves toward your ribs.
  4. Lower and repeat. Do 3 sets of 15 rep.

Equipment

None

Tips 

Do not twist as you come up; focus on crunching up; don’t come up too high – 30 degrees of flexion is ideal.

5. Kneeling Side Plank

Why it’s a great alternative

The kneeling side plank is a beneficial exercise for the obliques and the glutes. It is also a good move to improve lateral spinal stability.

Muscles worked

Obliques, glutes, spinal erectors

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Lie on an exercise mat with your right side down. Place your right forearm on the mat, positioning your elbow under your shoulder.
  2. Bend your knees to a right angle, placing your upper leg directly on top of your lower leg.
  3. Lift your torso upward, straightening your spine so that your hips are aligned with your torso. Contract your abs.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Lower and repeat.
  6. Do 3 set of 15 reps.

Equipment used 

None

Tips 

Do not lean back; keep your body in a straight line.

6. Kneeling Pelvic Tilt

Why it’s a great alternative

The kneeling pelvic tilt is a fantastic exercise to strengthen and tighten the pelvic girdle muscles around the base of the core. 

Muscles worked

Deep abdominal muscles, hip flexors

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Get down on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders  and knees under your hips. 
  2. Inhale to fill your belly with air. 
  3. Exhale forcefully, pulling your abs in tight to draw the belly button towards the spine. 
  4. In one fluid motion, reverse the curve in the lower sine and tilt your hips under. 
  5. Release and repeat.

Equipment used 

None

Tips 

Keep your back in a neutral position and your core tight. Follow a fluid movement pattern.

7. Band Anti Rotation Hold 

Why it’s a great alternative

As well as strengthening the glutes and obliques, the band anti-rotation hold builds core stability.

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Muscles worked

Obliques, glutes

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Attach a resistance band to a secure upright at shoulder level. 
  2. Take hold the the end of the band with both hands in an overhand grip and step out to cerate tension on the band. Stand side on to the upright with feet shoulder width apart. 
  3. With arms slightly bent, pull the band directly out with palms down until the band is in line with your chest.
  4. Hold the contracted position for a 5 second count.
  5. Do 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Equipment used 

Resistance exercise band

Tips 

Maintain straight arms throughout the exercise movement; stay in an athletic stance; the only movement should be with the arms; contract your obliques.

8. Rope Horizontal Chop

Why it’s a great alternative

The rope horizontal chop is a very effective rotary movement for the entire body. It will make you a more functionally efficient person. 

Muscles worked

Obliques, erector spinae. glutes

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Attach a rope handle attachment to a cable machine that is set at hip level.
  2. Grab the handle with both hands on each end of the rope and stand side on to the machine.
  3. Extend your arms out toward the pulley. Step away from the pulley to create tension on the cable, and drop into an athletic stance.
  4. Pull the rope across your body with the arm closest to the pulley while rotating your hips.
  5. Rotate back to the starting position, and repeat on both sides for 3 sets of 15 reps.

Equipment used 

Cable machine, rope handle

Tips 

Maintain a solid athletic stance; rotation should be mainly through the hips; do not use too heavy a weight – focus on good form.

9. Rope Half Kneeling Horizontal Chop

Why it’s a great alternative

The rope half-kneeling horizontal chop is an advanced whole-body rotation movement that will directly target your core muscles and improving abdominal strength.

Muscles worked

Obliques, glutes, spinal erectors

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Attach a rope attachment to a low pulley. Get into a half kneeling position with your right knee down facing away from the machine. Grab the rope one each end in both hands, extending your right arms directly behind you while crossing your left arm over your abdomen.
  2. From this start position,  pull the rope straight out in front of your upper body with your right arm until it fully extends. At the same time, rotate your torso to face forward, moving your left arm back by your left oblique.
  3. Return to the starting position in a controlled fashion, and repeat for reps on both sides. 

Equipment used 

Cable pulley machine, rope attachment

10. Exercise Ball Jackknife

Why it’s a great alternative

The exercise ball jackknife works the entire abdominal area, with emphasis on the transverse abdominus, the deep ab muscle.

Muscles worked

Transverse abdominus

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Starting from a facedown position on the exercise ball, walk your hands forward until your wrists are under your shoulders and your shins are resting on top of the ball, legs and feet together. .
  2. Tighten your bad and bend both knees in toward the chest, pulling the ball under as you lift your hips.
  3. Straighten your legs to roll the ball back to the start position.
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Equipment used 

Exercise Ball

Tips 

In the start position, your body should form a straight line. 

11. Cable Torso Rotation

Why it’s a great alternative

The cable torso rotation is another excellent core rotation exercise that will improve your core strength and power and strengthen your waist muscles. 

Muscles worked

Obliques, intercostals

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Set the pulley of a cable machine at mid torso level.
  2. Grab the handle with both hands in a clasped grip and stand side on to the machine.
  3. Step out thee feet from the machine. 
  4. Straighten your arms out in front of your chest.
  5. Rotate at the hips to bring your hands all the way across away from the machine so they are in line with your torso laterally.
  6. Return and repeat.
  7. Do 3 sets of 20 reps on each side. 

Equipment used 

Cable pulley machine

Tips

Maintain a strong athletic stance; keep an arched lower back position. You should move through 90 degrees of rotation on each rep. 

Final Thoughts

The Russian Twist has some value in terms of strengthening your oblique and intercostal muscles. However, it will also produce excessive spinal compression which may lead to ongoing lower back problems.

In this article, I have laid out 11 alternatives that are effective exercises to target the sides of your waist without producing lower back issues.

To construct your core workout exercise regime, choose three exercises from the list and combine them into an 8 set workout, with reps ranging between 15 and 30 reps. For best results, work your core once every 5 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Russian twists a bad exercise?

Yes, the Russian Twist is a bad exercise in that it puts the lower back in a compromised position. This is a result of the ‘V’ position that the body is in while you twist from side to wide with a weight in your hand. This places excess stress on the lumbar spine. 

What muscles does Russian twist work?

This exercise works the internal and external obliques of the upper body.

Do Russian twists burn belly fat?

No, this exercise will not burn belly fat. It is not possible to spot reduce body fat. That means that you cannot do any exercise for a part of your body and expect it to help you lose fat from that area. The only way to lose fat is to create a caloric deficit where your body is burning off more calories than you are taking in. Do this through a combination of diet and cardiovascular exercise. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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