Why You Should Add Scissor Kicks To Your Ab Routine

Looking for a new exercise to tone up the core? If so, meet scissor kicks, a core strengthening and ab-burning exercise that requires you to crisscross your legs horizontally. While it's not as popular as time-tested ab exercises (yes — we still love you, planks), this exercise is just as beneficial for sculpting lengthy, defined core muscles.

"Scissor kicks work the entire core, including the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, hip flexors, and spine," shares master trainer, Katelyn DiGiorgio (via Byrdie). Not only does it help define the core muscles for those wanting washboard abs, but strengthening these core muscles also helps with performing everyday tasks. For instance, Healthline shares that strong core muscles make it easier to change positions from lying down to sitting upright. Building your core also increases balance, improves posture, and reduces back pain. One study published by Sports Health found that core stability training can even help prevent injuries.

Beyond working the core muscles, Healthline points out that scissor kicks also work the glutes, adductors, and quads. Because of the number of muscles engaged during the scissor motion, it's typically considered an advanced ab exercise. However, it can easily be modified to any fitness level. Scissor kicks require no equipment and can be done almost anywhere.

How to properly perform scissor kicks

When it comes to performing scissor kicks, it's important to distinguish that the movement is distinct from flutter kicks. While they both use the kicking motion, scissor kicks (horizontal kicks) are the advanced cousin of flutter kicks (vertical, up-and-down kicks) since they require more control (per Byrdie).

To perform this move, grab a mat and lay on your back. Start by engaging your core and pressing your back into the mat. "Scissor kicks are performed lying face-up, with your legs straight and lifted about 45 degrees off the floor. One leg lowers toward the floor as you lift the other; then continue to slowly alternate with control to create the scissor motion," DiGiorgio tells Byrdie. Keep switching the legs horizontally (side to side) so one leg is always closer to the floor and on top of the other.

If you're looking to intensify this ab exercise, Livestrong recommends hovering your legs closer to the ground and keeping your legs straight. To crank up the heat even more, Greatist suggests adding in ankle weights, holding your kicks for a couple of seconds, or using a resistance band.

If you're looking for beginner-friendly modifications, you'll want to focus on keeping your knees bent and hovering your legs at a 45-degree angle. For more stability, you can put your hands underneath your lower back. If you feel any pain, talk to your doctor about safer, alternative core exercises.