How Many Flutter Kicks Should I Do Based On My Fitness Level?

Flutter kicks are a great bodyweight exercise to target your abdominal muscles and hip flexors.

One thing I like about flutter kicks as an abs workout exercise is that they can help strengthen your lower abs if you perform them properly, and there are several variations so that you can progress and regress the exercise based on your fitness level.

Before adding flutter kicks into your training sessions, you are probably wondering, how many flutter kicks should I do based on my fitness level?

In this exercise guide, we will discuss how to perform flutter kicks, how to modify flutter kicks to add variety to your ab workout routine, and ultimately answer your question, how many flutter kicks should I do in my workout routines?

Let’s jump in!

A person doing flutter kicks.

How Do You Do Flutter Kicks?

Before we look at how many flutter kicks you should do to strengthen your abs, let’s look at how to perform the flutter kicks exercise in core workouts.

There are several variations of flutter kicks that you can do in ab workouts, but the basic flutter kicks exercise involves lying on your back with your legs out straight in front of you and then alternating lifting each up and down in a reciprocal pattern.

Here are the steps for how to do flutter kicks:

How To Perform Flutter Kicks

  1. Lie on your back with your hands tucked under the very top of your butt or the space in your lower back to make sure that it stays pressed into the ground. Keep your upper body, neck, and head neutral and resting on the ground.
  2. Lift your heels about 3 to 4 inches off the floor and then flutter them up and down, alternating one leg with the other. Make sure to keep your knees straight and use your abs and deep core muscles to ensure your pelvis and lower back remain on the floor. This will involve engaging your transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, and pelvic floor muscles to ground your pelvis and perform a posterior pelvic tilt so that your lower back isn’t arching off of the ground.
  3. Only lift your legs about 6 inches with each flutter kick. The closer your feet remain to the floor, the harder the exercise will be, but do not allow your feet to touch down until your set is over.

Keep your knees straight the whole time. Remember to breathe and stop the exercise if you are unable to maintain proper form with your spine and find that you are arching your lower back.

Variations of Flutter Kicks

There are a few different ways that you can modify flutter kicks for beginners or progress flutter kicks for advanced athletes.

Some variations of flutter kicks aren’t quite the same exercise but can be used in addition or instead of flutter kicks in your abs workouts to add variety.

Flutter Kicks for Beginners

If you are struggling to keep your back flat on the floor, try lifting your legs up higher in the starting position (halfway up to vertical rather than just a few inches from the floor).

You can also make flutter kicks easier by making large flutters up and down all the way up to 90° and then back down with each leg rather than little 6-inch flutter kicks.

Flutter kicks with a cable machine.

Advanced Flutter Kicks

The easiest way to progress flutter kicks for advanced athletes looking to strengthen their core muscles is to wear ankle weights while performing the movement.

By adding ankle weights, you are increasing the resistance, which boosts the intensity of the exercise.

Plus, because the ankle weight is at the far end of a long lever arm, even a light ankle weight like 2 to 3 pounds could make a big difference in how difficult flutter kicks workouts are.

If you are doing flutter kicks at the gym and have access to a cable machine, you can also use the ankle cuff attachments and perform the flutter kicks with a light weight from the weight stack to add resistance.

Finally, if you don’t have ankle weights and want to do flutter kicks in your at-home core workouts, you can use a resistance band if you get one of the resistance band kits that has ankle cuffs.

Attach the ankle cuffs to each end of the resistance band instead of handles and then use the door attachment anchor or secure the middle of the resistance band around a very stable low table leg close to the ground.

Resistance bands.

Position your body so that there is tension on the resistance band in the starting position so your feet will be facing the anchor point and your butt will be positioned far enough away that you feel some pull. 

Then perform the flutter kicks as usual, working against the resistance of the band.

The only problem with this variation of flutter kicks is that the angle of pull from the resistance band isn’t vertical in the way that your legs are moving, so this tends to work best for scissor kicks, which are discussed below. 

A good workaround is if you have a way to attach the resistance band below your ankles so that you are having to pull up on the band.

This sometimes is possible if you lie on a weight bench and then use a short band attached underneath.

A better alternative is to use a Pilates reformer, as this machine is designed to provide resistance with cables on your ankles in the right position.

I highly recommend getting The Micro, by Lagree Fitness if you want to take your at-home core workouts and Pilates workouts to another level.

It’s super compact and lightweight yet capable of progressing exercises like flutter kicks.

Scissor kicks.

Scissor Kicks

Scissor kicks are a good variation of flutter kicks to work your inner and outer thighs as well as your obliques.

Here are the steps:

How To Perform Scissor Kicks

  1. Keep the same exact position that you use for flutter kicks and perform essentially the same exercise but instead of fluttering your legs up and down, scissor them in and out by crossing them over one another and out to the opposite sides. 
  2. Again, you don’t need to have a wide range of motion. Try to keep your legs as low to the ground as possible while still keeping your lower back pressed into the floor. 
  3. If your lower back is arching up and your lower abs are not strong enough to perform a posterior pelvic tilt, lift your legs higher to make this abs circuit workout exercise easier.

Leg Lifts

Leg lifts are a good variation for flutter kick workouts to work your lower abs and hip flexors.

Here are the steps:

How To Perform Leg Lifts

  1. Keep the same position but this time, lift your legs together as a unit all the way up towards the ceiling.
  2. Slowly lower1 your legs back down without fully touching them to the ground. 
  3. Then, engage all of your core muscles to lift them back up and continue this cycle.
Leg lifts.

How Many Flutter Kicks Should I Do?

As with any strength training exercise, the number of flutter kicks you should do depends on your fitness level, training goals, and the other workouts and exercises you are performing for the muscles worked by flutter kicks. 

Here are a couple of guidelines for how many flutter kicks you should do in your workouts:

Note that with any of these recommendations, you should stop if you feel that you are using momentum rather than your abs.

How Many Flutter Kicks Should I Do If I’m A Beginner?

For beginners, a good starting place is two sets of 10 to 12 reps. Build up to three sets of 10 to 20 reps. Or, try 2-3 sets of 20-30 seconds of flutter kicks.

Take at least 60 seconds of rest in between each set.

Toe touches.

How Many Flutter Kicks Should I Do To Build Strength?

If you are advanced and have strong abdominal muscles, wear ankle weights for flutter kicks to add resistance (or use cables as discussed).

Perform 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps to build strength and muscle. 

It’s better to add more weight and perform fewer reps per set to increase ab strength and build muscle. However, make sure you can safely handle the weight and you’re not straining your hip flexors, lower back, and obliques.

How Many Flutter Kicks Should I Do To Build Muscle Endurance?

To build muscle endurance, you need to do longer sets of flutter kicks. Try going for time instead of reps, beginning with three sets of 30 seconds and building up to 60 seconds per set.

Decrease the rest to 30 seconds in between sets.

For more great workout ideas, check out some stability ball exercises here.

A stability ball push up.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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