How to perform the scissors exercise in Pilates

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The scissors exercise in Pilates is a very challenging exercise that aids in the stability of the abdominals as well as the mobilisation and flexibility of the hamstrings and calves. It is the third exercise in the Ab Series of Five. The breathwork is coordinated with the movement and so helps with basic coordination. It also strengthens the thoracic back section as the movement is done with the head elevated.

With the scissors exercise, you also require the ability to wrap your mind around really lengthening through your core powerhouse while you are in an upside-down position. If this sounds like it’s too advanced, instead try side scissors. In the traditional Pilates mat series, the scissors exercise is to be found in the midpoint of the routine. It comes after the neck pull and is followed by the bicycle.

The benefits of the scissors exercise

The scissors exercise targets, among others, the upper as well as the lower abs. These muscles also need to enlist the obliques in order to maintain stability. This makes the scissors exercise an excellent challenge for your abs. It provides a stretch to your hamstrings (back of the thighs) and the iliopsoas (hip muscle) which opens up the front of your hips.

Starting position

  • Lie supine on the mat with your head and shoulders elevated. Both legs must be elevated towards the ceiling with your feet plantar-flexed.
  • Inhale to prepare.
  • Exhale and double-pulse the right leg in the air towards the body. While you do this, hold gently onto the leg and keep your abdominals well connected.
  • Inhale and switch legs.
  • Exhale and repeat the movement with your left leg.

Muscles worked

  • Abdominals
  • Upper back muscles
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip flexors


  • Keep your scapulae stabilised.
  • Do not strain your neck.
  • Keep your abdominals connected. As you’re requesting the core muscles to ‘kick it into high gear’, ensure that you adequately warm-up before doing scissor kicks.
  • Keep your arms still throughout the entire movement. Your arms serve as stability which means that you shouldn’t use them as a momentum.
  • Keep the motion rhythmic in addition to control.

The scissor kick is an isolation exercise. This means that it’s often more effective when it is included in an overall fitness routine. It is possible to find the scissor kick in a line-up of Pilates exercises as well as other styles of exercise modalities.


  • Hold your legs lower to the mat as this can assist with taking the pressure off your lower back. If you’re feeling that your lower back is arching up away from the mat while you’re performing the scissors exercise, begin with your feet just hovering off the floor. As you become stronger, expand the distance between the floor and your legs. Ensure that your back is not arching.
  • Replace a bicycle crunch for the scissor kick as it follows a similar movement pattern to the scissor kick.
  • Keep your head on the mat or a small barrel if you’re straining your neck.
  • Keep your hands supporting your head.
  • This exercise can be performed on a small arc barrel for lower back stability

Perform between five and 10 reps on each side.

By focusing on the leg muscles with the “scissoring” move, you immediately recruit your core muscles. In addition, proper spine alignment via a solid core is what assists your lower body do the “scissoring” movement. As the focus of this move is on recruiting your core, you don’t want to be in a rush to finish the reps. Slow down and ensure that you follow the steps as well as maintain your form throughout all of the sets in addition to reps.

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