This article was produced in partnership with Kettlebell Kings
It’s probably going to sound redundant, but it always bears repeating: Your core really is at, well, the core of pretty much everything you do. “Our core strength determines ultimately how strong our entire body is,” says Bob Garon, owner and head coach at Chicagoland’s Synergy Kettlebell Training. “It affects our posture, our back health, and how well we perform daily movements as simple as getting up from a chair.”
And kettlebell training is among the most functional—as in, training to improve body function and movement—types you can do. “The basic kettlebell movement patterns—squat, clean, press, swing, snatch—are loaded either on the front of your body in the racked position or overhead,” adds Samantha Carmean, CSCS, a certified kettlebell instructor and personal trainer in NYC. “This unique pattern allows a large amount lot of tension and muscular force to be developed, especially through the core.”
These core-focused workouts, designed by Garon and Carmean, therefore really tax the whole body. Before you jump right in, warm up with some light kettlebell swings, plank walkouts, even some burpees to get your muscles primed—or add one of these routines to the end of your existing routine. Where no rest is noted, rest only as much as needed.
Choosing the right kettlebell weight: We recommend investing in an adjustable bell and having both lighter powder coat kettlebells (for moves like Turkish getup and cleans) and heavier competition-style kettlebells (for moves like swings and squats). Try these from Kettlebell Kings:
10- to 40-lb Adjustable Kettlebell
Powder Coat Kettlebell Set (5-lb increments)
Competition Kettlebells Full Set – Contains one each of 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32 KG
- 5 x Single-arm Kettlebell Clean
- 5 x Single-arm Kettlebell Front Squat
- 5 x 20-yard Single-arm Kettlebell Front Rack Carry
- 5 x Single-arm Kettlebell Row (square stance)
Directions: All this one-sided (unilateral) work makes your core have to stabilize that much more to maintain your form. Perform reps on each side for 3-5 sets, taking 60 seconds rest in between.
- 2 minutes x Cardio: Row on an erg, run on a treadmill, or perform burpees
- 20 x American Kettlebell Swings: American swings bring your arms up overhead rather than stopping at parallel, which forces more core control.
- 10 x Scorpions (each side): Lie facedown on the floor, pick up one foot and lift it up and over your body, allowing your hips to open—think of it like a scorpion stinger—then do the other side.
- 15 Hollow Body Rocks
- 20-yard Crab Walk
- 15 Kettlebell Suitcase Squats
- 10 Kettlebell Goblet Situps
- 10 Kettlebell Figure 8s
Directions: Perform 3 sets.
- 2 x Double Kettlebell Deadlift
- 2 x Kettlebell Renegade Row
- 2 x Double Kettlebell Clean
- 2 x Double Kettlebell Front Squat
- 2 x Double Kettlebell Military Press
Directions: It reads easier than it is—it’s Carmean’s favorite variation on a workout called “The Man Maker,” typically done with dumbbells. Perform 3 sets.
- 3 x Kettlebell Man-Makers
- 6 x Wall Climbs: Wall Climbs have you starting in a plank with your feet against a wall, then walking both your hands in and your feet up until you’re in a handstand—add a pushup at the top, if you’re really ambitious.
- 12 x Double Kettlebell Windshield Wipers: Lie on your back, holding a kettlebell in each hand right above your chest; raise your legs up, feet to the ceiling, and slowly drop them as a unit to one side, then the other.
- 24 x Heels to Heaven: Do reverse crunches with straight legs.
- 48 x Bicycle Crunches
Directions: Perform a 16-minute AMRAP workout (complete as many rounds as possible of given reps in this timeframe).
- 1/2/3 x Turkish Getup Ladder (each side): Perform 1, 2, then 3 get-ups per side. Keep these relatively light.
- 10 x Single-arm Swings (each side) EMOM: EMOM means “every minute on the minute”—at the top of the minute, you’ll do a set, then rest until the next minute, for 15 to 20 minutes. In your second set of Turkish Getups, go heavier than the first.
- 1 x Turkish Getup, each side: Perform 3 sets.
- Wall Sit
- Double Kettlebell Windshield Wipers
- Kettlebell Windmill: For the Windmill, start with a wide straddle stance and hold a kettlebell in one hand directly overhead. With control, hinge your torso to the side, aiming to touch your toes with your free hand while keeping that kettlebell up to the sky the entire time.
Directions: This shorter workout makes a great core finisher. Perform 3 sets, taking 60 seconds rest in between.
- 5 x Goblet Squats
- 10 x Kettlebell Swings
- 10 x Plank with Kettlebell Drag: Start in a tall-arm plank with the kettlebell to the left of your body. With your right hand, grab the handle and drag it to the right side; then do the other side for one rep. Make it harder by adding a pushup between reps.
Directions: Perform 5 sets, taking 60 seconds rest in between.
- Mountain Climbers
- Kettlebell Situps to Goblet Press: Hold a kettlebell, goblet-style, in both hands. As you sit up, press the bell up and overhead; bring it down as you lower your body.
- Reverse Plank Kicks: Come into a reverse plank—from seated, place your arms behind you, hands on the floor, and press your feet into the ground to bring your body up, forming a straight line from shoulders to toes—then take turns picking up one leg, fully extended, without letting your hips drop.
- Superman Planks
Directions: This non-stop workout is only 6 minutes long—possibly the longest 6 minutes of your core’s life. Do 20 seconds of work, taking 5 seconds to transition between moves. Perform 3 total sets.
- 20 x Double Kettlebell Front Rack Walking Lunges
- 20- to 40-yard x Bear Crawls
- 20 x Hand-to-Hand Alternating Swings
Directions: There’s so much coordinated effort in this one, you won’t realize your core is working—until you do. Perform 3-5 sets with 60-90 seconds rest in between.
- Crunchy Frogs: Start seated, balanced on your tailbone, then extend your body out into a wide V and crunch in to bring your knees to chest.
- Double Kettlebell Windshield Wipers
- Dirty Dogs: Begin in downward dog, then switch to upward dog (without letting hips hit the floor), then back to downward dog, at which point you pick up one hand and touch the opposite toe (or shin). Repeat and touch with the other hand.
- Butterfly Situps: Start seated, soles of feet touching and knees bent out to the side. You lie back on the ground, then sit up, touching your hands between your legs.
- Russian Twists With Kettlebell
Directions: Do 50 seconds of work then 10 seconds of rest. Perform 3 sets.
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