Having fussy shoulders can make upper-body workouts challenging. If traditional shoulder exercises like the overhead press cause shoulder pain or discomfort, you’re probably not going to want to target that muscle group often. That’s where a gentle shoulder workout comes in clutch, since neglecting your shoulders—and the muscles around them—is actually not the solution that you may think it is.That’s because strengthening key areas around your shoulder complex plays an important role in shoulder health and the ability to lift discomfort-free.Here’s how: Many times, shoulder discomfort arises due to mobility, stability, strength, or posture issues, Katie Andrews, PT, DPT, MS, physical therapist at Pace West Physical Therapy, tells SELF. A lot of us tend to be stronger in our pectorals (chest muscles) and biceps than in our rotator cuff (a group of four small muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint) and back muscles. This is often due to habits in day-to-day life, like the hunched-forward posture many of us fall into while staring at computers or phones, as well as gym routines that favor our frontside muscles more than those in the back.These muscle imbalances, combined with the limited shoulder and spinal mobility that lots of folks have, pull our shoulders out of optimal alignment. So when we head to the gym to do upper-body lifts like overhead and chest presses, we end up performing those moves with our shoulders in subpar positioning. This often results in the pain and discomfort we feel in our shoulders.So what can we do about this? Building strength in those muscles that surround the shoulder muscle, stabilize it, and help it move is vital. For instance, strengthening the rotator cuff can help alleviate shoulder pain and discomfort by ensuring the shoulder is properly stabilized as it moves. Strengthening backside muscles, like the rhomboids (which retract your shoulder blades), can make a difference, too, since that helps pull the shoulder into correct positioning and counteracts the ill-effects of poor posture.Andrews created the gentle shoulder workout below for SELF that hits on all of this. This four-move shoulder workout is ideal for people with shoulder issues: The routine doesn’t include any overhead pressing—a movement that commonly bugs folks with sensitive shoulders—and focuses instead on those exercises that may even help alleviate some of your shoulder pain. It’s a gentle workout focused on improving mobility and strengthening the small muscles that surround your shoulder, rather than a super-intense routine aimed at lifting heavy or hitting PRs.The exercises in this workout are gentle enough that you can do them five days a week, says Andrews. It’s also fine to do these shoulder moves every other day, she adds. (Additionally, if you’d like, you can keep doing other upper-body exercises, like bicep curls and triceps extensions, as part of your routine as well, as long as they don’t bug your shoulders.)Quick caveat: If your shoulder pain is bad enough that it disrupts your activities of daily living (say, it hurts to put on a shirt or wash your hair) or stops you from participating in things you enjoy (like sports), check in with a doctor or physical therapist before trying this routine. They can help determine the underlying issue, and ideally develop an individualized program to remedy your discomfort. (Here’s how to tell when you should see a doctor for shoulder pain.)
