Sure, everyone loves the look of a sculpted abs, but a strong core is so much more than a sexy midsection. Whether you're a devoted runner, Pilates enthusiast or recreational boxer, a strong core will help you move with more control and power.
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But that doesn't mean you have to devote hours of your week to crunches or leg lifts (insert sigh of relief), nor do you need a ton of high-tech equipment to strengthen your midsection. For the following six exercises, courtesy of Samuel Becourtney, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments, all you need to build core strength and sculpt your abs is a kettlebell.
1. Unilateral Front Rack Lunge
- Start holding a kettlebell in your right hand in the front-rack position, grabbing onto the handle and letting the bell rest on the outside of your wrist and forearm.
- Keep your elbow close to the midline of your body and the bell at shoulder height as you step forward with your right leg.
- Bend the right knee to a 90-degree angle and lower the left knee to hover just above the ground.
- Press into your right heel and bring the legs back together, returning to the starting position.
- Once you complete all your reps on one side, switch sides, holding the weight in your left arm and step forward with the left leg.
2. High Hold Goblet Squat
- Hold the handle of the kettlebell with both hands.
- Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and hold the bell up about 12 inches away from your chest.
- With your feet at about shoulder-width apart, shoot your hips back and bend your knees into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Holding the kettlebell in the same position, press into the heels and return to standing.
3. Seated Z-Press
- Start seated on the ground with your legs straight out, spread slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Hold a kettlebell in your right hand in a front-rack position, grabbing onto the handle and letting the bell rest on the outside of your wrist and forearm.
- Keeping your back flat and core contracted, press the weight straight up overhead.
- Lower the weight back down to shoulder height with control.
- Once you finish all your reps on this side, repeat the exercise with the opposite arm.
"In order to effectively lift the bell overhead, the core will automatically be targeted," Becourtney says. "Plus, it eliminates the possibility of using momentum, as is a common mistake with the overhead press."
4. High Plank Kettlebell Pull Through
- Start in a high plank with a kettlebell on the outside of your left palm, right behind your arm. You may want to separate your feet further apart for a more stable base of support.
- Keeping your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels, take hold of the kettlebell handle with your left hand.
- Pull the kettlebell across the floor until it rests on the outside of your left palm in high plank.
- Pull the kettlebell back and forth, alternating hands and keeping your hips as stable as possible.
5. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
- Start standing with feet hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell in your left hand.
- Root your right foot into the ground and begin to lean your torso forward, leading with the weight.
- At the same time, raise your left leg straight out behind you, keeping a slight bend in the right knee.
- Lean forward until your torso is parallel to the ground, left leg straight behind you.
- Reverse the motion with control and return to the starting position.
Imagine the hip bone on the front of the opposite leg pointing straight down at the floor even as you reach back, Becourtney says. This typically helps people improve the mechanics of this movement.
6. Kettlebell Arm Bar With Hip Drop
- Lie on your left side with your left arm straight out in front of you, body stacked — shoulders, hips, knees and feet.
- Hold a kettlebell in your right hand and raise your arm into the air, straight above your shoulder.
- Keeping your right arm in place, rotate your hips toward the ground, trying to lightly tap your right hip bone to the ground.
- Engage the core and return to the starting position.
- When you finish all reps the first side, repeat on the opposite side.