You don't need the gym to build a stronger core — use these 3 dumbbell abs exercises instead

a woman with a defined core is lifting two light dumbbells
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

So, you know the importance of building a strong midsection but struggle to find the time to complete the best core workouts regularly? We hear you. The good news is that it doesn't take hours of crunches or planks to get you there. We've found a core workout that only involves three exercises and a light pair of dumbbells.

Traditional weight training moves like squats, deadlifts and the overhead press help to build core muscles and the core is used as a stabilizer in these moves. However, not everyone fancies picking up a barbell or lifting heavy to get results in their midsection. Instead, you can pick up some light dumbbells and incorporate these into some popular ab blasting exercises.

A pair of the best adjustable dumbbells make a handy addition to ab workouts as you can conveniently move up or down weight size from one pair of weights to suit the demand of each exercise.

If you don't have access to any weights, you can still try this routine out. The creator behind the workout, Yana Strese says you can use small bottles of water (filled up) instead.

What is the 3-move core workout?

Unlike some workouts where there are countless exercises to remember and various equipment involved, this workout has been designed with simplicity in mind. You will perform deadbugs, planks with knee taps and glute bridges with knee drives.

These are all pretty straightforward moves but your form is important if you want to avoid any injuries and get the most out of your core training. The aim is to complete 12 reps of each exercise and then repeat the full routine two to three times over.

The core muscles account for not only the abdominals but also the muscles surrounding the pelvis, lower back, and hips. While the ab muscles (rectus abdominis and obliques) are part of the core, the core includes additional muscles such as the transverse abdominis, erector spinae, and hip flexors. 

Thanks to the choice of exercises in Strese's routine, you will target multiple core muscles simultaneously, including the abdominals, obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, and hip flexors. The addition of dumbbells will help to further the strength gains.

It's worth noting that there isn't pressure to be picking up heavy dumbbells for this routine. Keeping the dumbbells light in a core workout can allow for better focus on form and technique without compromising proper form and risking injury.

Woman doing a crunch

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you do choose to include some dumbbells into the workout, this will help to intensify the workout and encourage greater muscle engagement. The additional resistance will simply challenge the core muscles a little more than if done without weight, and boost your strength gains. 

Including weight in your ab exercises also requires a greater level of control and balance in each movement which can help to better your stability and coordination inside and outside of exercise.

If you're wondering how you can keep up the core building efforts after trying out this short routine, we have a couple of basic pointers. First and foremost, it's essential to allow your muscles time to recover and adapt. This means getting enough rest and proper nutrition to support muscle repair and growth.

Next, consistency is important, so aim to incorporate core exercises into your fitness routine regularly. Try aiming for around two to three times per week and see how this feels for your body. 

You also might want to look into your workouts by gradually increasing the intensity or difficulty of exercises, such as adding more repetitions, holding positions for longer durations, or incorporating slightly heavier weights as your strength improves. This is what we call progressive overload and is a very useful tool for making improvements.

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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.