How to Do Seated Oblique Twists With a Medicine Ball

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Russian twist

Targets: Abdominals, obliques

Equipment Needed: Medicine ball

Level: Intermediate

The seated oblique twist exercise, sometimes called the Russian twist, is a very effective exercise for strengthening the abdominal muscles. Using a medicine ball in the exercise adds a challenge to the workout.

You can do this exercise as part of a core strengthening workout along with exercises such as the plank, crunch, and bridge. It can be also part of a total body strengthening workout and is especially good if you are in a sport where you throw a ball or swing a club.


The oblique twist is a great exercise that works many muscles in your core. Not only does it exercise the rectus abdominis, but it also hits the external obliques and internal obliques. Using a weight, medicine ball or stability ball in the exercise adds tension to the core muscles, really giving them a workout.

Strengthening the core muscles is important to your health and fitness.

A stronger core protects your spine, promotes good posture, and helps with balance. If you sit at a desk for work, for example, your strengthened core will help you sit with better posture. This can help you avoid lower back pain and lessen overall exhaustion and muscle soreness.

Athletes in sports that require rotational power (as in golf) or throwing may see improvement in their game from this exercise.


How to Use A Medicine Ball In a Seated Oblique Twist

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (easier) or raised up off the floor (more difficult). If you have difficulty holding the position and your feet shift about, try tucking them beneath a stable object.
  2. Contract your abs and sit at about a 45-degree angle.
  3. Hold the medicine ball with both hands, directly in front of you.
  4. Contracting your abs, twist slowly from your torso to your right and touch the medicine ball to the floor beside you. Pause to hold the position a moment.
  5. Quickly, but smoothly, contract your abs and twist your torso back to the center position, and then proceed on to touch the medicine ball to the floor on the other side of you.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  7. To end, bring the ball in front of your body and sit up. Carefully place the ball on the ground without undue twisting.

Common Mistakes

Below are common mistakes to avoid:

Sloppy Form

If your form is sloppy, you will be placing a lot of stress on your lumbar vertebrae. If you find you are getting a rounded back and a lot of twisting of your lower back, work on the move without using a weight until you get the form right.

Holding Your Breath

It can be tempting to hold your breath. Be sure to breathe in and out normally throughout the exercise.

Modifications and Variations

There are plenty of options you can use to make this exercise work for you.

Need a Modification?

If you can't find a medicine ball to use at your gym, you can use other weights in a variation. For example, hold a weight plate firmly by the edges between your hands with arms extended outward in front of you and perform the exercise. Twist until your arms are parallel to the floor on each side.

If beginning with a medicine ball is too challenging, perform the exercise with nothing your hands.

Hold your arms extended out in front of you and follow the same motion as described above.

Twist to each side until your arms are parallel to the floor (since there's no ball to touch to the floor). This will help you become familiar with the exercise and build up your strength to the point that you can add the medicine ball to the exercise.

You can move up a step in intensity by holding a small stability ball during the exercise. Hold it between your hands with arms extended out away from the body. Twist to each side until your arms are parallel to the floor.

Up for a Challenge?

Performing this exercise slower gives it more challenge. Just be sure that you are not stopping between repetitions.

The mason twist is a version done with the legs extended and off the floor, as in a V-sit.

Safety and Precautions

This exercise places a lot of stress on the lower back, so it should be avoided if you have a back injury. If you feel any pain in your back or shoulders, end the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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  1. Huxel Bliven KC, Anderson BE. Core stability training for injury prevention. Sports Health. 2013;5(6):514–522. doi:10.1177/1941738113481200