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best kettlebell ab exercises

12 Best Kettlebell Ab Exercises

The kettlebell is an all round favourite for many different exercises, but in this article, we have focused solely on kettlebell ab exercises so that you can target your core and be on your way to looking and feeling better than ever.

Here you will find 12 exercises, some of which isolate the muscles in your core, and some compound exercises that will have you feeling accomplished from every angle. With video assistance so you can ensure every part of execution is performed correctly, there is no reason to neglect the kettlebell anymore!

Before we begin, are you in the fitness industry and are all about kettlebell workouts? If this sounds like you, check out our kettlebell instructor course here, but first make sure you gain your level 3 personal training qualification with us. Or, if you want to take the first step into the fitness sector, check out all of our courses in our downloadable course prospectus.

Don’t forget, you can grab yourself a FREE 16-week home strength training program below!

#1 Kettlebell Sit Ups

This is a great kettlebell ab exercise that is super easy to conduct with minimal room. All you need is one kettlebell and a comfy mat to lay back on. Bodyweight sit ups are a great exercise, they get the core burning and those abs showing, so imagine the benefits of doing sit ups with a kettlebell!

Set Up

Simply find some room and grab yourself a mat. You will be laying on the floor so ensure that your back is protected and you have a cushioned surface beneath you. You will also need a kettlebell light enough so that your technique won't suffer the consequences.

Starting Position

Start by laying back onto your mat and ensuring your lower back is on the ground, not arched. Your chin should be tucked into your chest with tension in the core muscles. Next, ensure that your knees are bent and your feet flat. Grab your kettlebell and raise it vertically in one arm, your other arm should be out to your side horizontally.

Execution

  • From this starting position, use the core to lift up into a sitting position with the kettlebell still raised in the air and the other arm out to the side.
  • Lower back down to the laying position and repeat the sit up, keeping the core engaged and kettlebell raised.

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis, obliques.

Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Common Mistakes

Pulling from the neck: If you are fatiguing, or the kettlebell is too heavy, pulling up from the neck can be an almost natural response. You should be aware of where the exertion is coming from, it should only be the core doing the work and when you start to feel it anywhere else, take a break to restore.

For a great upper body exercise that you can add to your upper body routine, head over to our article on how to do a seated cable row here.

#2 Chest Loaded Kettlebell Swing

This is one of the super easy yet effective kettlebell ab exercises. Again, this is a great compound exercise working a range of muscles from your shoulders to your glutes all the while hitting those important abs!

Set Up

Find space either at the gym or even in your living room, as this is a super easy workout to do at home. Grab a single dumbbell at a weight comfortable enough to do at least 10 reps.

Starting Position 

Stand with your feet just wider than shoulder width apart and your back in a neutral position. Lift the kettlebell so the bottom of it is resting on your chest and you are holding it by the horns. The positioning should be just above your lower sternum.

Execution

  • From the starting position, ensure your shoulders are loosened and back.
  • With your back neutral, push your hips back so you are in a partial squat and lean over.
  • Hip hinge so you’re facing the floor.
  • Come back up to the starting position by engaging your core and your hips.
  • Repeat. 

Muscles Worked

Abdominals, shoulders, latissimus dorsi, hamstrings, glutes, hips and pectoral muscles.

Reps/Sets:  8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Common Mistakes

Hyperextension: This is one of the great kettlebell ab exercises for beginners, but like any exercise, there are some easy mistakes to make. A common one is to hyperextend the back when returning to the starting position. This movement is when you need to use your core and energy exertion, however bending the back backwards can lead to injury.

This could be because the weight you have chosen is not right for you, so start small until you find a weight that allows for the correct execution.

Lifting the heels: Bending over too far, especially with a weight that is too heavy, could put you at risk of lifting your heels and even falling forward. So, it is key to start small with your weight and work your way up. This could mean even trying pyramid sets to ensure that progressively you find your comfortable weight, so much so that it isn’t easy, but you can still max out at 12 reps.

#3 Kettlebell Turkish Get Up

Ab exercises with a kettlebell can work more muscles than you would assume, and this exercise is no exception! It takes good balance and coordination to ace this one, so be sure to really concentrate if you want to reap the rewards of this exercise.

Set Up

Grab yourself a mat and lay all the way back, making sure you’re comfortable. You will also need a single kettlebell, this should be a weight that you feel comfortable lifting, and if you’re trying this exercise for the first time, start light. 

Starting Position 

Lie with your back on the mat and raise your kettlebell in your right hand vertically. Your other arm should be down by your side as this will be the arm that assists you in getting back up.

