Core workouts and kettlebells may not initially seem compatible. The former usually involves bodyweight exercises on the floor, while the latter adds bulky resistance. However, a kettlebell core workout is actually a fantastic way to engage and tone your abs, obliques, spinal stabilizers, and back—essential parts of your core.
Introducing weight into core exercises challenges the muscles, prompting them to grow and strengthen to adapt to this new stimulus. Hence, incorporating a weight into core workouts can effectively ignite muscle growth and transformation in your core.
Experts Featured in This Article
- Alena Luciani, MS, CSCS, creator of Training2xl
- Ben Lauder-Dykes, coach at Fhitting Room
- Dasha Libin Anderson, NASM-PES, coach, martial artist, and author of Kettlebell Kickboxing
- Roxie Jones, CPT, fitness trainer and founder of BodyRox
While any graspable weight can be used for core exercises, a kettlebell intensifies the workout as its unwieldy shape engrosses the core muscles throughout every movement to manage the bell’s shifting center of gravity, as explained by Kettlebell Kickboxing founder Dasha Libin Anderson in a previous interview with Well+Good.
Choosing the Ideal Weight for a Core Kettlebell Workout
Since kettlebells have a shifting center of gravity due to their position changing throughout a movement (unlike a stationary dumbbell), deliberately selecting a challenging yet controllable kettlebell weight is the initial step to excel in this workout.
When choosing the appropriate weight for an exercise, the goal is to opt for a weight where the last two or three reps in a set are challenging. Therefore, in a 15-rep set, reps 12 through 15 should be demanding.
Trainer Roxie Jones recommends attempting to “rack” the kettlebell with one arm, pulling it up to your shoulder from hanging by your side. If racking the kettlebell causes back swaying, requires assistance from your other hand, or relies more on swinging momentum than actual muscle strength, the weight is probably too heavy. Start with a 10- to 25-pound kettlebell and incrementally increase it until you can no longer pass the rack test.
Executing a Core Kettlebell Workout
After selecting the suitable weight, the next step is to identify movements that will challenge your core and make optimal use of the kettlebell.
When designing any workout—whether full-body or targeting specific muscle groups—aiming for balance is crucial. This entails engaging your muscles evenly instead of lopsidedly. The same principle applies to the core. Considering the core encompasses the front, back, sides, and inner trunk muscles, a comprehensive core workout should include a range of exercises to activate each part of this vital muscle group.
“Your core technically includes your pelvic floor muscles, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, multifidus, and all the deeper, smaller trunk muscles,” elucidated Alena Luciani, CSCS, founder of Training2xl, during a previous Well+Good interview on core exercises.
Hence, with the aim of working in 360 degrees in mind, exercises should be selected to provide variety, fostering muscle growth that aligns with the multi-functional nature of this important muscle group.
Changing up your position is an effective method. Consider incorporating standing core exercises to challenge your balance and engage stabilizing and back muscles; include a twisting movement to target your obliques; utilize the kettlebell in an isometric hold such as a plank; and incorporate a movement resembling a weighted crunch for the rectus abdominis.
A 17-minute Core Kettlebell Routine
You don’t have to craft the perfect core kettlebell workout on your own. Trainer Ben Lauder-Dykes has already curated one for you, and it can be completed in less than 20 minutes!
“Today’s exercises comprise a mix of different movements that will slightly challenge your core in various ways,” shares Lauder-Dykes. The exercises also vary in format. You’ll commence with a slower-paced circuit, then ramp up the speed for the second round once you’ve familiarized yourself with the movements. The session culminates with a six-minute AMRAP (“as many reps as possible”) set where you go all out for the final third of the workout.
“As you repeat each exercise with an increased level of intensity each time you revisit it, you will start to build more strength,” adds Lauder-Dykes.
Here’s what this five-move core kettlebell workout has in store for you:
1. Slow March
Stand with your kettlebell racked at your chest, shift your weight to one leg, then lift the knee of the opposite leg to hip height, ensuring the thigh is parallel to the floor. Lower it back down. Alternate legs, repeating slowly and deliberately.
2. Half-Kneeling Halos
In a half-kneeling position, hold the kettlebell under your chin. Keeping your body still, rotate it around the back of your head, then reverse direction and repeat.
3. Plank Pull Throughs
Commence in a plank position with the kettlebell positioned under your chest. Shift the weight into your left arm, grab the kettlebell with your right hand, pull it over toward your right side, placing it under your right hip. Place your right arm down, then grab the kettlebell with your left hand, and pull it over to your left hip. Repeat this movement.
4. Kettlebell Dead Bugs
Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees in a tabletop position. Hold the kettlebell above your head with your arms straight and perpendicular to the floor, reaching the kettlebell up to the sky. Extend one leg out toward the front of the room, then return it to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg, engaging your core and keeping the kettlebell stationary.
5. Russian Twists
Sit with your heels touching the ground and your torso at a 45-degree angle. Hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest. Twist your torso and the kettlebell to one side, return to center, then repeat on the other side.
Ready to strengthen that core? Grab a weight and get started: