Best Kettlebell Exercises for Abs of Steel

Best Kettlebell Exercises for Abs

Been working on that gut for a while? Trying to add some new spice to your workout routine and burn off some belly fat?

Of all the types of exercise equipment that can be used to supplement a strict bodyweight workout, the most effective one I’ve found for many purposes is the kettlebell. As it turns out, because of its unique qualities, there are some great kettlebell exercises for abs.

Let’s take a look at how to use kettlebells to get those washboard abs you’ve been wanting.

Why kettlebells?

Kettlebells are compact little muscle builders, that’s why!

  • Kettlebells are versatile, in that they can be used in a variety of moves. Think squats, overhead presses, clean and press; etc.
  • Kettlebells are made with an easy-to-grab handle, so they’re less likely to go flying compared to dumbbells in certain exercises where you need wide access to the grip and having weights on either side blocks you.
  • Their weight is unevenly distributed, which forces you to concentrate and exert your will to make them go the right way.


Although some kettlebell moves can be done with dumbbells, the kettlebell shape and handle makes some of those exercises more effective when done with a kettlebell.

If your’e into functional fitness, you may use a variety of equipment to supplement all manner of bodyweight exercises. TRX is wonderful for suspension type moves; bosu balls help you with balance; battle ropes help you build arm and hcest strength.

But for my money, when it comes to throwing weight around, grab a kettlebell.

Do Kettlebells Build Abs?

kettlebell abs

Abs aren’t built with exercise alone, or we’d all be doing “enough situps.” (note: You shouldn’t do situps.) It just doesn’t work that way.

It’s eating right and exercising: You have to eat right, get enough metabolic / cardio training, and lift enough weight to burn off calories.

When lifting, do exercises that activate your core, and go slow so that you’re forcing the muscles to work and not just using momentum.


Kettlebell exercises are ideal for developing the abdominal muscles. By combining explosive kettlebell movements and uneven weight distribution on the weight, you build strength and add stamina in your core. Good kettlebell exercises activate multiple muscles, and doing these in a quick sequence such as HIIT workouts shifts your body to fat-torching mode.

For an average person, Kettlebell exercises can burn 400 calories within a 20-minute session.


Beginners, Mind your Rack Position

One thing I didn’t know at first: Learn the rack position.

For a standard swing, you won’t necessarily need it. For other exercises, a good rack manages the directions of kettlebell without causing any trouble to the shoulders and the forearm.

Beginners tend to grip the handle from the top which can load unnecessary pressure on their forearm and wrist. The correct grip is to place the handle at your palm base leaving your fingers behind the rod.

You won’t be having any trouble with pressure release if you maintain good form and posture throughout the exercise.

Also, be sure to warm up as getting the blood into your muscles is important before you start with your lifting. It’s easy to overlook until you cause yourself an unnecessary injury–and then you’re putting on the pounds because you can’t work out.

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Now let’s get to the exercises.


Standard Kettlebell Swing

This is the starter exercise which should be done prior to any variations. This is also being known as the “gold standard” in the context of kettlebell exercises. It should be noted that this exercise will provide a quality workout for your core.

You should begin with your feet while stretching them a little wider than your hip width. Maintain a slight bend in your knees with a flat back and a fully engaged core. Squat down and grab the kettlebell.

Then, lean forward and reach the kettlebell between your legs with both your hands. Now drive your hips forward,  lift your torso and throw the weight out in front in a controlled manner. Don’t let go!

You can do sets of 10 to 20 of these at a time.

It is vital to gain the motion from the hips during all the swings. You should be keen to avoid putting much pressure on your shoulders and arms to lift the kettlebell. It is best to reach out from your heels and hips.

Single Arm Swing

This is quite similar to the standard swing, but the trainee will be working on just one side of the body during the exercise. Since the pressure is being exerted on one side of the body it is very important to maintain great balance and solid muscle engagement.

The mechanism is quite similar to a standard swing.  Start with the same position as previously and then touch the kettlebell with just one hand Make sure you rest your other hand lose in order to gain the momentum for the swing. Keep your glutes fully engaged and drive forward your kettlebell using your hips.

Shift hands after performing at least 10 reps on one side–OR, switch arms each rep to make the set even more dynamic!

The Snatch

The snatch provides an active workout from head to toe throughout the entire body, and pumps up your heart rate too. This is probably the best kettlebell technique to burn the closest layer of fat to your abs.

