11 Russian Twist Alternatives (Substitute Exercises For Abs)

Russian Twists have long been touted as one of the best ways to achieve a well-defined core – especially the obliques. However, many trainers and physical therapists have recommended against it due to the way it places excess compression on the lumbar spine along with the movement of disc fluid.

So, what’s the best Russian Twist alternative? Well, we have them all right here for you, so you too can get that defined core without placing your spine at risk! 

A good Russian Twist substitute will be one that engages the obliques effectively without placing the back in a compromising position. There are plenty of other excellent alternatives that we're going to cover so you can still achieve that tapered waist and a strong core! 

1. Swiss Ball Side Crunch 

If you have a Swiss Ball at home or at the gym, this is a fantastic alternative if you already have a solid amount of balance. Keep the ball against a wall or something that will not move.  

  • First, sit on the ball and move forward until the middle of your back is resting on it while your shoulders hang off the side. 
  • Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Cross your arms, touching your shoulders. 
  • Move onto your left side, with your left ribs making contact with the ball.  
  • Flex your right obliques, pulling in your ribs towards your hips. 
  • Lower back down, and repeat until failure on both sides. 
Swiss Ball Side Crunch

2. Oblique Crunches  

We love oblique crunches because they’re easy to do and yield great results. You don’t need any equipment, either! 

  • Lie flat on your back, and get into the position as if you were about to do sit-ups. Hands will be behind your head, but don’t let your chin touch your chest. 
  • Cross your left foot over your right, lowering your left thigh while still keeping your knee bent. You really want your thigh stuck to the ground. 
  • Keep your torso rigid, and perform a crunch as high up as possible. 
  • Lift shoulder blades and upper torso off the ground. 
  • Lower back to your starting position, keeping it controlled. 
  • Perform 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps on each side. 
Oblique Crunches

3. Dumbbell Side Bend 

If you're looking for an exercise that works not only the obliques but also the glutes and hammies, this is an all-in-one. You’ll need at least one dumbbell for this exercise. This is a fantastic standing Russian Twist alternative exercise. 

  • With a dumbbell in your right hand at your side, keep your other hand on your hip. Keep feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  • Slowly lean over to your right side by bending at the waist. The dumbbell should lower down to about your knee. 
  • Keep your core tight, and pull yourself back to the starting position. Make sure to keep the spine neutral, never letting your hips move forward or backward. 
  • Repeat, working both sides for 3 sets each until failure. 
Dumbbell Side Bend

4. Ab Wheel V Rollouts  

This is a more advanced exercise and requires an ab wheel. However, it’s an absolutely incredible one that will strengthen just about your entire upper body and core while boosting flexibility.  

  • Start by kneeling on the ground, with your hands on the handles of your roller on the ground. 
  • Keeping arms extended and core tight, begin rolling out slowly to your right at approximately 45 degrees. 
  • Roll back to your starting position, and repeat on the left side. 
  • Remember to breathe and keep your core engaged the entire time. Stay controlled, and don't let the wheel slide around aimlessly.

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Ab Wheel V Rollouts

5. 45-Degree Side Bend  

This exercise is ideal if you’re looking for a more advanced oblique exercise and have access to an extension machine.  

  • First, adjust the height of the machine so that the top of the pad is at hip level. 
  • Get on the platform sideways so that your right upper leg is against the pad, and make sure your feet are secured against the lower leg pads. 
  • Keep your hands behind your head or crossing your chest. Bend at the waist/hips towards the floor until you get a bit of a stretch. 
  • Keep your core tight, lifting your torso back and flexing at your waist, engaging the obliques. The entire motion and contraction should be one smooth, controlled movement.
  • Perform 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.

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45-Degree Side Bend

6. Reverse Crunches  

With no equipment necessary, most people should be able to do reverse crunches anywhere! However, if you would like to make them more challenging, you could add ankle weights.  

  • Lie flat on your back, keeping a 90-degree angle with your hips and knees so that your lower legs are parallel with the floor. Arms should be resting on the ground at a 90-degree angle from the shoulders. 
  • In one controlled movement, bring your knees towards your chest, keeping hips and knees at this 90-degree angle.  
  • Your hips and lower back will come off the ground. Never go so far that your mid-back lifts off the ground, however. 
  • Keeping controlled, lower your lower back, hips, and legs to the starting position.
Reverse Crunches

7. Bodyweight Side Crunch  

If you’re just starting out or simply don’t have a lot of core strength yet, this is a fantastic Russian Twist substitute. It doesn’t require much coordination or any equipment, either, and are the perfect Russian Twist alternatives for pregnant women.  

