Core Strength With Kettlebells

by Kristen Karhio on Apr 26, 2012

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, you will teach this core mini-workout to a small 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

  • 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 Fit Tips, Volume 10, Issue 5

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

About the Author

Kristen Karhio IDEA Author/Presenter


  • Log In to Comment
  • Nick Ng

    What's interesting is that there is no bio of the author, so we don't know whether she even qualified to write anything at all.
    Commented Nov 26, 2012
  • Patricia Schwartz

    I also think you should have videos showing proper way of executing the kettlebell exercises.
    Commented Jul 15, 2012
  • Rex Trobridge

    Thanks to Dan! A picture is worth 1000 words! Very challenging to clearly describe dynamic body movements as a series of anatomical postures and movements, even to fitness professionals who know the terminology! Rex Trobridge, CSCS
    Commented May 11, 2012
  • Lynda Lippin

    There are so many simple kettlebell exercises, all of which use the core, that would be as effective, easier to explain, and with less chance of injury. And pictures or video would be helpful! I too love the windmill and teach it often, but the explanation above is not very clear. The issue is that unclear instructions on a complex weighted exercise can lead to injury.
    Commented May 10, 2012
  • Julia Steiner

    If you search Kettlebell windmill on YouTube, you'll definitely be able to see how it's done. The above version is a modification, on your knees rather than standing. The Kbell is pressed up and retuned each rep to your shoulder while the opposite arm stretches down toward the floor; hence the name, windmill. It's a beautiful exercise when done properly, combining balance, flexibility and strength.
    Commented May 10, 2012
  • User

    Kettlebell as many exercises need to be taught by a certified instructor whose supervision will catch the slight issues that arise in the area of lower back, knee overload and shoulder displacement. Take a class to learn proper technique, relying on written instructions or even a video is somewhat dangerous for the general population and even a certified personal trainer who has a keen understanding of biomechanics.
    Commented May 10, 2012
  • Renae Larcus, Ph.D.

    I agree. Directions not clear to me, either. "Keep kettlebell pressed toward ceiling, rotate hips so that L hand touches ground across from L knee. Contract core and drive kettlebell up, returning to upright hold position between each rep."
    Commented May 10, 2012
  • Christina Buchanan

    Hi there, is there a video for this? "Externally rotate L leg so that legs make right angle, creating solid base." is confusing for me for some reason. Thank you!
    Commented May 10, 2012

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