Core Strength With Kettlebells

by Kristen Karhio on Feb 16, 2012


Try these basic moves to add variety to your next class.

Your program director invested in a set of kettlebells for the group fitness studio, and you’ve attended the introductory workshop on proper form and basic teaching skills. However, you don’t feel confident enough to lead participants through a selection of drills. There’s no need to let the kettlebells rust in the corner of the studio! Use the core section of your next class to teach students three simple and effective moves.

Kettlebell training is safe and efficient if done properly. With its handle positioning and offset center of gravity, the versatile kettlebell provides a unique workout experience. While each of the following exercises targets the core, participants will enjoy additional benefits, such as improvements in flexibility, balance, mobility and stability. Instead of isolating the core, these are multijoint moves offering a functional approach.

Ideally, use this core mini-workout with a smaller class (six people or fewer) so that you’re available for one-on-one coaching. Be patient with students as they acclimate to the kettlebells. You can still sign up for a more advanced education course, but while you’re waiting, go ahead and safely use the new equipment to add variety to your next class.


This move is great as a warm-up or as active recovery between higher-intensity exercises. Slingshot-to -hold requires core stabilization while rotating the kettlebell around the body. A change in direction adds to the challenge. This move also requires hand-to-hand coordination, so make sure participants have enough space and are prepared to react swiftly if the kettlebell drops. Quick feet are happy feet.

  • Stand with arms loose and core tight.
  • Keep back straight and move kettlebell around body, passing handle from one hand to the other.
  • Switch directions after 10 rotations.
  • To add “hold” portion, lift kettlebell as it crosses front of body, receiving it in palm of free hand at opposite shoulder; alternate directions. Use power from legs for extra push if needed.

Once you’re comfortable passing hand to hand, progress with care to figure eight.

Figure Eight (not pictured)
  • Begin in hold position with handle in right (R) hand and round bottom of kettlebell in left (L) palm in front of L shoulder. Maintain flat back, and hinge at hips.
  • Bend knees slightly and begin passing kettlebell through legs, maintaining core integrity.
  • Switch hands at bottom and bring kettlebell around outside of knee, to opposite hold position. Extend knees and hips in unison.
  • Continue figure-eight pattern, switching hands at bottom of movement, not at top.
  • Repeat 10x–20x.
Kneeling Windmill

This exercise builds rotational core strength, balance, shoulder stability and hip mobility. First teach it without a kettlebell to ensure participants can perform the proper technique. When they have demonstrated sound technique through full range of motion, have them choose a kettlebell they can maintain in the overhead position.

  • Begin in half kneeling position, with L knee on ground under hip and R knee forward, bent at 90 degrees. Externally rotate L leg so that legs make right angle, creating solid base.
  • Carefully lift kettlebell into rack position with R hand so that thumb is touching clavicle and forearm is zipped tight against your ribs.
  • Press kettlebell overhead, locking it into place; this is your start position.
  • Keep kettlebell pressed toward ceiling, rotate hips so that L hand touches ground across from L knee.
  • Maintain straight line with arms, perpendicular to ground.
  • Contract core and drive kettlebell up, returning to upright hold position between each rep.
  • Repeat 10x on each side.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 9, Issue 3

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Kristen Karhio IDEA Author/Presenter

Kristen Karhio, CSCS, began her powerlifting and kettlebell training as a Division 1 heptathlete for San Diego State Uni­versity. While working as an assistant track-and-field coach, she became NSCA-...


  • Log In to Comment
  • Joy Keller

    Thank you all for your feedback, we love hearing from you! Our authors are given a strict word count to adhere to and, you're right, additional detailed instruction is always better. On the other hand, Kristen did a fabulous job of getting the basic instruction across with the parameters I gave her and I applaud her. She is very knowledgeable. We are striving to include more video for our visual learners (that includes me). This is definitely a main goal for the publications department. Thank you again for reading our articles and for sharing your expertise with all of us. We value your opinions! If you have video, please share them with us.
    Commented Sep 11, 2012
  • User

    My only suggestion would be to have the participant keep their eyes on the kettlebell during the windmill exercise. In the RKC school of KB training, the first exercise is called Arounf the World. It changes to a slingshot when you introduce the figure 8, as this is when the hips drive the bell back to the hold. Good starting KB selsctions!
    Commented Mar 26, 2012
  • bill seaver

    need starting and finishing pics
    Commented Mar 26, 2012
  • Jake Clapperton

    clear as mud
    Commented Mar 24, 2012
  • Diane Goelz

    A picture of beginning and ending position would have been better then all the fine print.
    Commented Mar 15, 2012
  • Sue Scott

    would sure love a video on these or extra pics.
    Commented Mar 15, 2012

Trending Articles

Mindful Walking

Walking can be more than just moving physically from one location to another. It can be a metaphor for your larger life journey. Things you&...

Smooth Move: Creative Additions to Consider for Smoothies

When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blen...

Nuts and Peanuts Reduce Cardiovascular Risk and Prolong Lifespan

While there have been numerous studies in recent years touting the health benefits of nuts and peanuts, new research published online March ...

Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s with MIND Diet

Conservative adherence to a new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a paper published o...

20 IDEA World-Renowned Presenters Share Advice on Success and Happiness

We asked some of this year’s most influential and motivating IDEA World Fitness Convention™ presenters to share the single piece of advice they would give another fitness/health pro to hel...

Yes, You CAN Develop Better Eating Habits

Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine...

7 Ways to Help a Client Boost Adherence

Once a client has decided to make nutritional changes to support weight loss, you can play a key role in developing an action plan that is m...

Recipe for Health: Picadillo-Stuffed Peppers

If you don’t believe that authentic Mexican cookery is “whole” and healthy, you need to take a deep dive into Mexico: The Cookbook (Phaidon 2014), the first truly comprehensive bible...

Low Intensity vs. High Intensity: Which Is Best for Obese Adults?

The debate continues regarding the most effective exercise measures for reducing abdominal obesity and improving glucose measures.

Rice-Cooking Technique Cuts Calorie Absorption in Half

In a molecular gastronomy-meets-lab-science moment, researchers at the College of Chemical Sciences in Colombo, Sri Lanka, have discovered a...