You don't always need to do situps and other traditional ab exercises to get flat, strong abs. Kettlebell training involves performing various lifts, swings and other movement patterns that strengthen your entire body, including your abs. For example, when you squat while holding a kettlebell or swing a kettlebell, your abs automatically tighten to stabilize your spine. Meanwhile, your diaphragm and intercostal muscles in your ribs expand and contract to maintain a steady breathing rhythm. If you are new to kettlebell training, work with a certified kettlebell instructor or strength coach before training on your own.
Warm up your body for about 5 to 6 minutes by moving your spine, hips and shoulders in different directions, such as standing torso twists, hip swings and arm swings. Lie on the floor on your back, and hold a kettlebell with your left hand over your body. The kettlebell should be resting on your forearm with the flat bottom side facing the floor. Bring your left foot close to your butt, and keep your right leg straight on the floor. Keep your left elbow locked and your left arm perpendicular to the floor throughout the exercise.
Exhale as you bring your left shoulder off the floor to prop your body up with your right elbow and forearm. Your body turns to your right as you move as your abs contract a bit. Do not move your right leg. Hold this position for 2 seconds.
Exhale as you push yourself up to a sitting position with your right hand so that you're sitting up straight on your buttocks with the kettlebell raised over your head. Keep your focus on the kettlebell as you move. Inhale as you lower your body back to the floor by reversing the movement pattern. Perform two to three sets of five to six reps per side.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-distance apart and pointing forward or slightly turned out. Hold a kettlebell with both hands, hanging between your legs.
Rock your hips back and forth to create momentum and rhythm as you let your arms and the kettlebell swing. Exhale sharply as you push your hips forward and straighten your legs at the same time once you generate enough force and momentum to perform a full swing. Swing the kettlebell up until the kettlebell is at your eye level. Your abs and buttocks should be tight.
Inhale quickly as you swing the weight between your legs by bending forward at your waist and bending your knees slightly. Do not round your spine since it can hurt your spine. Perform three to four sets of 10 to 20 reps.
Hold a kettlebell with your right hand over your head so that the weight is above your shoulder and your right hip. Turn your feet to your left at about 45 degrees. Keep your right elbow locked and your eyes on the kettlebell throughout the exercise. Shift your weight toward your right foot by sticking your right buttock out to your right.
Inhale as you carefully bend forward at your waist, sliding the back of your left hand along the inner part of your thigh and lower leg. Turn your torso so that your chest is turning toward the kettlebell. Keep your right leg straight as you lower your torso downward. Go down as far as your body allows or until your left fingers touch the floor. The more you push your hip to your right, the farther down you can go.
Exhale as you raise your body back to to the starting position. Perform two to three sets of five to six reps per side.
- For most exercises, women should start with a weight between 15 to 25 pounds if they are beginners. As your strength and movement control improves, increase the weight by 5 to 10 pounds.
- Do not train if you feel pain anywhere in your body. Check with your health care provider before you start or resume any workout routine.
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.