The Best Ab Workout With Dumbbells: Eight Moves To Build A Six Pack

A-man-wearing-an-unzipped-black-hoodie-revealing-his-six-pack-absObtaining a set of lean, sculpted six-pack abs takes more than doing a hundred or so ab crunches each day. Getting a ripped core takes a good, clean diet, increased exercise and adjusting your calorie intake so you burn away fat to reveal what’s underneath.

But with ab training, there’s much we can do to help this process by building and strengthening our core muscles with free weights. By incorporating weights into our training we give our bodies an added stimulus to grow. So grab a couple of dumbbells and read on to discover what I consider to be the best ab workout with dumbbells that will help you on your way to achieving that coveted six-pack.

A Few Things Before You Start

Remember that your abdominal muscles are just like any other and if you want them to grow and become more defined then you need to progress your training. Aim to gradually increase the weight over time in order to progressively increase strength and muscle mass.

The saying ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ really is true so in order for your muscles to grow you’ll need to be eating enough protein and eating clean as all this work won’t do much to reveal your abs if you have a layer of belly fat hiding them away. In order to reveal the results of your efforts you’ll need to get yourself into a calorie deficit (where you’re consuming fewer calories than you’re burning through exercise). This ab workout is a real fat burner as we’re including weights which will help to ramp up your heart rate and burn more calories. To help you on your way however, feel free to check out my article on the seven rules to success for getting an impressive set of six pack abs.

The Workout

This workout is great if you’re unable to get to a gym, you have limited equipment at home, or little time to fit in a workout. The dumbbell is such a versatile piece of kit that’s easy to use, takes up minimal space and can be stored away conveniently when not in use.

This routine will target the whole of your abdominal area, as well as your back – which is key to a strong core and helping to prevent injury.

Get Prepped

Grab yourself a dumbbell and a mat if you have one and clear some space around you so you have enough room to stretch out in all directions. You’ll want to choose a dumbbell that enables you to perform all the given reps to just before failure (you’re unable to complete any more with good form). When you can do all prescribed reps in an exercise, increase the weight slightly. This way you’re constantly challenging yourself and increasing your abdominal strength.

Get Ready

With any workout, make sure you’re warmed up and your body is primed and ready to go. I recommend doing a light jog or march on the spot for a couple of minutes, followed by:

  • Standing still with feet shoulder width apart and slowly rotating your upper body to the right and then to the left for 30 seconds
  • Bending slowly side to side, first to the left, then to the right for a further 30 seconds
  • Reaching your hands up to the ceiling and then slowly bending downwards to try and touch your toes and then back up again for another 30 seconds

This warm-up should take no more than five minutes to do but will help to get your blood flowing and prepare your ab muscles for the work to come.

Let’s Begin!

Muscles targeted: An-image-of-the-four-muscles-that-make-up-the-abdominals

  • Transverse abdominis
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Internal obliques
  • External obliques


1. The Side Bend

Where it targets: Internal and external obliques

How to perform it: Take a dumbbell in one hand and stand up tall with feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your body straight, lower the weight down to your side until it’s at roughly knee height (this may be slightly higher or lower for some) hold for a second and then straighten your body again. Perform 15 reps before switching to the other side and repeating the movement.

For an optional extra, use two dumbbells, one in each hand, and bend from side to side, making sure you perform 15 reps on each side, or 30 reps in total.


2. The V-Sit

Where it targets: Upper and lower abdominals (Transverse and rectus abdominus)

How to perform it: Lie on the floor and place a dumbbell above your head, holding it in place with both hands. Bring both your arms and feet up together so your body forms a V-shape, hold for a second at the top of the movement and then slowly lower yourself back down before repeating. Perform 10-12 reps to complete the exercise.


3. The Russian Twist

Where it targets: Upper and lower abdominals (Transverse and rectus abdominus) and internal and external obliques

How to perform it: Get yourself into position as if you were in the middle of an ab crunch but with your feet elevated off the ground. Holding a dumbbell in both hands, twist your upper carefully over to one side and then the other, keeping your abs firm. Perform 12-15 reps counting a twist to one side and then other as one rep.


4. The Half-Kneeling Wood Chopper

Where it targets: Internal and external obliques

How to perform it: Kneel down on the floor on one knee and hold a dumbbell in both hands. Raise your arms up behind you, hold for a second at the top and then lower back down to the side of your hip on the other leg. Perform 12 to 15 reps before switching and repeating on the other side.


5. The Leg Raises

Where it targets: Lower abdominals and hip flexors

How to perform it: Lie on the floor and grip a dumbbell between your legs, just above the ankles. Ensuring you keep your lower back flat on the floor, and using your hands to support you, raise both legs up to about 45 degrees by engaging your abdominals, hold at the top for a second and then lower slowly back to the floor. Perform 10 to 12 reps.


6. The Crunch

Where it targets: Upper and lower abdominals (Transverse and rectus abdominus)

How to perform it: Lying with your back flat on the floor, bend your knees, keep your feet flat and hold the dumbbell to your chest with both hands. Leading with your shoulders, raise your upper body towards the ceiling to about 45 degrees off the floor by contracting your upper abdominals. Hold for a second before slowly lowering back down to the start. Perform 12 to 15 reps to complete the exercise.

7. The Hip-Lifting Side Plank

Where it targets: External and internal obliques and lower back. The lateral raise element (if you include it will also work your shoulders)

How to perform it: Get into a side plank position on the floor, grab a dumbbell and hold it close to your hip. Slowly lower your hips until they are an inch or two off the ground, and then push back up to a side plank. Ensure you keep your abdominals tight and lift through your core and not your legs. Perform 12 to 15 reps before switching sides.

(Optional extra: For more challenge, try raising your dumbbell holding arm as you come up to full plank position and then lower as you come back down again).


8. The Knees To Chest

Where it targets: Upper and lower abdominals (Transverse and rectus abdominus)

How to perform it: Sit on the floor and grip a dumbbell between your feet. With your hands firmly flat on the floor, lower your upper body down so your shoulders are lifted just above the ground using your hands and forearms to support your lower back. Now bring your knees up towards your chest, hold at the top of the move for a second, and then slowly bring them back to the start position. Perform 12 to 15 reps to complete the exercise.

Stretch Out, And You’re Done!

After you complete your workout don’t forget to stretch out your abdominal muscles to help prevent soreness and keep injury at bay. Five minutes tagged on to the end of your workout is all you need. In you want some ideas for really effective post-workout ab stretches have a look at some that I use and recommend.

How Often Should You Train Your Abs?

If training with weights then you should approach ab training in the same way you would with other areas of your body. I’d recommend performing this routine two to three times a week, ensuring you have at least one rest day in between. As I mentioned earlier on, you want to try and progressively increase the amount of weight you train with so try and get hold of a range of fixed dumbbells if you can, or preferably some adjustable or selectorised dumbbells (often the cheaper option and easier when it comes to storage!). If you need some ideas on the best brands, check out my article on some of the best dumbbells to buy for a home gym.

How do you normally train your abs, do you usually rely on your bodyweight or are you a fan of using free weights to train your core? Try this workout and please let me know how you get on!


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