Using weights to work your abs can take your six pack to a new dimension. Let’s face it, there are only so many crunches and bicycles you can do to build strength and definition, but throw in some iron to your ab exercises and you’ll transform both your workout and your mindset.

If you have a set of kettlebells handy, grab one and get started. And remember, you don’t need a ton of weight to see immediate results. Low weights – as little and 5 to 20 pounds – can help you sculpt an amazing set of chiseled abdominal muscles. Here are 3 of the best weighted ab routines that you can incorporate into your workout.

Turkish Get Ups

This is the mother ship of weighted abdominal exercises. In fact, it’s really a full body exercise, but the core plays a key role, so it qualifies as an abdominal workout. Form is the key to Turkish Get Ups, so start with a lighter weight than you may want to make sure you’re optimizing form. As your core gets stronger you can increase the weight without sacrificing form.

Lying on the floor with a kettlebell at shoulder level, extend the leg opposite the side with the kettlebell. Bend the knee of the working side, and lift the bell weight so your arm is fully extended, perpendicular to the floor. Your opposite arm is extended on the floor at a 45 degree angle.  Roll up on to the elbow of the extended arm, then place your hand on the floor. Using the foot on the working side, engage your core and press up to standing with the kettlebell extended fully above our head. Take a deep breath, exhale, and then lower back to your starting supine position on the floor.  All movement radiates from your abdominals. Your legs and arms are just supporting the weight.

Complete 3 sets of 5 reps on each side.

Pro tip: If your form is sloppy or you are feeling wobbly, start with no weights and really concentrate on your form. Gradually add weights as your strength and stability improves. Do these in front of a mirror so you can see where you might be coming up short in the form department.

Plank Rows

Plank rows with kettlebells are like plans on steroids. The trick to these – and to planking in general – is to make sure your abdominals are fully engaged and that you’re not just hanging out in your joints. As with Turkish Get Ups, start with a slightly lower weight than you think you can lift, because again, form is important.

With 2 kettlebells, one at each shoulder, come into plank position. Before you do anything position yourself so that you are on your toes with your heels lifted, about 10 to 12 inches between your feet. The wider the stance of your feet, the easier this exercise is. Make sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders.  Now engage your abs and tuck your tail bone down and under, as if you were pulling your tailbone between your legs and up towards your stomach.  This tiny action contracts the abdominals even more, causing them to fully engage and work harder.

Now with one hand on the floor and one grasping the handle of a kettlebell, use your abs to lift the kettlebell up to your shoulder in a rowing motion. Lower and repeat. Perform 8 to 10 slow repetitions on each side.

In between sides, take a moment to re-tuck your tailbone and re-engage your core. Remember, form is the key, so use a lighter kettlebell for ab exercises until you know that you’re doing the exercise correctly.

Kettlebell Swings

These are as much of a kettlebell leg workout as an ab exercise, but the results can be incredible. Use a weight that is about 40% to 50% of what you would use for a Sumo Squat. You can also perform this exercise single arm or double arm. Using single arm works more of the obliques, double arm more of the rectus abdominis. Remember you may want to adjust the weight if you are doing single arm swings.

Standing with your feet wider than our torso, grasp the kettlebell and stand with the weight between your legs.  Use your hips to begin swinging the bell between your legs and then back up to shoulder level. The movement comes from your abs, not your arms or legs, but your legs and buttocks should be fully awake and engaged. Make sure you’re feeling this in your core.  If not, the weight is too heavy and you should reduce it so that you abs are doing all the work.  Perform 3 sets of 20 swings.

Done correctly, these three weighted abdominal exercises will have you looking lean and ripped in no time flat.


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