Forget sit-ups — this kettlebell abs workout torches your whole core and arms with 5 moves

Man performing ab workout on mat outdoors showing a kettlebell Russian twist
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re bored of the same old sit-ups, give your abs workout a facelift with these five kettlebell exercises. Each move torches the abs, obliques, deeper core muscles and arms in just 10 minutes.

In fact, a whole host of muscle groups are at play. We recommend picking up one of the best kettlebells for weightlifting first, then checking out the five kettlebell exercises to work your whole core.

If you’re currently working with any injuries, consult a qualified personal trainer or medical professional before starting any new exercise regime, and stop if you experience pain.

Watch Bulldog Gear’s kettlebell abs workout video:

If you’re new to any of the kettlebell exercises below, check out the video to see how to do each move properly. We also recommend learning how to hold a kettlebell before diving in, which should help keep your wrists protected. 

These exercises come from Bulldog Gear Official, but there are no programming notes, so we’ve dropped some in for you below. 

Kettlebell Turkish sit-ups

Unlike the Turkish get-up, Turkish sit-ups don’t involve moving from the floor to standing. Instead, you’ll keep the kettlebell punched overhead and your legs extended as you perform a sit-up. It’s a more strenuous variation, working your rectus abdominals, hip flexors, arms, shoulders and hamstrings. 

Choose a weight you can control on both sides, programming for your weakest rather than strongest. Hold tension through your torso and keep your legs pressed into your mat as you sit up and lower your back again, ensuring your upper back touches the floor each time.

Compression sits over kettlebell

If you plan to learn exercises like the L-sit, hanging leg raises, or toes to bar, learning core compression is a key skill and could help you strengthen the muscle groups involved in each of these moves, including the compression sit-ups over kettlebells.

Place a kettlebell in front of you and extend your legs. Extend your arms in front of you, lock them out, press through your fingertips, then lift your chest. Gently compress your upper body by pulling your stomach toward your spine and slightly tucking your pelvis, creating a subtle C-shape through your upper body. Brace your muscles and breathe.

From this strong torso position, lift your feet over the kettlebell to one side, briefly touch the ground with your heels, then lift them to the other side. Continue moving from left to right without resting between reps. 

Kettlebell halos with press outs

Although the kettlebell halo is considered a core workout, this variation, combined with a press, will also work your arms, all three shoulder heads (the anterior, lateral and posterior deltoids), trapezius, rhomboids and chest.

Start in a kneeling position and brace your stomach. Rotate the bell around your head, changing directions for each rep. Avoid arching your back or pushing your hips forward, and keep control over the weight. After each rotation, press the kettlebell away from your chest and extend your arms, then re-bend your elbows and draw the kettlebell back in, moving back into the halo. 

Much of the hard work and core tension is generated from controlling the rotation overhead and preventing the weight from dropping during the press out. 

Kettlebell side bends

Kettlebell side bends generate lateral flexion and a gentle crunching motion that works the oblique muscles — a group of muscles that run down your waist and support rotation and lateral motion.

Hold a kettlebell in your left hand, place your feet hip-width apart and stand tall, bracing your stomach. Relax your shoulders, then slowly bend to the left, tracing the kettlebell down the outside of your leg. Pause, then drive upward to the center and bend to the right. Repeat, complete reps, then switch the kettlebell to your other hand.

Bear plank with kettlebell passes

The bear plank is a top-dollar ab exercise and plank variation. Combined with kettlebell pass-throughs, this move will put your whole body through the wringer, including your arms, shoulders, chest, abs, deeper core muscles, hip flexors and quads. 

By choosing a heavy kettlebell, you can generate plenty of core tension as you drag the kettlebell from side to side. Start on your hands and knees and tuck your toes under, resting on the balls of your feet. Brace your stomach and keep your back flat, with your knees close to the floor. 

Place a kettlebell on the left side, then grip the handle with your right hand and drag the kettlebell over to the right. Place your right hand on the ground beneath your shoulder, repeat on the left side, and continue for reps. 

5-move kettlebell abs workout to try in 10 minutes 

We’ve put together a quick 10-minute kettlebell workout you can try from your exercise mat. Whether you enjoy home workouts or prefer hitting the gym, you can get this done using one medium-heavy kettlebell. 

45 seconds on / 15 seconds off x 2 rounds

Kettlebell Turkish sit-ups 

Compression sits over kettlebells

Kettlebell halos with press outs

Kettlebell side bends

Bear plank with kettlebell passes 

You can make the workout longer by adding rounds. Scale to the intensity you need by choosing a weight that leaves the last few reps of each move tough to finish, but never sacrifice your form to shift to a heavier weight.

Try to be consistent with the reps you hit, aiming for over 8 reps of each exercise. For some people and some exercises, you'll be able to hit much higher, so this is a baseline number and guideline only. Count your reps for each move during the first round, then try to match the numbers for any subsequent rounds. 

More from Tom's Guide

Here are a few more ways to build core muscles using kettlebells.

Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified 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.