Want to know one the best tools you can use to reveal your abs and getting a ripped, strong, and stable core?
You probably already guessed it – the kettlebell.
But here’s why you should consider using one: the unique combination of uneven weight distribution and explosive movement involved in kettlebell exercises engages the core like no other.
Not to mention the fact the exercises use multiple muscle groups at the same time, which sends your body into fat-torching mode.
That’s why I’ve compiled this list of killer core stabilizing and strengthening movements using kettlebells.
Getting Started With Kettlebell Ab Exercises
I recommend beginning with a lighter kettlebell (10 to 15 lbs.) until you can manage proper form throughout each exercise. Once you feel comfortable, don’t be afraid to increase the weight.
The Rack Position
Many exercises using the kettlebell involve what is called the “rack” or “racked” position.
This position is used to properly guide the movement of the kettlebell without straining the forearm and shoulders, especially during exercises like the snatch.
One mistake many beginners make with the racked position is “gripping” the handle from the top. This creates unnecessary pressure on the wrist and forearm.
Instead, what you want to do is place the handle at the base of your palm, with your fingers behind the handle.
The kettlebell will be rotated roughly 45 degrees, and will “sit” on your forearm. However, you shouldn’t feel any uncomfortable pressure if your form is correct.
Don’t Skip the Warm Up
Even though we’re focusing on our abs with these exercises, the swinging and lifting of our kettlebell involves a lot of shoulder mobility and strength.
Be sure to perform a thorough 5- to 10-minute dynamic warm up before doing these exercises. This should include light aerobic work followed by dynamic stretches, such as shoulder swings or even a vinyasa flow.
Now, without further ado, let’s get those abs working!
1. Standard Swing
The standard swing is a fundamental “gold standard” kettlebell exercise that should be done before all of your variations. Just this exercise alone will give your core a killer workout.
Performing the Standard Swing
- Begin with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Maintaining a slight bend in your knee, with your core engaged and back flat, lean forward and grasp the kettlebell with both hands.
- In one fluid motion, explosively drive the hips forward while swinging the kettlebell.
- Repeat for 10 to 15 reps.
Remember that the motion should come from the hips with all kettlebell swings. Avoid using your arms and shoulders to aggressively yank or lift the kettlebell up. Instead, concentrate on driving through your heels and hips to drive the kettlebell forward.
2. Single-Arm Swing
The single-arm swing is similar to the standard swing, but also requires more balance and stabilizer muscle engagement, as you’re working on one side of the body at a time.
Performing the Single-Arm Swing
- Begin in the same position as you would a standard swing.
- Grasp the kettlebell with one hand, keeping your other hand loose to swing behind you for momentum.
- Drive the kettlebell forward with your hips, keeping your glutes engaged.
- Alternate hands, performing 10 to 15 reps with each.
The kettlebell snatch is one of the most challenging kettlebell exercises you can do. It works the entire body from head to toe, and also gets your heart rate up – excellent for burning through that last layer of fat covering your abs.
Tip: If you’re a beginner, be sure to master your standard and single-arm kettlebell swings before attempting the snatch. Also, begin with a lighter weight until your form is perfected.
Performing the Kettlebell Snatch
- Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, kettlebell on the ground in front of you.
- Bend at your hip with your back in a straight line and grasp the kettlebell.
- Lift the kettlebell so your arm is just resting on your inner thigh while your knees are still bent.
- Now explosively drive hips forward, pushing the kettlebell up and out into a swing.
- Once the kettlebell is above shoulder height, instead of letting it drop like in a regular swing, begin to rotate your hand into the racked position.
- As you’re doing this, the kettlebell is almost over your head. Push skyward in the racked position once it is directly over your extended arm.
- Now swing the kettlebell forward and down, bending at the hips again to prepare for another rep.
- Repeat for 5 to 6 reps on each side.
4. Turkish Get-Up
The Turkish get-up looks deceptively simple, but trust me: it’s a go-to full-body workout that engages the entire body – especially the core. Mastering the form takes practice and patience.
Performing the Turkish Get-Up
- Begin lying on the floor on your back, arm extended with your kettlebell in the racked position.
- Bend your right leg, keeping your left leg extended out on the floor in front of you. Your left arm should be slightly extended beside you for support.
- Pushing from your right heel, roll onto your left hip. Keep your arm taut.
- Push your hips up through your right leg, then slide your left leg behind you. This will bring you to a kneeling position.