It’s time for your favorite strength class, and you’re pumped for it. First move on the docket? Overhead presses. You’ve got this, you tell yourself. But as soon as you lift your dumbbells skyward, a sharp twinge shoots through your shoulder, stopping you in your tracks.Though certainly unpleasant, having shoulder pain or discomfort while lifting weights is fairly common, physical therapist Maria Borg, PT, CSCS, supervisor at UCHealth Sports Physical Therapy in Colorado, tells SELF. And there are a host of reasons why this can happen.But bottom line? Experiencing shoulder pain during exercise doesn’t mean you need to give up strength training altogether. In fact, there are lots of small things you can do to make weight lifting more enjoyable for sensitive shoulders—and we’ve got all that important intel right here.Ahead, everything you need to know about shoulder pain and weight lifting, as well as what you can do to keep it at bay.What causes shoulder pain while weight lifting?There are several reasons you may feel shoulder pain or discomfort while strength training. But perhaps two of the most common culprits are instability and weakness in your shoulder and surrounding areas, Kellen Scantlebury, DPT, CSCS, founder of Fit Club NY, tells SELF.First, a brief anatomy refresher: Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint, and the muscles of your shoulder are surrounded by tendons (which attach the muscles to bone), and bursae (fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction, sort of like your body’s own personal lube). Bursae are found on all the major joint junctions—hips and knees, too.The shoulder joint is the most mobile one in your body. “So with that comes inherent instability,” which can lead to pain, explains Scantlebury.Weakness, particularly in the rotator cuff, can play a role as well—and not just for baseball pitchers, who often injure this area with the repetitive throwing motion. The rotator cuff is made up of four different muscles that function to keep the shoulder in its proper place. If those muscles aren’t strong enough, then your shoulder may be sitting in less-than-ideal placement. Then, when you move your shoulder, particularly overhead, you can experience discomfort, says Scantlebury.Borg explains it this way: The shoulder is a ball and socket joint that is supposed to roll and glide as you move your arm to shoulder height, above your head, or while lifting your arm away from your body. But when you have rotator cuff syndrome (basically, any injury or condition that affects the rotator cuff), the rotator cuff muscles aren’t doing their job to keep the ball in the socket. Instead of the shoulder rolling and gliding when you raise your arm, the ball of the joint will press the soft tissues of the rotator cuff tendons and bursae between the ball and the top of the shoulder blade. That, in turn, can create pain and discomfort.Issues stabilizing your scapula, or your shoulder blade, can also contribute to shoulder pain since the stabilizing muscles on the backside of your shoulder assist with proper positioning of the joint. When these stabilizers aren’t functioning optimally, you can have higher risk of issues like shoulder impingement (common in swimmers, when the top of your shoulder blade rubs against your rotator cuff), tendinitis (when your tendons get inflamed or irritated), and bursitis (when your bursae gets inflamed or irritated)—all of which can lead to shoulder pain.
There’s nothing pleasant about a tight, crampy butt, especially when it comes out of nowhere. Fortunately, there are a few butt stretches you can do to stop butt tightness in its tracks—and we’ve got all the details right here.First though, let’s talk about what causes butt cramping. There are a few main reasons your butt can get tight or crampy, Elizabeth Lamontagne, PT, DPT, assistant director and physical therapist at Recovery Physical Therapy in New York City, tells SELF.The first: You’ve been sitting a lot. Sitting for more than 30 minutes can cause the glute muscles to turn off, explains Lamontagne. So if you’ve been stationary for a long period of time—say, you’re locked into back-to-back-to-back Zoom meetings for two, maybe three hours—and then you try to move, you’re suddenly using a muscle group that’s been used to not doing a whole lot. This burst of energetic movement can cause the glutes to cramp, explains Lamontagne. Cramping at first can feel like tightness, but then the tension will build and feel more like a strong spasm, she adds.Another reason your glutes may feel tight or crampy is because the muscle group has been overworked, either during your lower-body workouts or during chaotic everyday life. “When you continuously try to use the same muscle over and over during high intensity workouts or prolonged walking, then that muscle can cramp up,” says LamontaButt tightness can also occur when the muscles that surround your glutes are tight.Lamontange explains it this way: Your hip is a ball and socket joint that slides and glides as you step or rotate your legs. If the hip joint becomes stiff—from arthritis, for example, or a recent injury that caused inflammation—then the sliding and gliding movement can become restricted and create resistance that your glutes has to work against.“Without a smooth gliding joint, the muscles are working harder to move you in the direction you’re trying to move,” she explains. All that hard work can lead to muscle overuse, and ultimately, a tight crampy butt.The final reason your glutes could cramp up? Your nutrition may be off, says Lamontage. Being dehydrated and not getting enough electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium in your diet can also contribute to cramping, per the Mayo Clinic.Now, onto the positive news: There are tried-and-true antidotes for a tight butt. Of course, drinking enough water and eating a well-balanced diet is important if you want to prevent butt cramping caused by nutrition issues. But beyond that, there are certain movements or butt stretches you can do to relax tight muscles and gently wake up inactivated glutes—and Lamontagne has two in particular that she recommends.The following moves can be done daily as a preventive measure against tight, crampy glutes, or can also be performed in the moment when you feel your butt cramping. Ready to loosen up your lower half? Read on.The Stretching RoutineWhat you need: Just an exercise mat for comfort.The MovesPigeon stretchGlute bridgeDirectionsDo these moves back-to-back for the prescribed amount of time or number of reps. If you’ve been walking around or it’s at the end of a workout, you can start with pigeon pose, recommends Lamontagne. If you’ve been sedentary for more than 30 minutes, do the glute bridges first to warm up your muscles before getting into the pigeon pose.Demoing the moves below are Jessica Rihal (GIF 1); a plus-sized yoga instructor (200-HR); and Gail Barranda Rivas (GIF 2), a certified group fitness instructor, functional strength coach, Pilates and yoga instructor.