Execution

  • From the starting position, lift yourself up with the help of your free (left) arm and bend your right knee so that your right foot is flat to the floor and your left leg is extended out straight. 
  • At this point, the kettlebell should still be raised in the air.
  • Push off of your right foot and left arm, and swing your left leg under your body to a kneeling position.
  • The kettlebell should still be up in the air in your right hand, and your right leg should still be bent with your foot planted firmly on the floor.
  • You should then push off of your right foot to bring you up to a standing position with the kettlebell still raised.
  • Reverse the steps, so your left leg kneels back then swings through forward back into the seated position.
  • Finally, lay down onto your back and that’s one rep done.

Muscles Worked

Core, hamstrings, glutes, quads, hips, back stabilisers, trapezius, deltoids.

Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 3 sets

Common Mistakes

Letting the kettlebell drop: Fatigue hits us all, so in order to do this exercise safely, you should recognise when holding the kettlebell is causing your raised arm to fatigue. Throughout this exercise, the kettlebell is raised above the head which means if it were to drop, it could hit your head and cause a serious injury!

If bodybuilding is what you’re into, read our article on the best bodybuilding instagrams here! 

#4 Kettlebell Figure of 8

The figure of 8 demands a level of coordination and practice, and is among the most dynamic kettlebell ab exercises that you can try. You can be sure with this exercise that you will feel your trunk doing all of the work, making for an accomplished ab workout.

Set Up

This exercise requires momentum and strength so be sure to pick a weight that is comfortable for you and not too heavy. Find some space and ensure there is enough surrounding room in case the kettlebell swings out of your hands by mistake.

Starting Position 

Start by standing up straight with your legs wider than shoulder width apart, you want to have them wide enough to swing your kettlebell through, but still have strong stability. Having a slight bend in your knees will help with your balance some more.

Execution

  • After getting into the starting position, pick up your kettlebell by bending over.
  • Grabbing the kettlebell from in between your legs, swing it out to the right.
  • After the swing, use the momentum to pass it through your legs to your left arm. 
  • This should see your right arm go in front of you, and your left hand behind your legs to take the pass.
  • You then should repeat this so the kettlebell is making a figure of 8 movement around your legs.

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis, obliques and hamstrings.

Reps/Sets: 1 figure of 8 equates to 1 rep:  8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Common Mistakes

Not using the trunk: For ab exercises with a kettlebell, you want to ensure there is tension and engagement in the core. By not using the muscles in your trunk in this exercise, your back is likely to bend as you fatigue. Your shoulders can be rounded, however you should keep a tight core and bend over so that the kettlebell is comfortably off of the ground.

Lifting too light or too heavy: As one of the most effective lower ab kettlebell exercises, you want to work the muscles enough to feel the benefits of the exercise, yet not feel the strain that can come from lifting too heavy. On the other hand, due to this being such a dynamic exercise, lifting too light could cause problems too! Performing this exercise with a kettlebell that is too light could put those around you at risk as if the kettlebell swings out of your grip, it will have a lot of power behind it.

If you need assistance with your grip during your workouts, check out our list of the best wrist wraps here.

#5 Kettlebell Renegade Row

This is certainly among the more demanding ab exercises using a kettlebell, however, it is arguably also one of the most rewarding. It requires you to build strength and endurance and up your weight gradually to avoid damaging your technique!

Set Up

Start by grabbing a mat and finding some space in the gym - you can also do this exercise at home if you have the space. You will need two kettlebells, they need to be sturdy enough to withstand your weight as you will be using them to push off of.

Starting Position 

Start in a press up position using your knees for stability. With your hands out underneath your shoulders, grip one kettlebell by the horn and push up. Then, do the same for your other arm. Next, come up onto your toes and off your knees - if your stability and strength allows it. 

You should be in a press up position with your hands extended out in line with your shoulders and gripping a kettlebell in each hand.

Execution

  • From the starting position, pull one kettlebell upwards to your chest in a rowing action and rest it back down.
  • Ensure that your elbow remains close to your body as you execute this movement. 
  • After rowing the kettlebell with one arm, repeat the action on your other side. 
  • Keep your back straight and repeat the suggested reps and sets below.

Muscles Worked

Abdominals, obliques, triceps, biceps, pectorals, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius.

Reps/Sets:  8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Common Mistakes

Twisting the body: This is among the best kettlebell ab exercises thanks to the ability to use other muscles at the same time whilst still making you feel the burn in your core. A common mistake made with this exercise is twisting the upper body towards the side as you row the weight. 

