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Full Contact Twist For Samurai Abs Of Steel

The full contact twist, the way I am going to teach it you, is an exercise that will give you extremely strong abdominal muscles as well as general full body strength. With this exercise you can’t help but feel the core muscles work.

You see, when you do crunches or sit-ups, you have to do countless reps, until you fatigue the muscles and finally start feeling them working. This is not the case with this drill. Here you feel the abs right away and this is part of the reason I like the full contact twist so much.

What is the Full Contact Twist


I first learned about this exercise through Pavel Tsatsouline’s book Bulletproof Abs around seven years ago. In tghe book Tsatsouline, a former special soviet special forces instructor teaches the right way to get rock hard, combat-ready abdominal muscles that are as strong as they look. So according to the book, after learning how to contract and strengthen the core muscles, we are introduced to an explosive twisting abdominal/oblique drill that mimicked and reinforced movements used in explosive sports such as boxing (hence the name Full Contact Twist).

Given its explosive nature however, the exercise was more useful for advanced trainees or even professional fighters, than regular people that just want to be strong and look good. So this excellent exercise was doomed to be overlooked by many people who would otherwise greatly benefit from it.

Explosive Full Contact Twist Vs. Heavy Full Contact Twist

Because of Pavel’s book, most people that actually do it, are executing the exercise as described above – explosively. As I stated however, explosive exercises are not good for a beginner.

I was introduced to another, more practical variation of the full contact twist by my colleague Milko Georgiev, a visionary who introduced modern personal training in Bulgaria. Because we need to first learn proper form and build strength with controlled exercises, he simply switched the nature of the drill. So this explosive (meaning moving at fast speed) exercise became a slow, strength – based one. Enter the heavy full contact twist.

Instructional Video

To do the exercise, you need to hedge one end of a barbell in a corner or under something that keeps it from slipping. Then load the other end of the barbell with a weight plate, squat down, grab it with both hands and then stand up and extend your arms forward.

Now the movement starts – twist from side, moving the bar in an outward arc until it touches your thigh. Rotate the hips and torso as well as the trailing foot in the direction that the bar goes. Watch this instructional video below so it becomes clearer and then take a look at the technique tips below.


[Here I'm demonstrating the full contact twist with just 15kg on the barbell. This weight is a good start if you consider yourself strong, but haven't tried this drill. If you are new to training, don't hesitate to start with an empty bar for a set or two and gradually increase the load.]

Technique

  • Stay in the hollow position. This means basically to keep tension on the abs and never ever hyper-extend your lower back.
  • Keep your shoulders down. For strength and safety pack the shoulders down and tighten the lats – the muscles of your armpits.
  • Grab the bar near the top. Place the hands on top of each other
  • Twist the hips. You need to rotate the whole body, leading with the hips.
  • Twist the rear leg. The trailing leg rotates as well. This mimics how boxers rotate their rear leg when doing a punch in order to transfer the power.
  • Flex the abs hard. As well as maintaining the hollow position, you will need to actively engage or flex (meaning tighten) the abs as if preparing for a punch.
  • Squeeze the bar as hard as you can. This little detail adds significant strength to you lifts. Plus, the exercise is impossible to do at heavier weights unless you involve you whole body in it.
  • Lock the arms and do NOT change the position of the elbow joint.

Progression

For a healthy woman a 15kg full contact twist is an excellent goal to shoot for in the long run. For a man, these are the strength milestones:

  • Gold level 45kg for 5 reps per side with perfect form
  • Silver level 30kg for 5 reps per side with perfect form
  • Bronze level 15kg for 5 reps per side with perfect form

Action Plan

As we’ve already discussed, to quote Pavel, “strength is a skill.” So in order to improve at something it makes sense to practice it often. do the heavy full contact twist 2-3 times per week for 3 heavy sets of five reps. Execute with perfect form and gradually add weight. Do the drill last thing in the workout if you are doing other demanding exercises like barbell squats and barbell deadlifts.


[Here you can see one of our gym's strongest athletes, Vasko, demonstrating elite levels of relative strength worth of a Gold Level status with 45kg on the full contact twist.]

