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This funny-looking iron weight may seem intimidating—but a kettlebell is your best friend when it comes to tight, toned abs. That’s because core stabilization exercises (not crunches!)build lean muscle. A kettlebell’s shape is designed to throw you off balance, forcing you to use your middle to keep from tipping over. Bonus: the weight’s handle enables you to perform full-body exercises that will burn loads of calories with each movement.
The eight exercises in this plan will build abdominal strength, burn fat and create a powerful core that will make you a stronger and faster runner. Use a 10- to 20-pound kettlebell (whatever you feel comfortable wielding), and concentrate on engaging your stomach muscles every time you lift the weight off the ground. For maximum benefit, perform one to two sets of each exercise three to four times per week.
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Half Kneeling Halo
Kneel on the floor with your left foot in front of your body, holding a kettlebell in both hands at your chest. Engage your core as you bring the weight to your right shoulder, then behind your head, to your left shoulder and back to the starting position. Keep the rest of your body as still as possible as you complete another circle in the opposite direction. That’s one rep. Complete five reps then switch legs.
Single-Leg Deadlift with Row
Stand up straight holding a kettlebell in your right hand. Lift your right leg a few inches off the floor. Bend at your hips, reaching your right leg behind you and the weight toward the floor, keeping your back flat and hips square. Hold this position as you use your right arm to lift the kettlebell to your right shoulder. Lower to the floor and return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Complete eight reps on each leg.
Stand in front of the kettlebell with your feet wider than hip-distance apart. Bend at your hips and grab the weight with both hands. In one fluid motion, drive your hips forward and swing the weight up to chest height. You should use your legs and glutes to power this movement, not your back and arms. Allow the weight to swing between your legs in a controlled motion. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell in your right hand with the elbow bent so the weight is resting against your right shoulder. Keep your knees straight and core engaged as you press the kettlebell up over your head and then lower it back to the starting position, resisting the urge to lean to the left side. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps on each side.
Stand with your feet just wider than hip-distance apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Hold a kettlebell in your left hand with the elbow bent so the weight is resting against your left shoulder. Push your hips to the back wall and lower in to a squat, keeping your shoulders straight and your body centered. When your hips are parallel to your knees, press into your heels and return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps on each side.
Stand up straight with your core engaged, holding a kettlebell with both hands in front of you. Push your hips back slightly, then explode up, using the momentum from your legs to push the kettlebell over your head. Return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Complete 12 reps.
Off-Balance Step Up
Stand in front of a step or bench, holding a kettlebell in your right hand. Place your left foot on the step. Shift your bodyweight to the left foot and press through the heel, raising yourself onto the step. Do not put your weight on the right foot. Lower yourself slowly back down to the start position. That’s one rep. Complete 15 reps then switch sides.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest. Step forward with your left leg and lower into a lunge, simultaneously rotating your upper body toward the right wall. Drive through the left heel and return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps on each side.