Core workout

13 Best Ab Workouts With Kettlebell to Build Strong & Stable Core

Uncover the best kettlebell ab exercises for building insanely strong and stable core musculature. Uniquely program your kettlebell ab exercises to maximize muscle growth and strength.

The best ab workouts with kettlebells can drastically improve your core stability and strength.

I said it multiple times, but I truly believe that kettlebells are the most functional of all fitness equipment. The freedom of movement and additional range of motion you get at your joints make them perfect for exercising multiple muscle groups, including your core.

Based on my gym experience and after countless workout sessions with my clients, I decided to single out only the best kettlebell ab exercises that will improve the strength and stability of your core musculature.

I will cover in-depth how to perform each exercise properly while also providing unique pro tips for each of the exercises that helped either me or my clients build stronger and more functional abs.

13 Best Ab Workouts With Kettlebell

Below are the 13 best ab workouts with kettlebells to strengthen your core, build functional abdominal muscles, and improve your overall stability and balance.

Turkish Get-Ups

The Turkish get-up is a comprehensive exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, including your core, shoulders, and legs. It not only strengthens your muscles but also improves your balance, coordination, and functional mobility.

How to perform:

  1. Begin by lying on your back with a kettlebell next to your right side.
  2. Roll towards the kettlebell and grasp it with your right hand, pressing it above your chest. The left arm should remain flat on the floor for support.
  3. Bend your right knee so that your foot is flat on the floor. Keep your left leg straight.
  4. Push off with your right foot and use your left hand to prop yourself up into a sitting position.
  5. Push up onto your left hand, lifting your hips off the ground. Thread your left leg back to kneel on your left knee.
  6. Stand up from the kneeling position, keeping the kettlebell overhead with your arm locked.
  7. Carefully reverse the steps to return to the starting position on the ground.

Pro tip: If you usually wear your ankle fitness tracker in the gym, you should consider removing it while doing this exercise so you don’t damage it.

Kettlebell Windmill

The kettlebell windmill is a stellar exercise for enhancing core stability, flexibility, and shoulder strength. It primarily targets the obliques, deltoids, and hamstrings, offering a deep stretch while also challenging the muscles’ control and stability.

Unique for its ability to improve mobility in the hips and thoracic spine, it stands out as an effective tool for anyone looking to enhance their core conditioning and functional movement.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out.
  2. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand and press it overhead, arm fully extended.
  3. Keeping your eyes on the kettlebell, shift your hips to the right, and start hinging at the waist, lowering your torso towards the left side.
  4. Your left hand should slide down your left leg.
  5. Continue lowering until your left hand reaches your foot, shin, or knee (depending on your flexibility), keeping the kettlebell arm straight and overhead.
  6. Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, engaging your obliques and keeping your focus on the kettlebell.

Pro Tip: Initiate the movement by pushing your hips out to the side — this is key to unlocking the full potential of the windmill. Remember, it’s not just a forward bend; it’s a lateral movement combined with a rotation, which targets the core more effectively.

Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Chop

The half-kneeling kettlebell chop harnesses the power of rotational force to sculpt and strengthen the obliques, integrating core stability with upper and lower body coordination.

This exercise is superb for athletes or anyone looking to enhance their core’s rotational strength, offering a functional workout that mimics everyday movements and athletic tasks.

How to perform:

  1. Start in a half-kneeling position with your right knee down and left foot forward, ensuring both knees are at 90-degree angles.
  2. Hold a kettlebell with both hands to the outside of your right knee. Keep your spine neutral and core engaged.
  3. Lift the kettlebell diagonally across your body, extending your arms so the kettlebell ends up above your left shoulder.
  4. Your gaze should follow the movement of the kettlebell.
  5. Reverse the motion, bringing the kettlebell back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  6. The movement should be fluid and deliberate.
  7. Complete your set before switching sides, ensuring both sides of the body are worked equally.

Pro Tip: To maximize the effectiveness of this exercise, focus on maintaining a tight core throughout the movement. This will not only protect your spine but also ensure that the rotation engages your obliques as fully as possible.

Kettlebell Russian Twists

The kettlebell Russian twist is a dynamic core exercise that emphasizes rotational strength and endurance, targeting the obliques, rectus abdominis, and the entire core complex.

