We all want a decent midsection, whether we simply want to get rid of our love handles, have an outline of a six-pack, or shredded abs and obliques. Of course, proper diet is a super-important step, but direct abdominal training is something that should never be neglected, whether you’re dieting or bulking.
In fact, an argument can be made that doing more abdominal and oblique exercises on your off-season (when you’re gaining weight) is a much better way to grow your midsection. OK – you can’t see them yet, but your abs are always there and, like any other muscle, they need to be built, which usually only happens during a calorie-surplus in natural lifters.
Out of the thousands of abdominal exercises out there, it sometimes can be hard to pick one outside of your normal routine to try. While you shouldn’t need to vary your abdominal exercises too often, it’s important to include some variations to hit the muscles from different angles and movements for maximal growth.
One often forgotten exercise outside of a military workout routine is flutter kicks (AKA scissor kicks), which can be a very useful exercise to help you grow your upper and lower abs, as well as help them get stronger. In this article we’ll be talking about how to perform this exercise correctly, what muscles they activate, and variations you can try.
How To Perform Flutter Kicks
Like most ab exercises, there isn’t much to understanding and completing this movement.
1. To begin, you’ll need to be lying on the ground, with either your hands laying by your sides or under your bottom (doesn’t matter if you have palms up or down, whatever is more comfortable).
2. Your legs will be about 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) off the ground straight out, and to perform the reps you will commence kicking your legs up and down to about 2 feet (60 cm) up off the ground to almost touching the ground. The exercise can be performed for time or reps, i.e. 50 reps or 30 seconds.
The other way to perform this exercise, which is why it’s sometimes known as scissor kicks, has the same premise but executed differently.
1. Start in the same position but instead of kicking your legs up and down, swing them side to side up and over each other.
2. To mix it up, try doing 5-10 seconds of flutter kicks then do 5-10 seconds of scissor kicks until you hit failure for a few sets. By the end, we promise you’ll be feeling that burning in your abs if you push yourself and maintain good form.
As far as the muscles worked, of course the abdominals are hit as a whole, upper and lower both being activated. The obliques are activated as a stabilizer but not as much as oblique specific exercises.
Another muscle that unfortunately sometimes takes over during many ab exercises are the hip flexors. Because of the leg movement and the position of your body, your hip flexors take on a good amount of stress during this exercise. Finally, your quads are slightly activated during this workout but not to any kind of hypertrophic amount.
Variations of flutter kicks are almost always harder, even if they don’t include adding resistance. The simplest variation would be weighed flutter and scissor kicks, which do require you to have ankle weights that can weigh up to around 2-3kg. Unfortunately, they only make ankle weights so heavy, so eventually you’ll master this movement and need to move onto a harder variation.
Hanging Flutter Kicks
While there aren’t many intermediate flutter kick variations (only the basics and advanced movements), there are ways to make this next variation a bit easier to work up to the hardest one. We’re talking about hanging flutter kicks, which require a large amount of abdominal control and strength to perform.
This variation involves hanging from a pull-up bar (or any kind of bar), and while holding the top of a leg raise position, begin your flutter kicks. Holding your lower body in this position is hard enough, but doing flutter kicks in this position will really challenge your skills.
To work up to this exercise, you can begin by simply trying to hold the leg raise position hanging from a bar, or on a dip station in case your grip strength can’t support you for long enough. When you can hold this position for what you feel is long enough to perform the exercise, try completing at least 20 reps with good form for a complete set.
It’ll take a while to build up to, but when you’re able to do hanging flutter kicks, you’ll know your core strength is a cut above the rest.
Take Home Message
Ab training shouldn’t just be for the dieting season, your abdominals should be trained year round if you want a good amount of development as well as the strength to help you perform heavy lifts and prevent injury. Flutter kicks are a good beginner exercise to hit your abs and hip flexors, but shouldn’t be your only ab exercise as a wide variety of ab training will provide you with the best results.
Working up to the advanced versions are a great way to track your progress and assess your skill level, especially during a bulk when you might not be able to see your abdominals.
So no matter your goals or training level, give flutter kicks a try whether you have to begin at the basic level or can do a minute of hanging scissor kicks without resting!