March 20th, 2018

twist exercise

The Twist

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John Lennon may have made the twist famous, but its impacts on health and fitness extend well beyond that 1960s dance craze.

When you think about training your core, crunches and sit-ups are probably the first things that come to mind. Those exercises can be beneficial, but they also have their limitations. Both focus exclusively on spinal flexion, a linear motion that places a great deal of compressive force on your back.

By contrast, our everyday actions are more organic. Picture yourself unloading the dishwasher or swinging a golf club. Whether you’re a Beatles fan or not, you can’t avoid the countless everyday actions that depend on your ability to twist. Rotational exercises allow you to train the muscles behind those movements.

The twist is powered by your core. As your body moves through each rotation, you’ll become deeply aware of the force at the center of your body. Your rectus abdomens (more casually known as your abs) generate torque, propelling you through the movement. When you twist to the right, the internal oblique muscle on that side of your body contracts while the external oblique becomes taut. When you twist to the left, the pattern of motion is reversed as the opposite muscles engage.

Call and answer, tension and release: the twist is an exercise in coordination. It enables you to move more efficiently while keeping your body balanced and stable. It promotes thoracic spine mobility and a neutral pelvic alignment. That protects against lower back pain and builds a base of strength for all the other activities you undertake.

Watch the videos below for a breakdown of three modifications for the Semi-Squat Rotator – an exercise to improve your core strength so you can harness your inner tornado.

Start from 15 degree squat position with hands on shoulders and arms pressed against the chest.  Rotate arms back and forth, so that you are twisting for a full 90 degrees from right to left.

Start from a 30 degree squat position with hands in front but bent and placed on top of each other, akin to a Russian dancer position. Rotate arms back and forth, so that you are twisting for a full 120 degrees right to left.

Start from 45 degree squat position with hands clasped together and straight ahead.  Rotate arms back and forth, so that you are twisting for a full 180 degrees from right to left.


Quick Tip: 

Look straight ahead and focus on a single point to avoid dizziness. Shift arms and chest as one unit.

Exhale at each extent of rotation.