This 3-move dumbbell abs workout builds core strength and full-body muscle and only takes 15 minutes

Man holding two dumbbells during workout standing outdoors in nature
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Take one set of dumbbells, three exercises and 15 minutes, and get ready to give your entire body a full workout, including your core muscles. 

When we think about an abs workout, we might automatically go to traditional core exercises like sit-ups, crunches, Russian twists and their variations to drill down on the abs, obliques and those deeper core muscles that help sculpt the dream upper bod. 

But what if we told you that full-body compound exercises heavily recruit your core muscles to help stabilize your torso and drive movement and that you could build a stronger core using them during workouts?

Grab a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, and we'll show you how. 

Bowflex adjustable dumbbells and stand bundle now $837 @ Amazon

Bowflex adjustable dumbbells and stand bundle now $837 @ Amazon
The adjustable Bowflex dumbbells are rated top of the market, offering users 5 to 52.5 pounds of weight that adjust in 2.5-pound increments using an easy dial.

What are the benefits of the three dumbbell exercises?

There’s a time and a place for isolation core exercises that drill down on one specific muscle group, but you can do more for less by getting clever with your programming — prioritizing the “bang for your buck” exercises. 

The workout below works the chest, shoulders, arms, abdominals, hips, glutes and legs in just three moves. Although it’s not the prime target, you’ll activate the lower back and fire up the upper and lower body together as a unit. 

The short session gets the heart rate ramping up and when used as part of a regular and consistent strength and conditioning program, helps build endurance and stamina and increase muscle strength over time.

What is the three-move dumbbell workout?

  • Program: 20-15-10-5
  • Duration: 15-minute time cap
  • Devil press
  • Squat clean
  • V-sit

Set a 15-minute timer and try to complete the rep ranges given for each exercise within the time limit as fast as possible. Start with 20 reps of the devil press, move straight to the same number of reps for the squat clean, then the V-sit. Repeat for 15 reps, 10 and 5. 

Rest when you need it, but try to complete the first two rounds (20 and 15 reps) in no more than two sets per exercise and aim to complete the last two rounds (10 and 5 reps) unbroken. Use medium to heavy dumbbells at a challenging weight. If you’re cruising, you’re losing. 

Beginners, although this workout is suitable for all fitness levels, we strongly advise speaking with a personal trainer or fitness instructor in your local gym to get familiar with the moves or increase the time cap to give you more space to finish the workout. 

Devil press

The devil called and wants this exercise back. It’s a gift sent directly from hell and gets its name for good reason, so what better way to celebrate it than with 50 reps? 

The move combines a burpee and snatch while utilizing the swing and hip thrust of the kettlebell swing. Unlike the snatch, keep the weights traveling close to the body as you send them upward and press them overhead. 

By bringing a series of moves together, you can target your back, chest, shoulders, arms, core, hips glutes and legs in one go. Here’s how to do the devil press in more detail, plus ways to scale.  

Squat clean

The dumbbell squat clean is a compound exercise that builds full-body strength and combines the clean exercise with a front rack squat. Squat cleans target many more muscle groups than you'd imagine, including your core muscles, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, mid and upper trapezius (back muscles), anterior and lateral deltoids (shoulders) and biceps.  


Learning how to do a V-up means that you can crack one of the most deceiving core exercises around, the V-sit is a great training exercise for those who want to progress toward toes-to-bar, L-sits and other advanced calisthenics exercises.

Being proficient at the V-sit will develop deeper core muscle strength while targeting the hip flexors, abdominals, lower abs, lower back, quads and hamstrings and testing balance, stability and coordination. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.