Forget sit-ups — this ab workout uses 1 dumbbell and 9 exercises to sculpt your core

a photo of a woman with strong abs holding dumbbells
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for a weighted ab workout to really help you target the muscles in your midsection, look no further — we’ve found 9 exercises that’ll leave your core burning. There are a number of 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. A strong core also has a number of benefits — it can help protect your back from injury, help you move with better posture, and increase your stability and balance. 

As its name suggests, for this weighted ab workout you’ll need a weight plate, one of the best adjustable dumbbells, or a kettlebell. The workout, put together by personal trainer Whitney Houlin, involves nine different exercises. “Want to level up your core work? Add some weight”, she writes in her Instagram post. Read on to see all nine exercises, and how to give this one a go. 

As a reminder, if you’re new to exercise, or you’re returning to ab workouts following an injury or pregnancy, it’s a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer before adding weight to the move. Some of the exercises in this workout, like windshield wipers, are more advanced ab exercises, so this might not be one for complete beginners. 

What is the workout? 

Houlin doesn’t offer rep suggestions for the workout, but we’d advise doing each exercise for 45 seconds, with a 15 second rest before moving on to the next. If this is too difficult, work for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds. This will give you a core-blasting workout, that takes less than 10-minutes to complete. Grab a weight plate or a dumbbell, and try these: 

Weighted lean back

Kind of like a V-sit, this exercise helps you work your transverse abdominal muscles — the deepest layer of your mid-section. To do the exercise, start by sitting on your seat bones, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a weight against your chest and lean your torso back, engaging your core, and twist to one side. Then bring yourself back to a seated position, and repeat on the opposite side. Keep alternating sides throughout. 

Single knee pullover

For this exercise, start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your arms straight to the ceiling, holding a weight plate with both hands. Engage your core, and lower the weight behind your head, slowly and with control. Lift one knee, keeping the bend in your leg, and raise it towards your torso. As you do so, bring the weight up and over your leg, crunching from your core. Lower back down to the ground, and crunch on the opposite side. Keep alternating legs.  

Windshield wiper knees

Start by lying on your back, keeping your lower back pressed into the floor and your arms and legs in tabletop position, with a weight held in both hands. Keeping your knees bent and stacked on top of one another, lower both legs to one side, moving from your core. At the same time, lower the weight plate to the opposite side, keeping your arms outstretched. Move back to your starting position, and switch sides.

Toe reach

Start by lying on your back with your legs raised to the ceiling, holding a weight with two hands and your arms outstretched. Crunching from your core, raise the weight up towards your toes, and then lower your torso back to the ground. Keep crunching, making sure the movement comes from your core, not your shoulders.  

Double crunch

Start lying on your back, with a weight against your chest, your knees bent, and your feet pressed into the floor. Crunch your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat, at the same time, lift both your knees off the ground towards your chest. Pause, then return to your starting position.  

Roll up

For this exercise, start by lying on your back with a weight in both hands outstretched behind your head and your legs outstretched from your body. Slowly complete a roll-up, lifting your arms to the ceiling, then using your core to raise your torso from the mat so that you are in a seated position, before slowly rolling back to your starting position. 

Side plank

For this exercise, get into a side plank position, with your bodyweight on your elbow and a weight resting on your top hip. Engage your core and lower your hips down to the ground, then raise them back to your starting position. Ensure that your hips stay stacked, and that you’re not rolling forwards in this exercise. Switch sides halfway through.

Alternating toe taps

Starting with your legs in tabletop position, with a 90-degree bend in your knee, hold the weight with both hands and lower it behind your head, with your arms outstretched. Raise your arms to the ceiling and crunch your head, neck and shoulders off the mat, at the same time, dropping one heel to the floor. Raise back to your starting position, and keep switching legs.  

Bicycle pushes

Starting in table top position, raise your head and neck off the mat. Slowly, extend one leg out away from your body, at the same time, twisting your torso and extending the weight to the opposite side. Keep switching sides throughout. If this is too difficult, lower your head down to the mat.  

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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.