  • Lie flat on the ground (or ideally on an exercise mat), with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Cross your ankles and lift them slightly off the mat. 
  • Place your hands across your chest and lift your upper back off of the mat. 
  • Pull a bit upward, flexing your obliques so that your ribs move towards your hips. 
  • Lower back down to a neutral position, and repeat on the other side.  
Bodyweight Side Crunch

8. Bicycle Crunches  

Bicycle crunches are another great alternative to Russian twists that require no additional equipment.  

  • Lie on your back on the floor or preferably on a mat. 
  • Press lower back into the floor, bending the knees while keeping your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Bring knees up, keeping your lower legs parallel to the floor while lifting your shoulders off the floor. Make sure you're not straining your neck. 
  • Straighten your right leg at a 45-degree angle, rotating your body to the left as you bring the right elbow toward your left knee. Make sure you’re rotating at your ribs rather than just moving your elbows. 
  • Return to the center position, keeping both knees bent. 
  • Do the same on the other side. 
Bicycle Crunches

9. Cable Woodchoppers  

For this exercise, you’ll need a cable machine. Cable Woodchoppers are excellent for really building the obliques and adding serious definition.  

  • Set cable to highest pulley position. Stand with the cable at your side, grabbing it with one hand and stepping away from the tower. 
  • Feet should be shoulder-width apart. Reach with your free hand to grab the same handle. 
  • Keeping arms fully extended, pull the handle downward and across your body toward your front knee as you simultaneously rotate your torso. 
  • As you rotate, turn your back foot and bend your knees to avoid straining any joints or muscles. 
  • Return to start position.
cable woodchoppers

10. Kneeling Pelvic Tilt  

This is an excellent beginner exercise and requires little-to-no core strength. While it's not quite as intense as the others, it's an exercise that strengthens the deep abdominal muscles, which can be a bit more challenging to train.  

  • Get on all fours – ideally on an exercise mat. Keep wrists aligned under shoulders and knees under hips. 
  • Exhale with purpose, pulling the navel in towards the spine.
  • In one smooth movement, reverse the curve in the lower spine, tilting your hips downward. 
  • Hold for a few seconds, and release.  
Kneeling Pelvic Tilt

11. Side Plank Dips  

Side Plank Dips are an excellent way to tone not only the obliques but also the deltoids, lats, and glutes! If you spend a good portion of the day sitting, this is an effective way to "elongate" those tight muscles.  

  • Start by lying on your side, and prop up onto your forearm (still on your side). Keep your top arm with your hand on your hip. 
  • Feet should be “stacked” if you can balance yourself, or place one a bit in front of the bottom foot for extra stability. 
  • Now, inhale and tighten your core, lifting your body off the floor to get into a side plank position. 
  • Once you’re in a side plank, lower your hips toward the floor, keeping all movements controlled. 
  • Raise back up in a controlled manner, coming to the starting position of a side plank.  
Side Plank Dips

Do You Need To Do Russian Twist Substitute Exercises?

You may be wondering, "Are these kinds of exercises even necessary?" Well, if you want defined abs and a lowered risk of injury, the answer is "yes"! Focusing specifically on the obliques is necessary for everyone, from the casual gymgoer to pro athlete!  

Did you know that by strengthening your obliques, you not only move around easier but help reduce lower back pain while improving posture and balance? These benefits not only make everyday life easier but in the gym, as well. Not to mention, they just make your abs look better, and who doesn't want that?! 

You don’t have to do these exercises at home – in fact, some of them require equipment or space you may not have at home. However, some people do prefer doing ab work at home just because they can take their time and some gyms’ stretching areas seem to always be full.  


Frequently Asked Russian Twist Alternative Questions

Do Russian Twists burn belly fat?  

Spot reducing is pretty much impossible, so no one exercise will burn just belly fat. However, working your muscles burn fat in general and help develop the muscles underneath for a leaner appearance.  

Why does my back hurt during Russian Twists?  

Russian Twists are effective in strengthening the abdominals, but the risk of irritating the spine or doing them wrong is just too great for some. You may be swinging your legs from side to side, moving side to side from your lumbar spine, or simply not keeping your core "locked in." If you already have back issues, Russian Twists aren't recommended.  

What muscles do Russian Twist alternatives work?  

All of them work the obliques; however, there are some that are going to work additional parts of the body, as well. They can help you achieve that complete "defined ab" look, as many people tend to leave out the obliques when working the abdominals.  

Are Russian twists harmful?  

If you have lower back injuries or conditions, they could be harmful! Not only that, but due to the excessive rotations the exercise demands, they can also damage the disks in the spine over time.  


Conclusion

Now that you’re practically an expert in the best Russian Twist alternatives, which exercises are you going to incorporate into your routine? Try out a few that sound like they’d work best for you, and we’re sure you’re going to enjoy the results. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you again soon! 


Last Updated on May 29, 2022