14 Amazing Kettlebell Ab Workouts To Strengthen Your Core

Everyone wants to have 6-pack abs and draw the attention of the other people on the beach.

For decades, sit-ups were practically the only exercise used to strengthen those muscle groups, but today we know that a core workout must be diverse.

Strong core muscles and a well-defined 6-pack are achievable but only when combining good nutrition and regular intense, diversified training.

These are the most important kettlebell exercises and are essential to my training program and the programs I create for clients. Let's dive in!

So many kettlebell ab exercises target the core, at least to some extent, and the following 14 are the most effective kettlebell core exercises in my experience.

1. Standard Kettlebell Swing

Target: Gluteus, quadriceps, hamstring, core, anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, serratus anterior

The standard kettlebell swing is the first kettlebell exercise you will learn since it is one of the most important.

We would also call this one a fantastic beginner kettlebell abs workout. It is an excellent example of compound exercise and engages almost the entire body.

Amateurs and professional athletes alike use it because it improves jump and acceleration in addition to strengthening the upper and lower body.

The cardiovascular system will greatly benefit from the kettlebell swing too. Aim for sets that last about a minute, with breaks of less than half a minute.

Adjust the duration of sets and weight to your current fitness level.

As you progress, you can add a single-arm kettlebell swing and snatch to your routine. A single-arm kettlebell swing and snatch will make you even stronger.

Read Also - 10 Amazing Kettlebell Swing Benefits

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart.
  2. 2
    Bend your knees slightly, keep your core engaged, and your back straight.
  3. 3
    Take the kettlebell with both hands – an overhand grip.
  4. 4
    Push the hips and swing the kettlebell forward (and up) in one powerful and fluent movement.
  5. 5
    Swing the kettlebell back through your legs.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Do not forget that your arms should act as hooks and not as motion generators.
Standard Kettlebell Swing

2. Kneeling Wood Chop

Target: Core, obliques, deltoids, serratus anterior, erector spinae

You can perform this kettlebell workout for abs in three ways:  kneeling, half-kneeling, and standing.

Since the core is our focus, I recommend kneeling or half-kneeling. The standing wood chop also involves the legs, thus reducing the load on the core.

Whether you will go kneeling or half-kneeling is not so important. Choose a position that you find more stable to target muscles better rather than trying to avoid falling.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Kneel and keep your upper body upright (if you are doing half-kneeling, bend your left knee at a 90-degree angle).
  2. 2
    Hold a lighter kettlebell with both hands.
  3. 3
    Tighten your abdominals to maintain stable hips.
  4. 4
    Keep your elbows slightly bent, and then pull the kettlebell diagonally - from your hip to above your shoulder.
  5. 5
    Return to the starting position, put your left knee down and right knee up, and that's one rep.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you don't have a kettlebell now, kneeling landmine oblique twists are a good alternative.
Kneeling Kettlebell Wood Chop

3. Kettlebell Sit-Up

Target: Core, anterior deltoids, hip flexors

I already mentioned sit-ups as an exercise we've all done either at school, football practice, or at home.

You could conclude from my introduction that I consider sit-ups less useful compared to some other core exercises, but that is certainly not the case.

A core workout should not consist of sit-ups and crunches only, but these exercises should definitely be part of the training routine.

When you pick up a kettlebell, you'll make sit-ups even more effective. This is because you will feel the core muscles and hip flexors working, but you will also strengthen other muscles.

See Related - Can Kettlebells Effectively Build Muscle?

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Hold the kettlebell with both hands and lie down.
  2. 2
    Keep your knees bent slightly and position your right and left foot on the ground approximately shoulder-width apart.
  3. 3
    Curl your upper body up while keeping both your right and left arm (and weight) straight above you.
  4. 4
    Slowly return to the starting position.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Always hold the kettlebell firmly above the torso, not resting on the torso; otherwise, kettlebell sit-ups will be nowhere near as beneficial as they should be.
Kettlebell Sit-Up

4. Kettlebell Sit and Press

Target: Core, anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, triceps brachii, trapezius

This kettlebell ab exercise is a variation of the previous exercise that will help you simultaneously hit the entire core and shoulders.

