Scissor Kicks: Correct Form, Benefits, & Muscles Worked

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Everyone wants to strengthen and tone their core, but most of the time, people only focus on the six-pack abs portion of the training. There is nothing wrong with awesome brick-like abs, but it’s essential to remember the importance of core training.

And I’m not talking about karate kicks, either.

The core is a dynamic group of muscles that need to be trained with a variety of exercises to make sure your body can not only move when you ask it to but also it can make sure you are pain-free. Scissor kicks are a fantastic option to target the often-forgotten transverse abdominis, and the benefits are seriously excellent.

Table of Contents:

  • What Are Scissor Kicks?
  • Scissor Kicks vs Flutter Kicks: What’s The Difference?
  • How To Perform Scissor Kicks
  • Muscles Worked During Scissor Kicks
  • 6 Benefits of Scissor Kicks
  • Common Scissor Kick Mistakes
  • Scissor Kicks Alternatives
  • Programming Scissors Kicks
  • Sample Core Workout
  • FAQs

scissor kicks exercise

What Are Scissor Kicks?

The scissor kick exercise for your core is a move that mainly targets your transverse abdominis. This corset-like muscle is the deepest of all the core muscles, stabilizing your spine and pulling your core in.

Unfortunately, the transverse abdominis and transverse abdominis exercises are often neglected in favor of exercises that train the ever-popular six-pack. We’ll go into depth later about why that’s a bad idea. To do the scissor kick, start lying on your back and raise your legs off the floor to a 45-ish-degree angle, depending on your fitness level.

While keeping your legs straight, cross one over the other like scissors cutting paper in the air without letting them drop down to the ground. Holding your legs in the air like this also targets lower body muscles like the hips’ quads and abductors/adductors.

Scissor Kicks vs Flutter Kicks: What’s The Difference?

If you aren’t familiar with the flutter kick, it’s similar to the scissor kick. The flutter kick is also done lying on your back with your legs off the ground, but they will be just off the floor.

Keeping your legs straight, you’ll flutter your legs as if holding a kickboard in the water and kicking your legs to propel yourself forward. At first glance, these core exercises look almost identical. They even both target the transverse abdominis while working the glutes and quads.

However, scissor kicks are a bit more advanced. The crisscross motion is more challenging since it recruits the adductors and abductors. That’s the easiest way to tell these apart: Flutter kicks are an up-and-down movement, and the scissor kick is a crisscross motion.

How To Perform Scissor Kicks

Scissor kicks are a pretty basic-looking movement, but there are specific rules you need to follow to get the benefits you are chasing. This move is a challenging position, and most people have a hard time keeping their back from arching or keeping their legs straight.

Make sure to follow these guidelines when performing scissor kicks to make sure you are strengthening and not furthering your imbalances.

  • Lie on the floor with legs extended and place your arms at your sides.
  • Keep your low back firmly pressed into the floor and engage your core to lift both legs off the ground until they are at a 45-degree angle.
  • Separate your straight legs into a “V” shape, which will be your starting position.
  • While keeping both legs straight, bring your legs together and cross one over the other. Widen them back out again into that same “V” position, and as you bring them in again, bring the opposite leg on top this time.
  • Continue alternating sides and crisscrossing the legs while keeping your legs straightened and your lower back firmly pressed into the floor.

To modify this exercise and make it easier, either place your hands under your butt, which will help keep your lower back on the floor, or lift your legs higher than a 45-degree angle. To advance the exercise, increase your range of motion, decrease the tempo, or add ankle weights.

Pro Tip: An exercise mat can help make the move more comfortable and prevent you from laying on the gross gym floor.

