A Russian twist is an abdominal exercise that builds explosiveness in the core muscles and helps develop the abdominal muscles. The exercise involves balancing one's buttocks on the floor while twisting the upper body to the left and right. Along with ab exercises such as sit-ups and crunches, Russian twists are vital to achieving a flat stomach or "six pack." They also are beneficial to athletes who participate in sports that require explosive upper body movement, such as baseball, boxing, golf and hockey.
To perform a Russian twist, the athlete should first lie on his or her back. The athlete should then bend the knees into the starting position of a standard sit-up — the knees should be at about a 90 degree angle and the thighs and shins should both be about 45 degrees from the floor. The athlete then raises his or her torso off the floor until it, too, is roughly at a 45-degree angle. The arms should be straight out in front of the athlete, with the hands placed just above the knees without touching them.
From this position the athlete begins the Russian twist by turning the upper torso so that the arms move to either the right or the left. Once he or she has twisted as far as possible in one direction, the athlete should return the arms to the starting position before twisting in the opposite direction. The slower the motion of the twist is, the more intensely the Russian twist will work the abdominal muscles.
There are several variations of the Russian twist. Instead of extending the arms straight, an athlete can clasp the hands together or bend the arms and hold the hands in "prayer" position. Also, it is possible to perform a standing Russian twist by holding a weighted barbell on the shoulders during the twist. There also is the stability ball Russian twist, which entails performing a standard Russian twist while resting the upper torso on a stability ball. It also is possible to add intensity to the standard Russian twist simply by holding weights in the hands while performing the exercise.
Regardless of which variation an athlete chooses, it is important to maintain control and proper form throughout the exercise. While twisting, the back should always remain straight, and there should be no curve to the shoulders. Also, the legs might lift slightly during the exercise, but it is important to keep them bent at a consistent angle, because this helps isolate the abdominal muscles. The head should remain in line with the shoulders at all times.