Should You Avoid Russian Twists If You Have A Bad Back?

russian twist
July 23, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “should you avoid russian twists if you have a bad back?”. Russian twists are an ab exercise that divides opinion.

Some people perform this exercise regularly in their workout routines. Others say that this movement is not healthy for your lower back and can lead to disc issues.

This article will explore this topic in more detail and provide some interesting insights.

Should You Avoid Russian Twists If You Have A Bad Back?

If you have a bad back you should pay more attention if you are going to do russian twists and consider discontinuing the movement straight away if you need to.

Russian twists do place stress on the lower back and cause issues for some people. This is not true in all cases, some people perform russian twists regularly without any back problems.

However, if your lower back is injured and in pain, I would personally avoid this movement. It is better to perform ab movements like the ab wheel when you have a bad back.

If performing russian twists with a bad back or any other ab exercise, you have to listen to your body and how it responds. If the russian twist causes you more pain in your back then stop doing this exercise.

There are safer exercises like side planks and suitcase carries. These will work your abs hard, but they are more therapeutic for the lower back.

russian twist

The Twisting Motion Can Be Injurious

The russian twist involves a twisting motion which can put a lot of stress on the lower back. If you are using a medicine ball or heavier weights, then the stress will increase.

Personally, I am not a fan of the russian twist for this reason. If you have a pre existing back injury, you can make it a lot worse with this exercise.

If you don’t have a back injury, you could develop disc problems in the lower back from doing russian twists. You can also strain the ligaments in the spine, which is more likely with bad technique and excessive weight.

Safer Ab Exercises For People With Back Pain

For people with a bad back, it is very important to strengthen the core. Having a stronger core can actually help to protect your lower back and prevent lower back pain getting worse.

My go to ab exercise is the ab wheel. It is a highly effective movement that can be done anywhere. You can do it every day at home, it takes only a few minutes to do a set or two of ab rollouts.

This exercise works the core through a full range of motion. It will help to strengthen the core but it is also very therapeutic on the lower back. I hurt my back many years ago from deadlifting.

I deadlifted with good technique, but this injury happened one day when I tried deadlifting with sore glutes. Ever since then, it has been important to keep my lower back healthy.

I have been very selective with the exercises I do nowadays in order to ensure longevity in lifting. As such I don’t do squats or deadlifts anymore. Instead I focus on leg presses, bulgarian split squats, back extensions and reverse hypers for lower body work.

These exercises allow me to work my legs without putting much stress on my lower back. In terms of core work, I focus on three movements. The ab rollout, the decline sit up and the hanging leg raise.

I find that these exercises help to strengthen my core but also don’t compromise my back. Russian twists would be too risky for me to try, I feel they would put too much stress on the discs in my lower back.

Later in this article, I will touch on some other exercises that will allow you to work the core well without compromising your lower back health.

Previously on the site I have explored the ab roller in more detail. 
ab wheel

Should You Try Russian Twists?

If you have a bad back should you even try russian twists? In my view, it is best not to even try this exercise. There are far safer alternatives, some of which I have already mentioned.

If you want to try the russian twist it is best to wait for your back health to improve. After your back injury gets better, you can try this exercise for a short while just to see how your body responds.

If it doesn’t feel good just discontinue the movement. Whilst russian twists do put more stress on the lower back, there are some people that do this exercise regularly without suffering any back problems.

Dr Rob Jones On The Russian Twist

Dr Rob Jones has some interesting insights to share about the russian twist. Rob is a sports, strength and rehab doctor and has many patients who come to him with back problems.

He says that he gets lots of patients that come to him complaining of back pain after performing twisting motions during core exercises. The russian twist would fall into this category.

The core is designed to stop the spine from moving. So twisting motions are not really conducive to helping to improve your core strength safely.

Side bends are also a core exercise that Rob doesn’t recommend. He is a big advocate of side planks and suitcase carries. Suitcase carries are a very useful exercise as they force the core to work very hard to stabilise the load as you are walking.

Side planks are also a very therapeutic exercise that can strengthen the core and alleviate back pain. I would recommend people with lower back pain to do side planks regularly.

To make this exercise harder you can do weighted side planks by holding a dumbbell.

Final Thoughts

Should you avoid russian twists if you have a bad back? The answer for me is yes, the risk to reward is not favourable for back health, especially if you already have a bad back.

If you have a bad back you are better off performing core exercises like planks, suitcase carries, ab wheel rollouts and decline sit ups. It is a personal choice whether you perform decline sit ups.

I find that this exercise works well for me, but if you already have back pain you should be more careful if attempting to do weighted decline sit ups.

In addition, you have to examine the rest of your workout routine. Deadlifts for instance are best avoided if you already have a bad back.

You can substitute this movement for lighter RDLs, weighted back extensions and reverse hypers to hit the posterior chain. Barbell squats will also aggravate your lower back issues, so you could do leg presses and bulgarian split squats instead.

If you have any comments about the russian twist, please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Are Decline Sit Ups Better Than Cable Crunches?

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