On an unrelated note, I want to introduce you to a great blog I recently found. Craig Avera is an actor who lives in Hollywood and enjoys the fine Cali weather most of the year (damn you Craig lol!). On his site he shares how he achieved and maintains a body that looks good on film. The thing I like about his blog, and I hope he does more of it, is that he shares practical tips that actually come from his own experience – specific workout routines and recipe tips.

Image credit


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26 Comments - Share Are Your Thoughts

  1. Great post Yavor, I’m definitely going to try these out today in my workout! I’ve never seen this exercise before – which is a shame because they look awesome! The video demo is much appreciated as well.

    And thanks for the shoutout :) I look forward to your next post bud!

  2. Wow wow WOW! These are awesome… might be my new favorite ab exercise. Felt a deep solid contraction and the abs were burnin up.. nice Yavor!

  3. Yavor

    Craig,

    glad you tried it and liked it man :)

  4. willrob

    Yavor,

    You are back at it! Yea? It has been awhile, but hope you are back at it. Hope all is well!

  5. Yavor

    Will,

    thanks for your support! My goal is to provide value with a unique, high quality article once per week or so. I hope all is well with you too!

    Yavor

  6. Hey Yavor,

    Just tried this out during conditioning today. man, thats a pretty badass exercise, and I`d never heard of it before. I`m definately adding this to my list of hardcore strength moves. Gold level here I come LOL

  7. Yavor

    Charles,

    it’s killer, isn’t it :) Glad you liked it man!

    Y.

  8. Yavor,

    You should rename them “Hungarian Twists!” They are a nice core workout and can be modified to fit all levels of ability. I’ll be adding them to my ab routine. Thanks for the tip!

    David

  9. Yavor

    David,

    did you mean “Bulgarian twists” lol? Thanks for stopping by,

    Y.

  10. Sorry! That is what I meant. I apologize for that. But whatever they are called are an excellent exercise!

    David

  11. Yavor,

    I tried this for the first time this morning and my entire midsection is feeling sore already. Great exercise and great site by the way.

    Tim

  12. Yavor

    Tim,

    glad you liked it man :)

    Y.

  13. FitXcel

    Thanks for posting this up! I’ve been doing these three times a week since you first posted this, and you really do get a great total-body and mid-section workout.

    Thanks again!

    -Drew

  14. Yavor

    Drew,

    no problem man. Btw, you have an amazing tranfsormation up on your blog. I’ve been a regular reader there and will be looking forward to more practical tips from you!

    Y.

  15. Yavor,
    I tried these this week and really like them. I have been thinking that I need to work my core more than I have been. These are a great way to work your core! Do you think that going too heavy on these will make you get thick eventually? I was doing pretty light weight since I have never done them, but would like to build up my strength up. My sides are so sore! I don’t remember feeling it more with any other exercise. Thanks for the post!

  16. Yavor

    Kelly – without steroids your obliques will not get thick anytime soon. Vasko – the guy in the video with the 45kg full contact twist looks very athletic. And 45kg is ridiculously heavy.

    so don’t worry!

    Y.

  17. Yavor,
    Your right. I should know better, I guess. I did these again today and really think they are great. I am going to read your last post and make sure that I am not making any mistakes! Thanks for the help.
    Kelly

  18. I just added this to my routine – awesome!!! Thanks for sharing!

  19. Yes, i do love this exercise … Beside of being terribly hard for the core, it’s fully functional and has direct applications to the martial arts.

    Also, from my list of beloved exercises for the core, i would add the more known russian twist.

    Anyway … i little point: beware with the knees. I had some problems with the ACL in the past and, if you dont do this exercise with a totally correct technique there is a risk of messing up your knees. The pressure on the knees is quite high.

    Nice article.

  20. mike

    done it with the weights passing over the top of my thighs, is it alright this way? I feel more twisting action compared to touching the inner portion of the thigh. Very awesome workout. It feels like my abs are being torn apart!

  21. Yavor

    Mike, just make sure to contract the abs hard. And also you should never feel it in the lower back. Sounds like you are doing it fine.

  22. mike

    the full contact twist and renegade rows are incredible exercises. Very intense and effective. I’ve had muscle ache but never had any back pain. I’ve stopped all types of crunches and situps in exchange for these 2 which are so much better and most importantly friendly on my back. Thanks for the education on these 2 great exercises.


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