If you want to build chiseled abs, you need to incorporate more abdominal work into your training.
You can use various equipment to strengthen your abs, including the kettlebell. Using a kettlebell, you can train your abdominals and obliques in a number of planes (the different directions in which our bodies can move) and at various intensities. You can overload the muscles to stimulate growth and strength gains.
Whether you’re looking for ab exercises as a powerlifter, bodybuilder, or casual lifter, take a look at the exercises in this article to discover the power of the kettlebell!
The 10 best kettlebell ab workout exercises are:
- Weighted sit-ups
- Weighted crunches
- Russian twists
- Kettlebell single-leg deadlifts
- V-sit figure 8s
- Kettlebell marches
- Kettlebell side bends
- Kettlebell swings
- Single-arm kettlebell renegade rows
- Kneeling wood chops
Keep reading to learn more about the above kettlebell exercises for abs, as well as the benefits of using kettlebell exercises for core work and how to program them into your training routine.
You can also find a few of our favorite kettlebells recommended below.
Benefits of Training the Abs With Kettlebells
The main benefits of core kettlebell abs workouts include:
- Increased core strength
- Improved balance
- Greater flexibility
- High efficiency for workouts
Increased Core Strength
You can use several pieces of exercise equipment, including kettlebells, to encourage strength development in your core. Any type of kettlebell abs exercise effectively builds strength in your core muscles, whether you’re doing sit-ups, Russian twists, or side bends.
Regularly programming kettlebell core exercises into your training regime increases muscle growth and strength gains, enabling you to perform better in other resistance training or cardio exercises.
Strengthening your core will increase your overall balance and stability. When you start using a kettlebell to boost your abdominal strength, you’ll notice that your performance in the gym improves, especially during dynamic and unilateral (single-sided) movements that require a decent amount of balance.
You can use a kettlebell in various planes (different directions). They’re suitable for various exercises, including those that take your muscles to their end ranges of motion. In turn, this will increase your muscle flexibility.
Kettlebells are some of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment. You can use them to target all of the core muscles, particularly the abdominals and the obliques. You can get a killer workout using just one kettlebell to get your ab training done at home, in the park, or in the gym.
Because of the wide range of exercises that kettlebells are suitable for, they can help you add plenty of variety to your core workouts. This will increase your exercise enjoyment and keep you motivated.
10 Best Kettlebell Ab Exercises
1. Weighted Kettlebell Sit-Ups
Weighted kettlebell sit-ups are one of the most popular kettlebell ab exercises. Although they look simple, getting your form right is important to avoid straining your lower back.
How to Do Weighted Kettlebell Sit-Ups
- Start by lying flat on your back on a mat, holding the kettlebell with both hands close to your chest. You can either extend your legs out straight in front of you or keep your knees bent with your feet flat on the ground.
- Squeeze your abs to lift yourself into a seated position, keeping control of the kettlebell throughout.
- Carefully return to the starting position and repeat.
I recommend exhaling when you sit up with the kettlebell in your hands to exert more force and make the exercise more effective. Inhale on the way down, and repeat this process with each rep.
2. Weighted Kettlebell Crunches
Crunches are a great alternative when you don’t want to do a full sit-up, kettlebell in hand or not. You’re only coming up part of the way with crunches, but don’t be fooled! This is a tough exercise that will leave your abs burning.
How to Do Weighted Kettlebell Crunches
- Lie flat on a mat with the kettlebell in your hands. You can hold it at your chest or above your head. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground or extend your legs straight out so they are flat on the ground if you prefer.
- Squeeze your abdominal muscles to bring your head and upper back (shoulder blades) off the floor.
- Pause for a second before returning to the starting position. Repeat for your desired number of reps and sets.
Make sure to keep your lower back in contact with the ground at all times during this exercise to reduce your risk of a lower back injury. Only your upper back should rise off the ground to work your anterior (front) core muscles.
When you’re purchasing a kettlebell, you’ll want to get the best possible product for your money. Check out this article on the best kettlebells for the money to find affordable yet high-quality options.
