In the Victorian era you could wear a corset to shrink your waist and flatten your stomach before slipping into an evening dress. If you wanted an hourglass figure, all you had to do was yank and tighten the laces. In modern times, you have to use your abdominal muscles to keep your jelly belly sucked in. Fortunately, nature has given you a girdle of muscles that wrap your midsection, or the transversus abdominis, which you can strengthen by doing scissor kicks.
The Transversus Abdominus
Traditional exercises, such as situps and crunches, will blast your rectus abdominis, or the front and vertical plate of muscles in the front of your torso. Also known as your six-pack, these muscles tend to be the focus of abdominal workouts. Scissors kicks target your transverse abdominis, or the girdle of muscles that wrap around your torso. Buried deep in your body, these muscles connect the back muscles to your rectus abdominis and are responsible for stabilizing the body. They help you to maintain an erect posture during certain activities such as lunges.
Lay in the supine position with your arms by your sides, palms turned down. Extend your legs, keeping your knees slightly bent. Raise your heels off the floor about 6 inches. Make a scissor-like up-and-down motion with your legs, lifting one leg to about a 45-degree angle from the ground while lowering the other leg. Avoid touching or resting your heels on the floor. Keep your abs tight and your lower back pressed to the floor. Perform 10 to 15 kicks for two sets. Alternatively, you can scissor your legs on a horizontal plane, crisscrossing your legs back and forth like window wipers.
To increase the intensity of the exercise, slow down the scissor kicks and hold your legs in a raised position for a few seconds. You can also add resistance by using ankle weights or performing the scissor kick exercise from a standing position in a pool. To make the exercise easier, put your hands beneath your buttocks -- this gives you more leverage. Avoid kicking your legs too high, and don't use momentum to complete the exercise.
The scissor crunch is an intermediate exercise, which combines a crunch with the scissors kick and blasts your lower and upper abdominals. Lay in the supine position with your legs fully extended and feet together. Hold a light dumbbell or small medicine ball with both hands. Put the weight on your chest, pointing your elbows to the sides. Lift your heels about an inch off the floor. Curl your shoulders up, contract your abs and maintain this position. Scissor your legs so your left leg crosses under your right and then reverse the movement with your right leg crossing under your left. Hold the legs-crossed position while lowering your torso to the floor. Perform 10 to 15 reps for two sets.
- 101 Workouts for Men: Build Muscle, Lose Fat and Reach Your Fitness Goals Faster; Michael Berg and the Editors of Muscle & Fitness
- 101 Workouts: Build Muscle, Lose Fat & Reach Your Fitness Goals Faster; Michael Berg and the Editors of Muscle & Fitness
- Bodybuilding.com: Scissor Kick
- Pregnancy-info.net: How To Get a Flat Tummy: Stomach Exercises That Work!
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- Men's Health Ultimate Dumbbell Guide: More Than 21,000 Moves Designed to Build Muscle, Increase Strength, and Burn Fat; Myatt Murphy
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.