Kettlebell Ab Workout: 12 Week Progression for Increased Core Strength

Build a strong and sturdy core for improved athleticism and a complete physique! This 3 day workout is designed to help you strengthen your core with just 4 exercises.

Workout Summary

Increase Strength
Single Muscle Group
Beginner
12 weeks
3
30-45 minutes
Kettle Bells
Male & Female
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Workout Description

One of the biggest issues many athletes have when it comes to training is that they don’t do enough for their core, or “six-pack."

What many of them may not know is that if they want a better physique, stronger lifts, and overall better fitness levels then devoting some serious time to training the abs is much more important than it’s given credit for.

That doesn’t mean just throwing in some crunches and planks at the end of a workout either.

If overall athleticism and a complete physique are what you’re after, then you have to devote some serious commitment to your core strength and abdominal development. All you need to make this happen is your body, some space, and kettlebells.

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Benefits of Kettlebell Training

Why kettlebells?

They’re a different type of instrument for training because of its shape. The handle and horns (sides of the handle) force you to support and hold the weight differently than your traditional dumbbell or barbell.

It’s also a uniquely shaped object so you have to adjust how to balance and train with it. Those reasons verify that this is the tool for the job that lies ahead.

Kettlebell Ab Workout: The Exercises

There are four exercises in this workout that you’ll perform over the next three months, that’s it. So the challenge won’t be doing different movements – it will be getting stronger and better at these four.

Sticking to these while focusing on measured forms of improvement is how you will determine if this program is working for you.

Remember, this should be a serious commitment if you want serious results, so doing this as its own training session would be ideal. If that’s not possible and you must do it with another muscle group, do the ab workout first when you have the most focus and energy.

Female athlete with multiple kettlebells and plyo boxes

Kettlebell Swing

This is the most basic and popular movement in the kettlebell portfolio. However, most people think that it’s either for the hamstrings or front delts. Yes, it will affect those areas but what I want you to focus on here is flexing and squeezing the core throughout the rep.

When you reach the top of the swing, do your best to stand tall and tighten your midsection briefly before going back down.

As you allow the weight to travel downward, focusing on doing a standing abdominal crunch. It will be a subtle feeling in the midsection but since you’re also working on controlling the kettlebell, you’ll feel it.

Kettlebell Pullover and Crunch

Lie on the floor or on a bench and take the kettlebell by the horns. Hold it at arms’ length up over your chest. Bend your knees and raise your feet off the floor. This will force your lower abs to activate and stabilize you.

Perform a pullover as you normally would by lowering the weight behind your head.

When you pull the weight back up and over your chest, contract your abs and raise your upper body up briefly. Squeeze and contract the abs before lowering yourself back down. That’s one rep.

Kettlebell Side Bend

Let’s take care of some myths before we get into this one. No, this won’t “squash the fat” and no, people who take training seriously don’t believe that to be the case anymore either. It’s also not going to make your sides grow and thicken your waist either.

If done correctly, this will help you strengthen your obliques and improve the look of your core overall.

Take one kettlebell by the handle and hold it at your side. Place the non-working hand on your hip. Maintain a soft bend in the knee. Focus on lowering the weighted side as far as you can slowly without your opposite foot coming off the ground.

Focus on the stretch in the obliques on the non-weighted side. Once you feel that stretch, focus on contracting those muscles and return to the standing position. Perform all the reps on one side before switching to the other.

Related: Abdominal Training Myths That Will Ruin Your Results

High Knees with Kettlebell

For this exercise, you can either hold the kettlebell by the horns or at the bottom but hold it with both hands at about chest height. Your goal should be to minimize the movement of the weight while doing this exercise.

Tighten your midsection as best as you can and lift your left knee as high as you can. If you jump a little, that’s okay. Once your knee comes back down, immediately lift the opposite knee. This should feel like an intense version of running in place.

This is the only exercise that you will do differently than the others because you’ll do this for time. Keep moving until the time expires. Remember to breathe while doing this as well.

12 Week Kettlebell Ab Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Kettlebell Swing 3 12
Kettlebell Ab Pullover and Crunch 3 12
Kettlebell Side Bend 3 12 each side
High Knees with Kettlebell 3 30s

You will perform this workout 3 times each week, taking one day to rest in between workouts. Use the following weekly progression to monitor your progress.

  • Week 1 - Rest 90 seconds between sets.
  • Week 2 - Add weight and rest 90 seconds between sets.
  • Week 3 - Rest 75 seconds between sets.
  • Week 4 - Add weight and rest 75 seconds between sets.
  • Week 5 - Rest 60 seconds between sets.
  • Week 6 - Add weight and rest 60 seconds between sets.
  • Week 7 - Perform exercises in circuit and rest 90 seconds between circuits.
  • Week 8 - Add weight and perform circuit with 90 seconds rest in between.
  • Week 9 - Perform circuit with 75 seconds rest in between.
  • Week 10 - Add weight and perform circuit with 75 seconds rest in between.
  • Week 11 - Perform circuit with 60 seconds rest in between.
  • Week 12 - Add weight and perform circuit with 60 seconds of rest in between.

Ways to Improve

For this workout, there are three different ways you can improve. Hopefully by the end of the 12th week, you’ll feel like you improved in all three ways.

  1. You will get stronger. That means you either use heavier kettlebells for each exercise or you add weight to your adjustable kettlebell.
  2. You can perform all the standard sets with a decreased rest time between sets. You will start this program with rest periods of 90 seconds between sets.
  3. You will be able to perform all of the exercises in circuit fashion with rest periods of only 60 seconds.

Remember that the overall goal is to improve in any some measurable way. So if going heavier is even by two pounds, then that is still an improvement.

If you can’t make it with only 75 seconds of rest but can do so with 80, that’s still better than 90. Do what you can as best as you can.

A Word About Nutrition

We have all read or heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” and that is true as long as you’re training them as you should be too.

There are so many nutrition programs and diets out there that it would be hard to restrict it to one for this program but some tips about eating can help you make the most out of this program.

Related: How to Diet to Get Visible Abs

Eat Protein – The abs are muscle and muscle needs protein to get stronger, bigger, or better. Make sure that every time you eat that you have a form of protein and that you eat it first. That way, you have consumed what you need before you get full.

If anything is left on your plate, it shouldn’t be your protein source.

Healthy Fats – Not all fats are bad and some can even help you. Fats from sources like fish, olive oil, and nuts can actually be beneficial for your cardiovascular health so don’t be afraid of eating those.

Water – Water is your best friend when it comes to athletic performance, weight loss, or general health. As soon as you get out of bed, have 16 ounces of water so you start the day by working on getting hydrated. Have water after every meal as well to help with digestion. Of course, keep it or at least your BCAA’s close by when training.

Carbs and Cheat Meals – If you’re not on a low-carb or keto diet, then make sure your carbs aren’t processed like bread or snacks. Whole food sources like rice, oats, and fruit will not only help you perform at optimum levels but can improve your recovery from the workouts which is just as important as the workouts themselves.

If you do plan on treating yourself, do it as a lunch before a training session so you at least can put those calories to some form of use later. That would be better than eating a big dinner and going to bed.

Pro Tips

Perform this workout 3 times each week. Make sure you give yourself a full day of rest between workouts.

Keep a close eye on your rest times, and stick to them. Resting too long will severly lower the intensity of your workout, and doing this multiple times will limit your potential for results.

Diet is paramount for effective recovery. If you're lazy with your diet, you'll want to be lazy with your workouts. If you're lazy with these workouts then you won't see the full results that are possible.

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