3. Russian Twists
The Russian twist is a dynamic kettlebell core exercise that involves twisting from side to side with the kettlebell in your hands. It’s quite an advanced movement, but you can regress the exercise to make it easier if you’re a beginner (see my Pro Tip below).
How to Do Russian Twists
- Sit on a comfortable mat, holding the kettlebell securely with both hands.
- Lean back and lift your legs slightly off the ground to create a V shape with your torso and hips.
- Twist your upper body from side to side, lightly touching the floor with the kettlebell each time. Keep your chest up and move your head in line with your torso with each rep.
- Repeat for your programmed number of reps and sets.
If you’re a beginner struggling to perform Russian Twists with your legs raised off the ground, place them down on the floor. You can then perform the movement exactly the same way but with a more solid and stable base, making it easier.
When you’ve built your core strength and feel comfortable doing the Russian twist with your feet on the ground, you can advance the movement by lifting your feet.
Are you a powerlifter looking for more ways to strengthen your core? Check out the best ab exercises for powerlifting.
4. Single-Leg Deadlifts
The single-leg deadlift is a highly effective exercise for building the hamstrings. Still, it targets your core secondarily, as you need to activate your abs to keep yourself stable throughout the movement.
How to Do Single-Leg Deadlifts
- Stand up straight with a kettlebell in one hand.
- Drive your hips back as your torso leans forward, and lift your opposite leg up behind you.
- Lower yourself until you feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings, activating your core to keep yourself stable.
- Carefully bring yourself back to a standing position and repeat for the desired number of reps before transferring to the other side.
Keep the kettlebell as close to your shins as possible to stabilize yourself and prevent yourself from falling over during the movement. If you struggle to stay balanced, hold onto a ledge or wall for extra support.
5. V-Sit Figure 8s
The Figure 8 exercise is one of the most effective ways to target your abdominals and your obliques, as it involves passing the kettlebell from side to side under and over your legs.
How to Do V-Sit Figure 8s
- Sit on a mat holding a suitably sized kettlebell in your hands. Lean back, so you’re in a V position.
- Pass the kettlebell under one leg through to the other side, grabbing it with your other hand. Return it back over the other leg, passing it to the original hand, to form a figure 8.
- Repeat this movement for your desired number of reps to form one continuous set.
Hold onto the curved bottom part of the kettlebell instead of the handle to make this exercise more challenging. This will make your core and upper body muscles work harder to stabilize.
6. Kettlebell Marches
Kettlebell marches are beginner-friendly and don’t require significant core strength. They’re easy to do, and the only piece of equipment you need is a kettlebell.
How to Do Kettlebell Marches
- Stand up tall, holding a kettlebell with both hands.
- Lift one leg in front of you towards your chest with your knee bent.
- Activate your core to keep yourself stable.
- Lower your leg, then immediately lift the opposite leg towards your chest with your knee bent.
- Continue for the desired number of reps.
The aim of this exercise is to stay as upright as possible and avoid swaying from side to side. Pay attention to whether you bend to one side when lifting your leg. If so, you must work on your balance and core stability.
You can improve your balance and stability by practicing yoga, Pilates, and unilateral (one-sided) exercises with weights, such as single-leg squats.
7. Kettlebell Side Bends
Kettlebell side bends primarily target your obliques but will also activate your abdominals. They’re easy to do, and you can do them anywhere, as all you need is a single kettlebell.
How to Do Kettlebell Side Bends
- Stand up tall, holding the kettlebell in one hand down by your thigh. Place your other hand on your hip or hang it down by your side.
- Bend down to the side with the kettlebell until you feel a stretch on the other side of your torso.
- Engage your core to bring yourself back to the starting position. Repeat for your desired number of reps and then do the same on the other side.
Avoid extending down too far to the side, as this can increase your risk of injury. You should only extend as far as you need to feel a nice stretch on your side.
Also, avoid twisting your torso. You should only be laterally flexing.
8. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings are often used as a full-body exercise or as part of a high-intensity interval training station. This dynamic kettlebell ab exercise is great at working your core through a partial range of motion. This means the muscles aren’t taken from a fully contracted to a fully stretched position but through a portion of their full range of motion.
How to Do Kettlebell Swings
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell by the handle with both hands.
- Hinge at the hips as though you’re sitting on a chair, bringing the kettlebell through your legs as you do so.
- Drive your hips forward with force to swing the kettlebell up to around eye height.
- Allow the kettlebell to drop back down between your legs as you hinge at the hips again.
- Repeat these steps to create one continuous motion.
A common mistake many people make when doing kettlebell swings is swinging the kettlebell too high without properly controlling the weight. The kettlebell shouldn’t come close to your eyes or forehead, as this could cause you to injure yourself.
If you’re lifting the kettlebell above eye level, as you would in CrossFit training, make sure to bring it all the way overhead, away from the face, to prevent injuries.
9. Single-Arm Kettlebell Renegade Rows
This exercise is one of the best alternatives to ab wheel roll-outs as it works your anterior abdominals (the rectus abdominis and pyramidalis muscles that reside on the front of your torso) from top to bottom in a similar way and creates constant tension in the muscles. You can do it almost anywhere because you only need a kettlebell and yourself!
How to Do Single-Arm Kettlebell Renegade Row
- Get two relatively light kettlebells. Adopt a push-up position, with each hand holding the handle of each kettlebell (the bottom of the kettlebells should be firmly on the floor).
- Lift one kettlebell off the ground in a rowing motion before placing it back on the ground.
- Repeat with the opposite arm.
- Continue alternating between each arm until you reach your desired rep number.
Ensure you use a light kettlebell for this exercise unless you’re an advanced trainer with great core strength. It’s a challenging exercise that’s easy to get wrong if you’re not careful!
10. Kneeling Wood Chops
Kneeling wood chops are a great exercise to target your obliques, which run down the sides of your torso. They emulate the action of chopping wood with an axe, hence the name ‘wood chops.’
How to Do Kneeling Wood Chops
- Kneel on the floor with your shins touching the ground. Keep your torso upright and hold the kettlebell with both hands by the side of your left hip.
- Lift the kettlebell diagonally across your body to your upper right-hand side.
- Carefully return the kettlebell back to your left hip and repeat. Perform your desired number of reps before moving on to the other side and repeating.
Make sure to keep your hips neutral and squared. Avoid twisting your torso from side to side, as this will take the emphasis away from your obliques and place it on your lower back, making the exercise less effective.
Have a landmine attachment available and want to add more variety to your core workouts? We have a list of the best landmine core exercises.
Sample Kettlebell Core Workout
You can use an endless combination of exercises to create a kettlebell core workout. Here are some examples of how you can use the best kettlebell ab exercises in a workout.
Kettlebell Ab Workout for Strength and Hypertrophy
The following program focuses on improving your strength and stimulating muscle growth in your core. This routine would be great to add to the end of your upper body or full-body strength training workouts to maximize your overall muscle growth.
- Kettlebell single-leg deadlifts – 4 sets of 10 reps on each leg
- Weighted sit-ups – 4 sets of 12 reps
- Kettlebell renegade rows – 3 sets of 6 reps on each side
- Kettlebell wood chops – 3 sets of 10 reps
Dynamic Kettlebell Ab Workout
The kettlebell core workout below focuses more on dynamic exercises to improve your stability and balance. You can add this workout to the end of a strength training or cardio workout or use it as a higher-impact kettlebell ab workout on its own.
- Kettlebell swings – 4 sets of 15, 60% of 1RM
- Figure 8s – 3 sets of 10 reps, 70% of 1RM
- Kettlebell marches – 4 sets of 20 (10 each leg), 80% of 1RM
- Kettlebell side bends – 3 sets of 12 on each side, 75% of 1RM
There are many great kettlebell apps with a variety of sample workouts for you to follow if you want additional options.