It is equally good for beginners and advanced exercisers. Beginners may use it to strengthen the core, hips, and shoulders while improving mobility simultaneously.

For advanced exercisers, 2-in-1 kettlebell exercises are always highly functional. Advanced gymgoers generally target every muscle at least twice a week, so they have to save time this way.

You will immediately notice the differences in the setup for this exercise and the sit-up.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lie down on your back.
  2. 2
    Keep your legs straight and heels on the floor.
  3. 3
    Hold the kettlebell on your chest.
  4. 4
    Curl your upper body up until you reach a sitting position.
  5. 5
    Do a kettlebell overhead press.
  6. 6
    Reverse the motion and return to starting position.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Pay attention to the negative portion of the exercise to engage the core even more.
Kettlebell Sit And Press

5. Kettlebell Renegade Row

Target: Core, biceps brachii, latissimus dorsi, obliques, rhomboids, trapezius, posterior deltoids

The kettlebell renegade row is an anti-rotational and anti-extension core exercise. If you are not familiar with these two terms, let me explain.

As the name suggests, anti-rotational exercises do not involve trunk rotation, and the point of anti-extension core exercises is to maintain a neutral spine position.

A plank or renegade row is one of the very challenging kettlebell exercises. So don't be discouraged if you can't execute it properly on the first try.

When you manage to perform it, it will be very rewarding since it activates most of the body, not just your abs.

Your core will have the task of stabilizing the rest of the body because only one arm probably can't do it. Only use a heavy kettlebell when you are sure you are strong enough.

This exercise is the perfect substitute for regular renegade rows as it increases the difficulty compared to using a hex dumbbell.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Put the kettlebell on one side and get into a push-up position (straight-arm high plank position)
  2. 2
    Engage your core and keep your whole body straight.
  3. 3
    Row the kettlebell up with your right or left elbow close to the body.
  4. 4
    When the elbow goes past the body, hold the weight for a second and then slowly lower it to the floor.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If the hips drop too low, you should work on the standard plank more before trying the renegade row.
Kettlebell Renegade Row

6. Windmill

Target: Core, obliques, glutes, deltoids, quadratus lumborum

Although it may not seem like that at first glance, the windmill is one of the most complex kettlebell exercises.

That's why I include it in the workouts of intermediate and advanced clients only.

Beginners should start with the half-kneeling kettlebell windmills.

In addition to being very complex, it is one of the best for strengthening the rectus abdominis muscle, the entire core, and the glutes. Good hip mobility is mandatory.

Otherwise, the whole movement will be wrong, and you will risk more than one injury.

If you think the hips are not to blame but still feel limitations, work on thoracic mobility and flexibility.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart and point your toes slightly outwards.
  2. 2
    Take a single kettlebell in your left hand.
  3. 3
    Push the kettlebell into the front rack position and then press a kettlebell overhead.
  4. 4
    The left arm must be fully extended.
  5. 5
    Bend forward and to the side at the hips.
  6. 6
    Keep the kettlebell in place.
  7. 7
    Then touch your feet or at least your shin with your free hand.
  8. 8
    Squeeze the glutes and return to the starting position.
  9. 9
    After 10+ repetitions, switch to the right hand.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Once you can perform a standard windmill, you should still keep the half-kneeling windmill in your workout routine.
Kettlebell Windmill

7. Turkish Get-up

Target: Core, obliques, glutes, hamstrings, triceps, calves, lower back

Prehabilitation (prehab) is an increasingly popular term in the fitness world.

While the concept of prehab is rather clear in medicine, for example, before surgery, in fitness, this term is sometimes vague.[1]

Nevertheless, there are many kettlebell exercises that I like to use as a prehab, and one of them is the Turkish get-up.

The Turkish get-up is a full-body exercise that strengthens your body and makes it more mobile and flexible.

It is an ideal starting point after an injury or for those who are seasoned gym-goers yet inexperienced when it comes to a kettlebell abs workout.

