Forget sit-ups — you only need 1 kettlebell and 3 moves to build a stronger core

Woman holding a kettlebell on her right shoulder against a grey backdrop wearing white crop top
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re hoping to build a stronger core, but you’re getting bored of doing endless sit-ups and crunches, you can work your midsection, boost your balance, and improve your posture in just three moves — and all you need is a kettlebell.

If you’re training at the gym, choose a weight that’ll challenge your muscles to get through a set but isn’t so heavy it’ll affect your form. Or, for home workouts, pick up one of the best kettlebells. The same applies, but you could also try an adjustable ‘bell to save space.

Once you’ve got a weight by your side, you’re ready to give personal trainer Alice Liveing’s three-move kettlebell core workout a try. Rather than only targeting the muscles around your stomach, Liveing uses several compound exercises to work your upper and lower body too.

So, you can build core strength and muscle around your shoulders, arms, chest, and legs with this short routine. It’s an efficient way to train, and because you only need a single weight, it’s an ideal session if you’re tight on time or in a busy gym with access to minimal equipment.

However, to get the most out of the session, it’s vital that you do each move with perfect form. So, before you add these exercises into your routine, it’s worth using Liveing’s demonstrations to practice your technique and make sure you have the optimal kettlebell weight.

Watch Alice Liveing’s three-move kettlebell core workout

There are a lot of workouts that target your core, and for good reason — your core connects your upper and lower body, helps improve your posture, and boosts your balance, which is an important attribute in kettlebell workouts since the off-center weights challenge your stability.

Plus, these three moves are a good choice if you’re looking to develop visible muscle. Your abdominal muscles, which include the rectus abdominis six-pack abs muscle, are part of your core. So, strengthening your core also helps strengthen your core.

But to make your abs visible, you’ll also need to reduce the amount of fat around your stomach. Since you can’t spot-target fat loss, adding high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) workouts into your schedule will help you work your muscles and boost your metabolism for fat-burning results.

You could do a dedicated HIRT workout, but it’s possible to arrange Liveing’s three moves into a HIRT format, doing each exercise for 40 seconds, taking a 20-second rest, then starting on the next move, before repeating the circuit five times for a 15-minute muscle-building, fat-burning workout.

Despite the core-strengthening effectiveness of the routine, that doesn’t mean you need to stop doing bodyweight abs exercises. According to Liveing, “There is nothing wrong with doing crunches. But…I feel like perhaps you’re selling yourself short if that’s the only core training you’re doing.”

This is why variety is such an essential part of your training routine, as it stops things getting boring, works different muscles, and makes exercise more enjoyable, which is key to making it a regular habit throughout your life, even when you’re short on time.

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James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is Tom's Guide's Fitness Editor, covering strength training workouts, cardio exercise, and accessible ways to improve your health and wellbeing.


His interest in fitness started after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, and he began focusing on strengthening his core, taking regular walks around the city, and practicing meditation to manage the symptoms. He also invested in fitness trackers, home workout equipment, and yoga mats to find accessible ways to train without the gym.


Before joining the team at Tom’s Guide, James was the Fitness Editor at Fit&Well, where he covered beginner-friendly exercise routines, affordable ways to boost your wellbeing, and reviewed weights, rowing machines, and workout headphones.


He believes that exercise should be something you enjoy doing, so appreciates the challenge of finding ways to incorporate it into everyday life through short muscle-building sessions, regular meditation, and early morning walks.