Does a Twist Exercise Help Your Stomach?

Young woman with slim figure, jumping in studio, portrait

Twisting exercises are an effective workout for your stomach -- but only for increasing muscle mass and movement abilities, not for reducing belly fat. It is a myth that stomach exercises will improve the aesthetic look of your stomach by burning body fat. Twisting exercises do improve the strength of important stomach muscles and should be incorporated into your workouts.

Muscles Worked

A twisting motion through your stomach, which biomechanically is spinal rotation, works your internal obliques, external obliques and quadratus lumborum muscles. Both sets of oblique muscles are in the sides of your stomach under the “muffin top” area. They run from your ribs to your hips along the sides of your torso. The quadratus lumborum is a deep muscle that runs from your spine to your hips. All of the above muscles are actively engaged during a twisting exercise.

Effects of Twisting Exercises

If you regularly incorporate twisting exercises into your workout routine, you should see improved muscle tone and increased range of motion. As with any strength training exercise, regular adherence to twisting exercises will result in an increase in muscle size and tone in the targeted muscles: the obliques and the quadratus lumborum. Improved tone will only be seen if you do not have an extra layer of body fat over the muscles. You will also find that you can twist further, a result of increased strength, and an important aspect of training to rotational athletes such as golfers and baseball players.

Burning Stomach Fat

You may already do a lot of stomach exercises like twists in hopes of reducing belly fat. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as spot reduction, contrary to what many workouts and products promise. If you want to reduce stomach fat, you need to burn overall body fat, which is done by achieving a negative caloric balance. If you choose to do a lot of twisting exercises in hopes of reducing stomach fat, you may actually see an increase in the size of your stomach, as you increase your muscle mass but do not reduce body fat.

Sample Twisting Exercises

A couple of examples of twisting exercises are a Russian twist and a cable twist. To do a Russian twist, sit on the ground with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat. Lean back slightly, and twist with an 8-lb. medicine ball in your hands to both sides, 12 on each side. To do a cable twist, set a cable pulley at waist height. Hold the handle in both hands and rotate the cable 180 degrees around, maintaining straight arms throughout the entire motion. Rotate back and forth slowly 12 times on each side.