The ultimate ab workout has two crucial elements: muscle-strengthening moves, plus heart-pumping cardio to burn off the fat covering those muscles. The ultimate ab-sculpting tool? A kettlebell. “Kettlebell movements require momentum and power,” says certified trainer and DVD star Paul Katami. “You’re doing cardio and muscle conditioning at the same time.” And let’s be honest here: Swinging that bell around is just plain fun. But don’t take our word for it. Try this ab workout from Katami, based on his new Ultimate Kettlebell Workouts for Beginners DVD. Choose a weight that challenges you (10 pounds is a good starting weight for many people) and do the ab workout 3 to 4 times a week for some serious sculpting.
Why it’s great: “This exercise moves from high to low, using both a circular motion and a side chop-style movement,” says Katami. “The halo portion engages your core and the ribbon chop contracts the core muscles to work against the force of your body’s rotation.”
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder width apart; grab the kettlebell “by the horns” (upside down with the handle in both hands) and hold it in front of your chest. Circle the bell up to the right and around behind your head (A), then down to your right hip, bending your knees into a mini squat as the bell comes down (B). Rise back up and repeat on the opposite side. Continue for 30 seconds.
Why it’s great: “This exercise works on all planes of your body and is especially great for your obliques, or side ab muscles,” says Katami.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width; turn your right toe out and hold the kettlebell in your right hand. Lean back into your left hip and raise your left hand (A). Dip to your right, rotating to reach the bell toward the floor in front of your right foot while looking up at your left hand (B). Your left hip should stick out as you reach down, and your right knee can bend slightly. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Horn Grip Trio
Why it’s great: “This trio of exercises really works your entire core with a series of natural and challenging progressions,” says Katami.
How to do it: Lie on your back with knees slightly bent, heels on the floor. Grab the kettlebell by the horns and bring it overhead to the floor with elbows slightly bent (A). Exhale and use your core ab muscles to drive your torso and upper body up and forward, bringing the bell overhead, forward, and to your knees (B). Slowly lower back down to previous position. Continue for 30 seconds. Next, repeat the same basic move, but tuck your knees up and in as you come up (C); continue to 30 seconds. Finally, repeat the first move, adding a rotation to the right when you reach upright position (D). On the next rep, rotate to the left; continue for 30 seconds.
Plank Knee Tucks
Why it’s great: “The plank portion engages your abs and back while the bell adds instability, causing your core to work even harder,” says Katami. “Layering in the knee tuck forces you to focus on balancing and contracting your entire core.”
How to do it: Come into plank position with legs straight, feet shoulder-width, toes tucked, and hands under your shoulders; your right hand should be gripping the kettlebell (A). Bend your left knee, bringing it in toward the bell (B); return to previous position. Keep your abs engaged and back long. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat. (Too hard? Do the move without the bell.)
Why it’s great: “Turning from a basic plank to a side plank recruits your core muscles in a unique way, making them all work together,” says Katami.
How to do it: Get into plank position with your right hand gripping the kettlebell (A). Turn your body to the right, coming onto the inside of your right foot and outside of your left foot (B); then bend your right elbow to bring the bell up to your belly button, keeping your right hip lifted (C). Lower the bell to the floor and return to previous position. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
Why it’s great: “Simple and yet so effective! This twist is a terrific way to use a little momentum to really work on controlling the muscles in your midsection,” says Katami.
How to do it: Sit with knees bent and heels on the floor; hinge your torso slightly back. Grab the kettlebell and hold it either by the handle with both hands (harder) or with a hand cupping each side of the bell (easier). Using your ab muscles and keeping the bell close to your body, twist your torso and bring the bell to the outside of your right hip (A), then repeat on the other side (B). Continue for 30 seconds.
Connect with Paul at paulkatami.com, on Facebook at Paul Katami Fitness, and on Twitter at @paulkatami. To order the DVD, visit acacialifestyle.com.