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This Kettlebell Ab Workout Will Rock Your Entire Core

In a literal abyss of here-today, gone-tomorrow fitness trends (is that workout with the drumsticks still around?) kettlebells have proven they're here to stay.

In addition to being a great tool for full-body workouts, kettlebells are also pretty darn perfect for working your abs, too. "Because a kettlebell's center of gravity is about six to eight inches below their handle, your body has to work harder to stay balanced and stable when you work with them," explains Karolina Duncan, a New York City-based certified personal trainer and health coach.

Pretty much any move you do with a kettlebell is guaranteed to light up your entire core (read: abs!), Duncan says. But if you really want to set your abs on fire? Try this 20-minute circuit-style kettlebell ab workout, created by Duncan herself.

She loves this kettlebell ab workout because it provides a blend of core-torching full-body moves and abs-focused exercises that guarantee you'll break a sweat and feel sore throughout your entire midsection tomorrow. (New to kettlebells? Read these helpful tips before trying them out.)

Grab two kettlebells—one light-weight (about 10 pounds) and one moderate-weight (about 20 pounds)—and either tack this 20-minute kettlebell ab workout onto the end of a shorter sweat sesh or do it on its own when you're short on time and want to get that core work in.

How it works: Do one set of the prescribed number of reps of each exercise. After you finish the last move, start back at the first move and repeat. Perform as many rounds of the circuit as you can in 20 minutes while maintaining proper form. Rest as needed, but keep it moving!

Total Time: up to 15 minutes

You will need: Kettlebell(s)

1. Kettlebell Swing

A.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, with the heavier kettlebell on the ground about a foot in front of feet. Squat down to grab the handle with both hands, shoulders back and chest up, tipping the handle towards shins.

B.

Pick up the kettlebell and swing it back between legs, shifting hips back.

C.

Then, thrust hips forward to swing the kettlebell forward and allow the momentum to carry the kettlebell up until it's out in front at shoulder-height. (Contract glutes, quads, and core throughout the swing.) That's one rep.

Reps:

12

Mistakes and Tips:

The kettlebell swing, which works pretty much all of your muscles (and your cardiovascular system), requires a strong and stable core. "Keep your spine long and straight throughout the movement," says Duncan. The higher you swing the kettlebell, the more challenging the move is for your abs. 

2. Reverse Lunge with Kettlebell Pass

A.

Start standing, with the heavier kettlebell in the left hand by side.

B.

Step the right foot back into a reverse lunge until the left knee grazes the ground. As the knee reaches the ground, start passing the kettlebell under the front leg.

C.

Press back up out of the lunge, completing the kettlebell pass to return to standing with it in the right hand. That's one rep. Repeat on the opposite side by stepping the right foot back into a reverse lunge and passing the kettlebell under the front leg to come to hold it in the right hand.

Reps:

6 per leg

Mistakes and Tips:

In addition to working your legs, this move really challenges your obliques (aka side abs) and the muscles that stabilize your spine in your low-back, says Duncan.

3. Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Chop

A.

Kneel with the left knee on the floor (left toes tucked) and right foot planted out in front. Hold the lighter kettlebell low beside the right hip with both hands.

B.

Keeping both arms slightly bent, core engaged, and without moving hips, draw the kettlebell up and across torso body diagonally, to finish with it above the left shoulder. Reverse the movement to bring the kettlebell back down by the right hip. That's one rep.

Reps:

12 per side

Mistakes and Tips:

Staying balanced in a half-kneeling position is tricky in itself, says Duncan. Add a weighted 'chop' movement on top of that and your core has to work hard to keep your hips and lower back stable. "Make sure you're not just twisting from side to side here," she says. Keep your hips as stable and squared as possible as your arms move through the chop motion.

4. Single-Arm Kettlebell Overhead Sit-Up

A.

Lie face-up on the floor with legs outstretched and shoulder-width apart. Hold the lighter kettlebell in one hand and press into the air over chest, locking out that arm. 

B.

Keeping the kettlebell steady overhead, brace core and sit all the way up. (The right arm should be next to the right ear.) Slowly—and with control—lower back down to start. That's one rep. Repeat on the other side by switching the kettlebell to the other hand.

Reps:

10 per side

Mistakes and Tips:

"Because you're doing full sit-ups while holding a kettlebell in one side, this move really lights up the entire core," says Duncan. (Though whatever side you're holding the kettlebell on will have to work extra hard!)

5. Kettlebell Windmill

A.

Stand with feet twice as wide as hip-width, feet pointing slightly outwards, and the lighter kettlebell in the left hand. Press the kettlebell up overhead so bicep is next to ear and arm is locked.

B.

Shift weight into the left heel and look up at the kettlebell. Keeping legs and kettlebell arm straight and core engaged, start to push the left hip out and trace the right hand down the right leg, towards the knee and floor.

C.

Once extended as far as possible (while remaining comfortable and strong), reverse the movement to return to start, with your kettlebell locked out overhead. That's one rep. Repeat on the other side by switching the kettlebell to the left hand.

Reps:

10 per side

Mistakes and Tips:

In addition to looking cool, kettlebell windmills "build both stability and mobility in your core, hips, and shoulders," says Duncan. They work your entire trunk—especially your obliques—and help you progress to the famously tricky Turkish Get-up. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell and the arm holding it locked out, she says. Take the move slow and focus on control.

6. Plank with Kettlebell Drag

A.

Start in a high plank position with the heavy kettlebell behind the right hand. While keeping chest and hips as still and level as possible, reach the left hand beneath torso to grab the kettlebell on the right side. 

B.

Keeping your core engaged and plank position strong, pull the kettlebell beneath torso and over to the right side. Rest it right behind where the left hand should go in a regular plank. Return the left hand to the floor. That's one rep.

C.

 Repeat by reaching the right hand under to grab and drag the kettlebell to the other side.

Reps:

10 per side

Mistakes and Tips:

What better way to finish out this kettlebell ab workout than with a twist on the classic plank? "This move is an anti-rotation exercise, meaning your core has to work to keep your body from rotating as you drag the kettlebell from side to side," says Duncan.

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