8 Kettlebell Moves To Fire Up Your Core Muscles!
Looking for a killer workout that will smoke your core and up your cadence—at the same time? Then grab a kettlebell and get ready to boost your performance on the bike while building some serious strength in your core.
And the best part? You can do all of this without performing a single crunch.
“Kettlebell exercises replicate functional movement patterns that build core strength by targeting overlooked stabiliser muscles,” explains Kaitlyn DiJoseph, C.S.C.S., and coach at Peaks Coaching Group. “This helps you to utilise the proper muscle groups for optimal power production.”
To get the most out of your core workouts, DiJoseph says it’s not about lifting heavy weight or completing a high volume, but more about executing slow, controlled functional movements with less weight and reps to ensure perfect form. This is especially true when talking about your core muscles—and more specifically, your obliques.
These are the muscles that fire when you twist (also known as rotation), side-bend (lateral flexion) or “crunch” your trunk (spinal flexion), which helps you keep your position on the bike, as well as perform everyday movements like walking or running.
How to use this list: DiJoseph created a series of eight kettlebell exercises you can do individually or as a total workout. Most of the exercises described below can be done with two kettlebells. However, DiJoseph likes to perform them with one, because loading the body asymmetrically creates a more challenging core workout.
Follow along with certified coach Brian Levine above, or review each move below as demonstrated by Mike Press, certified trainer and instructor at SoulCycle in New York City, so you can master the proper form. You will need a medium-weight kettlebell. An exercise mat is optional.
Single Arm Kettlebell Row
Start in a high plank position with wrists under shoulders and a kettlebell placed next to left hand. Draw your shoulder blades back and down to prevent hunching over, and engage core so body forms a straight line from head to heels. Maintaining this form, grab the handle and lift kettlebell straight up to your side. Keep shoulders and hips square, eliminating any rolling motion in the upper body. Complete 2 sets of 8 to 10 reps on each side.
Plank With Kettlebell Pull-Through
Start in a high plank position with wrists under shoulders and a kettlebell placed next to left hand. Maintaining this form, reach right hand across your body to find the handle of the kettlebell. Pressing through the palm of your left hand and with your toes planted into the floor, pull the kettlebell across the floor under your chest and return to plank position. Repeat on opposite side. Complete 2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions on each side.
Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Halo
Start in a half-kneeling position with knees bent at 90-degree angles, right foot in front. Holding a kettlebell by the horns at the chin, circle the bell around your head in one direction to return to the starting position as if forming a “halo” overhead. Maintain an erect spine and solid core. That is one repetition. Complete 6 to 8 repetitions, then repeat going in the opposite direction. Perform two sets.
Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Chop
Start in a half-kneeling position with knees bent at 90-degree angles, right foot in front. Holding a kettlebell by the bell at your left hip, draw the kettlebell diagonally across your body and overhead to the right. Then, reverse the motion to return to the starting position. Complete 2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions on each side.
Kettlebell Push Press
Standing with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, hold the kettlebell by the handle with right hand, fingertips pointed toward the sky. Begin with your elbow bent, so kettlebell rests at right shoulder. Extended left arm straight out for counterbalance. Inhale as you slightly bend knees to load the glutes and hamstrings, generating power to explosively extend your hips and knees while pressing the kettlebell overhead at the same time. Allow the momentum generated in your lower body to flow through upper body and help lift the weight of the kettlebell. Complete 2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions on each side.
Begin standing with feet wider than shoulder-width apart. With right arm, press the kettlebell overhead, fingertips pointed to sky, with your eyes fixed on it for the duration of the movement. Shift your hips to the right. Bend to the left, bending left knee, and reaching left fingertips to floor, allowing your elbow to track along the inside of your knee. Keep the kettlebell pressed overhead and eyes on it, then return to the starting position by reversing the movement and squeezing your glutes. Complete 2 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions on each side.
Kettlebell Single-Leg Deadlift
Hold the kettlebell with left hand at your side. Stand with feet slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart and shift weight onto left leg. Come to a single-leg stance by elevating the right knee to form a 90-degree angle. Hold this position until balance is achieved, then kick right leg back as if pressing the heel into the wall behind you. Squeeze your glutes. Allow your upper body to fall forward, parallel to the ground, so that body forms a “T.” Lower the kettlebell to the outside of your heel of left foot. Engage your glutes to pull the extended leg through, returning to the single-leg stance. Complete 2 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions on each side.
Stand with a kettlebell on the ground, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed slightly out. Grab the handle of the kettlebell firmly with both hands, bending at your knees and hinging at the hips. (To get the hinge movement right, imagine pressing your glutes into the wall behind you while maintaining a flat back.) Pull the kettlebell through your legs, up and back, to load the glutes and hamstrings.
Then, explosively extend hips forward and straighten legs, allowing the momentum generated to swing the kettlebell out in front of your body with arms extended. Keep a rigid core to prevent the kettlebell from tracking above shoulder height and your back from arching. Only raise the bell as high as shoulder height, then allow the weight to naturally come back down between legs. Continue to repeat. Complete 2 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
GIFS: Julia Hembree Smith; Video: David Monk, Josh Wolff