The kettlebell Russian twist exercise adds a functional challenge to traditional core workouts by incorporating weight and rotational movement, making it effective for anyone looking to build a resilient and powerful midsection.

How to perform:

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Hold a kettlebell close to your chest with both hands.
  2. Lean back slightly to balance on your sit bones, engaging your core to keep your spine straight.
  3. Lift your feet off the floor to a comfortable height, crossing them at the ankles if it helps maintain balance.
  4. Rotate your torso to the right, bringing the kettlebell towards the floor beside you.
  5. Keep the movement controlled and focused.
  6. Rotate to the left side, completing one rep.
  7. Continue alternating sides, ensuring your movements are smooth and controlled.
  8. Focus on keeping your core engaged, and avoid rounding your back as you twist.

Pro Tip: To increase the challenge, extend your arms further away from your body as you twist, which leverages the kettlebell’s weight to intensify the core engagement. Ensure your movements remain controlled to maximize effectiveness and minimize the risk of injury.

Kettlebell Farmers Carry

The kettlebell farmer’s carry is a simple yet profoundly effective exercise for building core stability, grip strength, and overall endurance.

Beyond just the abs, it engages the shoulders, back, and legs, providing a full-body workout that improves posture and functional strength. It is uniquely beneficial for enhancing core endurance and stability as you maintain an upright position under load over distance.

How to perform:

  1. Stand upright with a kettlebell in each hand at your sides.
  2. Ensure your grip is strong and your arms are straight.
  3. Engage your core, straighten your back, and look directly ahead.
  4. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart to start.
  5. Begin walking forward in a controlled manner.
  6. Keep your pace steady, focusing on maintaining a strong, stable core and an upright posture.
  7. Walk for a predetermined distance or time while keeping your shoulders back and down, avoiding any swaying or leaning.
  8. Once completed, carefully place the kettlebells down, ensuring you keep your back straight and bend at the knees.

Pro Tip: Imagine you’re trying to balance a book on your head throughout the walk. This visualization helps maintain an upright posture, ensuring your core is fully engaged and your back stays straight, maximizing the exercise’s effectiveness.

Kettlebell Plank Row

The kettlebell plank row combines the core-stabilizing benefits of the plank with the upper body strength challenge of the row. This exercise not only targets the abs, obliques, and lower back but also works the back, shoulders, and arms.

It’s an excellent choice for anyone looking to enhance core stability and upper body strength simultaneously, offering a multifaceted workout that challenges balance and control.

How to perform:

  1. Begin in a high plank position with a kettlebell placed on the floor next to your right hand. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Stabilize your core and shift your weight slightly to the left side, balancing on your left hand.
  3. With your right hand, grasp the kettlebell handle and perform a row by pulling the kettlebell to your hip. Keep your elbow close to your body and your torso as stable as possible.
  4. Lower the kettlebell back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  5. Complete your set before switching sides, ensuring both sides of the body are worked equally.

Pro Tip: Focus on keeping your hips square to the ground throughout the exercise to maximize core engagement. If the exercise feels too challenging, perform it without the kettlebell until you build enough strength and stability to add the weight.

Kettlebell Sit-Up

The kettlebell sit-up adds a weighted element to the classic sit-up, intensifying the workout for the abdominals and challenging the arms and shoulders by holding the kettlebell. This exercise is perfect for those looking to increase core strength and endurance while also incorporating an upper-body workout.

By stabilizing the weight, you engage the entire core, making it a comprehensive exercise for building a strong, stable midsection.

How to perform:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Hold a kettlebell by the handle with both hands directly above your chest.
  3. Engage your core and slowly sit up, keeping the kettlebell positioned in front of your chest.
  4. As you reach the top of the sit-up, ensure your spine is straight to avoid injuries.
  5. Carefully lower yourself back to the starting position, maintaining control and keeping the kettlebell steady.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions, focusing on smooth, controlled motions.

Pro Tip: To keep the focus on your abdominals and to prevent straining your neck, envision leading the movement with your chest rather than your head. This helps maintain proper form and maximizes the effectiveness of the workout on your core.

