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Are Flutter Kicks the Best Ab Exercise?

author image William McCoy
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.
Are Flutter Kicks the Best Ab Exercise?
Are Flutter Kicks the Best Ab Exercise? Photo Credit: loco75/iStock/Getty Images

Hundreds of abs exercises exist, and everyone claims to know which one is best for a strong middle. But, no single one provides a comprehensive workout for all the muscles of the abdomen, including the flutter or scissor kick.

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This move, done by lying on your back and scissoring your legs, uses your rectus abdominis, the main ab muscle, and your obliques, the side ab muscles, for stabilization. But, you'll also feel the very fronts of your hips burn during the exercise. This is because the hip flexors work hard along with your abs to hold your legs just off the floor and kick.

If your back is healthy, then the flutter kick might be one of many exercises you include in your ab-training regimen to foster a more stable core, even if it alone isn't the "best." No single exercise can be considered best when it comes to the abs, though, as you need multiple moves to train all the muscles through their range of motion.

What Is The Flutter Kick?

A proper flutter kick is easy to perform as you need no equipment, except for a gym mat.

Step 1

Lie on your back on a gym mat with your legs extended and your arms alongside your hips, palms down.

Step 2

Lift your legs 4 to 6 inches off the floor. Press your low back into the mat.

Step 3

Keep your legs straight as you rhythmically raise one leg higher, then switch. Move in a fluttering, up and down motion.

Step 4

Perform for 15 to 20 repetitions. Alternatively, flutter kick for a period of time, such as 20 to 30 seconds.

Muscles Worked

Your rectus abdominis -- the front sheath of your abs -- works when you flex, or bend, the torso at the waist. During the flutter kick, no bending happens so these ab muscles work as stabilizers only.

The hip flexors, which attach the pelvis, back and legs together, are the primary movers. Secondary muscles worked are those in the thighs. The obliques, at the sides of your abdomen, and quadriceps stabilize the activity along with the rectus abdominis.

Because the abs aren't among the primary muscles used during the flutter kick, it can't be the best ab exercise.

Possible Contraindications

Hovering your legs off the floor to perform the flutter kick can cause stress to your back. If you feel pain, skip the kicks and choose more back-friendly core moves, such as front planks and crunches on a stability ball. You'll actually train the ab muscles more with these moves and reduce hip flexor activation.

Planks don't aggravate the hip flexor muscles.
Planks don't aggravate the hip flexor muscles. Photo Credit: DrDjJanek/iStock/Getty Images

If you do flutter kicks consistently at every workout you could develop back pain due to overly tight hip flexors. When these muscles at the front side of your hip attachment become tight, they pull on the muscles of the lower spine. Over time, this leads to imbalances that can cause serious discomfort and even lumbar disc disorders.

Read More: How to Treat Imbalances in Hip Flexor Muscles

A Mix of Exercises is Best

Flutter kicks aren't the best abs exercise because they don't challenge all the muscles of your abdomen. No one exercise can, though, as you need to get a complete workout you must include in side-bending, rotation, stabilization and flexion movement. Flutter kicks and planks are stabilization moves. Bicycle crunches and cable woodchops train functional rotation and side bending. Crunches are an example of flexion.

Read More: The Best Core Workout Routine

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