Muscles Worked During Scissor Kicks

Scissor kicks are surprisingly challenging, engaging many muscles of the core as well as your leg muscles. Here are the primary muscles worked during this exercise:

  • Transverse Abdominis: The six-pack gets all of the Instagram attention, but the transverse abdominis is the unlikely action hero of the core muscles. As the deepest core muscles in your body, they protect your organs and support the critical pelvic and lumbar areas. Located in the front abdominal wall under your internal oblique, it stretches from your ribs to your pelvis. That anatomy means it’s called upon with every movement you make.
  • Hip Flexors: This muscle group is commonly thought of as one muscle, but that is certainly not the case. The hip flexors are a bundle of muscles that start beneath your stomach and run across your hips before inserting into the top of your thighs. The primary hip flexors include psoas, iliacus, pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius. Due to excessive sitting, most people have weak and tight hip flexors, commonly leading to back pain. These muscles need to be strong to ensure you can move your lower body how you want to without getting injured. This means hip flexor exercises are crucial!
  • Rectus Abdominis: The six-pack abs known as the rectus abdominis are a parallel set of muscles that run down the front of your torso. During rectus abdominis exercises, they work to flex your trunk, meaning they allow you to sit up off of the floor and help you bend your upper body forward. Along with flexion, they work to stabilize and help maintain the proper position of your pelvis.
  • Lower Abs: It’s important to note that I placed this right after the rectus abdominis, and I did this because there aren’t, in fact, any separate lower abs, just one set of abdominal muscles has an upper and a lower section. The upper section works to flex your torso, and the lower section is more geared toward hip flexion. You cannot isolate the lower abs, but an exercise like this helps to target them more as you bring your thighs toward your core during the scissor kick.
  • Adductors: Without going too in-depth, the adductors are a group of muscles near your inner thighs that work to bring your legs into the midline of your body. The adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, gracilis, and pectineus play their part in this movement.
  • Abductors: Where the adductors bring the legs toward the body’s midline, abductors take them away from the body. The gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and TFL (tensor fascia latae) make up this group of muscles. These muscles assist with walking gait, hip extension, and stabilizing the body.

What Are The Best Scissor Kick Exercise Benefits?

With all of the above muscles in play, it’s no surprise the scissor kick comes with many benefits. Here are six of the top benefits you can expect from doing this exercise regularly.

  • Increase Core Strength: Training the core with the scissor kick hits muscles for your everyday movement and athletic performance. Strengthening these muscles in unison will directly carry over to movements like squats, deadlifts, running, and jumping, to name a few.
  • Decrease Lower Back Pain: It sucks to get up from a chair feeling stiff and have your lower back hurt. Strengthening with the scissor kick exercise will develop all of the necessary core muscles that help stabilize your spine and make sure you can move without pain. The hip flexors are extremely important, and strengthening them will decrease that tight, painful feeling you get in the front of your hips and lower back.
  • Tone Abs: With a stronger core comes increased strength for all your other exercises. The scissor kick will strengthen and tone your core, but the improved performance in the other movements will continue to tone the area as you progress from week to week. Strengthening your abs to protect your spine should be priority number one, and then once they are strong enough to do that, they will reward you with awesome beach body abs if your diet is in order.
  • Help With Everyday Tasks: Strengthening the correct muscles helps with everyday movements like walking and standing up from a chair. These may be an afterthought when our training is spent doing challenging advanced exercises, but if you have ever had pain while walking or standing up, you know it’s not to be taken for granted.
  • Increase Performance: Along with the everyday tasks, strengthening your core will directly carry over to things like running, jumping, and throwing. Any athlete knows how much a strong core affects their performance. Remember that this is just one core puzzle piece, but it checks many boxes.
  • Fix Imbalances: What’s unique about this exercise is its ability to strengthen the core muscles as a unit. You have to be able to contract multiple muscle groups to perform this movement, and it is technically a unilateral exercise since you are alternating one leg at a time, moving in unison. If you have a core muscle imbalance, it will start to even out after a few weeks of the scissors exercise.

scissor kick exercise

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Performing The Scissor Kicks Exercise

To get the most out of your scissor kicks, you need to do them with proper form. Avoid these errors to train the right muscles and keep from getting injured:

  • Arching your lower back: If your core muscles aren’t strong enough to engage properly, the lower back will try to assist and take over the exercise. To avoid this, keep your hands and elbows flat against the ground, press your lower back into the floor, and pull your stomach toward your spine. If this still is an issue, try placing your hands under your butt until you can progress to keeping them at your sides. Another option is raising your legs above a 45-degree angle and lowering them down as you get stronger.
  • Bending legs:Keep your legs straight while performing this exercise to strengthen your quads and hip flexors. Think of flexing your quads and feet, pulling your toes towards your face to help keep the legs locked. If they keep bending, you can try to complete a few reps at a time until you get stronger and can do more in a row.

