Don't Let The Name Fool You: Flutter Kicks Are One Killer Core Move

·6 min read

Toned abs are a nice perk, but core exercises do so much more for you. Whether or not you realize it, a strong core is essential for pretty much all your daily habits. "You need your core to be solid to do literally everything in life: get out of bed, pick up your baby, push open a door," says Bree Branker Koegel, NASM-certified trainer.

Sure you can rep out basic abs moves (think crunches and sit-ups), but if you want results consider the flutter kick. This is an advanced, and fun, move targeting your rectus abdominus (six pack abs), transverse abs (deep abs muscles), obliques (side abs), lower back, hip flexors, and quads.

Meet the experts: Bree Branker Koegel is a NASM-certified trainer. Melissa Kendter, ACE-CPT, is an EvolveYou trainer.

The best part of flutter kicks is you don't need any equipment to work all those muscles. All you have to do is lie on the floor, lift your legs to a forty-five-degree angle, and then “flutter” them up and down, keeping your lower back pressing into the floor.

It only sounds easy. “The motion might be small, but it's building serious core strength and stability,” says Melissa Kendter, ACE-CPT, an EvolveYou trainer. That makes them awesome cross-training exercises for runners and swimmers.

A quick word of warning: If you’re just starting to venture into the world of abs exercises, it might be better to begin with some easier moves before jumping into flutter kicks, since they’re a little more, uh, difficult.

Find out all you need to know about flutter kicks, including form tips, the benefits, and modifications and variations for all levels, according to trainers.

How To Do Flutter Kicks With Proper Form

How to:

  1. Lie on your back on a mat. Pull your belly button to your spine to engage your core.

  2. Raise your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground, with your hands behind your head. Keep your chin tucked.

  3. Lift your legs up off the floor, maintaining contact between your lower back and the mat.

  4. Swiftly move your feet up and and down like you're swimming in air.

Sets/reps for results: Set a timer for 30 seconds and see how long you can maintain good form while performing the exercise. That is now your benchmark time for three to four rounds. It should change all the time depending on how the rest of your day/life is going!

Pro tip: Make sure your low back is pressing into the floor beneath you the whole time. "I like to imagine I’m a spoon, or the bottom of a rocking chair, with contact to the floor at all times," says Branker.

Benefits Of Flutter Kicks

You'll feel the burn of flutter kicks almost instantly. Trust: It's so worth it, if you ask trainers. The biggest perk of flutter kicks is they target multiple parts of your core, Branker says. "The stronger the core, the more functional you move as a human," she adds.

  • Target multiple muscles. The move "activates the hip flexors, the lower back, and the quads a bit more than other exercises," says Kendter.

  • Up cardio health with low-impact. "Usually, you do it timed or thrown in at the end of the workout, so it really can elevate your heart rate," she explains. You don't have to jump around to do it.

  • Improve muscular endurance. "It works muscular endurance in that ab core area because of the time under tension," she adds. (FYI: Time under tension means you're holding a specific muscle under tension for an extended time.)

Want to really target your core? Try this full workout:

Make Flutter Kicks Part Of Your Workout

There are many ways to incorporate flutter kicks in your typical sweats to work your abs efficiently. "Flutter kicks are a great finisher, as well as a great primer to get the core engaged for the rest of your workout," says Branker. "You can’t really go wrong here!"

You can also include flutter kicks as a part of any dedicated abs workout. Aim for three or four sets of 15 to 60 seconds, depending on your baseline time. Just keep in mind this isn't the easiest move, so it's important to pay close attention to your form.

Warm up with a pelvic tilt before starting your flutter kicks, so that "you're engaging before you even begin the motion," says Kendter. If you feel your back lifting off the ground, take a break and make that your stopping point.

As you get stronger, you'll be able to sustain longer and longer sets of flutter kicks. But whether you do them for 15 seconds or a full minute, expect to feel the burn.

Flutter Kick Modifications And Variations For All Levels

Whether you want to increase or decrease the challenge, there's an awesome variation for you. For example, grabbing a weight adds more resistance to the already tough exercise or bending knees reduces strain. Try one of these flutter kick variations when you want to switch things up:

1. Flutter Kicks With Bent Knees

"If you have sensitive hips or weaker core muscles, take the modification of bending your knees," says Kendter.

How to:

  1. Lie on your back on a mat with legs bent and feet on the ground.

  2. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground, putting your hands behind your head.

  3. Lift your legs up off the floor, and press your lower back into the mat.

  4. Swiftly move your feet up and and down like you're swimming in air, maintaining the bend in the knees.

2. Alternating Leg Lowers

How to:

  1. Lie on your back on a mat.

  2. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground, and place your hands behind your head.

  3. Bring your legs straight up into the air over hips.

  4. Alternate slowly lowering one leg down to almost touch the floor a time.

3. Flutter Kicks With Ankle Weights

How to:

  1. Lie on your back on a mat with ankle weights on both legs.

  2. Lift your shoulders off the ground, putting your hands behind your head.

  3. Lift your legs up off the floor, and press your lower back into the mat.

  4. Swiftly move your feet up and and down like you're swimming in air.

4. Flutter Kicks With Weight Over Your Head

How to:

  1. Lie on your back on a mat, and hold a single dumbbell (or medicine ball) with both of your hands.

  2. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground, and hold the dumbbell above your head with arms straight.

  3. Lift your legs up off the floor, pressing your lower back into the mat.

  4. Swiftly move your feet up and and down like you're swimming in air.

5. Dynamic Flutter Kicks

How to:

  1. Lie on your back on a mat.

  2. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground, putting your hands behind your head.

  3. Lift your legs up off the floor and press your lower back into the mat.

  4. Swiftly move your feet up and and down like you're swimming in air. While fluttering, lift your legs up higher and then back down.

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