Forget sit-ups — you only need a pair of dumbbells and 7 exercises to sculpt your abs

a photo of a woman with strong abs
(Image credit: Getty Images/Ivan Pantic)

One common misconception in the fitness world is that endless hours of sit-ups and planks must be done in order to build a strong and defined core. But who has time for that? Not us. 

The good news is, you don't need an abundance of time to devote to training your midsection but building genuine strength and achieving definition in your core requires strategic exercises that will target key muscles. Online fitness trainer Britany Williams, has created a seven-exercise workout focusing specifically on the lower abs and obliques. Working on these muscles will help you achieve a balanced and sculpted core and all you need to complete Williams' workout is a chair and a pair of dumbbells.

It's important to note that no two bodies are the same and not everyone's abs are as visible as others no matter how many sit-ups or crunches you do a day. This can be down to various factors such as genetics and varying body fat percentages. Simply engaging in core workouts won't magically make abs appear. To enhance visibility, a combination of cardio and strength training is key. Additionally, for those carrying excess fat, reducing overall body fat percentage will also impact your results.

With that being said, the moves below will help in developing strength and definition and compliment any fitness routine. Read on to follow along...

What is the workout?

Prepare yourself for an intense session as you commit to completing 12 repetitions of each exercise, repeating the entire circuit four times over. This routine can easily be done at the gym or if you prefer a home workout, we recommend getting your hands on a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells

This style of weight is ideal for home workouts like this core-based one as they allow for convenient weight adjustments, giving you the chance to start with lighter weights and gradually increase resistance for continued strength and muscle gains. You can read more on progressive overload here.

Knee Tuck Up and Over: 12 reps

Start by sitting on the floor and setting up a dumbbell so it is standing up vertically. Extend both legs out to the side of the dumbbell before tucking them into your chest and then extending again but this time lift both feet over the top of the dumbbell and do the same sequence on the other side of the dumbbell before repeating. Do this for 12 reps.

Dead Bug to Jackknife: 12 reps

Lie on your back with dumbbells in hand, arms extended and legs lifted. Lower one leg and the opposite arm toward the floor, then return to the starting position. Progress to a Jackknife by lifting your upper body and legs simultaneously, engaging both lower abs and obliques. Repeat 12 times.

Decline Mountain Climber: 12 reps

Assume a plank position with your feet elevated on a bench or chair is you are trying this at home. Alternate driving your knees towards your chest, making sure to engage your lower abs and obliques throughout the movement. Maintain a controlled pace to maximize the burn.

Kneeling Wood Chop: 12 reps

In the Kneeling Wood Chop, start on one knee with a dumbbell in both hands. Rotate your torso diagonally, bringing the dumbbell down to the outside of your hip. Engage your core as you lift the weight diagonally across your body, finishing above the opposite shoulder. Alternate sides for 12 reps each.

Lat Pullover Crunch: 12 reps

Lie on your back, holding a dumbbell with both hands above your chest. Begin by lowering the dumbbell backward over your head while keeping a slight bend in your elbows, feeling the stretch in your lats. Next, transition into a crunch by lifting your upper body toward your knees, engaging your lower abs. Reverse the motion by lowering the dumbbell and returning to the starting position. Aim for 12 reps and lower the weight if it feels to challenging.

Russian Twist: 12 reps

Sit on the floor, knees bent, holding a dumbbell. Lean back slightly, rotating your torso to touch the dumbbell to the floor on each side. Repeat for 12 reps.

Weighted March: 12 reps

Stand up with your hands dangling by your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lift one leg, engaging the lower abs, and alternately march your legs while keeping your core stable. Aim for 12 reps.

a photo of a woman performing a Russian Twist

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What are the benefits of this workout?

This dynamic dumbbell workout is a powerhouse for building stronger and more defined lower abs and obliques. By consistently engaging in these exercises with the recommended repetitions and sets, you'll be on your merry way to enhanced muscle definition in the targeted areas. 

The lower abs, situated in the region below the navel, and the obliques, running along the sides of your torso, play a crucial role in stabilizing the core and facilitating various movements. Strengthening these areas not only contributes to a sculpted appearance but also enhances overall core functionality, supporting your body in everyday activities.

The addition of dumbbells to this workout helps engage additional muscle fibers, promoting a more comprehensive workout. This engagement not only targets the primary muscles but also recruits stabilizing muscles, contributing to overall muscle development and stability.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.


Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.


She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.