No crunches, no planks — you just need 10 minutes and one kettlebell to sculpt strong abs

woman holding kettlebell for workout
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Forget seated crunches, planks, or even laying down — you only need 10 minutes and these kettlebell exercises to build stronger abs. If ab workouts bother your lower back, this standing ab workout could be the answer. 

The 10-minute kettlebell standing abs workout by BodyFit By Amy has pulled in nearly 1.5 million views and forms part of the wider BodyFit Standing Workouts library. “This 10-minute workout uses just one kettlebell to shape and sculpt your abs, all from a standing position,” says Amy. “No crunches, planks, exercises on your back or on the mat. Just standing ab moves to strengthen and tone your tummy.”

10 minutes and these kettlebell moves are all you need — or the best adjustable dumbbells for weightlifting at home if you prefer. 

If you currently suffer from an injury or health condition, remember to consult a qualified medical professional before trying a new exercise regime.

Person sitting on the floor of a gym wiping sweat from their forehead holding a kettlebell between their legs

(Image credit: Getty images)

Ab workouts and compound exercises like squats and lunges activate, strengthen, and build stronger core muscles, but that alone won’t guarantee a sculpted six-pack — body composition will also determine how defined your midsection is. For the most effective results, the kettlebell workout should form part of a regular exercise routine alongside managing your sleep and stress and maintaining a balanced diet. Learn how to calculate your body fat percentage and why it matters here.  

That aside, inventive standing ab workouts could help relieve pressure on the lower back and provide better range of motion — a welcome relief from sit-ups, toe taps, and other overused core exercises.

These moves intelligently target most of your upper-body muscles and ramp up your heart rate, making it a great standalone core-blasting cardio workout to bookmark.  I recommend watching the video below for tips on proper form and how to do each exercise with proper core engagement. 

No crunches, no planks — watch this 10-minute kettlebell standing abs workout  

The workout targets your entire core through the three planes of motion: transverse, frontal, and sagittal. The frontal plane accounts for side-to-side movement, sagittal refers to forward and backward moves, and transverse exercises focus on rotation. 

Working the body through various planes of motion is more functional and supports your day-to-day movement. Multiplanar training strengthens multiple core muscles, helping to prevent injury, improve stability and power, and keep your body balanced, targeting otherwise underused muscles. It could also contribute to better joint health and coordination.  

Amy uses a 15-pound kettlebell, but if this feels too heavy for your back, shoulders, or arms, scale to a more comfortable weight. The “Around the World” is a brilliant core exercise for stabilizing through your center without much noticeable movement throughout your core — you’ll notice most of the active movement is in your arms and shoulders, but it’s guaranteed to burn. 

There are some gentle twisting movements included in this standing abs workout. And unlike core isolation exercises done on an exercise mat, including the best ab exercises, your arms, shoulders, and legs will work throughout, switching on your entire body to produce the movements and increasing your heart rate. 

You’ll perform the “Windmill” exercise twice — once from a low position with the kettlebell and once with the kettlebell racked overhead. The overhead position challenges your shoulder and core stabilization to keep the weight steady as you reach down to your foot, also working down the side of your body, including your oblique muscles. 

Remember to pull your abs in and breathe. I call this “belly breathing,” as I encourage directing your breath towards your diaphragm (which happens to make up your core network) rather than restrictive chest breathing. You should find this helps you find space and achieve a fuller range of motion as you exercise. 

For beginners, the kettlebell ab workout features scalable variations you can try, and Amy recommends working on bodyweight versions of the core exercises if the kettlebell feels too intense.

Next: Build a stronger upper body using the best dumbbell chest workouts. For more core exercises, this 15-minute ab kettlebell workout will torch your core, and our fitness editor did 100 plank jacks every day for a week.   

Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.