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Paige Waehner

Exercise of the Week - Kettlebell Figure 8

By October 27, 2009

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I'm all about finding new ways to work the abs, which is one reason this exercise has become one of my favorites. The figure 8 involves passing the kettlebell from hand to hand behind the legs as you make a figure 8 motion. This move works on activating the stabilizer muscles of the core while also challenging your balance and coordination.

I love this move as a warm up before a dynamic ab workout or just as a way to make my clients stare at me in confusion. It does require concentration and you'll want to start slowly to avoid dropping the weight (which does tend to happen, so do this move on a mat to be safe).

Do it right: Hold a medium kettlebell in the right hand (I used a 10-lb weight here) with feet hip-width apart and lower into a squat. Bring the weight between the legs, grabbing onto the handle with the left hand behind the left leg. Circle the weight around the front of the leg (you can add a swing for intensity, as shown in the picture, or just keep it small), again bringing it between the legs and grabbing onto it with the right hand behind the right leg. Continue moving the weight in a figure 8, exchanging it from hand to hand, for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

Figure 8Figure 8Figure 8

October 27, 2009 at 8:25 am
(1) Mike Diamond says:

Using a ten lb kettlebell is a waste of time ! You need to go heavier with a weight that will challenge and force you to engage and recruit all the proper muscles used in the exercise.Ten pounds wont do that .You might as well just hold in a low squat position.

October 27, 2009 at 11:05 am
(2) Jude says:

I agree. You will get nothing with a 10lb. bell. All do respect, I wish people would leave kettle bell instruction to the experts. When will the fitness industry stop highjacking great exercise programs an make them “great for abs” If you can’t see your abs, it’s because you are too fat. Try squatting and deadlifting, mix in some kettlebell swings if you want to see your”abs”

October 27, 2009 at 12:33 pm
(3) martha says:

Do you stay in the squat position while you are moving the ball in a figure 8 or do you come back to standing position before going to the other side?

October 27, 2009 at 1:28 pm
(4) TommyTrainer says:

What a bunch of Meatheads!! All you guys who insist on going heavy all the time. This exercise is functional and beneficial without a great load. Sure, you bozos can use a greater weight but it can also be done and give results with a light weight!!! I do this exercise with a bodybar with my clients — an 8 pound bodybar – not 50 pounds or what….

October 27, 2009 at 3:40 pm
(5) Mike Diamond says:

Hey Tommy trainer…..I don’t mind being called a meathead (lol) Are you a certified Kettlebell instructor ? I don’t think so.

Women come into my gym all the time with their little 3-10 lb kettlebells(so cute). I demonstrate and explain to them the reason that they need to choose a heavier kb .I give them instruction concentrating on form and technique(breathing,proper alignment and body tension) so that they can see and understand why they need to train with a heavier kettlebell toreceive the benefits of the movements

If someone is seriously interested in taking their fitness and strength to the next level I recommend that they google some of the best:Shawn Mozen,Steve Cotter,Mike Mahler, Jeff Martone and Anthony DiLuglio.

October 28, 2009 at 8:38 am
(6) matt says:

mike and jude, i 100% agree. it’s upsetting to see these “fitness experts” talk about these “new” ab exercises. the figure 8, if done properly is actually driven by the hip extensors. they probably don’t realise KB’s have been around for some time, over 100 years if i remember correctly. tommy trainer, it seems you do have a passion for fitness, but you should do some further education. you must use progressive overload to the target tissue to create dissruption at the cellular level in order to elicit change, it’s called the SAID principle. no, i’m not some meathead looking to be-little you. i have been a strength & conditioning coach for 12+ years. i have a BS in health science, certified by the NSCA-CSCS, NASM-CPT, APEX fitness and nutrition, and currently enrolled in a master’s program for exercise phys. i’m not here to gloat, i just feel it is our responsibility to educate our clients with actual scientific facts proven by human study, not myths and half truths…we all should never stop learning.

October 28, 2009 at 8:51 am
(7) Stephen says:

Thank you Matt.

October 28, 2009 at 9:20 am
(8) matt says:

stephen-i’m not sure for what, but you’re welcome. ;)

October 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm
(9) jude says:

Yes Tommy,

We ( the meatheads) are not saying ” go heavy” just for the sake of it, we recommend it because we know what we are talking about on this subject. I’m not here to start a mudslinging contest, I’m very glad that people are becoming aware of the kettle bell and it’s benefits, however it is very important that people use them properly and effectively. If you have not been through one of the many reputable kettle bell certification programs, you or any other trainer for that matter, have no business trying to teach clients how to use them. People will end up injured and give this wonderful exercise program a bad name. This is the equivalent of me teaching yoga just because I know how to stretch or I watched it on a video.

November 3, 2009 at 9:57 am
(10) amanda wright says:

Having just just done my first foundation course in Kettlebells with Russian Kettlebell expert Jamie Lloyd who trained with the likes of Steve Cotter and Pavel Tsatsouline so from good stock and from the IKFF (International Kettlebell & Fitness Federation). As a Personal Trainer, and looking for a new challenge, thought I would sign up and try kettlebells for myself. And yep Matt, your right they’ve been around for ages, used in Russia around 1704 but thought to be used by Greek athletes and gladiators thousands of years ago. So my thoughts as a woman using ‘k’bells’, yep a brilliant functional tool for strengthening and cardio. Works very much on our posterior chain, i.e back, glutes and hamstrings. I know that may scare a lot of men, especially the ones that want to focus on their mirror muscles, you know the ones I mean, chest and bi’s! Apologies to the ones out there that actually work all posterior and anterior muscles – I don’t want to upset anyone!! Back to us women, I thought I actually worked my backside, lots of lunges, both floor and Bosu and deep squats with a 20kg bar. But for around 4 days after my backside was killing me, actually hurt to sit, and that’s saying something. Much better now thankfully. With regards to weight I started with one 6kg bell, now easy. For cleans, squats and presses I use an 8kg bell, (2 handed 6kg bells) and use a 12kg bell for swings. I would say give it a go, but please make sure you go to a certified trainer, I have seen some people teach with very bad technique, and this will mean you could potentially hurt yourself. One last point for the lads, I challenge anyone of you to try the exercise known as a ‘windmill’, it’s a killer!! Happy ‘belling’…………Amanda

November 3, 2009 at 10:08 am
(11) Jan says:

What a discouraging discussion. Just the kind of ego battle that makes me stay clear of trainers.

November 4, 2009 at 9:57 am
(12) mark says:

jan-that’s too bad that you feel that way….it doesn’t seem like an ego battle. to me, it appears that it’s people in the industry trying to offer good, true information. you should consider researching some in your area. i felt the same way in the past, but i talked to one and they really helped me out. my grandfather always use to say “you don’t go to a baker for brain surgery.” give them a chance, i think you’ll really like it…

December 21, 2009 at 11:11 pm
(13) Duran says:

Mike Diamond is 100% Correct!
You should see the shape he got my girlfriend in.
She’s a tall slender 117lb and uses 36lb for her swings,
25lb or 20lbs for single are presses, turkish get-ups etc..
All these moves are done with the proper technique and the right weight. Steph can snatch a 53lb kettlebell 4 times in a row.

April 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm
(14) Bruce Coltin says:

The kettlebell figure 8 is a great exercise, regardless of the weight used. But calling it an “ab exercise” seriously undervalues the movement. Also, I don’t think it’s a squat. I think it it’s a hip-hinge — big difference.

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