And while we’re focusing on an abs workout with dumbbells. These weighted abs workout help to increase the resistance during the abdominal exercises and allow you to strengthen the muscles of the core without doing endless sets of crunches. In order to have a strong core and build a little muscle, you need to work the rectus abdominus (think 6-pack muscle) regularly. Just like any muscle group, once you remove the fat, you want the muscles to pop. By using weight during abdominal exercises, you will increase muscle and improve its appearance. In fact, many of the most effective ab exercises are those that are performed without high repetitions. Instead, they focus on engaging the center core and moving through each movement in a slow and controlled manner. Not only does this help to strength your core, it helps to prevent injury from overuse or incorrect form.
If you’re looking to train your abs, the good news is that there are a huge variety of exercises that will help you achieve that goal. Even if you’re not doing moves that focus on them directly, the location of your abs means that they are worked hard by compound exercises that hit both the upper and lower body. Your core is also key to any exercise in which you have to keep your body stable, such as static holds like the plank or tricky balancing acts like the single-leg Romanian deadlift.
Even though we are performing these abs workout with dumbbells for this workout, it can be easily modified to bodyweight only if dumbbells or weights are unavailable to you.
But if your main goal is adding muscle definition to your midsection the best (read: fastest) way to get abs is via weighted abs workout. Performing exercises with a load that’s heavy enough to make you struggle by the last couple of reps is the way to go. (You can use dumbbells or kettlebells interchangeably.) The extra pounds make your entire system work that much harder, and that’s especially true of the muscles in your middle, because that’s your center of gravity. So, when you pick up a weight and lift it overhead, for example, or move it from the floor toward the ceiling, all of that coordination comes from your core engaging and supporting your other muscles as they move.
Whether your goal is a six-pack or just a little more definition around your midsection, compound lifts like squats, overhead presses and deadlifts will help get you there, and they’ll build strength all over your body at the same time. That said, there’s also room for more focused abs work too, especially if you have designs on achieving a cover model-style six-pack.
The four-move circuits below provide both isolation exercises and compound moves, and the three options target different areas of your abs to ensure you’re hitting them from every angle. The first workout concentrates on your upper abs, the second focuses on the lower abs, and the final routine works the often neglected side abs – or obliques – along with your deeper core muscles.
Abs Workout Using Weights That You Can Do At Home
Squat to Overhead Press With Rotation
How to: Start standing, feet hip-distance apart, toes pointed out slightly. Dumbbells should be in either hand and resting lightly on shoulders. Sit back into a squat until thighs are parallel with the ground. Drive up through heels to standing while raising right arm toward ceiling, turning torso toward the left, and lifting right heel to pivot on it. Come back to center as you sit into the squat, then stand while raising left warm toward ceiling, turning torso toward the right, and lifting left heel to pivot on it. That’s one rep.
The V-sit an effective way to target the rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and hip flexors while improving core and trunk balance. You are not alone if you are unable to do more than 10 to 12 of the V-sit abs workout before you reach failure. Feeling the burn means the exercise is working.
Building your core strength, balance, and coordination can help you maintain good posture, catch yourself to avoid falls, and perform better at a variety of physical activities
How to do them
Lie on the floor while holding the dumbbell above your head. Bring your arms and feet up at the same time so that your body forms a V-shape. Lower yourself carefully back down and repeat.
Why you should be doing them
This exercise is a great way to target both your upper and lower abs all at the same time. The leg raise part works your lower abs. And the overhead with dumbbell lift challenges your upper core.
If you want to work on your six-pack then you need to be incorporating crunches into your workouts. Crunches target your abs and train them to work in a coordinated manner. Other exercises, like push ups, side planks and glute bridges also help to train your abs as well, but crunches laser focus in on them. Another benefit is more core strength.
Lie on your back, holding a dumbbell or weight plate across your chest in both hands. Raise your torso, then lower it, maintaining tension in your uppers abs throughout.
The stability ball ab rollout targets the muscles of your core—specifically the rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae (lower back). During the contraction (pulling ball back to body) phase of the movement, the stability ball ab rollout also works the shoulders and upper back muscles.
