A trainer says you should do this one move if you want to get a stronger back and core

If you hate the sound of endless crunches and lateral pull-downs, then give this compound exercise a try

Muscular man doing kettlebell row
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Want to strengthen your core and back with one quick move? Sounds too good to be true, but we promise it’s not

Recommended by fitness trainer Hayley Madigan, the kettlebell gorilla row targets the lats, rhomboids and trapezius muscles in your upper back along with your mid-body core muscles. You’ll need two kettlebells to do it—but if you only have one you could do the reps on one side then repeat on the other.

Watch the exercise below before giving it a go and take note of Madigan’s tips to ensure you’re doing the move correctly.

Watch Hayley Madigan’s kettlebell gorilla row for stronger back and core

How to do the move

  • Place two kettlebells in front of you. Keep your back straight, hinge at the hips and grab hold of the 'bells, which should be directly below your shoulders.
  • Row one arm up towards your hip, keeping your elbow close to your waist. Alternate sides and repeat.

Trainer tips

Madigan recommends performing 6-10 reps per arm and repeating this for three to four sets. She also suggests adding the kettlebells to a raised platform. This will help you maintain a straight back, keep your spine in neutral, and put less pressure on your legs

If you’re unsure what weight to choose, start with a moderate load, so you can focus on getting the movement right. You can gradually increase your kettlebell weight over time—a process known as progressive overload—to make sure you're continually building strength. 

Why should you strengthen your back and core?

Your back muscles support your spine, so when these are strengthened they help to align your whole body. This means less slouching. 

Your core muscles also play a role in your posture. Deep within the abdominal area, you have what are known as postural muscles and strengthening these can help you support your spine and maintain stability. 

The core also plays an important part in everyday functions like bending and twisting. Keep this area strong to help you in all areas of your life, whether that’s in sport or just lifting heavy grocery bags. 

If you're looking for a more comprehensive workout for these areas, try this dumbbell upper body workout or have a go at these core strengthening exercises.

Need help choosing a weight? Our guide to the best kettlebells can help

Lois Mackenzie
Fitness Writer

Lois Mackenzie is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering strength training workouts with weights, accessible ways to stay active at home, and training routines for runners. She joined the team from Newsquest Media Group, where she was a senior sports, trends, and lifestyle reporter. She is a dedicated runner, having just completed her first marathon, and an advocate for spending time outdoors, whether on a walk, taking a long run, or swimming in the sea. 


Lois holds a Master's degree in Digital Journalism, and has written for Good Health, Wellbeing & The Great Outdoors, Metro.co.uk, and Newsquest Media Group, where her reporting was published in over 200 local newspapers.