We’ve long heard about the merits of building a stronger core – it solves back problems and makes you run faster – which is why gym-goers have been grunting it out in the plank position ever since. But if you’re tired of watching the seconds tick by on your stopwatch, look past the exercise mat and head to the kettlebell rack.
The kettlebell or any piece of iron lifting equipment can drastically improve your midriff when you use it in core-building moves such as the suitcase carry (No. 3). “Think of it as the new plank,” says Larry Jones, Sierra Fitness Personal Trainer. “To maintain upright posture as you walk, you have to engage all the muscles of your middle.”
And the evidence is reliable – research from the University of Queensland shows that two kettlebell workouts a week can boost core strength by 70 per cent. There are satisfying superficial benefits, too. The same study found kettlebell training burns 800 calories an hour, helping shed your body’s top layer of fat to reveal the definition underneath. It makes sense that the now-ubiquitous gym tools require a kettlebell workout – not the more common push-up or pull-up – as a standard physical test for army recruits.
Do these four exercises as a circuit, performing all the reps of one exercise, then moving immediately to the next. Rest for two minutes, then repeat the circuit for a total of five sets.
1. Single Leg Dead Lift
Stand with your left foot in front of right and a kettlebell on the floor 60cm in front of you. Bend left knee slightly and lift right leg as you lower torso towards the floor, keeping your back straight so the body forms a T. Grab the kettlebell and push hips forward as you return to standing. That’s one rep. Do 10, then switch sides.
2. Single Arm Swing
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hips back, knees bent slightly, back straight with the kettlebell in your left hand. Lift bell between your legs. In one explosive movement, straighten legs as you push hips forward and swing arm to shoulder height in front of you. Let bell fall back between legs and repeat. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.
3. Suitcase Carry
Stand tall and hold a kettlebell in left hand at your side without leaning towards it. Walk 50m, then turn and walk back. Repeat 10 times on each side.
4. Kneeling Bottoms-Up Press
Kneel with right leg in front, left leg back. Hold a kettlebell vertically by the handle in right hand, right arm bent with wrist near your right shoulder. Keep biceps close to your ear as you press the bell directly overhead. Return to start. Do 5 reps, then switch sides.