This is a sign that you are using too heavy of a kettlebell, and can actually remove tension from your abs, making the exercise less effective. If you feel the need to twist your body, you should drop your weight.

Compromising technique: It's really important that you use kettlebell ab exercises to your advantage, so while they are effective if done properly, you should also be aware that compromising your technique will only increase risk of injury. You should remember that a demanding exercise such as this may mean you need to grab a lighter kettlebell.

For some great resources all about weight training, head over to our articles below!:

#6 Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift

If you’re looking for standing kettlebell ab exercises that are easy to conduct with minimal room, this is a great pick. All you need is one kettlebell.

Set Up

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with a kettlebell placed by the side of which you intend to begin the workout with. If you’re at home, it might be a good idea to set up this exercise with a mat. This way, if you fatigue you can drop the weight down and the mat should help prevent any damage done to your flooring.

Starting Position 

Start with your feet firmly planted on the floor, standing shoulder width apart. Squat down to grip the kettlebell and come back up to the starting position.

Execution

  • From the starting position, you should form a deep squat while maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Keep your arm extended, holding the kettlebell with a neutral grip.
  • Hold your other arm out for stability and push through your heels to come back to the starting position.
  • Repeat this for the suggested reps and sets.

Muscles Worked

Abdominals, obliques, rhomboids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, erector spinae.

Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Common Mistakes

Leaning over laterally: Leaning over laterally during ab kettlebell exercises that require one side loading is common, however, you must engage your core in order to avoid this. Putting your other arm out to the side can help with stability too, as does ensuring your heels are planted firmly on the floor.

For an all round guide on kettlebells, read our article, kettlebells: benefits and uses guide.

#7 Kettlebell Overhead Carry

Kettlebell ab exercises don’t need to be complicated, this is an easy way to perform an effective ab compound movement with just one kettlebell and some room.

Set Up

The best place to set up kettlebell ab exercises that require movement is in a gym studio space, so find yourself plenty of room to walk around 8 - 10 steps. Then grab one kettlebell heavy enough to induce a workout, but light enough that you can lift it above your head with one arm.

Starting Position 

Start with your feet shoulder width apart and a kettlebell by your side. Now that you have chosen your desired weight, squat down to pick up the weight safely. Next, lift it above your head, maintaining space between your bicep and ear and keeping your arm extended. 

Execution

  • From the starting position, with the kettlebell above your head, walk at a normal pace for around 8-10 steps.
  • Once you reach your desired end point, put the kettlebell down safely in front of you and switch arms.
  • Repeat the process on the opposite side.

Muscles Worked

Wrist flexors, abdominals, deltoids, trapezius, triceps, obliques.

Duration: 30 seconds

Common Mistakes

Lifting too heavy: Since this exercise requires you to lift the kettlebell above your head, it can become potentially dangerous if you overestimate what you can lift and don’t pace yourself. If you don’t have the grip strength or means of lifting and holding the kettlebell above your head for a long time and it drops, you could be putting yourself in harm's way. 

So, start small and work your way up, you can always manipulate lifting heavier by lowering the weight but upping the reps and sets.

#8 Kettlebell Suitcase Carry

This is certainly one of the best ab kettlebell exercises for those looking to overload one side of their body and perform a great compound workout. This exercise improves not only your overall strength but also assists your grip strength, so you can carry these skills over into other ab exercises.

Set Up

This exercise is best performed in a studio space, or if your gym has a free running track, walking around that could be plausible. You want to be able to walk 6-8 steps in front of you before turning back and doing the same - so be sure that you have enough room to do so. 

Grab 1 kettlebell and place it by your side.

Starting Position 

Standing up straight to begin, squat down safely to grab the kettlebell, this should be on either your right or left side depending on which side you want to start with. Ensure you are holding the kettlebell by the horns in a neutral grip with your palms facing inwards.

Execution

  • Begin by getting comfortable with the grip of the kettlebell, this should be heavy enough to feel the weight and resistance.
  • You should carry the kettlebell as you would with a suitcase or a bag.
  • Ensure that you engage your core and keep your shoulders back and strong.
  • Walk forward at a normal pace and use the muscles in your trunk to avoid leaning over to the weighted side.
  • Squat down after you have walked the length of the area of which you are practicing, turn around and pick the kettlebell up on the other side.
  • Repeat the process.

Muscles Worked

Abdominals, deltoids, trapezius, triceps, quadriceps, hips, glutes and hamstrings.

