Torso Twists: Strengthening and Mobility
Torso twists, also known simply as twists, are a popular exercise aimed at strengthening the abdomen and back. They are a free body exercise that can be performed with or without the use of a stick. This exercise is not only beneficial for improving the mobility of the spine, but it also aids in assessing the degree of functionality in specific movements that can sometimes be limited due to various issues.
The Science Behind Torso Twists
The torso twist is utilized in both general athletic preparation for various sports and aesthetic training. The exercise is based on the rotation movement of the trunk, specifically the thoracic and lumbar portion, with respect to the pelvis.
The twist primarily targets the oblique muscles, both external and internal. However, other abdominal and back muscles are also involved. Furthermore, the iliac psoas and quadriceps help stabilize the movement.
Due to its simplicity, immediacy, and practicality, the torso twist is considered one of the "elite" exercises for the functional conditioning of the abdomen. However, it's important to note that the execution of this exercise is often underestimated and, therefore, it can be performed incorrectly.
Proper Execution of Standing Twists with a Stick
To perform the standing torso twists correctly with a stick, follow these steps:
- Hold a stick with your hands in a prone position adequately spaced apart for good comfort of the wrists and shoulders. Position it behind you at the height of the shoulder blades. If you have shoulder problems, keep the stick resting frontally on the deltoids, or cross your hands on your chest.
- Position your legs shoulder-width apart, with your toes extra-rotated by approximately 15-30°.
- Rotate your trunk on one side for about 45°, letting your head follow the movement, or keeping it on axis. Avoid maximizing the twist range, and don't relax your muscles at the end of the rotation.
- Reverse the direction of twisting and perform a 45° rotation also on the opposite side.
- The breathing rhythm should include inhalation from the anatomical position at the top of the twist and exhalation from this point to the anatomical position.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Torso Twists
The benefits of torso twists are its practicality and potential application even in training children. However, to reduce the possibility of excessive stress on the lumbar region, the twist should be performed standing and never with overload.
Despite its benefits, torso twists are not suitable for individuals with serious orthopedic back problems such as ankylosing spondylitis, arthritis, serious disc disease, etc. The lumbar vertebrae are not designed for the torsion movement and thus tend to initiate cutting movements that are harmful to the intervertebral discs.
Common Mistakes in Torso Twists
To gain the most benefit from torso twists, it's important to avoid common mistakes such as:
- Performing the twists while sitting if you already suffer from low back pain or other problems.
- Incorrect grip or discomfort in positioning the stick behind the shoulders, leading to an incorrect posture of the spine.
- Excessive rotation range.
- Passive release of rotation, without controlling the movement while maintaining muscle tone.
- Using overloads such as a barbell instead of a stick.
By understanding the science behind torso twists, performing the exercise correctly, and avoiding common mistakes, you can effectively strengthen your abdomen and back while improving the mobility of your spine.