- Lunge forward into a standing position.
- Reverse the processes to return to your starting position.
- Aim for an average of four reps on each side.
5. Kettlebell Renegade Row
The renegade row works the entire core, along with the arms and back. It is also excellent for targeting the obliques as your body works to remain in a plank position.
Tip: Try to avoid swaying side-to-side as you row.
Performing the Renegade Row
- Begin in a plank position, with one hand gripping your kettlebell. Take a wider stance with your feet, about shoulder-width apart. (Note: you can also elevate yourself on another kettlebell or low bench if you find this too challenging.)
- Keep your core engaged and body in a straight line from head to toe.
- Row your kettlebell up toward your chest, keeping your elbow tucked in.
- Lower and repeat for 8 reps on each side.
6. Lateral Swing
Lateral swings are an advanced variation of the traditional kettlebell swing – for these, we swing the kettlebell laterally across the body.
This really engages the stabilizer muscles of the core, as well as the obliques, due to the amount of control required to keep the kettlebell from straightening out.
With that being said, it’s best to build up your core strength and swing proficiency before attempting these, as there is a risk of hitting your opposite knee if you’re lacking control.
Performing the Lateral Swing
- Keeping your back straight and core engaged, feet hip-width apart, lean forward a grasp the kettlebell with one hand.
- Push your hips back, then thrust them forward, directly your arm laterally across your body.
- Keep your core tight as you swing back down past your opposing knee, then thrust forward again.
- Repeat for 10 to 15 reps on both sides.
The windmill engages the entire core while you’re holding your kettlebell skyward in the racked position throughout the movement. This challenges the stabilizer muscles of both the abs and shoulders.
Performing the Windmill
- Begin standing with your kettlebell locked in the rack position above your head, arm extended fully.
- Position your feet wider than shoulder width, toes slightly turned out.
- Bend forward at the hips, keeping your kettlebell in place, as you rotate toward your left foot with your right hand.
- Touch your foot, then raise back up to the starting position, maintaining the balance of the kettlebell over your head.
- Repeat for 8 to 10 reps, then switch hands.
8. Plank Pull-Through
The plank pull-through is an intense plank variation that will zip up your core like a corset, while also working your arms, quads, glutes, and back.
Performing the Plank Pull-Through
- Begin in a plank position, hands beneath your shoulders, with your legs in a wide, should-width stance. Place your kettlebell just behind your right hand.
- Reach with your left hand and grab the kettlebell, keeping your abs tight.
- Pull the kettlebell under your body out to your left side.
- Release the kettlebell. Now, pull the kettlebell through again, using your right hand this time.
- Repeat, alternating sides, for 6 to 8 reps on each side.
9. Side Plank Row
The side plank row is a challenging exercise for your obliques, while also targeting the shoulders and back.
Performing the Side Plank Row
- Begin in a pushup position with your left hand holding your kettlebell, your feet placed slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Row the kettlebell toward the side of your chest, while at the same time rotating your body into a side plank.
- Rotate toward the floor to return to your starting position.
- Perform 8 to 10 reps on each side.
The pull-over is excellent for working the stabilizer muscles of the entire core.
Tip: Be sure to pull your abs in throughout the exercise and avoid arching your back by keeping your low back close to the floor. If you find the pull to be too difficult without arching, either lower your weight or focus on other core-stabilizing exercises like the renegade row until your core is strengthened.
Performing the Pull-Over
- Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Press your kettlebell above your chest, keeping your arms straight without bending your wrists.
- Inhale, pull your shoulders down and back, and slowly lower the weight behind you (as far as you feel comfortable).
- Exhale and pull the kettlebell back to your starting position.
- Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
11. One-Leg Romanian Deadlift
Deadlifts are known for their core-sculpting power. For the exercise, we use a kettlebell in one hand, providing extra engagement for your obliques and stabilizer muscles as you work to balance.
Performing the One-Leg Romanian Deadlift
- Stand with your weight on your right leg, your left leg raised slightly behind you.
- With your kettlebell in your right hand, lower it toward your left leg, keeping your back straight and extending your left leg behind you.
- Engage your core and glutes to push back up to standing.
- Repeat for 8 to 10 reps on each side.
Try Them for Yourself
Integrating these kettlebell moves into your routine will have you dropping fat to reveal a toned, strong midline.
Try substituting out some of your regular exercises with these kettlebell options and notice the difference not only in how your muscles engage, but in your overall fitness.
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.