“That said, life happens,” says Sullivan. Maybe you get the nasty cold that’s been circulating in your dorm, or writing your mid-term lit paper takes twice as long as expected.If you know that moving your body makes you feel better and less stressed, but you also need to study, you may just need to adjust your idea of what “counts” as a workout. For example, can you take a 10-minute break from studying to go for a walk? Can you spend five minutes stretching between classes? “It’s not just about exercise in the gym and weights and those types of things,” says Musser. “It’s really just about movement.”7. Build in recovery time.As you’re easing into your new workout routine, make sure you’re also prioritizing recovery. Rest days are vital, says Musser.“They really serve a purpose at the gym no matter what you like to do,” she says. That’s because when you rest, you’re giving your body time to recover and rebuild so that next time you exercise, you’re refreshed and able to give 100% to your workout. With rest days, you’re taking a day off from your normal exercise routine. Now, that doesn’t need to mean zero movement—for instance, your rest day could include gentle activities like walking, stretching, or light biking—but the main goal is to not stress your body at all.For folks who are early on in their fitness journey, she adds, rest days can also be really helpful for building a sustainable relationship with exercise. That’s because time off helps reduce your chances of injury and burnout so you can keep exercising for the long haul. Rest days can also stoke excitement for your next workout and help create balance in life by giving you time to socialize, do hobbies, and focus on academics on your days off.The best way to know when you need a rest day? Pay attention to how you’re feeling. “If your body is saying I’m tired, I need a minute, then you listen,” says Musser. On that note, know that it’s normal to sometimes feel sore after a workout, especially when you’re doing a new activity, so long as that soreness isn’t debilitating.One final tip on recovery: Part of recovery includes getting enough sleep, which, let’s face it, can sometimes be in short supply in the college environment. Intentionally prioritizing shut-eye can help you feel rested and ready for the gym, says Musser, so make sure adequate slumber is a fixed part of your schedule.8. Give yourself grace.There will be times when, despite your best efforts, you aren’t able to complete your planned workout routine. And that’s okay. “Give yourself grace,” says Musser.Adjusting to college can be overwhelming in and of itself, and you don’t need to bring on additional stress by beating yourself up over a missed workout. Any form of movement—even a five minute walk break, or a gentle stretch sequence—is beneficial, so do what you can. Just think, whatever you’re doing now is a bonus from before you started out. By simply beginning an exercise plan, you’re already building those feel-good benefits we spoke about earlier, and they don’t simply evaporate if you missed a session or two.Remember, if your goal is to incorporate movement into your life for the long haul, the sustainability of your routine and your relationship with exercise is more important than any given workout. Think about it like this: When you graduate, will you remember the workouts here and there you skipped during finals week? Or will you instead think back on how great it felt to ace that course? Let fitness be something that adds to your life, not something that stresses you out. You’ve got this!Related:
Whether you’re bored with your exercise routine or just want to maximize outdoor time this summer, we’ve got an awesome park workout that any exerciser can benefit from.This lower-body circuit, which includes five moves all performed with a park bench, is a great choice if you want to shake up your usual gym routine. It delivers doses of cardio and core work while also challenging your lower half. The best part though? You get to soak in the great outdoors while you do so.For a year of the pandemic, ACSM-certified personal trainer Asher Freeman, creator of the Nonnormative Body Club in Philadelphia, exclusively met with clients outdoors and still sometimes trains people al fresco. There’s a lot of benefit to taking your workout in the fresh air, they tell SELF.For one, it can just be a fun way to switch up your normal exercise routine. After all, taking in the scenery at a local park is probably a lot more interesting than staring at the same four walls of your gym, studio, or living room. Additionally, outdoor workouts can be a boon for both your physical and mental health. Time in nature is associated