Forget Russian twists — this 15-minute standing abs workout sculpts a strong core and boosts ab power

Man standing against plain backdrop holding a medicine ball with his top off wearing exercise shorts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Develop a stronger core and build explosive upper body power with three standing ab exercises and minimal equipment. The routine only takes 15 minutes to complete and can be scaled to your ability as you get fitter and stronger — so here’s how to do it.

For the workout, I recommend one of the best kettlebells for weight training and a medicine ball; this just needs to be a heavy ball (or similar) you can safely slam on the ground without making enemies out of your neighbors or hitting yourself in the face on the rebound.

Below, I cover how to do the three-move abs workout, the benefits and ways to scale the routine for a complete core-toasting. 

What is the 15-minute standing abs workout?

There are many things I wish I had known as a kettlebell beginner, and learning how to hold a kettlebell properly is a foundational lesson worth your time if you want to practice kettlebell routines successfully and efficiently.

There’s not much technique to know when lifting medicine balls, except that, like lifting any heavy weight from the ground, it's crucial to drive with your core rather than your lower back and keep your spine neutral.

The routine comprises three exercises; two use a kettlebell and one requires your ball. You’ll work through a short but efficient 15-minute standing abs workout, meaning you won’t need to sit down for any exercises, which is perfect if you have limited mobility or don’t want to lie on your back. 

Kettlebell swing: 2,3,4…

For beginners, stick to standard Russian kettlebell swings. Try alternating swings between hands for single-arm kettlebell swings instead. Use a snappy hip movement and squeeze your glutes as you drive the kettlebell to shoulder height, generating power from your core muscles. 

Avoid squatting, as this is one of the most common mistakes I see during kettlebell swings. The exercise is a hip hinge movement, meaning that while you can softly bend your knees, the power should be generated from the glutes, hips and core.

Kettlebell thrusters: 2,3,4…

The kettlebell thruster is far harder in practice than to look at. You’ll develop core stability and power as you sit deep into the squat, stabilize the weights and drive the kettlebells overhead. 

Avoid exploding upward with the weights too early, and wait until you’re extending through the hips and legs before punching up with the weights. Allow gravity to do its work on the way down as you catch the weights to your shoulders. 

Medicine ball slams: 2,3,4…

As the name suggests, medicine ball slams also require explosive power, driven from the core. As you sit into a squat, firmly grip the ball between both hands, then drive it overhead with arms fully extended. 

Slam the ball down with maximum force and try to catch it on the bounce if possible; this should help you build rhythm as the reps increase. Keep the ball close to your body throughout, landing the ball between your feet and keeping your back flat and chest lifted. It should be a fairly vertical movement pattern, rather than excessively leaning forward and pushing the hips backward.

How to do the 15-minute standing abs workout

It’s an EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute), which means you’ll perform a set number of reps for each exercise, then start over on the next minute, continuing until you reach 15 minutes.

Start by performing 2 reps of each exercise back-to-back without rest. In the remaining time, until around 45-50 seconds, either hold the kettlebell or medicine ball with arms extended overhead or in front of your chest with both arms extended at shoulder height — like you’re gripping a steering wheel. Give yourself 10-15 seconds of rest before the next minute begins.

On the next minute, increase the reps by 1 and repeat. You have 15 rounds to complete, increasing by 1 rep per exercise each round. Always hold the weight for the remaining time. At some stage, the scales will tip and you’ll spend more time on the exercise reps than the hold.

Develop a stronger core and build explosive upper body power with three standing abs exercises and minimal equipment.

Once the reps take you up to the full 45-50 seconds, scrap the hold and maintain that number of reps for the remaining rounds — the three exercises should now take you up to 45-50 seconds. Always give yourself 10-15 seconds of recovery.

The standing abs workout should slowly build fire. Use the first rounds to find rhythm and consistency, and save the last few rounds to dig deep against the clock.

The static hold is an isometric ab exercise, meaning your muscles hold under tension without lengthening or shortening; this will fire up your core even more. During the hold, focus on slightly tucking your pelvis under and avoid arching your lower back. 

Keep your torso tight, spine long and shoulders relaxed so that you’re using core control to stabilize the weight in a stress position. Remember to breathe calmly throughout, even when things are getting spicy.

Man performing an abs workout outside

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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Sam Hopes
Senior Fitness Writer and Trainer

Sam Hopes is a level 3 fitness trainer, level 2 reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Tom's Guide. She is also currently undertaking her Yoga For Athletes training course.