There are many kettlebell ab exercises, some are designed specifically for the abs whereas others affect the abs indirectly.
When choosing kettlebell abdominal exercises it is important to ensure that you don’t leave your abs totally exhausted before performing a workout where you will need your abs to protect your spine.
So as a general rule ensure that you complete your specific kettlebell abs exercises at the end of your workout.
Here is my list of favourite kettlebell ab exercises:
1 – Kettlebell Turkish Get Up
The Turkish Get Up is one of the most important kettlebell exercises that you can perform. Not only is it a full body exercise but it also helps to improve your mobility and stability of your joints as you perform the movement.
Getting good at the Turkish Get Up in the early stages of your kettlebell training will help you protect your body against future injury
The abs get targeted through various stages of the Turkish Get Up but in particular during the 1st few phases as you sit up from the lying down position. The kettlebell beginner can practice this 1st phase by just sitting up along the arm and then lying back down again.
Pay particular attention to the extended leg, you must keep the heel on the floor. Lifting the heel from the floor as you sit up means that you are using your hip flexors too much rather than your abs.
Also ensure that as you come back down from the seated position that you lie down slowly using your abs to resist the downward movement.
Here’s a video demonstrating the first half of the Turkish Get Up:
Related: Ultimate Guide to the Turkish Get Up
2 – Kettlebell Windmills
Kettlebell Windmills are another good all over body exercise using the kettlebell. Just like the Turkish Get Up they primarily improve your mobility and stability of your shoulders, and hips.
Getting good at the Windmill will help improve your hip mobility by loosening off your hamstrings and will also help mobilise and strengthen your shoulders.
Again the abs get a great workout during the Windmill. The obliques in particular get targeted as you rotate your body during the downward movement as well as when you return to the upright position.
The Windmill is a slow exercise so take your time, 5 seconds or more is a standard tempo for the exercise. Work on getting deep into the movement as you progress and keep that core nice and tight throughout the movement.
3 – Kettlebell Sit and Press
I’ve used this kettlebell ab exercise a lot during my kettlebell classes, and it is one of those great kettlebell ab exercises for beginners.
Not only will the abs get targeted throughout the movement but it also improves mobility through the hips and strengthens the shoulders. In fact most people really enjoy the shoulder workout that they get from this exercise.
The exercise starts with you lying flat on your back holding the kettlebell in both hands, you then sit up and press the kettlebell overhead. Try to combine the overhead press with the sitting movement.
Heels should stay firmly on the floor and legs are kept straight.
The 2nd half of the exercise on the way down is when you can really focus on those abs. Keep the abs tight and lower back to the floor slowly.
A good 5+ second descent is excellent.
4 – Kettlebell Straight Arm Sit
The Kettlebell Straight Arm Sit is the natural progression on from the Sit and Press above.
The movement is very similar except the kettlebell is held in one hand only and the arm is kept straight throughout the kettlebell abs exercise.
Due to the extended arm the shoulder has to work hard to stabilise and the abs must work hard too due to the long lever.
Try to keep the arm vertical throughout the abdominal exercise.
Leaning the arm into the movement as you sit up will give you a mechanical advantage and you will notice yourself doing this as you get tired….this is the time to stop!
5 – Kettlebell Plank Row or Renegade Row
You can get a lot done using just this one kettlebell exercise. One of the great advantages is the ability to perform a horizontal row and work the back muscles (rhomboids especially).
The horizontal row is one of the movements that often gets neglected with kettlebell training but it is important to counteract all the sitting that so many of us do these days.
Performed correctly the abs get a massive workout with this exercise.
It is important that you can perform a good ‘plank exercise’ before you progress onto this kettlebell ab exercise.
The main abdominal benefits come from preventing the hips from falling to the floor during the movement. If your hips fall too low then your back muscles will be over utilised so ensure you keep those hips up and core muscles tight.
As you row the kettlebell up and down your abs will also have to fight the rotation that is being caused by being supported by just one arm. This is tough on the shoulder just as much as it is on the core muscles.
Start with a very light kettlebell to begin and master the movement before increasing the weight.
6 – Kettlebell Deck Squat
I really like this kettlebell exercise and it’s one that many people have never seen or tried before.
The deck squat involves a regular deep squat followed by a bridge and then a sit up and stand.
You will need very good hip mobility in order to stand up from the hip bridge but the momentum of the kettlebell will certainly help you.
There are so many muscles used during this movement but the abs are definitely used during the bridge and sit up part of the movement. Practice should start with a very light kettlebell or even a medicine ball to start with.
You will actually find that this kettlebell exercise is easier using a weight than trying it without due to the momentum that it gives during the standing part of the movement.
Related: 7 Kettlebell Squats You Need to Know
7 – Kettlebell Lateral Swings
This is an advanced kettlebell exercise that is based upon the regular swing but the movement goes sideways rather then forwards and backwards.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to become a real expert at the regular kettlebell swing before moving onto this exercise.
Without good technique and form you risk hitting your knee with the kettlebell as it comes across the body so be super careful.
If however, you do get to the stage when you can comfortably perform this exercise you will get some huge ab benefits from performing the movement.
The Lateral Swing takes the kettlebell across the body thus rotating the midsection this then requires good core strength to both brake the movement at the top of the swing and then once again at the bottom of the swing.
Like with all exercise start off light and then build up to a heavier resistance as you master the movement and the body is better able to cope with the exercise.
Other Kettlebell Ab Exercises
Although these are 7 of my favourite kettlebell ab exercises there are many more.
The Kettlebell Swing, Clean, Snatch and Pistol Squat are all core intensive.
Your core and abs fundamentally attach your pelvis to your ribcage so any exercise that involves bending or extending at the hips will require good core control.
With kettlebell training being mostly full body movements the abs are used in practically all exercises that is one of the great benefits of using kettlebells but can ultimately be your downfall if you core/abs are not strong enough and able to deal with the load.
It is for this reason that you should always build up your kettlebell training slowly and allow your core muscles to develop along with everything else.
Have you tried these kettlebell exercises for abs? Which one is your favourite?