The seated twist, which is also commonly referred to as the Russian twist, is effective for building strength in your core muscles. The exercise involves sitting on the floor in a reclined position while holding your feet up off the floor so that you’re creating a “V” position with your body. You then rotate your torso left and right with control. The seated twist is appropriate at all fitness levels, because it can be modified according to a person's ability. Seated twists can be done anywhere as long as you have an exercise mat or a soft floor surface to work on.
Oblique Strength and Tone
Your obliques, which are located on either side of your torso, are responsible for twisting your spine, among other things. During seated twists, your obliques contract to twist you left and right. Developing strength in your obliques allows you to twist and bend more efficiently, which in turn means your spine is better protected against injuries. Dr. Len Kravitz, Ph.D., from the University of New Mexico, recommends strengthening the obliques as well as the abs if you’re interested in maintaining low back health.
Isometric Abdominal Strength
As you hold yourself in a reclined position during the seated twist, your rectus abdominis muscle is isometrically contracting. This means that it’s working to hold you in that position. Challenging your ab muscles in this way is beneficial, because your abs isometrically contract whenever you’re sitting or standing to hold your spine in proper position. If your abs are stronger isometrically, you can maintain proper posture better.
You can easily modify the seated twist to increase or decrease difficulty depending on your fitness level. If the traditional technique of the seated twist is too challenging, instead of holding your feet up, perform the exercise with your heels on the floor. You can also decrease the angle at which you’re back is reclined. To increase the intensity of the exercise, hold a medicine ball, dumbbell or kettlebell at chest level as you twist. You can challenge your abs more by lifting and holding the weight out in front of you with extended arms.
Improve Rotational Power
If you participate in golf, softball or another recreational sport that involves explosive torso rotations during competition, you can tweak seated twists to increase your rotational power. Perform the exercise with a medicine ball while positioned a few feet away from a wall. Start by twisting away from the wall and then explosively twist towards the wall, releasing and throwing the ball against the wall. Catch the ball on its rebound and then immediately twist away from the wall again to go into the next repetition.