Written by Lauren Rae, CPT and Wellness Coach at TRYM Fitness
While spot treating your belly might not be possible with any training tool, it is possible to skip the crunches and other boring ab exercises and still build the core strength you want with the full body exercises explained in this article. Kettlebells are simple to set up and store because they are simple, cast-iron, ball-shaped weights with a single handle attached. They come in a wide variety of weights and are a powerful tool to use in functional training.
Fitness expert and SFG certified trainer Anne Jelinek of Pulse Kettlebells and Yoga answers important questions for kettlebell beginners. (Anne is located in Madison, Wisconsin. Read more about Anne here.)
Q: How should someone choose the weight that is best for them?
A: I start women with 8 kg and men with 12 kg unless they are already athletic and comfortable with a deep squat position.
Reference: Kettlebells are measured in kilograms. What to know what weight you’re using in pounds? Check out the conversion chart below:
2 kg (4.4 lbs.)
4 kg (8.8 lbs.)
6 kg (13.2 lbs.)
8 kg (17.6 lbs.)
10 kg (22 lbs.)
12 kg (26.4 lbs.)
14 kg (30.8 lbs.)
16 kg (35.2 lbs.)
18 kg (39.6 lbs.)
20 kg (44 lbs.)
22 kg (48.5 lbs.)
24 kg (52.9 lbs.)
26 kg (57.3 lbs.)
28 kg (61.7 lbs.)
32 kg (70.5 lbs.)
36 kg (79.3 lbs.)
Q: What is the safest way to get into position with the weight?
A: Come into a deadlift position over the bell. Grasp the handle strongly and stand up quickly through the hips, allowing the bell to pass through the hands into the goblet grip (hands firmly grasping the "horns" of the kettlebell, near the base).
Q: How many reps should be completed?
A: The rule in Hardstyle Kettlebells? Anything more than 5 reps is cardio. Strength building: 5ish at a weight that challenges but does not break the integrity of your form. Metabolic Conditioning (MetCon): Up to 10 reps with a weight that challenges breath integrity but allows for full lungs/abdominal pressurization.
Follow along as I show you three total body kettlebell exercises that will set your abs into overdrive and have you burning through a total body workout. These exercises strengthen the necessary muscles to make your workouts safer and build a 6 pack you’ll want to show off.
Please note: If you cannot perform these movements safely or if you experience pain or discomfort, seek out a Certified SFG or RKC Kettlebell Coach or FMS Provider.
1. Kettlebell Goblet Squats
A correctly executed deep squat can strengthen and tone your body from head to toe. Goblet Squats (similar to a barbell front squat) targets the muscles in your legs and core body.
Stand with your feet a little wider than hips' width, feet turned out a few degrees. (To find the perfect foot placement, do three consecutive jump squats and see where you land.) Clasp the hands at the chest, elbows bent. Begin by widening your knees toward your pinky toes and keep widening as you drop your hips straight down on an inhale.
Keep your chest lifted, aiming for your spine to be parallel with your shins. Hips, ultimately, should work below parallel, but focus on a proud chest and open hips first. Core should be engaged and intra-abdominal pressure applied.
At the bottom of the squat, press your elbows lightly into the inner edge of your quads (just above your knees) to broaden the chest more. Exhale strongly and/or grunt and press into all four corners of your feet as you rise. Come up all as "one piece" not allowing the chest or hip to jut out or lead.
2. Single Leg Bent Over Row
Any single leg exercise will challenge your core stability while strengthening the muscles that surround your trunk, including your abdominals. By pairing a single leg stance with a bent over dumbbell row this use of several large muscle groups will maximize the muscle gains during your time working out.
Holding a kettlebell in each hand, begin with both feet on the floor and shift your weight onto a single leg. With your abs engaged, shift your weight forward on a single leg by hinging at your hips. Keep a soft bend in your knee.
Your opposite leg will extend back behind you creating a straight line from your foot to the crown of your head. Keep the back-leg toes facing toward the ground, so that the hip’s points are parallel. (An open hip can create pressure on the sacroiliac joint.)
With your arms hanging toward the floor, row the kettlebells up and back towards your hip bones while engaging your back muscles. Lower the KB’s back down and repeat! Switch legs each time you complete a full set.
3. Split Stance, Single Arm Shoulder Press
Here’s another KB exercise that challenges your core stability by utilizing a split leg stance as well as a single arm for maximum isolation. Here you have the trifecta for a total body workout that also tightens and tones your abdominal muscles while strengthening shoulders.
Begin with one kettlebell in your right hand.
Engage your abs and step back with one foot into a split stance position.
Hug the KB into your body, keeping your thumb plugged in to your collarbone, and bicep in by your ribcage.
With an exhale, press your arm up overhead while keeping your elbow pointing forward until you reach a full extension, then turn your palm outward.
Bring the KB back to your starting position by pulling down, replacing your thumb by your collarbone. Repeat to complete your set then switch to the other side!