The “Russian twist” to commercial gym rats is what having sex with Charlie Sheen is: it may feel good and you may feel cool at the time, but in the long run it may kill you. OK, maybe Russian twists won’t kill you, but they’ll definitely kill your low back, hip flexors, and destroy any core stability you once had.
Let’s talk about core stability. Think of your spine as a bridge, and the surrounding muscles as the wires holding the bridge up. If one of the wires on the bridge loses tension, then the bridge will be at more of a risk of collapsing. Similarly, if the wires are bent in different positions, the bridge will again be compromised.
As you can see in the above picture, with the Russian twist, your low back is in what’s called “flexion” meaning it is rounded (the opposite of arched). In the flexed position, the “wires” are bent in a different position, and thus compromising your spine. Not good. Also, since most of the movement from this type of Russian twist happens at the low back, you are constantly changing tension in the wires of the bridge, which is creating decreased spinal stability.
ENTER THE REVERSE RUSSIAN TWIST:
The reverse Russian twist is credited to trainer Brian Berumen of DC Fitness. I’m not sure where he got it but him performing was the first time I saw it. Here’s the movement:
Notice how his core is straight, hips are bridged up, and all the movement is occurring from the shoulders and upper back, instead of the low back. He is hitting his front abs, obliques, glutes, and hamstrings with this move. In fact, you are getting WAY MORE ACTIVATION OF THE OBLIQUES with this move. When you are able to anchor the core and have parts moving around it, the activation will increase. Said another way, you will get more activation in the core muscles by resisting rotation than by actually producing it.
- Increased low back health
- Increased rotational power
- Increase oblique activation
- Sparing of hip flexors (which will indirectly lead to a tight low back)
- Glute activation
- Better shoulder mobility
Some coaching cues you want to think about during the movement:
- Lift your opposite shoulder up while trying to reach the ground with your hands
- Keep the same distance between your hands on the band
- Keep the same tension on the band
- Squeeze your butt!
- Follow your hands with your eyes and head