Barbell Russian Twist: Get A Stronger Core And Abs With This Functional Workout

“I really do need to change my ab workouts, dude.” It’s not that I was bored, ok maybe I was bored just a bit, but I really wanted to add a new element in my core exercises. After some research I came across the Barbell Russian Twist.

Who would have thought that a barbell could help me strengthen my core? Not in a million years would I have guessed that anyone’s midsection could get stronger by doing an exercise like Russian Barbell Twists than by doing sit ups or crunches. I think the only times I had used a barbell for an abs exercise was by doing standing barbell twists.

(I’m not Russian, but I played one on film)

Using Functional Exercises For Your Core

I am a firm believer that if you want to get an athletic body you have to incorporate functional type exercises as much as possible. An exercise that works more than one muscle group will give your body a better workout than if you work on only one muscle at a time.

There are various ways for working on the core and abs region with exercises like planks, leg raises and various other workouts. If you are wondering why I didn’t mention crunches or sit ups it is because these two exercises are not the best at working on the core region.  However, you can activate the core region by using other exercises that work on the upper body and lower body.

If you want to see a good example of someone with great abs who also uses functional type exercises just look at boxers. Athletes with the best abs are those who do explosive and functional type movements that trigger the abs and the core twisting and engaging the upper and lower body.


(Here is an example of the Russian Twist)

Twist Your Way To Better Abs

Although this article is about using a barbell to work on the abs I should also note that this exercise is more advanced. It is always a good idea to lay a proper foundation and familiarize oneself with easier exercises before moving on to a more advanced movement.

With all that said you cannot deny that the Russian Twist is challenging as well but it is easier on the lower back for a beginner or moderate level workout. In the video above you can see that this exercise is not difficult to perform but does help the core by doing a simple twisting movement.

To do these exercises simply do the following:

  • Sit on the floor with your feet slightly raised
  • Form a raised V shape with your legs or keep your feet on the ground with the knees at an angle
  • Begin by keeping your shoulders squared with your hips
  • Now twist to one side and touch the floor
  • Twist to the opposite side and touch the floor again
  • Repeat this movement without stopping

Do this exercise for 3 sets of 20 repetitions (10 per side)
You can start by doing this exercise with no weight when starting out and increase the difficulty by holding a medicine ball with your hands or a dumbbell and tapping the floor with the object each time you twist.

You can include Russian Twists on a day you do abs workouts.

For an example of a good abs workout you can look at something like Rusty Moore’s free abs report.

Barbell Russian Twists- Not Just An Abs Exercise

Once you have worked on your abs and your core properly and you feel that you want to move up to a more challenging workout I recommend using the barbell variation of the Russian twist.

The barbell variation of this exercise when performed properly really makes this more of a total body exercise. The exercise works the abs, obliques, buttocks, thighs, hamstrings and shoulders. In fact, ever since I have included this exercise I have seen better side delt and rear deltoid development in my shoulders.

Begin by holding placing one of a barbell either at the corner where two walls meet or by setting one end in the hole of a 45-pound plate.
On the other end of the barbell you can add some weight but make sure to put a lock.
If you are just starting out try this exercise without weight and place a weight plate if you want to make it more challenging. Do not start with heavy weight as this could injure you. I have found that lightweight is quite challenging.

  • Bring the weight up at slightly above eye level and hold the barbell with both hands
  • Keep your arms straight and lower the bar to one side of your hip
  • Next rotate the back to the starting position and bring the end of the barbell to the opposite side or opposite hip
  • Keep your arms as straight as possible throughout the movement.
  • Just picture yourself drawing a semi circle with the end of the barbell as you move from left to right or right to left.
  • As the weight tries to come down your core becomes engaged triggers the muscles in this area.

You can keep your lower body stationary to get a stronger workout on your core and your upper body or move your lower body as you twist in order to work your lower body as well.

You can use various tempos when performing this exercise but I have found a more explosive and fast movement to work best. When this exercise is performed in an explosive manner it really works the fast twitch muscles throughout the body.

How To Apply This Exercise In Your Workouts

Although this is an excellent abs and core exercise I find it best to do this exercise on separate days as your abs workouts. Barbell Russian Twists can be done for example on days you are working on your upper body or lower body. The exercise can be done once or twice a week on non-consecutive days as a way to trigger your core muscles.

This workout is a good way to get started by using a barbell Russian twist but you can take it even further and in a more explosive manner by combining it in a way that will help with your conditioning and triggering muscle growth.

In a few days I will come back and talk about how I am now using this exercise as part of my workouts to make this an awesome and athletic workout routine.

Note: You can now read the follow up article–  Landmine Exercises