The Turkish get-up is an advanced move; however, most of my clients can perform it correctly after just one training session.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lie down on your back.
  2. 2
    Keep abs tight.
  3. 3
    Extend your right arm straight up to the ceiling and keep the kettlebell locked in the rack position.
  4. 4
    Bend your right leg, and let your left leg remain extended.
  5. 5
    Push from your right foot to shift the weight to the left forearm, which is slightly bent on the floor.
  6. 6
    Put your left palm on the floor, and push into the floor to get into a seated position.
  7. 7
    Push your hips up and slide your left leg underneath you to reach a kneeling position.
  8. 8
    Shift your legs into a lunge position and look straight ahead.
  9. 9
    Keep your core and glutes engaged to stand up.
  10. 10
    Do the whole movement in reverse to return to starting position.
  11. 11
    Do 3-5 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you are a beginner, learn step by step until you can do the whole Turkish get-up by memory. 
To begin with, just try to sit up and lie back down. You can practice without a kettlebell to focus more on the form.
Turkish Get-Up Kettlebellf

8. Goblet Squat

Target: Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, core, calves

The goblet squat is certainly not the first exercise that comes to mind when you think of a core workout.

Still, the abdominal muscles are significantly involved in the movement, right after the primary ones - quadriceps and glutes.

It can be part of a warm-up and even cardio training. In those cases, use a light kettlebell. If it's part of a lower body workout, go with a heavier kettlebell.

The goblet squat targets the back less than the regular back squat but is even better for the quadriceps and core, which is why I included it on this list.

Also, the position is more comfortable. Those who have had a back injury can do this exercise, and it is safer for beginners because they can drop the weight safely if it is too difficult for them.

Read Also - What Size Kettlebell Should I Get?

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Take a kettlebell by the horns with both hands and put the kettlebell straight at your chest.
  2. 2
    Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart and point your toes slightly outward.
  3. 3
    Keep your core engaged and your back neutrally aligned.
  4. 4
    Look forward.
  5. 5
    Simultaneously push your hips back and start bending your knees to perform the squat.
  6. 6
    Do not allow the kettlebell to move.
  7. 7
    Maintain a proud chest.
  8. 8
    Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout the movement.
  9. 9
    Once the hips are below parallel with your knees, explosively return to the starting position.
Kettlebell Goblet Squats

9. Around The World

Target: Core, obliques, forearms, hip flexors, glutes, rectus abdominis

If your first association with "around the world" is the song by Daft Punk or Red Hot Chili Peppers, you have excellent music taste.

Around the world is also a highly effective kettlebell exercise for the entire core.

There are two ways you can perform it.

One way is to swing the kettlebell at about hip height, a bit lower, and the other is to rotate the kettlebell above the shoulders, but you must have good shoulder mobility for that. 

Keep in mind that this is an anti-rotational exercise good for different types of kettlebell workouts.

The first option is more core-friendly.

If you decide to do the second one, then among the target muscles, you can add the shoulders, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi, but the core will be less exposed.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. 2
    Take a kettlebell (not too heavy) and extend your arms down in front of you.
  3. 3
    Swing the kettlebell around your back, then switch hands at the centerline of your backside and bring it around your body until you make a full circle.
  4. 4
    Reverse direction.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Try to speed up and do as many reps as possible without compromising form and safety.
Kettlebell Around The World

10. Farmer's Walk

Target: Core, obliques, forearms, adductors, glutes, calves, hamstrings, trapezius

The farmer's walk, also called the farmer's carry and suitcase carry, is one of the powerhouse kettlebell ab exercises that involves walking a certain distance while carrying a heavy kettlebell in one or each hand.

If you carry two kettlebells, you will undoubtedly strengthen the core, but even more so the forearms and the rest of the body.

When you hold the kettlebell in only one hand, your core must act as a counterbalance to prevent you from bending, and that's what we want to achieve with this exercise during core training.

