This trainer’s sit-ups alternative will work more of your core and boost your mobility, helping you build serious functional strength

Strengthen your core and protect yourself from injury with this little-known bodyweight move

A woman performing a side kick-through at home
(Image credit: Getty Images / Luca Sage)

Sit-ups are a staple of many home workouts. So much so that you might be a bit bored of them by now. 

Luckily, there are alternative exercises that offer a more comprehensive core-strengthening effect.

Take the side kick-through, for example, which is a favorite of iFit trainer Hannah Eden. It’s a feature of 'animal flow' training, which uses animalistic movements to work your joints through a wider range of motion. 

The result? More muscle activation and a welcome mobility boost, resulting in functional strength gains galore.

How to do the side kick-through

  • Start on all fours, with your knees directly beneath your hips and your hands directly beneath your shoulders. 
  • Brace your core and lift your knees just above the ground.
  • Lift your left hand off the floor and rotate your body to the left. As you do this, bring your right leg forward and under your body, extending it in a straight line to your left so it's perpendicular to your body. 
  • Reverse this movement to return to the starting position then repeat on the other side. 

Scaled versions of the side kick-through

The side kick-through (also known as a breakdancer) is, in Eden’s eyes, the Holy Grail of animal flow exercises. But there are lots of moving parts, so you’ll need good foundational strength and mobility to pull it off. 

"It’s a lot harder than it looks," she warns. "I teach regressed variations of the full movement to make it more accessible for beginners, breaking it down into steps leading up to that."

If you want to start with a simpler version, try one of the three regressed options in the video above. These will help you build the skills needed to perform the full move.

Benefits of the side kick-through

If you’re looking for an alternative to sit-ups, chances are you want to work on your core. The side kick-through definitely ticks that box. 

"It needs a massive amount of core strength," Eden explains. "You’re working the sling [of muscles] from your shoulders to your hip on both sides of your body [in an X-shape]."

Your hip flexors are in high demand too. These muscles on the front of your pelvis are responsible for bringing your knees closer to your chest, and they’re a crucial part of the core. 

"They’re going through an external rotation as you’re trying to reach your foot through as far as you possibly can on each side," says Eden. 

The movement boasts other benefits, too, according to the trainer: "It’s good for body awareness, strength at your end ranges of motion and muscular engagement through your entire body."

Unlike other less complex exercises, it requires laser focus to perform, which can help your mind hone in on the task at hand. And, by working your shoulder, hip, knee and ankle joints through a wide range of motion, it will improve your mobility. 

This is why Eden credits animal flow training with helping her avoid injuries in her training—another reason why you should consider adding this move to your workout schedule. 

Need something grippy and supportive for your home workouts? Have a look through our round-up of the best yoga mats

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.