Forget planks — this weighted ab workout targets your core in 4 exercises

a photo of a woman with strong ab muscles
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When it comes to working your abs, not all exercises are created equal. If you’re bored of doing sit-ups and planks, and you’re looking for a new way to target your core, we’ve found exactly what you need. This weighted ab workout is created by Body by Simone — a program created by Simone De La Rue which is a fusion of dance, Pilates, and strength training, and has the likes of Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston, and Reese Witherspoon as followers. 

All you’ll need for a workout is a set of lightweight dumbbells — in the caption for the workout, the Body by Simone trainer Grisselle Escotto recommends a 3lb or 5lb set. If you’re still working out from home, you can check out the best adjustable dumbbells to upgrade your home workouts here.

As a reminder, if you’re new to exercise or you’re returning to exercise following an injury or a pregnancy, it’s a good idea to check with a doctor before adding weights, or new exercises to your workout routine. If in any doubt, get a personal trainer to check your form to ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk of an injury. 

What is the workout? 

Ready to get started? Let’s start by taking a look at the workout itself. All you’ll need for this workout is a set of lighter dumbbells and an exercise mat. You’ll do the circuit three times through in total, taking a short break in between circuits if you need. 

As with all ab workouts, it’s important to move slowly and with control, keeping your lower back pressed into your exercise mat throughout the entire workout. If you do find you are arching your back, reduce your range of motion or put the dumbbells to one side, and think about really engaging your abs, sucking your belly button into your spine, as you move. 

Here’s the workout and reps: 

Weighted single-side dead bug: 8 reps on each side

For this exercise, start by lying on your back with your arms and legs in a table top position. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, and raise your head and neck off the floor, supporting your neck with your left hand if you need to. Engage your core and keep your lower back pressed into your exercise mat, slowly extend your right arm and right leg out away from your body, as you would in a dead bug. Pause at the bottom of the movement, before reversing so you’re back in your starting position. Complete eight reps on one side, before switching. 

Weighted dead bug: 8 reps

To do a dead bug, start by lying on your back with arms straight above you, holding a dumbbell in each hand, and your knees in a table top position. For this variation, you’re moving your arms and legs at the same time, rather than a traditional dead bug, where you’d alternate sides. Engage your core, and extend both arms and both legs out away from your body. Pause at the bottom of the movement, before raising both back to your starting position.  

Weighted toe taps: 8 reps

To do weighted toe taps, start with your legs extended to the ceiling, and a dumbbell in each hand. Engage your core, and lift your arms to the ceiling. From here, crunch your arms towards your toes — it doesn’t matter if you don’t manage to touch. Reverse back to your starting position and repeat for eight reps. 

Reverse crunch: 8 reps

To do a reverse crunch, start by lying on your back, with your lower back, head, and neck pressed into the floor. Bend your legs at the knee, press your feet into the mat, and engage your core, thinking about sucking your belly button into your spine. Keep your knees bent, inhale, and raise your legs, hips, and bottom off the mat. Pause at the top of the movement, using your core to keep your hips raised off the mat. Your head and neck should stay imprinted on the mat. As you exhale, lower your hips back to the mat. That’s one rep. Read more about how to do a reverse crunch, and the variations to try here. 

What are the benefits? 

a photo of a woman with strong abdominal muscles

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There are several different benefits to adding weight to your abdominal workouts. If you’re looking to increase muscle mass in your midsection, studies show that weight training is one of the best ways to do so. Remember when it comes to selecting the right weight for your workouts, it should feel challenging, but not impossible by the final few reps. If at any time you feel like the weight is compromising your form, you should put it to one side, and continue using just your bodyweight. 

A strong core also has several benefits — it can help protect your back from injury, help you move with better posture, and increase your stability and balance. If sculpting visible abs is your goal, you’ll need to focus on your overall body fat percentage. How visible your abs are is determined by the layer of fat lying on top of them — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters. 

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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.