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This ab workout with weights has 1.3 million views — here’s what happened when I tried it

A screenshot from the Caroline Girvan abs workout with weights
(Image credit: Caroline Girvan)

I don’t know about you, but I’m bored of working out in my living room. I want the bright lights, wall-to-wall mirrors and endless dumbbells the gym has on offer. But the second I step back into the gym, I end up feeling a little lost. In my quest to find new workouts to try now that I have more equipment on offer, I turned to YouTube for inspiration and found Caroline Girvan and her 15-minute dumbbell abs workout video. As of publishing, it has amassed over 1.3 million views. I decided to give it a try. 

Of course, you don’t have to do this in the gym. The only equipment you really need is a dumbbell (if you’re looking for some to add to your home gym set up, we’ve hand-picked the best adjustable dumbbells here) and an exercise mat (yep, we’ve found the best yoga mats too). I selected a 5kg dumbbell in the gym, but you should go for a weight that feels challenging enough to give you a good workout, but not too heavy as to cause injury. 

The workout itself is easy to follow along with, and Girvan doesn’t give you any verbal instructions, so you could always watch on mute and play your own podcast or playlist. You move through 15 different exercises during the workout, doing each for 50 seconds, with a 10-second rest between each. I’ll warn you now, it’s a challenging workout — my core was on fire for a good few hours after leaving the gym. Read on to find out more. 

What is the Caroline Girvan 15 minute dumbbell abs workout? 

If you prefer to have a read of the workout before you get going, here’s what to expect. If you’re a beginner, Girvan also has some suggestions for modifications in her workout description on YouTube.

50 seconds straight arm crunch: Lying flat on your back, with your arms and legs outstretched, clutch the dumbbell in your hands behind your head. Engaging your core and keeping your arms outstretched, crunch your head, neck and torso up. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds toe reach crunch: With your lower back pressed into the floor and your arms and legs in tabletop position, hold the dumbbell in your outstretched arms, and crunch your torso up, as if you’re trying to touch the dumbbell to your toes. 

10 seconds rest

50 seconds crunch pulses: Lying on your back with your feet pressed into the floor, engage your core and crunch upwards, pulsing for a few times at the top with the dumbbell in your hands. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds butterfly crunch: The same as before, but this time, put the soles of your feet together, with your knees bent out to the side like a frog. As you crunch up, lower the dumbbell down between your knees. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds side reach crunch on the left: With your knees bent and your back flat against the floor, keep your arms straight with a dumbbell in your hands. Crunch upwards, lifting your torso, head, and neck off the floor, and at the same time, drop the dumbbell down to the floor on the left. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds side reach crunch on the right: With your knees bent and your back flat against the floor, keep your arms straight with a dumbbell in your hands. Crunch upwards, lifting your torso, head, and neck off the floor, and at the same time, drop the dumbbell down to the floor on the right. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds tuck to hollow: For this exercise, go from a tuck position, with your knees folded up to your chest and your arms over your calves, to a hollow hold position, with your back pressed into the floor and your arms and legs outstretched. 

10 seconds rest  

50 seconds tuck to v sit: From a tuck position, with your knees tucked up to your chest, your elbows bent and the dumbbell in front of your chest, stretch your legs out and your arms up to a v sit. 

10 seconds rest: 

50 seconds leg wipers over dumbbell: I warn you, this one is hard! With your bodyweight leaning on your elbows, your lower back on the floor, and a dumbbell stood upwards between your legs, extend your legs and drop them down a few inches off the ground on the left, then engage your core and lift your legs up and over the dumbbell, before dropping down to the right. Keep repeating. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds pass through: Another tricky one. From a v sit position, extend one leg, and pass the dumbbell underneath the bent leg, then swap and repeat on the other side. 

10 seconds rest

50 seconds slow sit up: With your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, extend your arms behind your head with a dumbbell between your hands. Perform a slow sit up, keeping the entire movement slow and controlled. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds sit up to alt woodchopper: For this exercise, perform a sit-up with your legs out straight in front of you. Once you reach the top of your sit-up, woodchopper the dumbbell down to the side of you. On the next sit-up, woodchopper to the opposite side. Keep repeating, alternating between sides. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds opposite hand to foot reach left: For this exercise, start with your legs outstretched and your lower back pressed into the floor. Raise your left leg, and reach your right arm holding the dumbbell up to touch your left foot. Lower your arm and leg back to the starting position and repeat. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds opposite hand to foot reach right: Perform the same exercise, but on the opposite side. 

10 seconds rest 

50 seconds reverse crunch to hollow: We’re finally at the last exercise, and it’s another one that burns. Perform a reverse crunch, engaging your core and lifting your hips off the ground. Then drop your hips down and extend your arms and legs out away from the body. 

I tried the Caroline Girvan 15 minute dumbbell abs workout — here’s what happened

One thing I love about YouTube workouts is engaging with new instructors, and Girvan really is brilliant. She’s a perfectionist — from her excellent form to the fact she matches her gym kit to the title cards, her videos are expertly produced and a pleasure to follow along with. Like I mentioned above, there’s no verbal instruction during the workout, which I liked, as I’m currently obsessed with a true-crime podcast and I was able to continue listening while in the gym. 

I expected the addition of a dumbbell to intensify the ab workout, and it really did. I’ve mentioned before in my workout reviews that I suffer from sciatica after a horse-riding accident in my teens, and I often have to be careful during ab workouts not to put too much pressure on my spine. I soon realized that my ego had gotten the better of me and that for some of the exercises I needed to swap to a lighter dumbbell to ensure I was getting my form right. Heavier weights don’t always equal faster gains. 

I often opt for workouts that elevate my heart rate, and burn more calories, but this one definitely didn’t fall into that category. During a lot of the exercises, the goal was to move slowly and keep the exercise controlled, engaging the core for the full 50 seconds. It was a challenge but by the end of the 15 minutes, I had that deep inner shake that tells me I’ve worked deep into my core muscles. It’s definitely one I’ll do again, once my core has forgiven me. 

If you’re looking for ab workouts to add to your routine, I’ve been trying some of the most popular workouts on YouTube to help you find the ones that’ll sculpt out your dream core. Check out what happened when I tried the Lily Sabri 7-day ab challenge, the Bretman Rock ab-solutely not workout and the Pamela Reif six-pack abs workout

Jane McGuire
Jane McGuire

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 four 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.