Forget sit-ups — this abs shredder workout sculpts your core in 5 exercises with just 1 dumbbell

a photo of a man with strong ab muscles holding a dumbbell
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — you don’t need to spend hours in the gym to work your abs. If you’re looking for a quick abs blast, all you have to do is grab one dumbbell (here are the best adjustable dumbbells if you’re still working out from home) and try these five different exercises. 


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The workout, put together by personal trainer Matt Fox, who specializes in sharing home workouts on his Instagram , can be done from just about anywhere. If you don’t have a dumbbell, we’ve also hand-picked the best kettlebells on the market here. Read on to find out more. 

As always, if you’re new to workouts, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury or pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to check with a medical professional before adding new exercises to your routine. If you’re in any doubt, ask a personal trainer to take a look at your form before adding weights to the workout. Exercising with bad form puts you at risk of injury. 

Forget sit-ups — this abs shredder workout sculpts your core in 5 exercises 

Ready to get started? You’ll do four sets of 15-20 reps of each of the five exercises. You can either do the exercises in a circuit format, completing your reps and then moving on to the next exercise, then taking a short break between sets, or by completing four sets of each exercise before moving on to the next one. 

Remember, when it comes to selecting the right weight for your workouts, you should pick one that is challenging, but still allows you to complete all your reps with good form. If you find you’re arching your back, or hunching your shoulders to finish your reps, lower your weight. 

Here are the exercises involved, and how to do them: 

V-sit press outs

For this exercise, get into a V-sit position. To do this, start by sitting on your exercise mat, and lean your torso backward until you feel your abs engage. Either leave your heels pressed into your exercise mat or hover your feet to up the ante. 

Holding a dumbbell with both hands, extend your arms and press the dumbbell out away from your chest, then bring it back towards your body. Complete 15-20 press outs while holding the V-sit. 

Commando plank to high plank reach

For this exercise, you’ll need to put the dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your body and start in a high plank position. First, complete a commando plank, bending one elbow, and then the other, to lower down into a plank on your forearms, engaging your core. Then reverse the movement, pressing into the floor with one hand, then the other. 

Once you’re back in a high plank, reach one arm to tap the top of the dumbbell, then the other. Remember to keep your core engaged throughout this exercise, thinking about sucking your belly button into your spine. 

Here’s more on how to do a commando plank, the benefits, and the variations to try.  

Leg lift overs

Start this exercise sitting on a mat with your legs outstretched and a dumbbell in between your legs. Extend your legs and bring them together to one side of your dumbbell, then lean your torso back, with your hands on either side of your hips and your fingers pointing towards your toes. 

Engage your core and lift both legs up and over the dumbbell, lowering them to the opposite side of the weight, then reverse the movement. Keep lifting and lowering your legs. 

Half-kneeling chainsaw pulls

For this exercise, start by kneeling on one knee, keeping the foot of the other leg pressed into the floor. Hold a dumbbell with both hands and raise it above your head, then complete a woodchop, bringing it down towards the hip of your kneeling leg, then taking it back up above your head on the opposite side. Rotate your torso as you lower the weight to your side. Switch the leg you are kneeling on each set. 

Standing teapot

Finally, for this exercise, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, with a dumbbell in one hand. Lower the dumbbell down your leg towards your knee. Pause here, then slowly return to your starting position. Either switch sides halfway through, or after each set, to ensure you’ve completed the same number of reps on each side. 

What are the benefits? 

a photo of a woman doing an abs workout with a dumbbell

(Image credit: Getty Images/jeffbergen)

There are a number of benefits to working on your core strength. Strong abdominal muscles can protect your spine from injury, help you walk and sit with better posture, improve athletic performance, and help reduce lower back pain. 

If visible ‘six-pack’ muscles are your goal, however, you’ll need to focus on your body fat percentage, not endless ab workouts alone. Your diet, stress levels, hormones, and sleep all factor into your body fat percentage — here’s what you need to know, and how to calculate your body fat percentage.

Compared to bodyweight exercises like push-ups, there are several benefits to adding weights to your workouts. Eventually, moving our body’s weight alone stops being challenging. 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, here’s some more workouts to bookmark: 

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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.