Kettlebell Core Exercises

Build serious strength and improve overall conditioning with these 5 kettlebell exercises.


By Cori


The kettlebell is a great tool to work your core in a functional way that will strengthen everything from your shoulders to your knees. With the kettlebell you can strengthen your core from different angles and even work everything down your frontside and your backside.

Below are 5 great Kettlebell Core Exercises to target your core from every angle!

1. Windmill

The Windmill is a kettlebell exercise that will build core and shoulder stability. It can strengthen your abs, glutes, hamstrings, lats and shoulders.

To do the Windmill, place your hand through the handle and let the weight rest on the back of your forearm. Set your feet about shoulder-width apart and turn your front foot (the foot opposite from the arm with the weight) out slightly. Straighten the arm with the weight up toward the ceiling.

Keeping your arm with the weight straight up toward the ceiling at all times, hinge over, pushing your butt back as you reach your other hand down toward the ground.

Slowly hinge over as far as you can and feel your core rotate slightly as you drop your hand down to the ground. You want to load your glutes and even feel your hamstrings. Do not squat, although you can allow your knees to bend just slightly.

Then stand back up, keeping the arm with the weight straight up toward the ceiling the entire time. Feel your glutes, hamstrings and obliques working to help pull you back up. Then repeat the hinge. Only go as low as you can control. Beginners can even start without a weight.

2. Figure 8

The Figure 8 is a great core exercise that will also get your blood pumping. It is a rotational move that will not only work your legs, glutes and abs, but also your arms.

To do the Figure 8, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, or maybe slightly wider, and a kettlebell in one hand. Bring the kettlebell up across your chest toward your opposite shoulder and place your other hand on the end of the kettlebell to help hold it there (the kettlebell will be across your body and bottom up).

Then sit your butt back and squat down. As you squat down, lower the kettlebell down in front of your body and swing it under the opposite leg from the hand holding the kettlebell handle. Swing it under your leg and grab the weight behind your leg with your other hand.

As you come back up to standing, swing the kettlebell from behind your leg and around your body to curl it up in front of your chest and across your body toward the opposite shoulder. Place your other hand on the end to help hold it there.

Then squat back down and pass the kettlebell under your other leg. Again, pass it between your hands and then bring it around your leg and back to the front of your body to curl it back up across your chest as you stand back up.

Keep alternating legs, passing it under the opposite leg each time you squat to create a figure 8. Do not round forward or let your heels come up as you squat and pass the weight.

3. Gladiator Get Up

The Gladiator Get Up is a great core exercise to build core stability. It also forces you to move in different directions, which makes it a very functional exercise that targets your core from different angles. If you want to build shoulder stability, work your abs, obliques, glutes, legs and back, then you want to try the Gladiator Get Up!

To do the Gladiator Get Up, lie on your back with your hand through the kettlebell handle and the weight resting on the back of your forearm. Press the weight straight up toward the ceiling. Bend the knee of the leg on the same side as the weight and place that foot flat on the ground. Your other arm will be slightly out from your side and your other leg will be out straight.

First roll onto your forearm. You will keep your chest pressed out as you prop yourself up on your forearm with the weight always pressed straight up toward the ceiling.

Then push up to your hand, keeping the weight pressed toward the ceiling. Sit up nice and tall.

Then bridge up, lifting your hips up as you drive through your heels and hand. Keeping the weight straight up toward the ceiling, drive off the foot of your bent leg and lift that leg to stack it on your other leg, rotating into a side plank.

In this side plank position, you can then lift and lower that top leg, performing a leg raise.

You will then reverse the steps to return back to lying on your back on the ground. Make sure your arm does not waiver from pressing the weight straight up toward the ceiling.

To move back down, rotate back open and place that top foot back on the ground. You will bend your knee to place that foot down. You will then lower your butt back down. Then you’ll move back onto your forearm and again lie down. You’ll stay on one side and move slowly through all of the steps.

Because this move is complicated, you can watch a video of the Gladiator Get Up here at 1:06.

4. Bottoms Up Carry

Unilateral carries like this one are a great way to build anti-rotational strength and core stability. They also help you correct imbalances. And the Bottoms Up Carry will also help you learn to engage your back for proper shoulder stability and health (not to mention this move will work on your grip!).

To do the Bottoms Up Carry, hold a kettlebell by the handle upside down (so bottom of the kettlebell up toward the ceiling). Holding the kettlebell upside down, keep your arm bent in close to your body with the kettlebell just out in front of you.

Engage your lat (feel the side of your back working) and do not shrug your shoulder. Keep a nice tall posture and grip the kettlebell hard. Then begin to walk forward for a set amount of time or distance. Try to keep the kettlebell still as you walk and make sure to brace your core so you don’t shift or lean to one side.

5. Two-Arm Overhead Sit Up

This is a great Sit Up variation if you want to work your shoulders and arms as well as your abs.

To do the Two-Arm Overhead Sit Up, hold a kettlebell in both hands and lie back on the ground. Press the weight up toward the ceiling with your legs out straight about hip-width apart.

Keeping the weight pressed toward the ceiling and your arms straight, sit up. As you sit up, your arms will go back by your ears and you’ll sit up nice and tall. Do not bend your arms or let the weight come forward. You want to press it up toward the ceiling at all times.

Then lie back down. Keep the arms extended and the weight pressed toward the ceiling as you lower back down. Try not to let your heels come up as you sit up and lower back down. Repeat, sitting back up.

For a video showing these moves and 14 more Kettlebell Core Exercises, click here!

Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.