with a ton of brain benefits, like increased happiness, positive social interactions, memory, and creativity. And people who spend time in green spaces have lower rates of depression and high blood pressure, according to research. Moreover, given that COVID-19 is not going anywhere, outdoor workouts can be a safer choice than indoor routines, since the former have better ventilation and less risk of viral transmission.This particular workout, which Freeman created for SELF, is a well-rounded lower-body routine that will help build muscular endurance in your major muscles like your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and hips as well as your smaller core and stabilizing muscles. It also includes a hit of cardio thanks to the mountain climbers and elevated step-up as well as the high work-to-rest ratio that doesn’t give you a lot of downtime during the workout.How often you should do this park workout depends on your goals. If your aim is to maintain your current level of strength, opt for a once-a-week cadence. And if you want to build muscular endurance, then shoot for twice a week, advises Freeman. Just make sure to take at least a 48 hour break between sessions so your muscles have the downtime they need to repair and build back stronger. And if you’re just looking for a shake-up to a stale routine? Slot it in whenever you find yourself getting bored!Also important: Do a warm-up before starting this workout so you don’t jump in with cold, tight muscles. (Yes, this is still important even if you’re taking your workout into the warm weather!) Taking five minutes to turn on your core and move your lower-body joints in all different directions can do the trick—Freeman recommends walking, skipping, side shuffling, and hip circles.
Squats can be a super-effective lower-body exercise, but if they aggravate your knees, don’t sweat it: You can get in a great, knee-friendly workout that will still target your legs and butt. In fact, we have an awesome four-move routine that will light up your lower half with absolutely no squatting involved!So, why might the squat make your knees cranky? There are tons of reasons why that may be. For example, form errors—like your knees caving in or your toes or heels lifting off the floor—or limited mobility in your hips or ankles could cause aggravation at the knee joint, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, CPT, owner of Strong With Sivan, tells SELF. A certified trainer or physical therapist can help correct technique and mobility issues that can possibly help alleviate your knee pain, but it could also be that you just need to avoid exercises that involve lots of knee flexion (bending at the knee), like squats, jumps, and some types of lunges.Remember, strength training doesn’t have to look a certain way, or include certain exercises, for it to be effective. There’s no one “best” workout across the board: The best strength training workout is one that works for your body and makes you feel good—meaning it’s one you’ll want to stick with. So even though you may think a lower-body workout should include squats, it certainly doesn’t have to, especially if they don’t make your body feel great.“There are a lot of other exercises you can do that don’t involve complete knee flexion,” says Fagan.Exercises that don’t include lots of knee flexion include deadlift variations, glute bridges, and hip thrusts, which are primarily centered on movement at the hip joint versus the knee joint. Additionally, reverse lunges can be a more knee-friendly option than forward lunges or squats, says Fagan. Even though reverse lunges do involve bending at the knee, the positioning makes it easier to push through your heel, which lights up the backside of your leg versus the front.Plus, no matter what lower-body exercise you’re doing, keeping some execution cues in mind can help prevent knee issues. For instance, it’s important to always push from your heel and midfoot and not your toes, says Fagan. Pushing from the toes can make your knee more likely to shoot forward, which then places excess stress on the knee joint, she explains.Fagan created the below routine for SELF that will challenge your legs and glutes while going gentle on your knees. You can do this no-squat workout up to two times a week. Just make sure to schedule at least 48 hours of recovery between sessions; that’ll ensure your muscles get the downtime they need to rest and build back stronger.It’s also important to do a warm-up before you start this routine so you don’t begin with cold, stiff muscles. Fagan suggests a few minutes of leg swings and striders as well as the dynamic adductor stretch, and 90/90 stretch.
Building muscle doesn’t have to mean lifting super heavy or always picking the most challenging exercises. Another way to level up your strength training? Incorporate a drop-set workout into your routine.The drop set is a brief-but-effective weight lifting technique that will seriously challenge your muscles and help you achieve hypertrophy, or muscle building.Personal trainer Evan Williams, CSCS, founder of E2G Performance in Chicago, tells SELF he does drop-set workouts once or twice a week with most of his clients. This technique, he says, delivers a good bang-for-your-exercise buck.Curious to know more about drop sets, their benefits, and the best way to work them into your routine? We’ve got all that—and more—below. Then, if you want to try a drop set yourself, we have an example workout from Williams that you can do today to totally smoke your arms.First though, a quick caveat: Drop sets are an advanced weight lifting technique, so you should only attempt them if you’re already familiar and comfortable with traditional strength training—more on drop-set safety in a minute. With that in mind, keep scrolling for all the must-know intel!What do we mean by drop sets?A drop set is a weight lifting technique where you pick one exercise and do reps of it with a certain weight until “failure”—meaning, your muscles are so tired there’s no way you could do another rep with good form. Then, you decrease the amount of weight you’re using and do another set until failure. Then, you decrease the weight once more and repeat until failure for a final round.In a drop set, there’s no rest. “The only rest you take is the time it takes you to change the weight,” says Williams.What are the benefits of drop sets?If your goal is to build muscle, drop sets can be a technique to help you get there, since they help you work your muscle until failure, says Williams. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, drop sets may stimulate growth of your slow-twitch muscle fibers. Because these slow-twitch muscle fibers are endurance-based, it takes more time under tension to trigger muscle growth in them—and drop sets are great for providing higher time under load. Working your muscles to failure also encourages more nutrient dense blood flow to the area, which in turn helps your muscles grow, Williams explains.Basically put, drop sets are great for building bigger, stronger muscles. Research backs this up: A 2016 study of aging adults found that drop-set training improved muscle mass, strength, endurance, and functionality. And a small 2018 study involving eight men found that a single set of drop-set training may lead to better muscle gains than three sets of conventional resistance training, likely because of the increased stress that drop-set training places on the body.Drop sets are also a really efficient use of your time. “If you’re in a time crunch, it gets a quick workout in,” says Williams. “It’s an easy way to maximize your muscles without spending a lot of time on that particular muscle group.” Lastly, drop sets are a good way to ensure you’re constantly challenging yourself, since the whole point of the drop set is to work your muscles to failure. That focal point encourages you to keep progressing your workouts as you get stronger so that you’ll continue to move forward toward your fitness goals.What’s the best way to use drop-sets?Drop-sets are best performed with isolation exercises (i.e. movements that target just one joint and muscle group, like bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg curls, and calf raises), says Williams. Compared to compound exercises which involve multiple joints and muscle groups working (think squats and deadlifts), isolation exercises have a lower risk for injury in a drop set. That’s because they are less complex—there’s more room for form errors in compound exercises when you get fatigued, which can be dangerous. Also, in many cases it’s easier to safely drop your weight and stop doing an isolation exercise in the event your muscles give out unexpectedly. For example, it’s much easier to stop doing a dumbbell biceps curl mid-rep vs. a barbell back squat mid-rep.
