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5 Best Dumbbell Ab Exercises for a Stronger Core

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: August 18, 2023

Building visible abs is one of the most challenging goals in bodybuilding, mostly because gym-goers usually aren’t aware of their mistakes.

It’s not all about reducing the body fat percentage but increasing the muscle size as well.

Therefore, I would like to share some efficient weighted ab exercises that have helped my clients reveal their abdominal muscles.

Let’s dive in.

Quick Summary

  • Ab training with dumbbells consists of exercises that equally target all parts of abdominal muscles in a more challenging way.
  • Weighted ab training like dumbbell leg raises or dumbbell Russian twists help you increase ab muscle strength and size, which affect the overall appearance.
  • Strong abdominal muscles are crucial for core functionality, decreasing the risk of injuries.

Five Best Dumbbell Exercises for Abs

man doing a dumbbell ab workout

Strong abdominal muscles are important not only for aesthetics but also for maintaining a functional core and promoting overall health.

To make abs strong, you need to include some weight, and dumbbells are an ideal piece of equipment for targeting abdominal muscles from various angles due to their versatility.

In fact, incorporating dumbbell exercises into your routine can be one of the recommended ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core and achieve a toned midsection.

Here are the five most effective dumbbell exercises for abs, ranked from easiest to most challenging:

1. Dumbbell Side Bend

  • Stand up straight with feet hip distance, holding a dumbbell in one hand.
  • From the standing position, bend your upper body sideways towards the opposite side of the dumbbell, holding your arms straight.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

2. Kneeling Woodchoppers

Performing kneeling woodchoppers
  • Kneel on one knee and hold a dumbbell with both hands above your head.
  • Chop the weight down diagonally across your body towards the opposite hip while twisting your torso.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

3. Dumbbell Russian Twist

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart flat on the floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest.
  • Twist your torso to one side and touch the dumbbell to the ground.
  • Twist to the other side and touch the dumbbell to the ground. That’s one rep.

4. Dumbbell Leg Raises

Inclined leg raises
  • Lie on your back with your legs extended and hold a dumbbell between your feet.
  • Engage your core muscles and use your lower abs to lift the dumbbell off the ground and toward the ceiling.
  • Hold the weight at the top of the movement for a second, then slowly lower it a few inches off the floor.
  • Repeat.

5. Incline Dumbbell Reverse Crunch on a Bench

  • Lie on an incline bench (45-60 degrees) and hold a dumbbell between your feet.
  • Use your abs to lift your hips off the adjustable bench towards your chest.
  • Slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

Related: Best Weighted Ab Exercise

Choose a dumbbell suitable for your fitness level and ability, and keep your core muscles engaged so you can maintain proper form and avoid injury.

What Are the Benefits of Strong Abdominal Muscles?

Showing ab muscles

The benefits of strong abdominal muscles go beyond enhancing your appearance, as they also play a critical role in supporting your spine, promoting proper posture, and stabilizing your body.

The abdominal muscles are also actively involved in all types of movements, such as reaching overhead, lifting heavy objects, and twisting to the side.

They even play a significant role in maintaining proper posture and stability while standing or sitting [1].

“Developing strong abs can improve your overall fitness level and physical performance, as well as boost your confidence and self-esteem.”

- Dr. Len Kravitz, Professor of Exercise Science

Related Articles:

Abs Anatomy

The abdominal muscle wall comprises five muscles, from deep-lying to superficial ones [2].

The deep-lying muscles, the pyramidalis and transverse abdominis, play a role in holding organs in place, preventing hernias, and increasing intra-abdominal pressure.

On the other hand, the superficial muscles, which contract eccentrically and concentrically during the exercises mentioned above, give the midsection a more aesthetic look.

Superficial Muscles

Ab muscles up close

These muscles comprise the rectus abdominis and internal and external obliques.

The internal obliques are situated beneath the external obliques, with fibers running diagonally up the abdomen from the lower ribs to the pelvis.

The external obliques are a pair of broad, flat muscles that run diagonally along the sides of the abdomen, framing the abs and responsible for flexing and rotating the trunk.

And finally, the rectus abdominis.

Sitting as the most superficial anterior abdominal muscle, this long and flat muscle is recognized as the primary ab.

Known as the “six-pack”, it flexes the trunk and stabilizes the pelvis during upper and lower body movements.

The additional weight to your dumbbell exercises forces these abdominals to adapt to the load and become more prominent and stronger [3].

Creating a Program

Woman top view performing ab workout

Even though specific ab exercises can be performed daily, the best option is to have at least one day of rest between sessions.

However, if you choose to dedicate one day to abs exclusively, here’s an example of a workout plan my clients have had good results with:

  • Always start with a five-minute warm-up to get your heart rate up and warm up your muscles. You can also begin by assuming a basic plank position and performing several sit-ups to prepare the muscles.
  • Begin your ab exercises with incline dumbbell reverse crunches on a bench. This exercise targets the lower abs, which can be challenging to perform. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
  • Next, perform dumbbell leg raises to continue targeting the lower abs and eventually build a flatter, more defined midsection. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

After targeting the rectus abdominis muscles, focus on the obliques:

  • Russian twists are challenging but the most effective core exercise for strengthening the obliques. The use of dumbbells adds resistance and forces the muscles to work harder. Do 3 sets of 15 reps (start with the left side).
  • Now, do kneeling woodchoppers. Except for obliques, they also hit other upper body muscles. Do 3 sets of 10 reps per side (starting with a right arm).
  • The last exercise is a dumbbell side bend. It’s a final touch for hitting the obliques and creating a more defined waistline. Do 3 sets of 12 reps for each side (start with the left arm).


Do Dumbbells Burn Belly Fat?

Yes, using dumbbells burns fat, including belly fat. The dumbbell exercises are very beneficial for this purpose as they can burn many calories. However, dumbbell exercises should be incorporated into a comprehensive workout program that includes cardio and a healthy diet to fast-track and increase overall fat loss.

How to Get a Six-Pack With One Dumbbell?

To get a six-pack with one dumbbell, you must be creative and think of the most effective abdominal workouts with minimal equipment. The exercises for abs usually performed with one dumbbell are Russian twists, woodchoppers, side bends, or V-Sits.

Abs Require a Strategic Approach

To build strong and defined lower and upper abs, it’s essential to take a strategic approach that includes a proper diet and consistently targeting all areas of the core.

The proper diet means consuming a lot of proteins to keep you satiated and support your muscle growth.

The easiest way to achieve this is by taking protein powders.

After conducting rigorous testing on various products, our team has compiled a list of the most effective options on the market, so make sure to try one out.


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