Kettlebell Oblique Side Bend

The kettlebell oblique side bend is a targeted exercise that zeroes in on the obliques, offering a fantastic way to sculpt and strengthen the sides of the core.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell in your right hand with your arm hanging straight at your side.
  2. Keep your left hand on your hip or extend to the side for balance.
  3. Slowly bend to the right side, sliding the kettlebell down your leg, going as far as your flexibility allows without compromising your posture.
  4. Engage your left oblique to pull yourself back to a standing position, keeping the rest of your body stable and facing forward.
  5. Complete your set before switching the kettlebell to your left hand and repeating the exercise to target the right oblique.

Pro Tip: Focus on initiating the movement from your obliques rather than relying on your arm to lift the weight. This ensures that your core is doing the work, maximizing the strengthening benefits for your obliques.

Kettlebell Halo

The kettlebell halo is an exceptional exercise for enhancing shoulder mobility, stability, and core strength.

By circling the kettlebell around the head, this exercise engages and strengthens the upper body while simultaneously requiring core engagement to maintain posture and balance, offering a unique combination of mobility and core conditioning.

How to perform:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell upside down by the handles at chest height.
  2. Brace your core, keep your chest up, and gaze forward.
  3. Slowly circle the kettlebell around your head, keeping the movement close to your body and the kettlebell level.
  4. Complete the circle by bringing the kettlebell back to the front, then reverse the direction for the next repetition.
  5. Ensure smooth, controlled movements, maintaining core engagement and a stable posture throughout the exercise.

Pro Tip: Keep your elbows soft and your movements fluid to avoid straining your neck or shoulders. The focus should be on control and mobility, not speed, allowing your shoulders and core to benefit from the exercise fully.

Kettlebell Plank Drag

The kettlebell plank drag combines the stability challenge of a plank with the added dynamic movement of dragging a kettlebell, significantly increasing the workout’s intensity.

How to perform:

  1. Begin in a high plank position with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart for stability, and place a kettlebell on the outside of your right arm.
  2. Engage your core, squeeze your glutes, and ensure your body forms a straight line from head to heels.
  3. Reach under your torso with your left hand to grab the kettlebell, dragging it to the left side of your body.
  4. Return your left hand to the plank position and stabilize your body to prevent hip rotation.
  5. Repeat the movement with your right hand, dragging the kettlebell back to the right side.
  6. Continue alternating sides, focusing on keeping your hips as stable as possible and minimizing side-to-side movement.

Pro Tip: To maximize core engagement and minimize strain on your lower back, actively press the floor away with your hands and think about pulling your belly button towards your spine. This will help maintain a strong, stable plank throughout the exercise.

Kettlebell Dead Bug

The kettlebell dead bug is an effective core stabilization exercise that targets the deep abdominal muscles, improving core strength and coordination.

Adding a kettlebell to the classic dead bug movement increases the challenge for the core muscles, requiring more control and stability to maintain proper form.

How to perform:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your arms extended towards the ceiling, holding light kettlebells in both hands directly above your chest.
  2. Engage your core to press your lower back into the floor.
  3. Slowly lower your right arm and left leg towards the floor, keeping the kettlebell stable and your lower back pressed down.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
  5. Focus on controlled movements, ensuring your core remains engaged and your movements are slow and deliberate.

Pro Tip: The key to maximizing the effectiveness of the dead bug is to maintain constant core engagement, especially keeping your lower back pressed to the floor. This prevents strain and ensures the targeted muscles are actively working throughout the exercise.

Kettlebell Straight Arm Sit

The kettlebell straight arm sit is an advanced core exercise that challenges your abdominal muscles by adding a weight component to a traditional sit-up movement.

How to perform:

  1. Begin seated on the ground with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Hold a kettlebell with both hands and arms extended above your head.
  3. Keeping your arms straight and the kettlebell steady, slowly lower your torso towards the ground.
  4. In the bottom position, the kettlebell should move from the overhead position to above your chest.
  5. Pull yourself back to the starting seated position, maintaining straight arms and a tight core throughout the movement.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, focusing on controlled movements to maximize engagement of the core muscles.

Pro Tip: Make sure you strongly contract core muscles to stabilize the lower back. This will prevent compensatory lumbar spine movements, preventing serious injuries while also making sure your exercise form and technique are optimal.

Kettlebell Deck Squat

The kettlebell deck squat is a dynamic exercise that combines lower body strength, core stability, and coordination. Incorporating a kettlebell adds an extra challenge to the squat movement, engaging the core and upper body to maintain balance and proper form throughout the exercise.

This exercise is excellent for building functional strength and enhancing athletic performance.

How to perform:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell close to your chest with both hands.
  2. Lower into a squat position, keeping your weight in your heels and your chest up.
  3. Continue lowering yourself to a seated position on the floor, rolling onto your back with control.
  4. Using the momentum and engaging your core, roll back to a seated position and then back into a squat, pressing through your heels to return to a standing position.
  5. Throughout the movement, keep the kettlebell close to your chest to help maintain balance and control.

Pro Tip: Focus on smooth transitions between each phase of the exercise. Practice without a kettlebell first to master the movement pattern and ensure you can perform the deck squat with proper form before adding weight.

How to Program Your Kettlebell Workouts?

Creating a structured kettlebell workout program is crucial for maximizing effectiveness and achieving your core strengthening goals.

Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, understanding how to program your workouts allows for consistent progress and helps prevent overtraining and injuries.

Here’s how to get started.

Start with a Warm-Up

Begin each session with a 5-10 minute warm-up to prepare your body for exercise. Focus on dynamic stretches and light cardio movements to increase heart rate and blood flow to your muscles [1].

Incorporate a Variety of Exercises

Select from the 13 kettlebell exercises we’ve discussed to target your core from different angles. Include a mix of exercises that focus on rotational strength, lateral movement, and stability.

Balance Your Routine

Aim for a balanced workout that includes exercises for other parts of the body as well. This ensures overall muscular balance and prevents overuse injuries.

Set Your Reps and Sets

For strength building, focus on lower reps (6-8) with heavier weights. For endurance and toning, aim for higher reps (12-15) with lighter weights. Start with 2-3 sets of each exercise and adjust based on your fitness level.

Rest and Recovery

Allow at least 48 hours of rest between intense kettlebell workouts to let your muscles recover [2]. Incorporate active recovery days with lighter activities like walking or yoga.

Progress Gradually

As you become stronger, gradually increase the weight of the kettlebell or add more reps and sets to your routine. Always focus on maintaining proper form to maximize benefits and reduce the risk of injury.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to how your body responds to the workouts. If you feel excessive pain or fatigue, allow more time for recovery or adjust your program accordingly.

Sample Weekly Kettlebell Workout Plan for Core Strengthening

  • Monday: Focus on rotational and anti-rotational exercises (e.g., kettlebell Russian twists, kettlebell windmill).
  • Wednesday: Emphasize stability and static holds (e.g., kettlebell plank drag, kettlebell plank row).
  • Friday: Combine dynamic movements with strength exercises (e.g., Turkish get-ups, kettlebell dead bug).

What Are the Best Standing Kettlebell Ab Exercises?

Here are some of the best standing kettlebell exercises for your abs:

  • Kettlebell windmill: Perfect for targeting the obliques, improving flexibility, and enhancing shoulder stability. The windmill is a fundamental exercise that emphasizes control and precision, engaging your entire core.
  • Kettlebell high pull: This dynamic movement strengthens the shoulders, arms, and back, with a significant emphasis on the core to stabilize the body during the rapid, upright pulling motion.
  • Kettlebell oblique side bend: It targets the side abs or obliques, helping to sculpt and define the waistline while improving overall core strength and stability.
  • Kettlebell figure eight: Engages the core, shoulders, and arms as you move the kettlebell in a figure-eight motion through your legs. This exercise improves coordination, agility, and core strength.
  • Kettlebell farmers carry: Although seemingly simple, the farmer’s carry is incredibly effective at building core stability, grip strength, and endurance. It requires constant core engagement to maintain posture and balance while walking with weights.

What Is the Best Kettlebell Ab Workout for Beginners?

Starting a kettlebell ab workout as a beginner can be both exciting and overwhelming. The key is to begin with exercises that build foundational strength, stability, and confidence.