At-home exercise equipment was so popular during the early pandemic that stores couldn’t keep it in stock. Now, two years later, there’s a benefit to all that extra equipment sitting in people’s houses: It’s never been easier to buy a used Peloton bike, as some purchasers are preferring to head back to cycling classes at their local gyms or studios rather than continuing to work out at home.Of course, there are still huge swaths of people who have become at-home exercise converts. And there are also many who want to bring their workouts home—if only they had the equipment at their disposal.The latter group is in luck: Used Pelotons are “flooding the market,” Katie Pierson, certified personal trainer, certified Spinning elite instructor and contributor at girlbikelove.com, tells SELF. “A lot of people are realizing, ‘Hey, I’m not using this enough, it’s a pretty big investment, and now I can just go back to the gym and use theirs.’” That means bikes—which many people had to wait months to buy new during the pandemic—are now readily available to purchase second hand.“It might be a really great time to find a used Peloton,” says Pierson.Because of the shift in the market, in some cases, “you can get an almost brand-new bike for a fraction of the cost of what you would pay for brand-new,” Darci Revier, DHSc, CSCS, director of education at the National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA) and NETA-certified cycling instructor in Missouri, tells SELF. And that’s huge, since Peloton bikes are pricey purchases. A new Peloton Bike costs between $1,445 and $1,985, depending on which accessories, if any, you choose to buy. A new Peloton Bike+ (essentially, a souped-up version of the original bike with a wider screen, higher-quality speakers, and automatically changing resistance) costs between $1,995 and $2,535, again, depending on accessories. Add on the monthly membership of classes for $44 and you’re looking at a grand total of over $500 annually in membership alone.That said, not all used Pelotons are a great deal. Before purchasing one, it’s important to do your research and ask the buyer certain questions to ensure you end up with a quality bike at a good price—advice that applies to any used bike purchase, whether or not it’s a Peloton. It’s also crucial to understand what does (and doesn’t) come with your bike and what your options are if something goes south. Ahead, all those details and more. Consider this your go-to guide for buying a used Peloton bike.Where can you buy a used Peloton bike?First things first: As of now, there’s no official secondhand bike purchase program through Peloton, and the company doesn’t sponsor or endorse any secondhand marketplaces. But there are plenty of places you may be able to purchase a used Peloton, including online options like Facebook Groups (the Peloton Buy Sell Trade Group has over 208,000 members), Facebook Marketplace, VarageSale, OfferUp, eBay, and Craigslist.
The best beginner legs workout will improve your strength in the gym and in everyday life. And we have an awesome example of a four-move routine that checks both boxes—just take a look below!Part of the reason this lower-body routine is so effective? It’s centered on basic movement patterns, like squatting, lunging and bridging. By incorporating foundational movement patterns into a workout, you can improve your ability to move safely and effectively in tons of day-to-day scenarios, whether you’re climbing the stairs, picking up a heavy load of laundry, or standing up and down from the couch. Basically, the movements of life should start to feel easier.“When you’re following the movement patterns, you’re replicating more of what’s going to be happening in your day-to-day life and that gives us the ability to do our daily activities a little more easily with less tax,” certified personal trainer Alicia Jamison, a coach at Bodyspace Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. Basic movement patterns also deliver good bang-for-your-exercise buck, since they involve multiple joints working at once, which is a great way to smoke several muscle groups simultaneously.Jamison designed the beginner legs workout below for SELF that features foundational movement patterns and will help beginners build well-balanced strength in their hamstrings, glutes, and quads. It also provides sneaky cardio thanks to the higher rep count that will probably leave you feeling a little breathless.Moreover, this workout is straightforward (there are just four moves) and you don’t need any equipment to get it done. “Building strength should be simple,” says Jamison. Instead of loading your workouts with dozens of different exercises, “you’re going to see more adaptations, more gains when you stick to the same movement.” That’s because, as Jamison explains it, “the more often that you repeat that movement, the stronger you get in that movement.” And once you master the bodyweight version of these four moves, you