Strengthening your obliques doesn’t just come with aesthetic benefits, it also helps to improve posture, stability and balance.
It can also help improve athletic performance, especially for sports like golf, tennis and hockey.
Often referred to as “love handles”, the internal and external obliques often don’t get the attention they deserve… so broomstick twists offer a simple but effective way to fire up the obliques, as well as the abdominals, without requiring additional weight, or holding a static position for a long duration (such as planks).
But, when it comes to broomstick twists, technique is everything. There are lots of subtle things to consider to ensure you get your obliques engaged effectively.
We find it’s a great alternative to Russian twists as well as being suitable for low-impact workouts too (such as strength training for over 50’s).
In this exercise guide, we outline everything you need to know about broomstick twists, including how to do them properly, muscles worked, benefits and common mistakes to avoid.
What is the Broomstick Twist Exercise?
The Broomstick twist exercise involves holding a stick or dowel behind on your upper back (similar to how you would hold a barbell during a back squat), and rotating your trunk from side to side.
This “twisting” motion activates the obliques and abdominals, helping to strengthen your mid-section.
There are also a few ways you can progress the movement too (as we’ll discuss within this article) that increase the difficulty.
The effectiveness of this movement is primarily based on your ability to squeeze your obliques and abdominals as you rotate your torso. There should be no momentum or “swinging” motions, but rather, a very thoughtful and controlled squeezing of your mid-section to rotate from side to side.
This means you want to really focus on your “mind-muscle” connection and opt for slow repetitions and include a brief pause at the end to prevent momentum taking over.
We like doing a slow outward twist, followed by a more powerful inwards twist.
You may find broomstick twists lend themselves well for high repetition workouts, or as a way to finish off a quick ab workout.
Don’t Be Tempted to Add Weight
How to Perform Broomstick Twists
To do broomstick twists:
- Stand in an upright position with a broomstick or dowel behind your upper back.
- Engage your glutes to keep your hips stable throughout.
- Squeeze your obliques and abdominals to rotate your torso from side to side, pausing for a brief moment when you return to the starting position.
- We would recommend opting for a slower external rotation, followed by a more powerful internal rotation, keeping the movement controlled at all times.
Coach’s Tip – It’s really important that everything below the hips doesn’t move. Focus on keeping your hips, knees and feet completely stationary during each rotation.
Broomstick twists primarily work the obliques and abdominals.
The exercise also helps to improve overall stability and balance.
Benefits of Broomstick Twists
Strengthen the Obliques
The primary goal and benefit of the broomstick twist exercise is to strengthen the obliques.
These muscles support healthy trunk flexion and rotation, and by strengthening them, you’ll find you can move with more power and control.
It will also naturally help promote better posture and stability through your mid-section.
Stronger obliques also help to reduce the risk of injury too, especially around the lower back.
Improve Twisting Strength
If you play any sports, being able to twist from side to side with more force and power will also likely improve athletic performance.
This improved twisting strength is also very beneficial for all sorts of daily activities as well.
Broomstick twists are beginner-friendly and easy to get started with. You don’t need any equipment (there are all sorts of things you could use to replicate a broomstick/dowel) and you don’t need to support your own body weight or any additional weight (such as a weighted barbell or dumbbells).
Even bodyweight exercises like oblique crunches aren’t that easy to begin with, so broomstick twists offer a great introductory exercise to build up core strength.
It’s also a great movement to break up long periods of being sedentary too.
As we previously mentioned, broomstick twists don’t require you to support your own weight, which makes them a great alternative to planks and other core exercises that require a base-level of strength.
Whether you’ve got arthritis, recovering from an injury, or something else, there’s all sorts of reasons why you may not want to attempt a plank (or side plank to target the obliques).
In such instances, an exercise like broomstick twists is worth knowing, as it means you can still activate your obliques without putting any load on your joints.
Seated Broomstick Twists
You can also do broomstick twists seated. Like the standing variation, it’s important to keep your hips stable and avoid any twisting in the lower body.
Decline Broomstick Twists
You can also do decline broomsticks as a progression of the exercise. This involves using a decline bench and means you need to actively engage your core to lift your upper body up, before doing the broomstick twist.
This significantly increases the difficulty, so only attempt this if you’re looking to really challenge yourself.
BOSU Ball Twists
Another great way to vary up broomstick twists is to perform them on a BOSU ball or balance pad.
By standing on a BOSU ball, your core has to work overdrive to help maintain balance… so adding in broomstick twists means they need to work even harder.
Being able to maintain a high degree of stability and control during such movements is very promising for healthy ageing and avoiding falls in older age.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
The most common mistake we see with broomstick twists is going too fast and consequently failing to really squeeze the obliques. You could twist from side to side 100 times and not feel anything in your obliques… or alternatives, do 20 slow, controlled repetitions and instantly feel your obliques tiring.
This difference is everything.
Another mistake is to place the broomstick too high, so it is behind your neck, as opposed to resting on your upper back.
It’s also really important that everything below the hips doesn’t move. This often happens when you try and increase the twisting motion… but it’s better to opt for a smaller rotation that is exclusively focused on squeezing the obliques, as opposed to a general body twist that actually might just involve your hips dipping which won’t strengthening your mid-section.
Overall, we really like broomstick twists as a simple way to activate the obliques and abdominals.
Although the exercise has often been associated with bodybuilding, it’s actually a great movement for anyone to try, especially over 50’s that might want something low impact and beginner friendly.
Remember to really squeeze your obliques during each rotation and keep your hips stable throughout.
If you find broomstick twists too easy, another way to really activate the obliques is to use unilateral movements, like the fulcrum deadlift or suitcase carry, to force your core to maintain stability with an uneven weight distribution.
Featured image and video demonstration credit – Breakthrough SC Ben Anderson