Your obliques and other core muscles must constantly work to keep your body upright and balanced. You can count on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after doing it.[2]

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Place a kettlebell parallel to your body, then squat to lift it.
  2. 2
    Hold your core tight and keep your torso upright throughout the exercise.
  3. 3
    Walk by stepping forward with your left foot, followed by the right foot. The steps must be controlled, do not try to cover the distance as soon as possible.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you don't have enough space to walk, you can try to march in place or skip to the next exercise on the list.
Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk

11. Front Rack March

Target: Core, obliques, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps

The front rack march is a variation of the farmer's walk; the primary difference is the load position.

Since the kettlebell will be in the front rack position instead of next to your body, marching will be more difficult.

You will raise your knees higher, making the whole movement more challenging for the core, hips, and glutes.

This exercise is one of the ways I improve coordination and movement efficiency when working with athletes, especially skill positions in football, tennis, and basketball players.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand with your feet hip-width apart, or you can go with shoulder-width if you prefer that stance more.
  2. 2
    Hold a lighter kettlebell in one hand.
  3. 3
    Raise left leg (left knee) to left hip level, pause for a moment, and lower it back to the floor.
  4. 4
    Keep the core engaged.
  5. 5
    Alternate your legs.
  6. 6
    Then switch the kettlebell to the other hand and repeat the same number of reps with your right leg.
Kettlebell Front Rack March

12. Plank Pull-Through

Target: Obliques, core, deltoids, forearms, glutes, serratus anterior, abductors

The plank pull-through is my favorite, but you can also do plank pass-over and plank with kettlebell drag. All three exercises are very similar.

They are performed practically the same, and the same muscles are involved. Over time, you will determine which of these three versions gives you that 1% more.

Also, it is good to change from to time, just to prevent muscles from getting used to it.

The plank pull-through looks simple, and it is when we speak about technique. However, this is a challenging exercise, especially when using a heavier kettlebell.

Never use a kettlebell that you can barely move. Otherwise, you can injure your spine, core, and other parts of the body.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Put the kettlebell on one side
  2. 2
    Get into a plank position.
  3. 3
    Brace your core and glutes.
  4. 4
    Keep your left and right shoulder, as well as the hips, in a straight line.
  5. 5
    Grab the kettlebell with one hand and pull it to the opposite side.
  6. 6
    Repeat in reverse and keep alternating as long as you can maintain proper form.
Kettlebell Plank Pull-Through

13. Standing Side Bend

Target: Obliques, core, glutes

The obliques are located on the sides of your core and play a key role in rotational movements.

That's why the strength of the obliques is equally important for everyday activities and sports.

The standing kettlebell side bend is one of the best exercises for obliques, as well as other ones that demand lateral trunk flexion. It’s also an easy kettlebell ab workout!

Some of my colleagues will tell you that you will lose your love handles thanks to the standing kettlebell side bend, but that is not true.

The only way to get rid of love handles and general fat in the body is a proper diet that, together with physical activity, leads to a caloric deficit. You cannot target fat loss![3]

There are some methods, like cryotherapy, that may help.[4]

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Take a standing position with your feet hip-width apart or feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. 2
    Hold a kettlebell straight in one hand.
  3. 3
    Put your other hand on the hip.
  4. 4
    Engage your core.
  5. 5
    Bend to about mid-shin of your left leg or right leg (the side where the weight is), and the rest of the body must remain still.
  6. 6
    Repeat for 10 to 15 reps on both sides.
Standing Side Bend with Kettlebell

14. Lateral Swing

Target: Obliques, core, deltoids, serratus anterior, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major

This is a public service announcement to all my fellow tennis players, but also golfers, baseball players, and other similar athletes - lateral swings must be part of your workout.

The lateral swing kettlebell exercise has many similarities to the standard kettlebell swing but is considered an advanced variation. Check out more kettlebell swing substitutes here!

Obliques and core must work at 100% during this movement, which will be very important for you later.

Your forehand and backhand will become more powerful, and you will reduce the likelihood of an abdominal tear.

