Forget planks — this dumbbell workout tones and strengthens core muscle in just 15 minutes

a woman tensing her core muscles
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Floor-based ab routines consisting of the standard sit-ups, planks and crunches have had their day. There is no denying that these moves are included in the best core workouts for good reason, they offer a darn good ab blast, but it's good to spice things up with core training. To give you some inspiration, we've found a spicy dumbbell core workout that only takes 15 minutes to complete.

Working dumbbells into some of the exercises in this routine from trainer Britany Williams, will add resistance to your training, intensifying the demand on your core and making things a lot more versatile so you work multiple muscles and don't get bored halfway through. 

When choosing a dumbbell for core workouts, opt for a weight that challenges you but still allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercises. It should feel heavy enough to provide resistance without causing strain or compromising your form.

We recommend investing in a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells for home workouts as they are space-efficient and allow you to quickly change the weight mid-workout.

Ready to check out the routine? Keep reading.

What is the 15-minute dumbbell core workout?

This routine is designed to train multiple muscles in the core, targeting not just the superficial six-pack muscles, but also the deeper layers that contribute to overall stability and strength. 

To complete this workout, you will need to perform each exercise for 30 seconds (on each side of the body where this applies) and repeat the full routine two times over, allowing yourself 30-60 seconds rest between rounds.  

As tempting as it will feel to pack it in after the first round, completing both rounds of the workout is crucial because the second round pushes your muscles beyond their initial fatigue, promoting greater endurance and strength gains. 

Here's a breakdown of the routine and demonstrations to follow along with.

  1. Rotational Squat Press
  2. Single Leg Hinge Pass Through
  3. Halo + Press and Rotate
  4. Lying Leg Switch + Extend (no dumbbell)
  5. Lunge Knee Drive + Raise
  6. Hovered Donkey Kicks (no dumbbell)
  7. Lunge to Single Leg RDL (no dumbbell)
  8. Single Leg Bridge and Pullover
  9. Heel Tap to Extension

Each exercise is designed to maximize time under tension, which is essential for muscle growth and endurance. By performing each exercise for 30 seconds, you ensure that your muscles are being sufficiently challenged to stimulate strength and definition. 

To make sure your efforts are paying off, make sure to maintain proper form and control during each movement as best as you can. If you're struggling with this, drop the dumbbell and just focus on technique until you're strong enough to add in the weight.

This workout also incorporates compound exercises such as rotational exercises and single-leg actions which enhances the workout's effectiveness. These exercises are compound moves because they involve multiple joints and muscle groups working together simultaneously.

For example, a rotational exercise like the Rotational Squat Press engages not only the core but also the legs, glutes, shoulders, and arms as you squat and press while rotating your torso. Similarly, single-leg actions challenge the legs, glutes, and core in one move, requiring the body to stabilize itself through a range of motion. This coordinated effort engages your deeper core muscles alongside the more superficial ones, such as the abs.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells: was $549 now $429 @ Amazon
Price check: $429 @ Best Buy | $680 @ Walmart

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells: was $549 now $429 @ Amazon
The SelectTech 552 are among the best adjustable dumbbells for working out at home. They can be adjusted from 5 to 52.5 pounds by simply rotating the dials on each dumbbell. We found they're easy to adjust between sets, have a comfortable rubberized grip, and come with some handy storage trays, complete with a safety strap.
Price check: $429 @ Best Buy | $680 @ Walmart

Once you've recovered from this workout you'll be looking to keep up the gains. If so, it’s important to progressively overload your muscles by increasing the intensity, or duration of your exercises. 

Additionally, you'll want to complement your core exercises with a mix of full-body strength training, cardio, and flexibility work to benefit your overall fitness and mobility.

More from Tom's Guide

Back to Dumbbells
Any Price
Showing 3 of 3 deals
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.