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Kettlebell Ab Workout: 12 Best Exercises for Your Core Muscles

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

Often when people jump into core training their abs don’t fire as well as they should. So they don’t get a lot out of ab exercises. 

Let’s be honest – everyone wants to perform the best exercises for kettlebell training the abs. We want to know what are the best tools and techniques to get as much as we can out of those exercises. 

A man doing kettlebell abs workout
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In this article, we’re going to provide you with a kettlebell ab workout including the 12 best kettlebell ab exercises. Let’s get started with core anatomy.

Anatomy of the Core: What Your Abs Do

Through the midsection, we have the Rectus abdominus which consists of vertical fibers. We also have the Oblique muscles which are the side muscles. There are the external obliques and the internal obliques. Finally, we can go deeper than that layer and go into the Transverse abdominis which is the internal weight belt that wraps all the way around your midsection.

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If we can visualize how these muscles look from an anatomical perspective, it’ll give us plenty of clues as to the best exercises and how to get the most out of our ab training. So, if you want to train the core primary muscles, here is what to do:

  • for the Rectus abdominis, perform bend forward;
  • for the internal and external Obliques, twist to the right or left;
  • for the Transverse abdominis, draw the belly into the spine. Or perform vacuum training. The main focus here is to completely exhale which causes a contraction through your respiratory muscles. 

So, the most effective kettlebell workouts include these three body movements.

12 Best Exercises for Your Core Muscles

When core training you want to make sure that you’re getting the abs to fire. These 12 kettlebell ab exercises are perfect for a beginner fitness level. For this ab workout, you can use a 10-pound weight. 

If you are an athlete with an advanced fitness level and like to go a little heavier, you’re welcome to go to 12 or 15 pounds. Or if you are a senior and want to go on the lighter end of the spectrum, you can use five pounds. But don’t forget a heavier weight doesn’t make a better workout. It’s a form that makes a better workout. 

You can add this kettlebell ab workout to the end of any total body workout, or maybe after a long run. And if you’re feeling spicy, you can add in one more set to make it more challenging. 

All the movements involve more or less the entire core: the obliques, the lower abs, and the top abdominals. Perform 12 reps of every exercise. Rest time: 30 seconds.

So, here is our kettlebell ab workout

1. Full Sit-Ups

For the first exercise, we’re going to be doing weighted sit-ups. You want to be lying completely flat on the floor. Hold your light kettlebell slightly away from your chest. You can glue it to your chest if you like. So, you’re going to be sitting straight up. 

Make sure when you’re beginning, that you’re pressing your lower back into the ground, and closing out that gap. So that you’re engaging your entire core to the fullest. If you have the space in between, it means that you are not bracing your core. You want to think about tightening up that space between your ribs and your hips. 

When you sit up, you can also exhale using your breath to exert more force. And try to release it fully all the way up, because you got to completely come all the way up. Rest time: 30 seconds.

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2. Typewriter Drag or Kettlebell Pull Through

So, for the second exercise, we’re going to do a Typewriter Drag. Grab a lighter kettlebell. Let’s start in a plank position. Put one kettlebell in front of your chest. So, if you’re somebody that struggles with holding a plank, let’s make sure that’s proper. Start with your shoulder blades stacked right above your wrists. Your core is tight, your hips are not up, and your back is completely flat. 

One rep is moving the kettle from side to side. If you feel like your hips just starting to open up, you can also reset, bring your knees down, and begin wherever you left off.

Now if this is a lot for you to lift up, you can think about dragging it from side to side. And try not to let it go too far because then it’ll be difficult for you to reach and grab it. Rest time: 30 seconds.

3. Russian Twists

In the third exercise, we’re going to move to a Russian Twist. Grab a lighter kettlebell. Start in the V-sit position. So if you are a beginner, we recommend keeping your heels on the ground lightly. And if you are more advanced, then you can go ahead and lift your feet up off the ground in almost a tabletop position.

So, one rep is going to be touching it side to side. You don’t have to completely slam it down to the ground. Think about pulling your navel in towards your spine, so that you’re not letting your lower back round out.

Your chest is up the whole time. And you can also change your line of sight to follow the direction of the weight if that helps you, too. If you have to bring your heels down to the ground, if that makes your killer workout and your form better, then go ahead and take that option. 

4. Kettlebell Leg Raise

We’re going to be doing weighted leg raises. This one is challenging. You need two kettlebells for this strong core workout. If you’d like to go lighter, we’d recommend trying five pounds instead of tens. Start in the racked position. Laying it down on the ground. Legs up, the lower back is pressed into the ground. Brace your core. Elevate your hands all the way up. 

Now, whenever you’re ready, you can start to lower your legs down. And it can be slightly above the ground. Or, whenever you feel like your lower back is starting to leave the ground, that’s when you know that your legs need to stop at that point. 

Try not to rush through this, either. Honestly, the more time you take, the more body muscles you’re contracting. So it’s not always bad to go slow. Try to keep your arms extended out the whole time. And continue to press your lower back into the ground, holding on your kettlebells. 

Finally, bring your legs back down to the ground, and then your kettlebells back down to the ground for safety.

5. Figure 8 Pass

Grab a single kettlebell. You can keep your heels on the ground if you’re a beginner at this. Otherwise, if you want to try lifting your legs up, it’s going to be more challenging for your lower abdominal muscles.

So, let’s start with the beginner’s position. You are going to be passing the weight underneath your leg, and then underneath the opposite. Basically, weave it through to a figure eight. Lifting your leg not so high, but enough so that you can pass the kettlebell under it. 

Moving to an advanced position, you are passing it through your legs, holding onto the curved part of the kettlebell.

