If you're not twisting during workouts, you should be. Incorporating twists into an exercise routine targets core muscles like the obliques to tone love handles and create a defined waist. It's not just your muscles that are benefiting: doing twisting moves helps boost your calorie-burning potential, says Julie Erickson, founder of Endurance Pilates and Yoga. Moves that "rotate the torso, hips, and the shoulders . . . encourage greater blood flow and stimulation of particular areas within the body, affecting digestion, metabolism, and circulation," she says (get Julie's full detox yoga and Pilates workout here!).
Want to whittle your waist? Get on board by adding a few of these twisting moves to your workout.
Seated Russian TwistPhoto: Megan Wolfe Photography at J+K Fitness Studio
To do the seated Russian twist:
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your bum.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important, and difficult, to keep your back straight, so don't let it curve.
- Place your arms straight out in front of you with one hand on top of the other. Your hands should be level with the bottom of your rib cage.
- Pull your navel to your spine and twist slowly to the left. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through your center and rotate to the right. This completes one rep. Lift your feet off the ground for a more advanced variation.
- Do 15 to 20 full rotations.
Read on for three more oblique-targeting twists.
Pigeon TwistPhoto: Jenny Sugar
This yoga pose also opens up tight hips and stretches your quads. To do the Pigeon Twist:
- Begin in Downward Dog position.
- Bring your right knee forward between your hands so your outer leg is resting on your mat. Stay here with your hands resting on your right leg, allowing your torso to rest over your right knee.
- Rest your right hand beside your right shin and bend your left knee.
- Reach for your left foot with your left hand and work on gently pressing the sole of your left foot down in the direction of your left hip.
- Now place your right hand on the top of your left foot and twist to the left, wrapping your left hand around your lower back. If you can, grab onto your upper right thigh in front of your hip. Use your hands to press into your body and get you deeper into the twist.
- Stay here for five or more breaths and then release your hands and straighten out your left leg.
- Twist your body back toward the right and plant your palms on either side of your right knee.
- Step your right leg back and come into Downward Facing Dog for one complete breath. Then bring your left knee forward in between your hands and do this pose on the other side.
Twisted Chair and Twisted Lunge
Photo: Andrea Servidone Pelto
To do the Twisted Chair into the Twisted Lunge:
- Keep your hands on the floor and lower your hips, bending your knees, hips, and ankles, as if you're bending to sit in a child’s chair. Lift your torso and stretch your arms to the ceiling, keeping your hips as low as possible.
- From this pose, bring the hands to the heart center. Pull in at the waist and rotate the rib cage to draw the left elbow to the outside of the right thigh.
- Hold for 10 seconds, twisting deeper, and then another 10 without changing position. Lower the left hand to the floor and step straight back with the left leg.
- Stretch the right arm to the ceiling, deepen the rotation at the waist, and hold for 20 seconds. Step the left foot back to the right and repeat on the other side.
Twisting PlankPhoto: Jaime Young
The rocking motion in this Twisting Plank really targets your obliques. To do the exercise:
- Begin in a plank position, with your hands directly under your shoulders, your back straight, and your belly pulled in. Your legs should be squeezed together.
- Hold this basic plank for 10 to 20 seconds to warm up your core before twisting. Keep your head lifted and shoulder blades open.
- Bend your knees until they are hovering slightly above the ground. Keep your belly pulled in and back straight.
- Twist your knees to the right, initiating the movement from your obliques.
- Return to the center, then twist to the left.
- Repeat for a total of 10 times on each side.