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Every day I see an army of folks at the gym doing endless crunches and most have nothing to show for it. If you take a look at almost any athletic event (boxing, throwing, wrestling, MMA, baseball, etc.) you can see that the abs rarely do an isolated crunch movement. Instead what you should see is the abs (along with lots of other muscles in concert) working in a twisting manner.
So why is it that I don’t see more twisting going on in the weight room? I’m guessing it’s a combination of ignorance and/or laziness. Crunches are easy to do, plain and simple. Twisting exercises require much more effort, and people don’t always want to put forth more effort.
The beauty of these twisting exercises is that they require only a barbell and some weights, something every gym has. There are so many twisting variations that I couldn’t possible cover all of them, because of this I have chosen my top 3 twisting exercises for developing a core of steel.
1. Standing Bar Twists
To perform this exercise get the standard bar on your back in the same positioning you would use for a squat. Make sure you have enough room to perform these, about a 10 ft. circumference “safety” area should suffice. Plant your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, keep your feet planted and twist to one side as far back as you can, reverse the motion and twist as far as you can the other way.
A variation of this exercise is to allow the foot opposite of the way you are twisting to also twist while keeping the other foot planted and creating a rigid axis on the side you are twisting toward. This variation allows you to twist further back. Start by doing 4 sets of 20 repetitions (10 twists to each side).
2. Standing Plate Twists
Again, to make these have the most transfer to sport and everyday life you are going to be in a standing position. Grab a plate, somewhere in the 10 to 45 pound range depending on strength. Hold the weight straight out at shoulder level. Just like the bar twist, twist as far as you can to one side then the other. These can be done with feet planted firmly, or the back foot twisting with the plate as described above. Do this for 4 sets of 20 repetitions (10 twists to each side).
3. Decline Situp Twist
This next exercise can be done on a decline situp bench, roman chair, or even a glute-ham machine. Grab a plate, 10 to 45 pounds depending on strength level. Sit up to a ½ sit up position (torso about parallel to the floor) and twist the plate back and forth. This is a great exercise because the core must work to twist the plate while also keeping your ½ sit up position. Do 4 sets of 20 repetitions (10 twists to each side).
Next abs day, drop the crunches and get to twisting for a more functional and powerful core!