Core dumbbell workout to improve your ab training results

Last updated on May 20th, 2022 at 08:51 am

Challenge your abs with this core dumbbell workout. It works mainly the “6-pack” and the oblique muscles, for ab tone and waist shaping.  For best results do the workout 3 times a week – the dumbbell exercises for abs PDF includes a schedule for you to plan and track your workouts.

Dumbbell exercises for abs PDF

Needed for this workout

An exercise mat or something else to lie on that will cushion your spine – a folded quilt or blanket for example.

Get a mat for this workout

A set of handweights or dumbbells: If you don’t usually do abs work with weights, then start with small weights. A weight of 2-4lbs/0.5-1kg is a good starting point. As you get stronger you can increase your weights. The most comfortable way for you to hold the weight will depend on the size and type you use. When using both hands on one weight, it may be more comfortable to grip the ends of the weight rather than the shaft.

Get hand weights for this workout

Safety information

This is an intermediate workout. You should be used to doing ab exercises without weights before trying it. You should also be comfortable doing crunches without supporting your head with your hands.

Please read these general safety guidelines before doing the workout

Exercise instructions

There are 6 exercises and the full set of exercises should be repeated 3 times per workout. There’s a 4 week program chart below, showing the number of reps you should do of each exercise.

Make sure that you’re not holding any tension in your neck and shoulders. For most of the exercises in this workout, the head would be supported by at least one hand when working without weights. As your hands are not free to support your head here, you need to make sure that your upper body stays relaxed.

#1 crunches

Core dumbell workout crunches

  1. Lie on the floor, knees bent, feet about hip distance apart.
  2. Take one weight in both hands, palms facing down towards the floor.
  3. Engage your abdominal muscles and curl your spine smoothly away from the floor.  It shouldn’t be a jerky movement.
  4. Stop when your shoulder blades have left the floor and start to reverse the movement.  Again, it should be a smooth, curling movement on the way down.

#2 Russian twist

Dumbbell exercises for abs PDF - Russian twist

  1. Start by sitting with a straight back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, about hip distance apart and holding a weight with both hands, palms facing each other, or downwards – whichever is more comfortable.
  2. Engage your abdominal muscles and lower your back towards the floor, until it is at about 45° to the floor. Hold this position.  You will feel your abs working.
  3. Maintaining the angle of your back with the floor, reach your arms from side to side, pointing the end of the weight down towards the floor.

#3 side reach

Dumbbell exercises for abs PDF - side reach

  1. Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet about hip distance apart, a weight in your right hand with your palm facing your body.
  2. Lift your head and shoulders slightly off the floor.
  3. Reach the weight towards your right foot.  Complete your reps on this side and then lower your head to the floor, change the weight to your left hand and repeat to the left.

#4 straight leg crunches

Core dumbell workout straight leg crunch

  1. Start by lying on the floor with legs vertical and a weight in each hand, with your palms facing your legs.
  2. Curl your head and shoulders off the floor as you reach your hands towards your feet.

#5 oblique crunch

Core dumbell workout oblique crunch

  1. Lie with your back flat on the floor, knees bent and feet lifted, as shown. Have a weight in each hand, with your palms facing in towards your body.
  2. Curl your head and right shoulder off the floor in a smooth movement as you reach your right hand towards the outside of your left knee.
  3. As you return to the floor, make sure the movement is smooth and controlled.
  4. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating side to side until you’ve done all the reps.

#6 pulse reaches

Dumbbell exercises for abs PDF - Pulse reach

  1. The starting position is the same as for the Russian twist: sitting with your back about 45° to the floor, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, about hip distance apart and holding the weight in both hands. Your palms can either be facing inwards or downwards, whichever is more comfortable.
  2. From the start position, make small pulse movements (1-2 inches) towards your knees.

Reps chart

Core dumbell workout reps

Get a printable version of the dumbbell exercises for abs PDF

Core dumbell workout - dumbbell exercises for abs PDF

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Ab workouts FAQ

Last updated on May 20th, 2022 at 08:42 am

The stock answer to this is that you can’t get rid of fat from a specific area. This  is repeated frequently and emphatically by almost everyone involved in fitness. Given that it’s the go-to answer, you would think that there’s a pile of evidence to support it. In fact, the evidence is surprisingly weak. On the other hand, there’s no evidence that you can exercise to burn fat from a specific area either.

What we do know for sure is that our bodies have preferred places to store fat – and the abdominal area is one of them. So you’re not likely to have a fat-free belly until you’re a healthy weight. The best way to be a healthy weight is of course to have a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. Any exercise helps with weight control.

Even if it doesn’t burn belly fat, regular ab exercise will make a difference though. The deep core muscles pull the abdominal area flat and having a strong core can make a real difference. In fact it’s often the case that what people think is fat is just poor muscle tone allowing the abdomen to protrude.

So, the best things you can do to look slimmer around your middle are to make sure you’re a healthy weight and do some core training.

Plank holds have been an enormously popular abs exercise for years now. This is probably due to the buzz surrounding the exercise in the form of challenges and extreme hold times, rather than being due to its merits as an effective exercise.

Done correctly, the plank will engage the deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis (TA). This is the one that plays the biggest part in pulling the abdominal area in flat, as well as playing an important role in pelvic and spinal stability. It’s a challenging exercise and most people will struggle to hold the correct position for more than a minute. These are the good points. However, the plank has its drawbacks:

  • Doing it with correct technique is difficult for those who are not used to core training. To be effective, the back and legs must form a straight line (like a plank). Inexperienced exercisers fail to do this.
  • It’s a static exercise (ie the muscles are held contracted). There are two problems with static exercises. One is that the muscles are only worked in one position and the other is that it causes blood pressure to increase.
  • It’s not functional – we do nothing vaguely resembling the plank in every day life. If we want to train our TA to engage when we’re active, then holding it in a static contraction isn’t the best way.

So should you do plank holds? Yes, it’s good to add them to your abs routine sometimes or to do a plank challenge for variety. But you should make sure your technique is correct and you shouldn’t waste your workout time trying to build up excessively long holds.

As with most “best exercise” questions, the answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. The two main goals people have are flat abs and 6 pack abs. To have a flat abdominal area you need to train the deeper abdominal muscles. This is done by doing core stabilising exercises. The 6 pack muscles are the top layer of ab muscles and are trained by crunches and similar exercises – any exercise in which the upper body and lower body come closer together against a resistance.  If you want to train all your ab muscles, bicycle crunches are a good all-round exercise.

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