Here’s a beginner-friendly kettlebell ab workout designed to introduce core strengthening effectively and safely.

Warm-Up

Begin with a 5-minute dynamic warm-up to prepare your body. Include movements like arm circles, leg swings, and gentle torso twists to activate your muscles.

Kettlebell Dead Bug

Start with this controlled movement to engage your deep core muscles without placing strain on your lower back.

Perform 2 sets of 8-10 reps on each side.

Kettlebell Russian Twists

Sit on the floor with your knees bent, holding the kettlebell with both hands. Lean back slightly and lift your feet if you can maintain balance, then twist from side to side.

Complete 2 sets of 10-12 twists on each side.

Kettlebell Farmer’s Carry

A great exercise to build core stability and grip strength. Walk a set distance while holding a kettlebell in each hand.

Aim for 2 sets of a 30-second walk.

Kettlebell Halo

Improve your shoulder mobility and core stability by circling the kettlebell around your head.

Do 2 sets of 8-10 circles in each direction.

Cooldown

Finish with a 5-minute cooldown consisting of static stretches to relax your muscles. Focus on stretching your core, shoulders, and back to aid recovery.

Tips for Beginners

Here are some useful tips for beginners:

  • Start light: Choose a lighter kettlebell weight that allows you to complete each exercise with the proper form.
  • Focus on technique: Prioritize learning the correct form for each exercise to maximize benefits and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Listen to your body: If an exercise feels too challenging, modify it or take a break. It’s important to build strength gradually without overexerting yourself.

FAQs

Are Kettlebells Good for Abs?

Kettlebells are effective for strengthening abs, providing a range of exercises that target the core muscles comprehensively. They offer versatility in workouts, enabling both dynamic and static movements that engage the abdominal area, thus enhancing core stability and strength.

Are Kettlebell Carries Good for Abs?

Kettlebell carries are beneficial for abs, emphasizing core stability and endurance. During the carry, the core muscles must remain engaged to maintain posture and balance, which strengthens the abdominal region.

Do Kettlebells Flatten Stomach?

Kettlebells can contribute to a flatter stomach by aiding in fat loss and strengthening core muscles. Consistent training with kettlebells, combined with a healthy diet, increases metabolic rate and muscle tone, which can potentially result in a leaner midsection.

Do Kettlebells Really Burn Fat?

Kettlebells can be effective at burning fat. The dynamic movements involved in kettlebell exercises boost metabolism, promoting fat loss throughout the body, including the abdominal area. However, I should point out that burning fat is primarily dependent on your diet and cardio sessions, although HIIT workouts have also proven effective for fat loss in some scenarios.

Is 20 Minutes of Kettlebells Enough?

Twenty minutes of kettlebell training can be sufficient, especially if the workout is intense and includes a variety of exercises. Short, focused sessions can effectively improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and endurance, contributing to overall physical health.

Wrapping Up

We’ve explored the transformative power of kettlebell workouts, specifically targeting the core with a curated selection of exercises designed to enhance strength, stability, and functional mobility. Through personal gym experiences and feedback from countless sessions with clients, it’s clear that kettlebells offer unmatched versatility and effectiveness.

From the dynamic Turkish get-ups to the stabilizing kettlebell plank drags, each exercise has been chosen for its ability to improve core strength and stability significantly, offering a comprehensive approach to building a resilient midsection.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fitness enthusiast, integrating these kettlebell ab workouts into your routine will undoubtedly lead to a stronger, more stable core, enhancing your overall fitness and well-being.

References:

  1. Ribeiro B, Pereira A, Neves PP, et al. The Role of Specific Warm-up during Bench Press and Squat Exercises: A Novel Approach. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(18):6882. Published 2020 Sep 22. doi:10.3390/ijerph17186882
  2. Monteiro ER, Vingren JL, Corrêa Neto VG, Neves EB, Steele J, Novaes JS. Effects of Different Between Test Rest Intervals in Reproducibility of the 10-Repetition Maximum Load Test: A Pilot Study with Recreationally Resistance Trained Men. Int J Exerc Sci. 2019;12(4):932-940. Published 2019 Aug 1.

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