Forget planks — this ab workout uses 1 dumbbell and 5 exercises to torch your core

a photo of a woman doing an abs workout with a dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty Images/jeffbergen)

Looking for an ab workout that’ll blast your core using minimal equipment? We’ve found it. This workout, created by fitness trainer Shaina Fata only uses one dumbbell and five different exercises to target all of the muscles in your mid-section. Ready to get that deep shake that comes from a good ab workout? Grab a dumbbell and an exercise mat, and read on to find out more. 

As a reminder, a strong core is far more than just an aesthetic goal. Strong abs will help you with day-to-day activities like carrying shopping, or lifting something down from a shelf. They also work to stabilize your body, protect your spine, and help you run and walk with better posture. If building visible abs is your goal, you’ll need to focus on your overall body fat percentage, as well as ab workouts. Here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters. 

If you’re new to exercise, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury or pregnancy, this might not be the best workout for you and your body. It’s always a good idea to chat with a personal trainer to ensure you’re moving with good form, to avoid putting yourself at risk of injury. 

What is the workout? 

Ready to get started? All you’ll need for this workout is one dumbbell and an exercise mat. If you’re still working out from home, we’ve hand-picked all of the best adjustable dumbbells on the market to train with here. 

You’ll do three rounds of the circuit in total but should complete all the reps of each of the five exercises before moving on to the next circuit. If you need to, take a few seconds break in between each circuit to re-set. As with all ab exercises, it’s important to maintain good form throughout the workout, keeping your lower back pressed into your exercise mat to avoid any arching. If at any point you feel that the weight is compromising your form, place it to one side and continue without it. 

Scissor leg dumbbell taps: 14 reps

To do this exercise, start lying on your back, with your lower back pressed into your exercise mat. Extend your legs away from your body, and holding a dumbbell with both hands, extend your arms out behind your head. Raise your arms, leg, head, and neck from the mat, engaging your core, thinking about sucking your belly button in towards your spine. From here, raise one leg towards the ceiling, and use your abs to crunch the dumbbell up towards your foot. Lower back to your starting position, and repeat on the other side. Keep alternating sides for 14 reps. It doesn’t matter if the dumbbell doesn’t quite reach your foot. 

Dumbbell oblique singles: 10 per side

Start by lying on your exercise mat, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg out away from your body, and hold the dumbbell in the opposite hand. Keeping the hand not holding the dumbbell pressed into the mat, and the foot of your bent knee pressed into the floor, engage your core and lift your leg up towards the ceiling, lifting the dumbbell towards your foot at the same time. Complete all your reps on one side before switching to the other. 

Dumbbell hollow body hold: 45 seconds

For this exercise, get into the same position as you did in the first exercise, with your arms and legs extended on the mat, and a dumbbell held between your hands. Lift your arms, legs, head, and neck a few inches off the floor and hold in this position for 45 seconds. Don’t let your arms and legs drop toward the floor. If this is too much pressure on your neck, lower your head to the mat. 

Boat rainbow dumbbell lifts: 12 reps

For this exercise, get into a boat hold, or V-sit — to do this, start by sitting on your exercise mat and leaning your torso back, then lifting your legs a few inches off the floor. You should be able to feel your abs working to hold you here. Holding the dumbbell with both hands, lower it towards the floor on one side of your body, then lift it above your head and lower it to the opposite side. Keep alternating sides for 12 reps. 

Dumbbell tucks: 10 reps

For this exercise, start by lying on your back with your arms out to the side of your body, and your palms pressed into the floor. Place the dumbbell between your feet, with your knees bent. Engage your core and perform a reverse crunch, lifting the dumbbell off the floor as you do so. Lower back down to your starting position slowly, and with control. 

What are the benefits? 

A good abdominal workout will target all of the muscles in your midsection — the obliques, which run along the side of your stomach, the deep abs (also known as the transverse abdominis) and the external abs or ‘six-pack’ muscles (the rectus abdominis). With this workout, you’re hitting all of the muscle groups in your midsection, helping to build a strong core. 

You’re also adding weight to the workout, which can help challenge the body in new ways. Eventually, we’ll get used to the challenge of lifting our own bodyweight during workouts. In order to keep getting stronger, we need to add dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or another weight source to produce the same levels of exertion. This is what’s known in exercise science as the Overload Principle. 

Looking for more ab workout inspiration? You’ve come to the right place, check out some more ab workouts worth trying below. 

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Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.