It is one of the most common tennis injuries, as we could see recently, since both Nadal and Alcaraz suffered abdominal tears in the second half of 2022.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. 2
    Engage your core and lean forward to grab the kettlebell with one hand.
  3. 3
    Initiate the movement from the hips to move your arm laterally across your body.
  4. 4
    Do 8 to 20 reps and then switch sides.
Lateral Kettlebell Swing

Benefits of Kettlebell Training When Targeting Your Core

You don't have to be a fitness professional to quickly learn all about the numerous benefits of kettlebell training when targeting your core and multiple muscle groups.

You will also notice that your whole body is improving, not just your core strength.

Kettlebells are a type of equipment that is perfect for a full-body workout. Even during workouts, when the core is not the focus, it will still be very active.

You can do kettlebell ab exercises even if you are not an advanced athlete. Everyone will find a kettlebell of suitable size and weight. Over time you can progress by taking heavier ones.

Unlike many gym workouts that don't translate well to sports activities, when you do some of the exercises I've talked about, you'll notice an overall improvement in performance.

The same applies to cardio because most kettlebell exercises are compound, which requires the heart to pump blood harder than usual.

You will certainly strengthen the grip since you cannot hold the weight and do the exercises properly if you have a weak grip.

These are just some of the many reasons why everyone should use kettlebells in the gym or have one in a home gym.

Suggested Equipment - 11 Best Kettlebells For Home Gyms


How To Program Kettlebell Ab Workout?

Which approach will help you maximize your results? There are two recommended ways of programming a kettlebell abs workout.

Since you are here, you are probably interested in a kettlebell core workout.

Suppose you want your training regimen to consist of several full-body workouts per week with a heavy focus on core strength.

In that case, you can incorporate 2 to 4 core exercises at the end of each workout and have a 10-minute kettlebell ab workout.

The core will also be active during the entire training, which is certainly enough.

Another way is to have one day when you only do a killer workout for core or combine core and arms, for example. We even have a complete guide to kettlebell arm exercises here!

Then take 4 to 6 exercises from the list and do them at full intensity. You can do a few core exercises one more time during the week for the best possible results.


Commons Questions About Kettlebell Ab Workouts

Are kettlebells good for losing belly fat?

No exercise is good for losing belly fat per se because belly fat cannot be lost if you don't take care of nutrition. Still, kettlebell swings and the other kettlebell exercises I talked about are definitely a step in the right direction toward a flat stomach since they burn calories and build muscles that affect basal metabolism.[5]

How long before you see results from kettlebell workouts?

If you follow the appropriate kettlebell core workout program and eat properly, the first results can become noticeable in just a few weeks, which is faster compared to some other types of training.

What size Kettlebell should you use for ab exercises?

It depends on many factors such as your fitness level, goal, age, and health condition, but in general, the kettlebells you use for kettlebell abs workout should not be heavy like those you use for squat, deadlift, and snatch.

Read Also - What Size Kettlebell Do I Need?

What happens if you do 100 kettlebell swings a day?

If you manage to deal with mental and physical fatigue, as well as avoid injuries, there is no doubt that 100 kettlebell swings a day will strengthen your entire body, which will lead to the cessation of back pain, higher hormone levels, and overall better quality of life.


Conclusion – Time To Get Ripped!

Sit-ups and hanging leg raises are the most popular ab exercises and part of most kettlebell workouts.

However, they are examples of trunk flexion. To have a strong and functional core, you must include extension, rotation, lateral and other movements in your workout too.

That's why a versatile piece of equipment like a kettlebell is ideal for the ultimate abs workout. Kettlebell weight is less important - proper form and perseverance are crucial.

If you take care of your diet alongside a kettlebell abs workout, you can expect a visible 6-pack and, more importantly, a strong and stable body.

References: 

1. https://www.stgeorges.nhs.uk/service/prehabilitation/
2. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Delayed_onset_muscle_soreness_(DOMS)
3. https://www.insider.com/can-you-target-weight-loss-2019-1
4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/21060-fat-freezing-cryolipolysis
5. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-basal-metabolic-rate

Filip Maric

Last Updated on December 3, 2022