Out of all the rollout variations, this one is a favorite. It taxes your abs quite a bit, and requires your core to be pretty strong without engaging your lower back. Try keeping your feet up—set your weight on your knees—so you don’t cheat by pulling with your legs.
Dumbbell Side Bend
Even performing side bends while holding a single dumbbell on one side of the body isn’t very effective at targeting the lateral core because of the angle of force involved. There’s just not much resistance. The dumbbell is very close to your body, giving you a mechanical advantage over the weight. You’d have to hold a very heavy weight, which may exceed your grip strength, to have a reasonable training effect.
One of the few abs workout that requires equipment, the Dumbbell Side Bend will target those external obliques, providing greater definition in those outer ab sections. To complete an accurate Dumbbell Side Bend;
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inwards towards the torso.
- Keeping your back straight, engage your core, then slowly bend to the side as far as possible—but only at the waist.
- Hold at the bottom tensing your ab muscles
- Return to starting position.
Med Ball Slam
To do a medicine ball slam, a lifter cleans the ball from the floor to overhead. Then the lifter practically performs an explosive vertical jump into a violent yet controlled slam, bringing his or her arms all the way up and then down toward the floor. In the process, the hips are extending forward and then hinging backward.
Don’t be mistaken; the medicine ball slam is a full-body exercise that recruits your core, shoulders, lats, and hips. These muscles work together to extend your body to load the ball and flex it to slam it. Repetitiously slamming a ball over and over is taxing on the muscles and your cardiovascular system. Do a few hard rounds of medicine ball slams each week, and better conditioning is all but guaranteed.
How to do it: Stand tall with a medicine ball in both hands. Roll onto your toes as you draw the ball up overhead. Using your core—not your arms—hinge at the hips and crunch down to slam the ball to the ground in a squatting motion. Catch the ball and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.
Why: Short explosive bursts are one of the best ways to train the abdominal region. This move combines both strength and cardio.
Low to High Woodchop
The woodchop is a fantastic functional core exercise. Your abs and obliques are working overtime as you twist and lift, and the overall movement of the exercise means the core strength benefits created will translate to everyday activities and sports.
This dynamic abs workout the obliques and upper abs while keeping your heart rate up. Although this is a full-body move, it doesn’t require a lot of space, so you can do it almost anywhere. Use a five- to 10-pound dumbbell or a medicine ball.
- Squat and twist left to hold the dumbbell on the outside of your left leg. This is your starting position.
- Exhale and lift the weight diagonally across your body, twisting to the right until the dumbbell is above your head. Pivot on your left foot as needed.
- Control the weight back to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Remember: you are moving with force but also control. Don’t give in to the momentum of swinging the weight around.
How to: Start standing with feet hip-width apart holding the handle of a kettlebell with both hands in front of face, elbows bent and wide at sides. Keeping both elbows bent, and the rest of body still, slowly circle the kettlebell around head once, keeping the weight at eye level. That’s one rep.
As well as working your lower abs, the leg raise also improves the strength and flexibility of your hips and lower back, which is a considerable benefit for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting at a desk.
How to do them
Lie on the floor with a dumbbell gripped in-between your ankles. While pressing your back flat into the floor, lift your legs up to around a 45-degree angle, and then lower back down. Repeat.
Why you should be doing them
These are great for working your lower abs as well as your hip flexors. And having to maintain a straight spine is also good for working your lower back.
Hanging Knee Raise Twist
Hanging knee raises are a critical abdominal movement to developing your lower abs and creating that perfect six pack. If you’re still persevering with crunches or the ab curl machine and not getting the results you desire, learning how to do the hanging knee raise and integrating into your next ab workout is a must.
Hanging knee raises are one of the highest muscle fibre activation movements you can execute for increased abdominal development, core strengthening and sporting performance.
How to: Start in a dead hang with your legs straight and knees together. Twist your body and raise your knees to one side, then return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.
Plank and Rotate
Twisting in a plank position fires up the core and challenges your stability.
- Begin in a plank position with your belly button pulled in toward your spin and glutes tight while holding a five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Keep your wrists stiff to protect the joints. Open your feet a little wider than hip-distance.
- Lift your left hand to the ceiling, twisting through your entire torso — keep the motion smooth and controlled. Your pelvis will rotate, but keep it level without letting it rise or drop.
