Kettlebell Exercises & Workout Routines that Will Deliver Six Pack Abs
Let me first make this point again (Repetition = Mother of Wisdom) ALL Kettlebell exercises performed in the Hard Style fashion (courtesy of Pavel Tsatsouline and his RKC) will work your abs like mad. Whole body bracing and power breathing (increasing intra-abdominal pressure, IAP) are foundational principles behind the Hard Style system of Kettlebell lifting. And the middle (midsection, abs & lower back) ties it all together. So – staying tight and “pressurized” throughout your KB practice – which you must in order to generate power and stay safe – will workout your abs no matter what KB exercises you choose to do. The six pack will kind of just happen as a pleasant side-effect of your kettlebell practice. Yeah!
The following are kettlebell drills and exercises that will challenge your core and abdominal strength a bit extra, and help you bring out the coveted washboard abs. I personally do not do abs workouts separately, instead I make 2-3 of the described exercises a part of my practice plan, bring my focus to the midsection, visualize what they’re doing, and “see” them the way I want them to feel and look.
Kettlebell Abs Exercise #1: Kettlebell Swings
At the top of your perfect swing, add an extra jolt of tension (second focus) to your entire body, become solid for a second, freeze the kettlebell in space for that second, with a powerful sharp hissing exhale. To make the swing even more of an abdominal exercise, imagine your instructor tapping your abs every time you come up, and that you need to, as Pavel puts it, brace yourself for a punch. Another way to feel yourself at the top is to pretend you are in plank, spine is straight and anchored by a super-hard squeeze of the glutes, abs, lats, and (fully extended) legs.
Kettlebell Abs Exercise #2: Kettlebell Janda Sit-Up
The hardest sit-up of all. The reason why, in simplest terms – by turning on hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings), you turn off (or rather ask to relax) the hip flexors. This allows you to isolate the abdominals and make there job incredibly harder, since normally the sit-up motion is greatly assisted by the hip flexor muscle group, now yielding to the activated hamstrings and glutes. Performed with a kettlebell, the Janda sit-up is a very advanced exercise. It is essential to be able to stay tight to protect your spine. Lay on your back, 90 degree angle at your knees, feet flat on the ground. Ask your partner to hold your calves about half way down, or you can also invest in The Pavelizer from DragonDoor.com, or rig enough elastic bands, should you not have a partner. Flatten your low-back spine into the floor, push your feet straight down as if you were fixing to do a bridge, and keep this tension on throughout. Pressurize the abdomen, and start peeling your spine off the ground, from the top, one vertebra at a time until you fully sit up and can relax some at the top. Before descending, compress yourself again with full tension, and from your super-clenched glutes start laying down your spine, unrolling the spine, until you put your head down and completely relax before the next sit-up. The glutes should feel like a wheel under you, time your exhale right, so you don’t collapse, control the descent all the way down. Start without a kettlebell, just by pushing your hands/straight arms along the floor towards your feet, pretend you are pushing a couple of heavy kettlebells that way. Once you get comfortable with 5 reps of this, you can start holding a light KB in front of your chest, and eventually, at the starting point, you can post the KB above you and sit up with it overhead. Be safe, this is hard. 3-5 sets of 2-5 reps will humble you.
Kettlebell Abs Exercises #3: Turkish Get-Up
The Turkish Get-Up is quite possibly the best exercise to develop “slow strength”, and surely the best exercise for creating symmetry and balance/harmony throughout the entire body. Performed perfectly, it will become your favorite Professor of Neuro-muscular Re-education. Please do yourself a favor and hire an RKC to teach this to you right. It’s involved and requires attention to the finer points to give you the best results.
Abs-wise, recreate the feeling of solid tension in the midsection from the Janda sit-up, and follow through the entire motion in a smooth and graceful flow. The abdominals will get hit hard the most when you initially get up to sitting, and then even more at the end trying to resist the weight when laying back down, just like the Janda. You’ll feel and possibly see your abs the next day, depending on your layer of insulation …
Kettlebell Abs Exercise #4: Russian Twists
Sitting on tight glutes (they should feel like an overinflated tire), knees bent, feet off the ground, hold the kettlebell in front of your torso, elbows tucked, pressure in the belly, rotate your trunk side to side and touch the bell to the ground next to your hip. Quit when you start losing that solid, pressurized feeling in your midsection and therefore start aching in your back. While keeping the midsection tight, exhale with short, sharp “tsu” sounds at every turn, keeping the breathing relatively shallow. Feel the obliques bring the ribs closer to the pelvis. Lay on your belly, propped up on your elbows, in between the 2-3 sets to re-align.
Kettlebell Abs Exercise #5: One Legged Deadlift
Another “perfect” drill to develop super legs & glutes, and whole body coordination under tension. It hits the abs by the virtue of having to stabilize the hips and keeping the spine straight and neutral. Grip the floor with your foot and tense (compress) your whole body to assure solid balance and safety. Lock out the knee at the top and as usual squeeze the hip through, bend it as much as you need to on the way down, still fully braced with muscular tension to protect the joints though. 3-5 sets of 5 repetitions each side sounds reasonable, stop when you start losing balance.
Kettlebell Abs Exercise 6: Windmills (Sidebends)
Will pull in the waistline and bring out the two lines that define your budding six-pack along the sides. Don’t do too many, as they build up the obliques in volume when done with medium weight and pump (swiftly). Work instead heavy, slowly for a few reps, 2-3 sets, encouraging sinewy tension. The bearing (back) leg needs to be locked out and vertical throughout, push your hip out and tall, the front leg can be bent. Make sure the weight-bearing arm feels braced in the shoulder and the wrist and elbow is straight. Do not exhale at the bottom, pressurize at the top, hold your breath on the way down, start hissing out as you start coming back up, time the exhale so you don’t run out of breath before you reach the top.
Kettlebell Abs Exercise 7: Kettlebell Figure 8
In a shallow squat, sit back on your heels. Imagine an infinity sign / figure 8 on the ground, your feet inside the loops. Now trace this path with the kettlebell being passed from hand to hand behind your calf, bring it around the side of your leg and back in between from the front, to pass it back to the other hand and so on. Keep the arms straight and hand-overs smooth to be nice to your elbows. Breathe as normally as possible, while keeping your abs tight, spine straight, leaning forward, and protected by glute and midsection tension. Keep your eyes forward, and go to a “comfortable” stop. Keeping the hips in place will focus the twisting more into the midsection.
Kettlebell Abs Exercise 8: Standing Kettlebell Core Twists
A standing version of the Russian Twists. Hold the bell close to your body, elbows tucked into the ribs. Minimize the movement of the knees and hips by “zipping-up” the whole body with muscular tension and twist sharply (short range of motion) side to side. The spine purely rotates, there is no reaching or bending, stay nice and tall. Accent the twists with short sharp exhales, breathe “braced for a punch”.
Kettlebell Abs Exercise 9: Kettlebell Hip Flexor Stretch
Stretching out the hip flexors will re-align the spinal curve (correct the chronically “all-the-time-a little-bent-over posture), and thus, make you stand taller/straighter, which results in a flatter abdominal wall, thus sharper looking (and stronger) abs. Think Warrior pose, holding a light kettlebell initially in front of your chest, and ultimately up above you in locked out arms. Feet “on tracks”, not in-line, gently go deeper into the stretch with each exhale, keeping the hips and shoulders level and square.