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Q: Do twists with a light unloaded bar help trim the waist?

7206-train6Q: I often see guys doing twists with a light, unloaded bar across their shoulders. I’ve been told that they are good for trimming the waist. Is that true?

A: They are a waste of time no matter how vigorous the twisting and no matter how often you do it or for how long. It’s a myth that twisting movements trim fat. They may, however, eventually cause back irritation.

Muscle and fat are different types of tissue. It’s physiologically impossible to whittle away fat by working the muscle beneath the fat. Fat reduction in a specific spot of the body  is not possible through exercise. The only way to spot-reduce fat is through surgical intervention, which has perils and isn’t a long-term cure. The other way to reduce bodyfat is to reduce your food intake and increase your activity level so that you’re in overall caloric deficit; then your body will turn to its fat reserves for the balance of its energy needs.

You can build a terrific set of abs and obliques, but whether you see their lines depends on how much fat covers your waist. You can do three hours of ab work daily, but if your food intake and physical activity level don’t yield an overall energy deficit, you’ll never reduce the fat around your waist. On the other hand, you can sustain a calorie deficit, drawing on your energy stores, and thus reduce your bodyfat, including around your waist, even if you do no ab work whatsoever. Whether you do ab work does not affect the amount of fat around your waist, but it’s essential to building strong, well-developed abs. The twists you refer to have no part to play in that task.

Properly used, the rotary torso machine is an excellent exercise for the obliques and the small muscles around the vertebrae. It requires a twisting motion, but against resistance.

—Stuart McRobert


Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or

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