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February 11, 2022 8 min read

Scissor kicks are one of the most effective core exercises you can do. The scissor is a relatively simple movement to execute, but without proper form, scissor exercises can lead to lower back pain and poor abdominal engagement.

Scissor kicks are not only a valuable tool in the quest for six-pack abs, they are also great for boosting functional strength in the transverse abdominis (a muscle that protects your spine). 

Core exercises like scissors can also help improve your squats,  deadlifts, push-ups, and other core intensive strength training exercises. When executed with proper form, scissor exercises are an effective addition to any home workout or ab workout routine at the gym.

Benefits and Muscles Worked by Scissor Kicks

The primary muscles involved with scissor kicks are the transverse abdominis and hip flexors.

Transverse Abdominis 

The transverse abdominis is your deepest core muscle, located under your obliques and rectus abdominis, more commonly referred to as “abs.” The transverse abdominis is different than your abdominal muscles, and training exclusively the transverse abdominis will likely not result in 6-pack abs. 

As your deepest and most internal core muscle, the transverse abdominis is an incredibly important muscle for stability and protection of the spine, and it will help your deadlifts, squats, bench press, and other compound movements that you’re doing in the gym.

A strong transverse abdominis can help push your towards your next PR.

The transverse abdominis is also a synergist for other core exercises that do effectively engage the rectus abdominis. A synergist muscle is one that assists the prime mover muscles in completing a movement or exercise.

Thus, transverse abdominis training will result in more effective execution and engagement during rectus abdominis training.

Hip Flexors

Scissor kicks also effectively train the hip flexors. Underdeveloped hip flexors are a common muscle imbalance. The hip flexors are not a specific muscle, but rather, a group of muscles that form the “hip flexor complex.” The hip flexor complex runs right across the hips, just below the stomach and above the tops of your thighs.

Hip flexor muscles include the psoas major, rectus femoris, and iliacus. These muscles can become easily underdeveloped in people who have to sit frequently. 

If you have a desk job, your hip flexors are likely shortened unless you are actively working on strengthening them.

Shortened hip flexors will cause an anterior pelvic tilt, which can lead to poor glute engagement and hyperextended vertebrae. To put it simply, to move more comfortably and safely, you want to frequently stretch and strengthen your hip flexors.

Scissor kicks are a worthy exercise for anyone looking to increase their overall strength, protect their spine and internal organs, and improve mobility.

It is important to have a well-rounded ab workout routine that includes multiple movements.

How To Do Scissor Kicks


Scissor exercises actually refer to a broad definition of similar core exercises. Some people use the term flutter kicks or “side to side.” Well, these are all actually different variations of the common scissor kick.

Here’s how to do all 3 of them:

To perform a standard scissor kick:

  1. In the starting position, lay completely on your back on the floor. Make sure the surface is flat.
  2. Place your hands flat on the floor, with your elbows and lower back touching the floor.
  3. Establish a time interval for yourself. It is acceptable to count repetitions if you prefer, but timed sets are generally easier for this type of movement. (If you have intermediate core strength, try 30-second sets to start.)
  4. Once you have established the goal of your timed sets, set your timer!
  5. Lift both legs off of the ground. 
  6. Start alternating leg raises, with a large range of motion. At the highest point, lift your legs up to approximately a 60-degree angle, keeping it above the 45-degree angle threshold, not to exceed  70-degrees. (For reference, having your legs completely flat on the ground is 0 degrees, and having your legs completely over the top of your, feet above the chest, is 90 degrees). Perform your leg raises and descents slowly, within that range.
  7. When your set is complete, rest for 20-30 seconds and repeat. Try 5 sets of 30 seconds in your next core or ab workout routine.

Flutter Kicks


Flutter kicks are similar to scissor kicks, and quite often the terms are used interchangeably. The main difference between a flutter kick and a scissor kick is that with a flutter kick, you keep your feet lower to the ground and limit your range of motion. It is less of a scissor motion, and more of a subtle “flutter,” hence the name. 

To perform a flutter kick:

  1. In the starting position, lay completely on your black on the floor. Make sure the surface is flat. 
  2. Place your hands to the side of the ground with your elbows flat on the ground.
  3. Establish a time interval for yourself. Like most floor-based core exercises, timed sets are often easier to keep track of than counting reps.
  4. Once you establish your goal for your timed sets, start your timer!
  5. Lift both of your legs off of the ground, in a supinated plank position. The lowest point of your feet should have your heels 6 inches off of the ground. 
  6. Start fluttering. Lift your feet up and down and alternate leg raises between them. Point your toes out away from your head as you kick. Take your feet up to no more than 45 degrees off of the ground. Your range of motion should be limited in this movement, in contrast to a scissor kick.
  7. When your set is complete, rest for 20-30 seconds and repeat. Try 5 sets of 30 seconds in your next core workout routine.

To make your flutter kicks or scissor kicks more challenging, try adding ankle weights!

