How to Do Scissor Kicks for the Obliques

proper form for standard scissor kicks
With one simple tweak, the standard scissor kick can target your obliques. (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

Anytime you carry something heavy in one hand or turn around in a chair to look behind you, two long muscles on either side of your torso, the obliques, are working hard. If you play golf or tennis, having strong obliques is especially important because of the trunk rotation involved in those activities. Adding a twist to the traditional scissor kick exercise targets the obliques as well as the abs.

How to Do the Oblique Scissor Kick

Step 1: Starting Position

Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your legs side by side and extended. Place your fingertips on your head just behind your ears to provide a little support for your head. Lift your head and shoulder blades off the mat. Hover your heels a couple inches off the mat.

Step 2: Contract Your Core Muscles

Press your lower back firmly into the mat and slightly tuck your pelvis. Draw your belly button in toward your spine. Maintain this position throughout the exercise.

Step 3: Initiate the Movement

Move your legs in a vertical plane to create the scissoring action. As your right leg lifts up, your left leg lowers to hover above the mat. Keep your legs as straight as possible.

Step 4: Add the Twist

As your right leg rises, rotate your torso to the right, bringing your left elbow toward your right thigh. Your left shoulder blade will come higher off the ground, and your right shoulder blade may touch the mat. Return to center as your legs pas each other, then rotate your torso to the left as your left leg rises.

man doing bicycle crunches
Oblique scissor kicks are like bicycle crunches, except your legs stay straight and move up and down. (Image: Adobe Stock/dimarik16)

Perfect Your Technique

  • Keep your lower back pressed into the mat and your abs contracted during the entire exercise. If you don't, your back may arch, leading to back strain. If you are having trouble keeping your back on the mat, extend your arms alongside you, palms facing down, and slide your hands underneath your buttocks. This helps tilt your pelvis up so that your back presses into the mat.
  • It's not important how high you raise your top leg during the kick; it's more important to keep the abs contracted and the lower back on the mat. You'll get just as good a workout if you only scissor your legs a few inches apart.
  • Move in a slow and controlled motion during each part of the exercise, rather than swinging and jerking your legs or upper body. You'll get a better ab and oblique workout and put less strain on your muscles and joints.
  • Don't crunch your neck during the exercise to prevent neck and upper back strain. Keep your neck long and look up at the ceiling.
  • You don't need to rotate too far to left or right to get your obliques firing. As a guide, don't cross the midline of your body with either elbow when initiating the twist.

Keep Up With Sets and Reps

If you're new to abdominal training, don't do too many scissor kicks in your first session or you'll pay the price in abdominal soreness the next day. Start with two sets of 10 reps, and increase sets and reps as your ab muscles get stronger and your body acclimates to the movement.

If you've already been training your abs and obliques, start with three sets of 20 and increase sets and reps as you get stronger.

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