The Best Kettlebell Movements for Core Strength

Kettlebells have been used across most strength, power and fitness sports to increase movement, address asymmetries, and offer coaches and athletes a way to develop a stronger core without sacrificing training time to core-specific moments.

In this article, we will offer coaches and athletes a list of kettlebell movements that can (1) increase core strength, (2) be integrated into accessory and strength training blocks, and (3) be an effective usage of training time by developing core strength in addition to targeting large muscle groups of the body.

Kettlebell Core Strengthening Exercises

The below eight (8) kettlebell exercises are some of the top core strengthening movements an athlete/lifter can do to develop a stronger core and build total body strength. Most of the below movements will target the core in addition to major body parts, such as legs, shoulders, and upper back; making them ideal for inclusion into total body kettlebell circuits.

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up

The kettlebell Turkish get up is a top exercise used to increase core strength, movement, and enhance overall functioning of the hips, shoulder, and core while under load. This all inclusive movement can be used in warm-ups, as strength sets, or on active recovery days to specifically address issues like hip immobility, shoulder instability, and core strength issues.

Double Kettlebell Squat

Most front loaded movements will create havoc for the anterior muscles of the core, with the kettlebell being no different. With both kettlebells racked in the front of the body, the lifter will be forced to increase core strength and stabilize the spine from forward flexion of the spine. By performing this squat movement with two kettlebells, the lifter will also be able to subject the core to higher amounts loading, often only limited only by the core and upper back ability to withstand the positional demands.

Single Arm Kettlebell Suitcase Carry

This unilateral loaded carry is a great way to increase core strength and activate the obliques. Most lifters and athletes can benefit from this exercise as it will teach them how to lock in the obliques under dynamic movement.

Kettlebell Unilateral Overhead Press

Most overhead movements will be dependent on overhead mobility in the shoulders and an athlete’s ability to stabilize the core to avoid excessive lumbar extension while overhead. The unilateral kettlebell shoulder press is a unilateral exercise that (1) reinforces proper core stabilization and resistance to lumbar extension while overhead and (2) increases oblique engagement to resist pelvic and spinal rotation while pressing.

Kettlebell Windmill

The kettlebell windmill is a highly effective movement to increase core strength (obliques), hip movement, and shoulder stabilization. The windmill motion reinforces proper hip flexion and extension while maintain a rigid, stable core. 

Kettlebell Unilateral Overhead Squat

The overhead squat is a movement that can be loaded with sufficient amounts of weight and is still highly depending on overhead stabilization and core strength. Using the kettlebell to perform unilateral overhead squats can increase overall core strength and increase the core’s ability to resist spinal hyperextension and rotation at the lumbar spine.

Double Kettlebell Front Rack Carry

As mentioned above, front rack movements require great amounts of core strength. The double kettlebell front rack carry is a double threat, because it allows a lifter to (1) use very heavy loads, and (2) is not dependent on leg strength. By performing such a movement, the lifter is forced to stand up correctly under loads, contracting isometrically for extended periods of time. This exercise can have a drastic impact on bracing capacities as well as a lifter’s ability to unilaterally control the scapular stabilizers and upper back.

Unilateral Kettlebell Sit-Up

While a sit up is inherently a core strengthening movement, the unilateral kettlebell sit up takes this movement to the next level. This moment can be done in two various ways, (1) with the kettlebell in the front racked position as the lifter performs a sit up, or (2) with the lifter lying on their back, the load is supported as if in a bench press position, with the lifter sitting upwards while simultaneously transiting the kettlebell into the overhead position. Both movements are weighted variations of a sit up, however the added complexity of unilateral load placement can further increase core strength and anti-rotational core stability.

Sample Kettlebell Circuit for Core Strength

The below workout is a great way to incorporate the above lifts into a balanced kettlebell circuit. Note, that most of the movements above are not exclusively targeting the core, but rather are challenging the total body and core strength together. Total time to completion should be 40 minutes or less.

  • Kettlebell Turkish Get Up – 5 sets of 2 repetitions per side, building in weight
  • Double Kettlebell Squat – 5 sets of 5 repetitions, using heavy loads in a controlled tempo
  • Unilateral Kettlebell Overhead Press – 4 sets of 6-8 repetitions, with moderate to heavy loads
  • Double Kettlebell Front Rack Carry – 3 sets of 50 meters, as heavy as possible
  • Unilateral Kettlebell Sit Up – 3 sets of 12 repetitions per arm

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

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