Reps/Sets: Walk the length of your area once on one side, then switch and repeat on the other side for the way back.

Common Mistakes

Leaning over to the weighted side: Ab exercises using a kettlebell this way require a different kind of weight distribution. Typically when lifting weights, there is an equal amount on each arm, however, because this exercise involves carrying a weight on one side of your body, it demands serious core strength. This means although it would feel natural to tilt slightly to the side, you must keep your core engaged and stand up straight. If this is a real struggle, you might need to grab a lighter kettlebell.

Lifting too heavy: Lifting too heavy compromises your technique in kettlebell ab exercises, this one in particular. By lifting too heavy, you could potentially strain the muscles that you are looking to improve. To avoid causing an unwanted injury, start with a manageable weight and increase it little by little as going in too heavy will restrict you from being able to walk with the correct form.

#9 Double Kettlebell Snatch

If you’re looking for compound ab exercises to do with a kettlebell, this movement targets 10 muscles! You can find out exactly which ones below, but first let’s go through setting up and executing this popular move safely. 

Set Up 

First you want to find a good amount of space in the gym, or if you’re at home, ensure there is nothing surrounding you as this movement requires space. 

Then, grab two kettlebells. It may be a good idea to grab a kettlebell that is half the weight that you typically lift for a single kettlebell snatch. This is because the movement is likely to make the weight distribution feel different with two kettlebells, rather than just using one as most of us are used to.

Starting Position 

For those seeking effective standing ab exercises with a kettlebell, this is the perfect movement. Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart, ensuring that your feet are firmly planted on the floor. Bend the knees slightly for greater stability and place the two kettlebells in between your legs.

Execution

  • After confidently executing the correct starting position, reach down and lift one kettlebell in each hand in neutral grip.
  • The position you are in should be similar to that of a regular kettlebell swing, yet with two. Your back should be straight as you use your hips to dip back into what replicates a squat formation for your legs.
  • You should then have the kettlebell hang between your legs before driving through the heels and pushing the kettlebells above your head.
  • Slowly come back down by bending the elbows and then repeat the process again by using momentum from the backwards swing in between the legs.

Muscles Worked

Abdominals, quadriceps, hamstrings, deltoids, rhomboids, obliques, glutes, trapezius, lats and pecs.

Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps & 3 sets 

Common Mistakes

  • Starting with a heavy weight: By trying to over do it with a heavy weight, you could be putting yourself at risk of injury. As previously mentioned, the weight distribution is likely to feel different than a single kettlebell snatch, therefore start light and work your way up. You want to be able to hit hypertrophy levels of reps so ensure you can lift the chosen weight with proper form at least 8 times.
  • Lifting the heels: This is one of the ab kettlebell exercises that can allow for mistakes like lifting the heels. With the correct momentum and weight, you should be able to prevent this happening; however if you do find your heels lifting on the swing through or the snatch, adjust these two factors to see what works best.

#10 Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift

The romanian deadlift is an all round favourite when it comes to compound workouts, it hits key areas of our body that give us definition and strength behind every movement. We highly recommend deadlifts, and if you want to hear more about the advantages of this exercise, read our article on the benefits of deadlifts.

Set Up

Find some space and grab two kettlebells before placing them on the floor either side of you. These should be relatively heavy, as you want to get a strong workout. Due to the kettlebells not being in a dangerous placement, if it gets too heavy you can simply drop the weights.

Starting Position 

Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Holding the kettlebells with an overhand grip, lift them both up, holding one in each hand. Your back should be straight, core engaged and your legs should be as straight as they can be without locking your knees.

Execution

  • When you have aced the starting position, simply bend forwards by hinging at your hips and bring the kettlebells in front of you as you lower your body.
  • As you bend down, your knees should bend and the kettlebells should run down your shins.
  • All the while, you should keep your head up looking forward.
  • Reverse the movement to raise your body back up to the starting position and repeat for the recommended number of reps and sets.

Muscles Worked

Abdominals, obliques, rhomboids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and erector spinae. 

Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Common Mistakes

Bending the back: If your weights are too heavy, you may find that to lift the kettlebells back up to starting position, your back bends instead of staying straight. You want your core to be tight and your back strong, so dig in your heels and use all of the muscles that this exercise requires to help your technique.

Keeping the legs straight: Though there are exercises such as straight leg deadlifts, this is a different kind of exercise that recruits a range of muscle groups. In order to get the benefits of this kettlebell exercise for your abs, avoid accidentally performing a straight leg deadlift by keeping a slight bend in your knees and following the aforementioned execution.

