You only need this 3-move kettlebell abs workout to build and sculpt solid core muscles

Man and woman in the gym performing a kettlebell plank holding two kettlebells in the plank position
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

You only need this 3-move kettlebell abs workout to build stronger core muscles from home. We reveal how you can strengthen ab muscles and other major muscle groups without the gym, using just two pieces of equipment. 

Although you can substitute KBs for some of the best adjustable dumbbells instead, working out with kettlebells is highly effective for strength and conditioning. One of many studies has shown that regular kettlebell training could improve neuromuscular power, build functional strength and muscle and develop balance, stability and endurance. 

But it’s worth remembering your body often has to work harder to keep the kettlebell stable, especially during unilateral (one-sided) exercises, so we recommend opting for a lighter weight until you’re comfortable with the movement patterns and being careful on your wrists.

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

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The workout only takes 15 minutes using three compound exercises, recruiting multiple muscle groups to strengthen muscles all over. If you enjoy functional training or want to improve functional fitness (how efficiently your body moves), these three exercises should be staples in your ongoing exercise routine.

If you don’t have access to kettlebells, then dumbbells work fine, but kettlebells will also help develop forearm strength and improve grip strength, which is why I encourage using them as often as you can. It takes some skill to use them though, so we cover how to hold a kettlebell properly here too.

The 15-minute 3-move abs workout with kettlebells 

This abs workout with weights is killer on the core. I recommend a light to medium weight unless you’re already familiar with kettlebells. As a guideline, I use a 12kg kettlebell, but you should always pick a weight you can lift with great form.

Even if you lift light weights, the moves target and strengthen your back, chest, arms, shoulders, core and leg muscles. And if you want to repeat the workout with different exercises, here are the 5 best kettlebell exercises for beginners.

Perform as an EMOM — every minute on the minute. Complete 6-8 reps (per side) of one exercise, then rest for the remainder of the minute. At the next minute, start the next exercise. Aim for 5 rounds, totaling 15 minutes. You should finish with 10-15 seconds to rest — increase or decrease reps to suit your ability.

1. Turkish get-up

Man performing a Turkish get-up during workout with left arm extended holding a kettlebell and left leg bent and right leg extended

(Image credit: Shutterstock images)

Your core muscles are the main drivers, but the move also engages your shoulders, triceps, back, hip flexors, glutes and legs, improving muscular stability and coordination.

  • Start lying down, gripping your kettlebell in your right hand using an underhand grip
  • Engage your core and extend your right arm overhead over your shoulder
  • Bend your right knee, planting your right foot on the ground.
  • Extend your left leg away from you and rest your left arm next to you
  • Contract your upper body muscles and tuck your chin
  • Sit up and rest your left elbow on the floor next to your body
  • Keep the weight punching overhead and the arm locked out. Look at your kettlebell
  • Push upwards and transition from the left elbow to the left hand on the ground, arm now straight. Push through your right heel and lift your hips upward
  • Sweep your left leg behind you and place your left knee down under your hip into a half-kneeling position
  • Lift your left arm and straighten your torso
  • Keep your right arm locked overhead, push through your front foot to stand, left leg meeting right, hip-width apart
  • Step your left leg back into a reverse lunge, knee resting on the ground
  • Reverse each step back down. Switch sides.

2. Kettlebell sit and press

Man performing a sit-up holding a kettlebell above his head

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This kettlebell abs exercise strengthens the abs and hip flexors and targets the chest, shoulders and triceps during the press phase.

  • Start on your back with the kettlebell in both hands
  • Plant both feet on the floor with knees bent and engage your core
  • Perform a sit-up, and at the same time, press the kettlebell overhead
  • Slowly lower back down for at least five seconds until your upper back reaches the ground
  • To progress the move, straighten both legs or hold a kettlebell in each hand.

3. Kettlebell renegade row

Woman performing a renegade row using two kettlebells

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The move combines a plank and row. During the row phase, you’ll activate your biceps and back muscles, including the lats and rhomboids. The plank strengthens your arms, chest, back, glutes, lower back, core and quads.

You’ll also develop better forearm strength and wrist stability to keep the kettlebells in place throughout. It’s a great posterior chain exercise if you sit down too often throughout the day.

  • Start in a plank position and grip a kettlebell in each hand underneath your shoulders
  • Engage your core, then row one arm towards your hip until your upper arm is slightly higher than your torso
  • Slowly lower it back down and switch sides.

Ilio person performing a renegade row with dumbbells

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

You can drop to your knees if you find the move too difficult, but either way, try not to swing your hips or turn your body outwards. Keep your hips in line with your shoulders.

Benefits of kettlebells

This ab workout with kettlebells adds a mix of single kettlebell unilateral training and double kettlebells to help maximize core activation and improve muscle coordination, stability and balance. 

Research by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning has shown regular kettlebell workouts — unilateral or otherwise — could improve maximal strength and muscle power, meaning athletes ranging from sprinters to powerlifters to everyday gym-goers could benefit.

Verdict 

If you’re looking for an ab-torching masterclass, you'll need less than 20 minutes and three full-body exercises to develop functional, stronger muscles. But if you suffer from existing injuries, check with a qualified physician before starting a new exercise regime, and stop if you experience pain. 

Start using a lighter weight and build up gradually if you’re new to any ab exercises on the list. 

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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.