The scissor kick is one of several exercises you can do to build and maintain your core strength. It also targets your lower body, which means you engage multiple muscles in order to complete the move. This exercise is sometimes also called flutter kicks.

Being able to perform the scissor kick exercise successfully depends on how strictly you can keep your form. That’s why you want your abs, not your lower back, doing the work.

By targeting the leg muscles via the “scissoring” move you directly recruit your core muscles. Plus, proper spine alignment via a solid core is what helps your lower body perform the “scissoring” movement.

Since the focus of this move is on engaging your core, you don’t want to be in a rush to complete the reps. Slow down and make sure to follow the steps and maintain your form throughout all of the sets and reps.

  1. Find an exercise mat that feels comfortable. You’ll want a mat that has some thickness but is also firm.
  2. Lie on your back on the mat with your legs extended out in front of you. Place your arms by your sides, palms down. You can also place your hands under your glutes below the small of your back, palms pressing into the floor.
  3. Engage your core by pressing your lower back into the mat and tucking your pelvis. Maintain this position during the entire movement.
  4. Lift both legs off the ground about 6 to 12 inches from the starting position (in this case, the floor) or about a 45-degree angle.
  5. With your core tight and neck relaxed, lower one leg toward the floor as you lift the other leg up. This is the start of the “scissoring” motion.
  6. Continue the scissoring motion by slowly switching your legs up and down for the recommended amount of repetitions.
  7. Perform 2 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions. Each leg scissoring counts as one rep. As you get stronger, add a third set. Scissor kicks can be part of a core workout that you do 2 to 3 days a week.

If the basic scissor kick exercise is too difficult, there are simpler moves you can do that use a similar movement pattern.

  • Keep your legs lower to the mat. This can help take the pressure off your lower back. If you’re feeling your lower back arching up away from the mat while performing this exercise, start with your feet just hovering over the floor. As you get stronger, increase the distance between the floor and your legs. Make sure your back is not arching.
  • Substitute a bicycle crunch for the scissor kick. The bicycle crunch follows a similar movement pattern as the scissor kick.
  • To build strength and endurance before trying the scissor kick exercise, consider mastering a supine bicycle crunch exercise.

When you’re ready to up the intensity of the basic scissor kick exercise, consider trying one of these modifications.

  • Raise your legs higher and make the scissoring movement larger.
  • Slow down the kicking movement and hold the top leg for 2 to 3 seconds before switching legs.
  • Add light ankle weights.

Watching the scissor kick on a video is one thing, but executing the move with correct form is an entirely different process. Before you grab an exercise mat and kick through a few reps, read through these tips on how to perform the scissor kick exercise.

  • Keep your arms stationary throughout the entire move. Your arms serve as stability. They should not be used as momentum.
  • Keep your core tight and engaged throughout the entire move. Think belly button to spine.
  • Keep the motion rhythmic and controlled, not fast and furious.
  • The scissor kick is an isolation exercise, which means, it’s often more effective when included in an overall fitness routine. You can find the scissor kick in a lineup of Pilates exercises, ab and core workouts, and cardio boot camp style classes.
  • Since you’re asking the core muscles to kick it into high gear, make sure to properly warm up before performing scissor kicks.

The scissor kick is an intermediate-level exercise that requires strength in your core and lower body. If you have low back issues, tight hip flexors or neck problems, consider modifying the movement.

Additionally, if you are new to exercise and not sure of the proper way to engage your abdominal muscles, consider working with a personal trainer or physical therapist.

If you’re pregnant, consider a different exercise to target your core muscles. Lying flat on the floor during exercise may not be ideal after your first trimester, suggests the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The scissor kick exercise works your core muscles, glutes, quads and adductors. Engaging your core muscles is what allows you to “flutter” your legs up and down. The core muscles include the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and the hip flexors.

Any time you go from a supine position to an upright position, your core muscles assist the move.

For example, getting out of bed. If your core muscles are weak, performing daily tasks can become difficult, especially without back pain. That’s because strong core muscles help to reduce back pain, improve balance, and maintain proper flexion, extension, and rotation.

Having the strength to do a scissor kick is no easy feat. That’s why it’s important to take your time and move through the natural progression of the movement.

If the basic scissor kick exercise is too challenging, try one of the modifications. Strict form and engaging the correct muscles matter more than the number of repetitions you perform.