- Bring your left hand back to the floor, and repeat this action on the other side to complete one rep.
Plank Dumbbell Drag
We’re willing to bet that you focus most of your workouts on your abs, arms, and legs. But if that sounds like you, you’re missing out on working all those head-turning muscles on your backside. This plank is here to help. The dumbbell drag works your core, obliques, upper back, lats and your glutes. You can’t get much better than that.
How to: Start in a high plank, shoulders over wrists and feet wider than shoulders. Place a dumbbell (or towel/other weight) outside right wrist. Keeping hips and shoulders level, reach left hand across body to drag the weight outside where left wrist will land. Return to high plank and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.
How to do them
Kneel down on one knee. Holding the dumbbell in both hands, raise it up behind you and back down so that it meets the side of your hip on the supporting leg. Once you have completed your set, repeat on the other side.
Why you should be doing them
Woodchoppers are particularly good for working your obliques. And the added momentum of this movement is a great way to challenge and engage your stabilising muscles.
Seated Russian Twist
The Russian twist is an effective way to build your core and shoulders. It’s a popular abs workout among athletes since it helps with rotational movement, which happens often in sports. It may look like a simple movement, but it requires a lot of strength and support.
This classic move targets your obliques, and adding a dumbbell or medicine ball increases the challenge.
- Holding a dumbbell in both hands, sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your butt. You can also make the move more advanced by lifting your feet three or four inches off the floor, as pictured.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important, and difficult, to keep your back straight.
- Pull your navel to your spine, and twist slowly to the left, bringing the weight to your left side. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center, and rotate to the right. This completes one rep.
The Half kneeling windmill is a movement that fits everything that we are looking for. It challenges shoulder, hip and trunk stability while pushing hip and thoracic spine to its limits. We can use it to improve stability, mobility, or simply repattern and retrain neurological patterns as part of their corrective exercise regimen. If you aren’t using the 1/2 kneeling windmill, you better start NOW!
How to: Start by kneeling on your left knee, and bring your right foot to the side of your body, with foot firmly on the ground and toes pointed to the right. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand. Rack the kettlebell at your chest, then lift it overhead, keeping your eyes on the weight. Slowly lower your body down until your left hand reaches the ground. Then continue lowering until your elbow and forearm reach the ground. Reverse the movement and return to start. That’s one rep.
Side Planks With Hip Lift
Every plank variation can help you strengthen your core, which creates better stability and decreases your chance of injury. Side planks have the added element of maintaining stability in an unstable position. And side plank hip lifts create even more of a challenge: it creates tension and stability, now let’s see you maintain that while you move.
How to do them
While in a side plank position, hold the dumbbell close to your hip. Lower your hips towards the ground (without making contact) and then push them back up. Make sure you use your core to perform this movement and not your legs. Once you have completed the set, repeat on the other side.
Why you should be doing them
This is a controlled way to work the sides of your abs as well as your lower back. It’s also extremely challenging making it perfect for building strength.
Dumbbell Crossover Punch
The ab-toning benefits of a full-core abs workout may have enticed you to add them to your workout routine, but having a strong core can do more than enhance your physique—it also benefits your overall physical health and strength.
Adding weights to the classic sit-up brings a whole new level of strengthening to your workout.
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, about two feet from your butt. Hold five- to eight-pound dumbbells in both hands at your chest with your elbows on the floor.
- Keeping your hands at your chest, roll up to a sitting position. Twist your ribs to the left as you “punch” your right hand to the outside of the left knee.
- Bring the right hand back to your chest as you untwist, bringing your torso back to the center, and roll down to the ground.
- Repeat the sit-up, twisting to the right side and “punching” your left hand to complete one rep.
Although renegade rows require a lot of work from your core stabilising muscles, they still have significant benefits for building other muscles in your upper body. This abs workout will especially work your lats, the large muscles in your back which help with shoulder stability and shoulder and arm movements.
By working on your upper body strength with the renegade row, you’ll see improvements in other exercises that involve a lot of the same muscles. For that reason, the renegade row can work great as an assistance exercise for other movements that isolate specific muscles or areas of your body.
How to: Start in plank position, holding dumbbells in either hand on the ground. Pull right elbow toward the ceiling until right wrist is near ribs, then lower it down. Repeat on opposite side. That’s one rep.