#11 Kettlebell Lateral Swings

Kettlebell lateral swings are an easy exercise to do, there is no getting up and down with this one, it's just a simple standing yet effective exercise! All you will need is one kettlebell and some space.

Set Up

To set up this exercise, you will simply need a good amount of space and one kettlebell. A mat is optional as you wont be needing to lay down or get on the floor at all. However, you may want to use one if you’re at home to avoid damaging any flooring when you set the weight down.

Starting Position 

Start with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and make sure you’re standing up straight with your core engaged. You should then pick up your kettlebell with a neutral grip. 

Execution

  • From the starting position, you want to swing the kettlebell towards the opposite leg to the arm you are holding the kettlebell in.
  • Twisting the trunk of the body will give you momentum and add power behind the swing.
  • Your other arm should be hip height and moving with the torso so as to not restrict movement.
  • Once you gain momentum, repeat for the recommended sets and reps.

Muscles Worked

Obliques, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, wrist flexors, deltoids. 

Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Common Mistakes

Lifting too light: Lifting too light with this exercise can make it difficult to not only create momentum, but to feel as though you're working your muscles at all. It can be easy to swing a light kettlebell, however without any resistance, you could over twist or even let go of the kettlebell. If this were to happen, the kettlebell would have a good amount of force behind it to potentially hurt somebody.

#12 Kettlebell Pull-Over

This final exercise is one that is quite demanding so if you need to stick to the lower end of the recommended reps range, do so. Start your weight small and work up to a comfortable weight as going in too heavy right away could induce an injury.

Set Up

Grab with an exercise mat, you need to be laying down for this exercise so ensure that your back is supported and you’re comfortable. Grab a kettlebell and sit it down next to you, ensuring you start with a reasonably light weight.

Starting Position 

Lie on your back with the legs wide, knees bent and your feet planted flat on the floor. Grab your kettlebell, hold it with both hands by the horns and lift it up vertically. 

Execution

  • From the starting position, you simply need to slowly lower the kettlebell backwards until it reaches a point just above the mat or ground.
  • Keep the arms extended the whole way and then slowly bring the kettlebell back up to starting position so that the kettlebell is vertically aligned with the chest.
  • Repeat for the recommended reps and sets.

Muscles Worked

Core, serratus anterior, latissimus dorsi, pectorals

Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Common Mistakes

Overextending: Lifting too heavy could cause hyperextension of the shoulders when you are lowering the kettlebell behind you. This could cause the kettlebell to hit the ground behind you and your back to lift too. To avoid this ensure you get a weight that is light enough for you and work your way up to higher kgs.

FAQs

Are kettlebells good for abs?

There are plenty of benefits of kettlebell ab exercises for abs, however the key difference between using a kettlebell rather than body weight is that you are adding more resistance.

Due to the added weight, energy exertion is increased and you’re ultimately working harder towards fat loss. To see the abs’ definition and for the hard work that goes into kettlebell ab exercises, fat loss must be a key focus. Luckily, kettlebell usage can induce a seriously sweaty workout that can burn plenty of calories, making your abs stand out.

During many kettlebell ab exercises, the equipment is held close to the body therefore making the core work harder. So, you can count on kettlebells being a great player in getting your dream abs. 

Studies have even demonstrated how effective kettlebells really are. One study put subjects through an 8-week kettlebell programme and tested key exercises that we have mentioned such as the turkish get up and snatches. After the programme, it was clear there was what they regarded as a significant increase in VO2 max, grip strength and leg strength. 

It goes without saying that kettlebells are a key piece of equipment that we should all be incorporating for all round strength and core enhancement.

How heavy should my kettlebell be?

This isn't a one size fits all, particularly for ab exercises with a kettlebell. The best advice we can give is to start light and work your way up, this way you reduce the risk of injury and you can see how you progress.

 As we mentioned at the start with two kettlebells, it's a good idea to split the weight so it doesn’t seem overwhelming, particularly if it's the first time you're performing the exercise. So, start small and get used to the way the weight is distributed before moving up in weight.

Before You Go...

Hopefully now you feel confident in performing the exercises we have listed, especially with the help of our handy how-to videos. Ab exercises with a kettlebell are extremely effective and you can even get stronger in plenty of other areas thanks to many of the movements being compound workouts.

Before you leave us, be sure to check out our level 3 personal training course if you’re interested in being a part of the fitness industry. So, if you think you can be the instructor teaching these workouts, why not download our course prospectus now to browse through all of our fitness courses. 

Written by Kimberley Mitchell

Editor

Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

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