6. Kettlebell Side Bend

This exercise helps target and strengthen the obliques. You are standing up with a heavy kettlebell. Engaging the core tight, you’re performing a side bend as low as possible. Return to the starting position.

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7. Kettlebell Swings

Our next basic core activity is a two-hand kettlebell swing or hand-to-hand kettlebell swing. Feet pointed straight ahead shoulder width apart. We are going to hinge our hips back at the bottom. Grab the kettlebell swing and we are transitioning back from hand to hand. 

The transition causes our core to fire. Cross stabilization from left hand to right hand back and forth over and over. Combining our core with our hips is the important part.

Most people don’t have good core firing, because they don’t have good hip firing at the bottom of this movement. We are loading our hamstrings as we stand up. We squeeze our glutes.

We push our ribcage down and we change hands at the top of every single one of these reps. It is essentially a plank position.

We can control the amount of load by adjusting the number of reps and the weight of the kettlebell. 

Simple but effective core training is usually the best way to get to advanced core training. Flat back pullover with a light weight. Hold the core muscles tight. Do it for a minute.

It’s a very healthy way to prep your spine, hips, and abs for more advanced core work

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8. Standing Single Leg Deadlift

Next, we’re going to do a standing single-leg deadlift. Grab a heavy weight. At the starting position, you’re going to hold the weight next to the leg that’s balancing. And you’re going to balance forward and then stand. This is obviously very hard on your legs but also you have to fully engage the core to balance.

So, your whole leg is working to keep you standing. But to keep your balance, your core strength has to be engaged as well. If you find this difficult at first, that is normal. If you’ve never done it before, you just need to work on it. 

To help build that movement, we recommend doing Romanian deadlifts as an accessory exercise. And then you could do your single-leg deadlifts. Single-leg deadlifts isolate your muscles more. So let’s go slow and controlled.

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9. Kettlebell Crunches

It’s a challenging exercise. At the starting position, hold the kettlebell in both hands. Holding your arm straight above you, you’re tucking in and out. If your arms are a bit tired, go down to your lighter weight. Do it for a minute with a light weight. Rest time: 30 seconds.

10. Windmill

You’re putting the kettlebell on the back of your wrist. A knee is slightly bent. And you going to lock up at the kettlebell. You’re looking up at it so you can keep control. But you don’t want it too heavy, because obviously, you don’t need to drop it on your face. Make sure you master the technique and work on the form.

This is a total body exercise but also very good for abs. You’re practicing your mobility and your technique rather than just doing a crunch.

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11. Kettlebell Pullover

Feet shoulder-width apart. Feet pointed generally straight ahead. Think about this exercise as holding a crunch and moving a weight while you’re holding a crunch. We have a kettlebell weight on the opposite side of our head. Our back is flat. Our rib cage is up and our lower back is off the ground.

You are going to push your ribs down to get into a crunch position. We’re trying to have these muscles be on and push your lower back into the ground. If there’s a gap between your lower back and the mat, push in harder. That’s the hard part. 

So, we’re going to pull our arms over until our elbows touch the ground. As we go back, we are not going to let our rib cage lift up. We are going to resist extension. Meaning our Rectus abdominis has to stay contracted the entire time. 

This exercise has the least amount of movement in it for the most benefit of holding your stable core the entire time. If our rib cage flares up and our lower back leaves the ground, that’s what we’re trying to avoid. We are holding that crunch. And as we move the weight through the range of motion, the abs are being challenged the entire time.

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12. Resurrected Dead Bug

Now we’re at our last exercise. Keeping your flat back on the ground, hold a kettlebell weight with your hands extended in front of your chest. Lower your legs until your feet are on the ground. Raise your legs and repeat.

Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Kettlebell Ab Workout

Here are our tips to get the most out of your kettlebell ab workout.

1. Perform Dynamic Exercises

The biggest mistake that people make with training the abs is only doing static exercises like planks. The core muscles respond like any other muscle to training. And static exercises like planks don’t take the muscles through any sort of range of motion. 

If you’re an absolute beginner, static exercises are useful for basic stability and core control. But if you want to improve your ab muscles, you need to be taking them through their range of motion against some resistance. For example, using a kettlebell.

2. Do the Warm-Up

Warm up to prepare your core for your kettlebell training. Warm muscles are less likely to be injured. Also, your body can perform more moves with proper technique. 

Benefits of Kettlebell Ab Workout

1. Highly Efficient Workout

A kettlebell’s center of mass is below its handle. So your body has to work harder to stay stable and balanced. And your core improves faster while you perform kettlebell ab workout than other workouts for abs muscles.

2. Low-impact Cardio 

While classic cardiovascular exercises like walking can offer huge benefits to body strength. They can also put a lot of strain on the body. Running on the treadmill might not be the most effective cardio training.

During even the most ab explosive kettlebell moves, your feet remain planted. So you won’t be placing the same repetitive strain on your joints and connective tissue as running will. Many kettlebell exercises are ballistic making them ideal for low-impact cardiovascular training.

Kettlebell Ab Workout: FAQs

Are kettlebells good for abs?

If you perform the kettlebell swing properly, it will help you build core muscle tone, improve weight loss, and burn calories and belly fat.

How do I tone my stomach with kettlebells?

You can tone your stomach by performing most kettlebell exercises that require core stability. For example, kettlebell side bends, kettlebell swings, and windmills.

Will kettlebell swings get you abs?

The farther the kettlebell from the center of gravity of your body while performing the exercise, the better you build your beautiful core muscles. So, kettlebell swings are an amazing tool for building your abs.

What size kettlebell should I use?

It’s enough to use a 6-kg or 8-kg kettlebell weight. But if it feels easy for you, you can use more weight in your ab workout. 

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