Overhead To Squat
Overhead squats are the only exercises I have a visceral, emotional response to, as I know they will not progress overnight. The overhead squat is a great exercise though, as it does more than screen athletes or help with mobility. While the benefits of the exercise were inflated for helping with core or trunk stability, to me it’s one of the best checks and balances movements for an advanced strength and conditioning program. If you want to have awesome movers, do the opposite of what people are attempting and learn from the best. I have spent an enormous amount of time learning from smart coaches who know their craft and this article shares a plethora of science and practice
How to do them
Lie down on the floor with your knees up and your hands up above your head. With the dumbbell in both hands, bring the weight over your head and use the momentum to pull yourself up into a squat position. Roll carefully back down and repeat.
Why you should be doing them
This is a really challenging exercise that tests your balance and works the whole of your core. Each movement needs all your energy and focus making it ideal for mixing up your ab training.
V-Sit With Single-Arm Chest Fly
The V-sit an effective way to target the rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and hip flexors while improving core and trunk balance. You are not alone if you are unable to do more than 10 to 12 of the V-sit ab exercise before you reach failure. Feeling the burn means the exercise is working.
In this variation, the abs work extra hard to maintain stability as you pull the dumbbell away from your center.
- Begin sitting with your heels planted about two feet from your butt, holding the weights at chest level with a slight bend in your elbows. Lean back a few inches, pulling your abs toward your spine.
- With your left arm remaining still, open your right arm to the side, making sure the weight doesn’t go beyond your shoulder.
- Bring your right arm back to center to complete one rep.
- Switch sides, and do the same number of reps on each side.
The Turkish Get-Up is a holistic, comprehensive exercise that promotes strength, balance, stability, and mobility. Traditionally performed with a kettlebell, it is believed to have originated when wrestlers, in what is now modern-day Turkey, invented the exercise to train for competition centuries ago.
How to: Start lying face up with left leg straight on mat, right leg bent, foot flat on floor, left arm out at side on floor at 45-degree angle, and right arm holding kettlebell above shoulder, tricep on floor, and elbow at 45-degree angle from body. Raise the weight up above chest, keeping gaze on it, until arm is straight but not locked at the elbow. Push into left forearm to sit up. Rise onto left palm, lift hips off floor, and slide left leg behind body until kneeling on left knee with shin parallel to top of mat. Sweep left foot back behind body to come into kneeling lunge with both legs bent at 90 degrees. Push through your feet to stand bringing feet together under hips. Reverse entire movement to return to start. That’s one rep.
- Hold one dumbbell at chest height, and run in place while lifting your knees high to the level of your waist.
- Engage your abs as the knee comes up, continuing to run in place.
Overhead Cossack Squat
The cossack squat targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip adductors while also working your core, including your abdominals and lower back.
Your hip, knee, and ankle joints and connective tissues will also be targeted.
This move can be challenging for beginners, but it’s definitely worth integrating into your routine.
How to: Begin by standing up straight, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and a kettlebell in each hand. Rack the kettlebells in front of your chest, and then raise your right arm straight into the air, bicep by your ear. Lift your left foot and take a large step to the left, then sit your hips back and lower down until your thighs are as parallel to the ground as possible. Straighten your left leg and rise back up. That’s one rep.
Rotational Ball Slam With a Lunge
- Start in a lunge with your right leg forward. Be sure to keep your knee over your ankle, maintaining a 90-degree angle at the knee.
- With the ball on the left side of your body, raise it up overhead, rotate your arms to the right, and slam the ball down on the outside of your right foot.
- This counts as one rep. Do the same amount of reps on the other side.
The dumbbell swing combines momentum and muscle control to achieve the desired results. Though this abs workout exercise involves swinging and momentum, you need to control all of the movements to achieve effective results. When performing a dumbbell swing, do not round your back at any time. Your feet should stay planted on the ground and your core should remain tight. Keep your chin parallel with the floor.
How to: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding one heavy dumbbell like a goblet. Hinge from the hips and bend knees while reaching the dumbbell back and between legs, keeping back flat and core engaged. Thrust hips forward to swing the dumbbell to about shoulder height and then down again to start. That’s one rep.