When it comes to exercise selection there is one body part that seems to be spoilt for choice – and that’s the abs. Maybe it’s our obsession with acheieving that wash-board stomach. For me there are many great exercises that really work for my abs but it’s those hard-to-reach obliques that really need attention for me and for this my favourite exercise is without doubt the good old-fashioned seated Russian Twist.
You can perform this exercise without any weight at all. Just begin in a seated position with your knees bent at 90 degrees and leaning back slightly to help balance but with your back straight. Hold your arms outstretched in front of you (level with your chest). Then whilst pulling in your stomach (important), explosively rotate your torso round to the left as far as you can and then all the way back round and to the right as far as you can.
Hint: your back should be straight and you torso 45 degrees to the floor. It’s easy to perform the exercise if you arch the back but that’s not the idea. It’s very tough to perform when keeping the back straight but it works, so concentrate on correct form. You can also perform the exercise with your feet off the floor. My personal preference is to perform the exercise this way as I feel the stomach working harder this way.
The great thing about the Seated Russian Twist is that it really works. Even without weight you can feel it working. But to add extra difficulty to the russian twist exercise try holding a dumbbell, medicine ball or even a kettlebell. Only progress to something like the Kettlebell Russian Twist when you have already perfected the movement without any weight. Keeping correct form is the most effective way of feeling the burn.
One of my favorite exercises for building core strength (abdominal and hip flexor stabilization) and also adding serious strength to arms, shoulder and back is the renegade row. You’ll also get the heart pumping faster as you begin to lift heavier weights – making the renegade row an incredibly effective full body workout in itself.
Start in a press up position with a dumbell (or kettlebell) on the floor gripped under each hand (shoulder width apart). Ensure that your body is straight and that your hips are not too high or too low. Your body should be straight and in line. Raise one dumbbell up so that it ends up near your ribcage. Lower and repeat on the other side. Perform the movement slowly and under control. Also don’t twist the hips. Whilst you may see a lot of internet videos showing people twisting the hips when performing the renegade row, this actually makes the exercise too easy.
There are many variations that can be performed including swapping dumbbells for kettlebells or raising one leg off the floor after each row. You can even add burpees if you feel so inclined! However the basic renegade row works just as well. Those with weak wrists or rotator cuffs, may find this exercise uncomfortable to begin, as there will be extra pressure exerted on the wrist and rotator cuff in this exercise. If this is the case for you, start with a light dumbbell or kettlebell and once you feel more confident start increasing the weight gradually. Focus on low reps, slow movement and keeping form strict.
I have been using kettlebells for quite a few years and really love them. I don’t think there’s anything better for developing upper body and in particular shoulder strength and stability. One of my favorite exercises to perform is the kettlebell press. If you’re familiar with shoulder presses then you already know the exercise. In fact many may argue that dumbbells or barbells do the exact same job for the press as the kettlebell. But in fact they don’t – quite. The kettlebell is in itself an unbalanced load when in the shoulder press position. This allows for a more natural and indeed a more fluid movement when pressing, which doesn’t place stress on the joints in the same way as an overhead press with say a barbell. Equally the kettlebell with this instability, ensures that you engage your core, giving you added benefits which are often lost when using other alternatives.
The kettlebell press forces us to adhere to good biomechanics, engaging our core and moving fluidly. We can start off with a lighter kettlebell of say 4kg and then can easily progress as we start to develop our shoulder and tricep strength. One of the things I like best about the kettlebell press is the variety.
There are literally hundreds of ways you can alter the kettlebell press to add variety including, for example, the see-saw kettlebell press, kettlebell clean and press, alternating kettlebell press, kettlebell military press, one-arm kettlebell press and even a squat kettlebell press. In fact the list goes on. The variations are really limitless which is one of the reasons this basic exercise has so much to offer.