2 Scissor Kicks Alternatives

Whether you want to change things up, or just want even more exercises to hit your core, here are two scissor kick alternatives.

1) Ab Bicycles:

scissor legs

This crunch variation is a great way to work the obliques, hip flexors, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis. All the moving parts can make it challenging to maintain the form, so make sure you move slowly with control before adding speed to the movement.

How to do Ab Bikes:

  • Lie on your back and bring your legs to a 90-degree angle with your knees above your hips and feet directly in line with your knees.
  • Place your fingertips against your temple instead of holding onto the back of your head so you don’t pull and crunch your neck forward.
  • Elevate your upper body slightly so your shoulder blades barely touch the floor.
  • Extend your left leg straight and twist your torso as your left elbow crunches towards your right knee. Extend your right leg and crunch your right elbow toward your left knee as your left leg comes back in.
  • Repeat and alternate sides.

2) Flutter Kicks:

scissors ab exercise

Flutter kicks are a great starting point before advancing to scissor kicks as they remove the crisscross portion of the exercise. You can perform them faster to get a cardio-type feel for your core or use a slower tempo to feel a deep burn with the time under tension.

How to do Flutter Kicks:

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms at your sides.
  • Lift both legs just a few inches off of the floor while keeping your lower back pressed into the floor.
  • Keeping your legs straight, flutter kick your legs as if kicking in a pool. Your heel of one foot should be just above the toes of the other foot as you switch sides throughout the movement.

Programming Scissor Kicks

If you have never performed scissor kicks before, try adding two sets of 20 total crisscross reps into your core training. This should give you a baseline for regressing or progressing the exercise.

If you are more seasoned in core training, try adding 3-4 sets of 30 seconds, going for as many reps as possible.

Core training can be done on its own day or one portion of the core daily along with your strength training program. Either way, you will need to find what works for you, and the best core workout is the one you do.

Scissor Kick Sample Workout Routine

Looking for a good core routine that features the scissor kick? You’ve come to the right place! You can perform this routine on its own or even add it to the end of your leg workout.




RKC Plank


30 sec

Side Plank Hip Dips



Scissor Kicks


30 sec

Seated Russian Twists w/ Weight



Decline Sit Ups w/ Weight



Farmer’s Walk


20 sec


Now, let’s answer some of the more commonly asked questions about scissor kicks.

What is a scissor kick?

A scissor kick is a core exercise performed while lying on your back and making a crisscross motion with your legs like a pair of scissors making cuts.

Are scissor kicks good for thighs?

Scissor kicks are a fantastic core exercise that also target the inner and outer thighs.

Are scissor kicks effective?

Scissor kicks are very effective because they target the whole core instead of isolating one part at a time.

Can you get a six-pack from flutter kicks?

Flutter kicks are not likely to give you a six-pack by themselves, but if they are part of an all-encompassing core program and a proper diet, they certainly will help. If abs is your goal, make sure to follow our weight loss meal plan and a workout split (that includes flutter kicks, of course).

how to do scissors kick

Scissor Kicks: Final Thoughts

Scissor kicks build a fantastic foundation for many core muscles and deserve a place in your training program. Make sure to follow the correct form, and you’ll work a long list of muscles in the process.

Also, don’t forget that there are more benefits to scissor kicks than simply getting the abs of your dreams. With more core strength comes more overall strength, which will directly carry over to many of your favorite compound lifts, like squats and deadlifts.

Long story short, start scissor-kicking!

Ready to make your scissor kicks even harder? Pick one of these 11 Best Resistance Bands and add some resistance to your core routine!

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