cyclist holding kettlebell


8 Kettlebell Moves That Will Crush Your Core Without a Single Crunch

By: Sara Lindberg for Bicycling Magazine, Mar 2, 2019


Looking for a killer workout that will smoke your core and up your cadence—at the same time? Then grab a kettlebell and get ready to boost your performance on the bike while building some serious strength in your core.

And the best part? You can do all of this without performing a single crunch.

“Kettlebell exercises replicate functional movement patterns that build core strength by targeting overlooked stabilizer muscles,” explains Kaitlyn DiJoseph, C.S.C.S., and coach at Peaks Coaching Group. “This helps you to utilize the proper muscle groups for optimal power production.”

To get the most out of your core workouts, DiJoseph says it’s not about lifting heavy weight or completing a high volume, but more about executing slow, controlled functional movements with less weight and reps to ensure perfect form. This is especially true when talking about your core muscles—and more specifically, your obliques.

These are the muscles that fire when you twist (also known as rotation), side-bend (lateral flexion) or “crunch” your trunk (spinal flexion), which helps you keep your position on the bike, as well as perform everyday movements like walking or running.

DiJoseph created a series of 8 kettlebell exercises you can do individually or as a total workout. Most of the exercises described below can be done with two kettlebells. However, DiJoseph likes to perform them with one, because loading the body asymmetrically creates a more challenging core workout.

Single Arm Kettlebell Row

Assume the plank position with a kettlebell placed on the ground, beneath your left armpit. Stack your shoulders over your elbows and wrists. Retract your shoulder blades to prevent hunching your upper back, and contract your core to keep a straight line from shoulders to hips to ankles. Maintaining this form, grasp the handle and lift the kettlebell straight up at your side. Keep the shoulders and hips square, eliminating any rolling motion of the upper body. Complete 2 sets of 8-10 reps on each side.

Plank With Kettlebell Pull Through

Assume the plank position as listed above with a kettlebell beneath your left armpit. Maintaining this form, reach your right arm across your body to find the handle of the kettlebell. Pressing through the palm of your grounded hand and with your toes planted into the floor, pull the kettlebell across your body and return to plank position. Repeat on opposite side. Complete 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions on each side.

Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Halo

Assume the half-kneeling position with knees flexed at a 90-degree angle. Plant your toes on the back leg into the floor. Holding a kettlebell upside-down by the horns, beneath the chin, circle the kettlebell around your head in one direction to return to the starting position, as if forming a “halo” overhead. Maintain an erect spine and solid core. This is one repetition. Complete 2 sets of 6-8 repetitions on each side.

Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Chop

Assume the half-kneeling position as described above. Holding a kettlebell by the horns, lift the kettlebell diagonally across your body overhead toward the side of your body with the grounded front foot. Then, lower the kettlebell diagonally across your body toward your hip of your kneeling side. Complete 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions on each side. 

Kettlebell Push Press

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, grasp the kettlebell firmly by the handle with your knuckles pointed toward the sky. Begin with your elbow flexed, so the kettlebell is near your shoulder. Keep your opposite arm neutral at your side or extended in front of your body. Inhale as you slightly bend your knees to load the glutes and hamstrings, generating power to explosively extend your hips and knees while pressing the kettlebell overhead at the same time. Allow the momentum generated in your lower body to flow through your upper body to help carry the weight of the kettlebell. Complete 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions on each side.

Kettlebell Windmill

Begin standing with feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Press the kettlebell overhead with your eyes fixed on it for the duration of the movement. Shift your hips to the side in the direction of your arm holding the kettlebell. Bend at your side, reaching your opposite arm to the floor, allowing your elbow to track along the inside of your knee. Keep the kettlebell pressed overhead, and return to the starting position reversing the movement and squeezing your glutes. Complete 2 sets ion 6-8 relations on each side.

Kettlebell Single-Leg Deadlift

Holding a kettlebell at your side, stand with feet slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Come to a single-leg stance by elevating the knee opposite the side of the kettlebell to form a 90-degree angle. Hold this position until balance is achieved, then kick your leg back as if pressing the heel of the elevated foot into the wall behind you. Squeeze your glutes. Allow your upper body to fall forward, parallel to the ground, so that you form a “T.” Lower the kettlebell to the outside of your heel of the grounded foot. Engage your glutes to pull the extended leg through, returning to the single leg stance. Complete 2 sets of 6-8 repetitions on each side.

Kettlebell Swing

Begin standing with a kettlebell at your feet, placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and with your toes pointed slightly forward and outward. Grasp the handle of the kettlebell firmly with both hands, bending at your knees and hinging at the hips. (To get the hinge movement right, imagine pressing your glutes into the wall behind you while maintaining a flat back) Pull the kettlebell through your legs to load the glutes and hamstrings. Then, explosively extend your hips and knees, allowing the momentum generated to swing the kettlebell out in front of your body with arms extended. Keep a rigid core to prevent the kettlebell from tracking above shoulder height and your back from arching. Complete 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions.