This three-move ab workout builds core strength without crunches

You don't need sit-ups and crunches to work your abs, boost your balance, and improve your stability

A man performing a kettlebell plank pull-through as part of an ab workout
(Image credit: Getty)

Sit-ups and crunches are the quintessential ab exercises, but there are better ways to build comprehensive core strength. 

We've found a kettlebell workout capable of challenging all your core muscles by using a range of movement patterns rather than just flexing your spine. What's more, there isn't a sit-up in sight.

If you don't have one of these weights, you can shop the top options on the market with our handy guide to the best kettlebells. Otherwise, you can use a dumbbell, weight plate, or even full rucksack to give these exercises a go. 

The exercises have been selected by personal trainer and kettlebell specialist Pavel Krotov. If you want to combine them into a workout, perform each movements for 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, then move on to the next exercise. 

Repeat this three-move circuit three times through for a challenging ab workout in just nine minutes. Be sure to follow Krotov's demonstrations to perfect your form. This will make sure you hit the intended muscles and reduce your risk of injury. 

Watch Pavel Krotov's kettlebell ab workout

Sit-ups and crunches require you to flex (or curl) your spine, but that's a small portion of the core's overall purpose. 

A strong core is also responsible for providing stability to the spine and improving your balance, as well as allowing your trunk to bend and rotate. These factors are pivotal in most sports, as well as everyday tasks like carrying your shopping. 

The core is more than just one muscle too. The rectus abdominis is the best-known element, responsible for the six-pack shape people associate with abs, but you should never overlook the likes of the transverse abdominis, and the internal and external obliques. 

These muscles are key for stabilising your spine and aiding twisting movements respectively. That's why the best ab workouts (like this one from Krotov) should work the core through multiple planes of motion. 

As this is such a short workout, it works well as a finisher for a longer workout. It would also work well as an add-on to a longer resistance (or weight) training session, like this six-move gym workout for beginners or our selection of the best leg workouts for building strength

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.