can start to gradually add external resistance with tools like dumbbells to make the moves more challenging and continue building your strength.Beginners can do this lower-body workout one day a week, suggests Jamison. Just be sure to warm up first to increase your chances of an effective, injury-free workout. The warm-up doesn’t need to be complicated; try these five pre-workout stretches that will ready your body for any routine.Ready to target your lower half with an awesome bodyweight routine? Keep scrolling for what may just become your new go-to lower-body workout!The WorkoutWhat you need: Just your bodyweight. You may also want an exercise mat for comfort.ExercisesGlute bridgeSplit squatSquatLateral lungeDirectionsDo each exercise for 10-15 reps. For the split squat and lateral lunge, this means 10-15 reps on each side. Rest 30-60 seconds before moving onto the next exercise. After all four exercises are finished, rest for 60-90 seconds. (Of course, take more rest if you can’t catch your breath or your form begins to slip.)Complete two to three total rounds.Demoing the moves below are Gail Barranda Rivas (GIF 1), a certified group fitness instructor, functional strength coach, Pilates and yoga instructor, and domestic and international fitness presenter; Shauna Harrison (GIF 2), a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; Nikki Pebbles (GIF 3), a special populations personal trainer in New York City; and Francine Delgado-Lugo (GIF 4), cofounder of FORM Fitness Brooklyn.
Training your core is important, and having a list of go-to abs moves—like the scissors exercise—can help you effectively target this important muscle group without spending tons of time searching for the perfect way to do so.The scissors exercise, also sometimes called the flutter kick, is an advanced core move because it involves keeping both legs extended and elevated as you perform reps, which places constant tension on your core. “It’s definitely a good movement to challenge yourself,” personal trainer Evan Williams, CSCS, founder of E2G Performance in Chicago, tells SELF. In fact, he recently programmed the scissors exercise for his pro basketball players as part of a 5-minute abs finisher to end their workouts.Executing the scissors exercise is surprisingly straightforward: You lie on your back on a mat, lift both legs about six inches off the ground, and then kick them up and down like you’re swimming freestyle. You can also cross one leg over the other and switch which leg is on top with each rep. Whichever way you perform it, this move gets your core muscles firing.So if you’re looking for a new abs exercise to add to your workout routine, don’t sleep on the scissors. Here, everything you need to know about the scissors exercise, including its benefits, which muscles it works, whether it’s a safe movement, and more. Ready to work your core? Right this way!What kind of exercise is the scissors?The scissors is a core move—and an advanced one at that, says Williams. More specifically, it’s an “anti-extension” core exercise, since the goal of the exercise is to prevent your lower back from going into extension, or arching and coming off the floor. Your back naturally wants to go into extension when your feet are hovering above the ground and performing the kicking motion, so you have to really engage your core muscles to stop that from happening.You can think of the scissors exercise as a more challenging version of the dead bug, says Williams. That’s because both moves are anti-extension core exercises that involve lying on your back and bracing your core to prevent your back from arching and lifting off the floor.The difference? With the scissors exercise, you keep both legs extended and elevated the entire time, which places constant tension on your core and back. On the other hand, with the dead bug exercise, you’re extending just one leg at a time, so there’s less demand placed on your core and back muscles. This makes the dead bug more of a beginner-friendly core exercise, while the scissors kick tends to be a more intense, advanced movement.What muscles does the scissors exercise work?The scissors exercise targets the lower part of your rectus abdominis (the muscles that run vertically along the front of your abdomen) as well as your transverse abdominis (the deepest core muscles that wrap around your spine and sides). It also engages your hip flexors as well as your erector spinae (a group of back muscles that help hold your body upright), says Williams.What are the benefits of the scissors exercise?Since the scissors exercise is an advanced core movement that requires serious core engagement, it can help boost core strength and stability. That’s important because your core provides a stable foundation for movement, helps protect your spine from injury, and transfers energy between your lower and upper halves. The stronger and more stable your core is, the better it will be at fulfilling all these roles.