When shopping for ankle weights, the range is huge. 1lb to 10lb weights is commonly sold. Anything between 2lb to 5lb weights should be an effective weight for these exercises.

Crisscross Scissor Kicks


Crisscross scissor kicks (often called side to sides, ins and outs, or even just plain old scissor kicks), are a great way of mixing up your core workout routine.

The crisscross version effectively targets the obliques, transverse abdominus, psoas, quadriceps, glutes, adductors, and hip flexors. 

To perform a crisscross version of the scissor exercise:

  1. In the starting position, lay completely on your black on the floor. Make sure the surface is flat. 
  2. Place your hands to the side of the ground with your elbows flat on the ground.
  3. Establish a time interval for yourself. Like most floor-based core exercises, timed sets are often easier to keep track of than counting reps.
  4. Once you establish your goal for your timed sets, start your timer!
  5. Lift both legs about half a foot off the ground.
  6. Move your left leg above over the top of your right leg. Bring your left leg down back to the starting position, and then do the same with your right leg. Alternate leg raises.
  7. Keep your core tight by moving your chin towards your chest. Your legs will be repeatedly crossing over each other for the entirety of the interval.
  8. As you become more comfortable with this exercise, practice moving your legs farther away from your body with each pass.

Common Form Mistakes

The most common form mistake that you will see with scissor exercises is an arched lower back.

When you lift your legs off of the ground in the supinated position (back on the floor, face towards the ceiling), it is common to involuntarily arch your lower back. 

This is due to synergistic dominance. Synergistic dominance occurs when the prime mover muscles fail to engage properly, causing muscle synergists to equip in the exercise and finish the movement.

The psoas, a major component of your hip flexor complex, attaches to your back and lumbar spine. When the psoas is shortened or weak, the back will arch. In the case of the scissor kick, an arched lower back is a compensation movement that should be avoided. 

There are two important fixes for the arched back problem:

  1. Keep your hands and elbows flat on the ground. Push your back down to the ground, maintaining a straight position for your spine. If that doesn’t work, place your hands under your butt for a quick fix (this should only be used as a temporary solution).
  2. Bring your legs up higher and limit your range of motion. Try keeping your legs between 60-70 degrees. Performing the scissor kick with a full range of motion is ideal, but if your back is arching, then you need to start slow with a partial range of motion and work up to it.

Proper execution in the scissor kick and flutter kick will result in greater abdominal engagement, and less stress on the hip flexors and lumbar spine. 

Scissor Kick Progressions and Alternatives

Scissor exercises do have the potential to provide decent engagement of the rectus abdominis, but it is only one of many core exercises that should be included in your ab workout. 

To complement the substantial transverse abdominus engagement in scissor exercises,  try these inner ab exercises! 

Other exercises that pair well with scissor kicks and flutter kicks include:



This is a classic core exercise.

A staple in the military, schools, gym classes, and athletics, sit-ups are often used as a test of your core strength and overall fitness. Sit-ups can be done with a partner holding your feet, but if you don’t have anyone to hold your feet down, there are alternatives.

If you can place your feet under a piece of furniture or something that is heavy with an opening under it (such as a pair of large dumbbells), then you can bypass the need for a partner in this exercise. Most gyms also have benches where you can wrap your feet around. 

To perform a sit up:

  1. Lay on your back and place your feet under something (either someone else’s hands or something else weighted that you can put your feet under). Point your knees up, making a mountain with your legs. Bring your butt towards your heels until your knees are at about a 45-degree angle.
  2. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows pointed out, or you can place your hands across your chest, touching your shoulders.
  3. Bring your torso and chest up together, keeping your core tight.
  4. Bring your chest to your knees. Come down slowly. Do not fall down. A controlled descent back to the ground will increase the time under tension in this exercise.
  5. Choose a number of repetitions, and do 4-6 sets of sit-ups.



V-Ups are a great ab exercise to avoid engaging both the upper and lower abdominal muscles. The V-Up relies on a full range of motion to target the upper rectus abdominis. 

To perform a V-Up:

  1. Lay down on the ground, placing your arms up and out, past your head.
  2. Lift your feet and arms up slightly off the ground
  3. Bring your feet up to a 45-degree angle while bringing your torso to a 45-degree angle. Point your hands towards your knees.
  4. At the apex of the movement, your legs and torso should make V-Shape. At the top of the rep, your butt should be the only part of your body on the ground.
  5. Choose a number of repetitions and do 4-6 sets of V-Ups.

Wrapping Up

Scissor kicks, flutter kicks, and crisscrosses are all abdominal exercises based on the same movement, but with different ranges of motion. These types of core exercises target several lower body and core muscle groups, with a particular emphasis on the transverse abdominis.

Incorporating scissor kicks into your ab workout routine can help you strengthen your core, protect your spine, decrease back pain, and assist your lifts in the gym. 

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