Our Recommended Kettlebells
1. Rogue e-Coat Kettlebell – Best Overall
The Rogue e-Coat Kettlebell is made out of durable and corrosive-resistant material. It’s available between 9 and 88 lbs, so there is a kettlebell suitable for everybody. Despite being one of the best kettlebells on the market and one that will last several years of extensive use, the Rogue e-Coat Kettlebell comes at a great price.
2. KHTO Kettle Bells Competition Kettlebell – Best Budget Pick
The KHTO Competition Kettlebell is available between 20 and 50 lbs, and each one is color-coded so you can easily identify the correct weight. It has an ergonomic handle with enough space to comfortably fit two hands. It’s affordable but still durable and study, making it great value for the price.
3. Kettlebell Kings Fitness Edition Kettlebell – Best for CrossFit
The Kettlebell Kings Fitness Edition Kettlebell is designed for higher-rep use, making it perfect for CrossFit. It’s available between 20 and 100 lbs and comes at a decent price for the quality. You can use one or both hands comfortably, and the weight is nicely distributed throughout the kettlebell.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Kettlebell Ab Workout
Here are some top tips to help you get the most out of your kettlebell ab workout:
- Always warm up
- Choose dynamic exercises
- Use a challenging weight
- Prioritize good form
Always Warm Up
You should warm up before any form of exercise, including before a kettlebell core workout. Spend around 10 minutes doing some light cardio or dynamic stretching to increase your heart rate and blood flow to your muscles.
Warming up reduces the risk of injuries and improves your exercise performance so you can get the most out of your kettlebell workouts.
Choose Dynamic Exercises
Dynamic movements (like kettlebell swings and Russian twists) are often superior to static ones (like the plank) when training your core. Dynamic exercises take your abdominal muscles through a wider range of motion and stimulate stronger adaptations, leading to higher strength gains and better core stability.
Use a Challenging Weight
To progress in your abdominal workouts, you must challenge your core muscles.
While bodyweight exercises can be effective at building some muscle and strength, you might need to progress onto using additional weight. If you do so, it’s best to choose a weight that is heavy enough to feel challenging but light enough for you to safely execute every exercise without injuring yourself.
The weight you find challenging will depend on your existing strength and experience. You might need to try a few different sizes of kettlebells to determine the best weight for your needs.
If you’re working out at home and don’t want to purchase several different kettlebells, consider purchasing an adjustable kettlebell that enables you to change the weight according to your needs. Check out my article on the best adjustable kettlebells to see the best products currently on the market.
Prioritize Good Form
Great form and technique are essential for any type of exercise, and kettlebell ab exercises are no different. Using a suitable weight for your current strength and fitness level will enable you to use proper form during your core workouts, preventing injuries and enhancing your gains.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Kettlebells Good for Abs?
Kettlebell core exercises are highly effective at training your abdominal muscles. The uneven weight distribution forces you to engage your core to stay balanced, which can improve your abdominals’ appearance and strength and increase your core stability.
Are Kettlebells Good for Losing Belly Fat?
You can’t spot reduce fat in your body. Stomach exercises with kettlebells alone won’t help you lose belly fat. However, you can use the best core exercises with kettlebells to increase your calorie burn and aid total body weight loss, including the fat from around your abdomen.
What Size Kettlebell Should I Use?
Consider your existing strength and training level when deciding what size kettlebell to use, as this will be different for everybody. Ideally, you should choose a weight that enables you to perform every exercise with good form. A kettlebell weighing six to eight kilograms is a good starting point for most people.
The trusty kettlebell is a great piece of equipment to use when trying to build your core muscles. You can create a variety of kettlebell ab workouts to suit your needs and preferences, and kettlebells are beginner-friendly.
If you need to pick up your own kettlebell, check out the Rogue Fitness e-Coat Kettlebells.
Make sure to include different kettlebell exercises into your training routine to target your core from all angles and take the muscles through their full ranges of motion. Doing so will boost your progress and keep your kettlebell ab workouts varied and interesting.