Many people associate kettlebell training with intense CrossFit workouts or total-body metabolic exercises.
One of the greatest benefits of kettlebell workouts is the dynamic nature of most of the best kettlebell exercises, which in turn, help work most of the major muscles in the body simultaneously and improve functional strength.
With that said, there are also some kettlebell exercises that target specific muscles. Kettlebell ab exercises help strengthen the core muscles and improve core activation and stabilization.
But what are the best kettlebell exercises for corework? How do you structure a kettlebell ab workout to strengthen your core?
In this article, we will provide step-by-step instructions for the best kettlebell core exercises to help you build core strength, power, and stability, creating a complete kettlebell core workout:
- Kettlebell Renegade Holds
- Unilateral Kettlebell Thrusters
- Forward Lunge with Trunk Rotation
- Kettlebell Mini Steering Wheels
- Kettlebell Dead Bug Pullovers
- Kettlebell Chops
Let’s dive in!
The Ultimate Kettlebell Core Workout
Here are some of the best kettlebell core exercises to add to your kettlebell core workouts:
#1: Kettlebell Renegade Holds
One of the best upper-body kettlebell exercises is the renegade row, which involves performing a row from a push-up position.
You can make this exercise much more difficult for the core by performing it as a single-arm isometric hold.
In this way, this kettlebell ab exercise is a fantastic anti-rotation core exercise that will challenge both your superficial and deep core muscles, along with the supportive muscles such as the glutes, lats, and traps to help keep your torso stable while counteracting a unilateral load.
Here are the steps for performing this ab exercise with a kettlebell:
- Get in a push-up position with one hand gripping the handle of a relatively light kettlebell and the other palm flat on the floor as if doing a normal push-up. This will cause your arms to be slightly staggered, but keep your hips square.
- Brace your core and try to keep your torso facing the floor as you lift the kettlebell up, performing a row by bending your elbow and pulling the weight up towards the outside of your ribs.
- At the top position, when you cannot row the weight back any further, hold for as long as possible, beginning with five seconds and building up to 20 or 30 seconds. Remember to keep your spine neutral.
- Carefully bring the weight back down and then switch sides.
#2: Unilateral Kettlebell Thrusters
This is one of the best kettlebell core exercises for functional strength because it increases the workload on the core muscles by requiring more anti-rotation strength and unilateral stabilization.
Because you will perform the push press on only one side of the body at a time, all of your core muscles have to contract to keep your spine upright while one side of your body is stationary with the weight and the other side of the body is extending the weight above your head.
These muscles include your obliques, rectus abdominis, deep transversus abdominis, and spinal extensors.
This imbalanced load requires excellent core control and can help build both dynamic and isometric core strength.
Make sure that your torso stays upright and does not lean to the side that is doing the overhead press.
Here are the steps for how to perform this kettlebell core exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture, keeping your chest up, core engaged, and shoulders relaxed and down.
- Hold a kettlebell just in front of your right shoulder with your palms facing away from your body and slightly upward. To further challenge your core muscles, try not to allow the backs of your hands or the bell to actually contact your body; leave a little bit of space or gap between the weight and your clavicles.
- Engage your core and glutes to sit your hips back as you bend your knees and drop down into a good front squat.
- When your thighs are parallel to the ground and your knees are bent 90°, press exclusively through your feet to stand up while simultaneously bringing just your right arm straight up into the end position of an overhead press.
- Return the kettlebell in the right hand to the starting position as you squat back down.
- Once you have dropped back into your squat and are pressing back up to the standing position again.
- Perform 8-12 reps on the right and then switch sides.
#3: Forward Lunge with Trunk Rotation
This unilateral leg exercise strengthens your quads, hips, glutes, hamstrings, and core.
Adding a trunk rotation with a kettlebell requires tremendous core strength, making this one of the best functional core exercises with a kettlebell.
Here are the steps for this dynamic total-body kettlebell core workout exercise:
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a single kettlebell between both hands, with one hand on either side of the horn.
- Keeping your core and glutes tight, chest up, and shoulders down, extend your arms straight out in front of your body parallel to the floor. Your arms should remain extended throughout the entire set.
- Step your right foot forward and drop into a lunge, bending each knee 90° while simultaneously rotating your trunk and arms to the right by engaging your obliques. Your back knee should hover just above the ground without touching it.
- Step back into an upright position while rotating the kettlebell back to the starting position.
- Alternate legs, completing 15 reps per side.
#4: Kettlebell Mini Steering Wheels
The kettlebell small circles or steering wheels move is one of the best kettlebell core exercises.
This move not only strengthens your shoulders, arms, and upper back but requires deep core activation and contraction of the rectus abdominis and obliques to stabilize the spine in an upright position as the arms try to support the kettlebell out in front of the body.
Here are the steps for this kettlebell workout exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture or kneel tall.
- Hold a single kettlebell between both hands, with one hand on either side of the horn.
- Keeping your core and glutes tight, chest up, and shoulders down, extend your arms straight out in front of your body parallel to the floor.
- Slowly turn the kettlebell to the right and left as if driving a steering wheel. Your arms should remain straight out in front of the body, and the movement should just involve a rotation of one hand tipping the kettlebell as if turning the steering wheel. Do not move your arms away from the position directly out in front of your chest.
- Hold the twist for 2-3 seconds, and then “turn the steering wheel” in the opposite direction and hold for 2-3 seconds.
- Complete 10-15 reps per twisting direction.
#5: Kettlebell Dead Bug Pullovers
The dead bug is one of the best beginner-friendly core exercises to help strengthen the deep muscles of the core and improve spinal stability.
Adding a kettlebell will transform the bodyweight exercise into a more effective exercise for building strength and definition in your abs.
Here are the steps to perform this functional anti-rotation kettlebell core exercise:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees, shins parallel to the floor, and arms pointing straight up towards the ceiling, holding either side of the handle of a kettlebell.
- Inhale, engaging your abs, then slowly lower one foot towards the floor until your toe nearly taps down while simultaneously extending the kettlebell straight back behind your head towards the floor without actually touching it.
- Keep the other leg steady at the starting position.
- Lift the leg and kettlebell back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
- Complete 10-15 total rounds of both legs.
#6: Kettlebell Chops
The key to success in this kettlebell core workout exercise is to keep your core as tight as possible so that you really engage your obliques.
Make sure to keep your arms straight throughout the movement.
Here are the steps for this kettlebell ab workout exercise:
- Stand upright with good posture, with your arms straight out in front of your chest, holding the kettlebell parallel to the ground with one hand on each side of the horn.
- Keeping your arms straight and glutes and abs engaged, chop the medicine ball down to the lower left and then straight up to the upper right away from your body as if vigorously chopping a straight line across your body.
- Complete 12 chops and then switch directions to chop from the lower right to the upper left.
Try to perform 2-3 sets of each kettlebell core exercise. Aim for 2-6 reps using a weight that’s at least 85% of your 1RM if your goal is to increase strength and 8-12 reps using a weight that’s 65-85% of your 1RM if your goal is to build muscle mass.
For more kettlebell workout ideas, check out our guide to upper-body kettlebell workouts here.