It is best for a beginner to get familiar with the standard swing and the single arm swing prior to shifting to the snatch. You should start with a lighter weight and then reach higher weights as you gain good form.

  • Stand on your feet slightly wider than your shoulder width. Grasp the kettlebell while bending your hips using your back placed straight and adjacent to the ground.
  • Then you should lift your kettlebell while resting your arm on your thighs with bent knees. Start driving your hips forward while allowing your kettlebell swing up and out.
  • Once your kettlebell reaches the shoulder height, rotate your hands to reach the racked position. You will find the kettlebell over your head as you do this. Push upwards from the position once it’s placed on your extended arm.
  • Then pull the weight down the opposite way to be prepared for another round. Repeat this routine 5 to 6 times while shifting sides.

The Renegade Row

It should be noted that the renegade row provides an effective workout for the core using your arms and back. Trainees engage in this exercise to work on their oblique since it helps the body remain in a plank position. Make sure you don’t sway while you row side to side.

Note that these can also be done with dumbbells, but using those you’ll find the weight on either side of the grip makes it a little harder to keep the right arm position. This is where the shape of the kettlebell comes to your aid.

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Start laying on a plank position while allowing one hand to grip on your kettlebell. Stretch your legs to your shoulder width. Make sure you leave your core engaged while forming the shape of your body to a straight line from top to bottom. Row the kettlebell all the way up to your chest height while keeping the relevant elbow tucked in. Lower the position and perform the move 5 or 6 times on each side per set.

Kettlebell Get-up Sit-Up

While you might think about a Turkish Get-Up once you’re more advanced, I recommend people use these for building the abs because they’re simple and tough.

Start the exercise while lying on the floor. Roll the weight onto your hand, and extend your arm to reach the racked position with the kettlebell.

To gain your base, bend the right leg while leaving the left leg stretched right in front of you on the floor and open it out to the side. Apply force with your bent right leg and suspend the weight over your opposite hip, while keeping your arm locked and make pushing from the right heel.

Reverse the movement, rolling back onto your back with the weight above the right shoulder. Now repeat 6 to eight times.

The Windmill

Though the name of the exercise sounds a little cheeky, it provides a solid workout to your core.

Stand while placing your kettlebell in a rack position on top of your head and make sure you extend your arms fully. Spread your feet much wider than the width of your shoulders with slightly turned out toes.

Bend forwards parallel to the hips while leaving your kettlebell in place just as you move towards your left foot with the opposing hand. Touch the foot and reach back to the starting position while maintaining balance right above your head on the kettlebell.

Repeat the exercise for at least 10 shots and switch hands right after gaining balance. This will help you build great abdominal stamina.

Lateral Swing

This is more of an advanced swing compared to the traditional kettlebell swings.

By swinging the kettlebell across the body in a lateral direction, you involve and engage the oblique and stabilizer muscles within the core. The high engagement of these muscles is due to the control it fosters while straightening out. It is best for the trainee to boost their core strength and enhance their swinging proficiency prior to attempting these stunts.

You may damage your opposite knee if you lose control while performing the swing.

In order to start, you should keep your back straight with a fully engaged core. Spread your feet to the hip width and then lean forward to reach the kettlebell with just one hand. Push back and thrust forwards your hips placing your arms laterally. Make sure you tighten your core when swinging back all across the opposing knee and also when pushing forward. Repeat this routine for at least 10 reps for both the sides.

Where to Buy Kettlebells

If you’ve made it this far, perhaps you’re thinking of outfitting your home gym with a great set of kettlebells. If you are, I’d like to recommend this CAP Barbell kettlebell set. It comes complete with this stylish, functional rack on which to keep your equipment cleanly organized and readily available.

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Check THESE out on Amazon!

Kettlebells for AbsClick Image to View on Amazon

Another option is to consider adjustable kettlebells.

Adjustable kettlebells take up less space because you’re talking about a single kettlebell of which the weight is composed of a number of flat plates. Taking off plates makes it weigh less.

Just like adjustable dumbbells, if you have to do a lot of work to change the weight, you won’t–so make sure they swap out fast. My personal recommendation does just that–the Titan Fitness 10-40lb adjustable kettelbell.

titan fitness adjustable kettlebellClick Image to View on Amazon

Give these a shot for a quickly upgraded home gym without all the benches and barbells!


Image credit: Flickr and Flickr via Creative Commons (licenses 1, 2)