7 Best Weighted Ab Workouts (Build Strong & Sculpted Core)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 8, 2024
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Your abs are more than just a six-pack; they’re the core of your strength, the center of your balance, and the foundation of your power.

But training them with crunches and sit-ups can be a real pain.

After years of exploring other options and after much trial and error, I discovered the power of weighted abs exercises.

In this article, I will share my favorite weighted ab exercises and tips to maximize gains in your abs.

Quick Summary

  • The 7 best weighted ab exercises include Weighted Hanging Leg Raise, Barbell Rollout, Staggered Woodchop, Weighted Russian Twists, Turkish Get-Up, Weighted Planks, and Half-Kneeling Windmill.
  • These exercises target various core muscles, adding resistance to traditional movements for increased effectiveness.
  • To maximize core gains, the European Journal of Applied Physiology recommends challenging yourself with progressive overload, varying your exercises, and focusing on proper form.
  • In my opinion, incorporating these specific weighted ab exercises into a fitness regimen is incredibly effective for those looking to significantly enhance their core strength and muscular definition.

Best Weighted Ab Exercises For a Stronger Core

Before diving into the list, based on my years of coaching, I've found these exercises not only effective but transformative for core strength.

Are Weighted Ab Exercises Effective?

Yes, weighted ab exercises are effective in strengthening and building your core, provided they are done with proper form and technique and combined with a well-rounded workout routine and a healthy diet [1].

Beyond sculpting muscles, weighted ab workouts offer a plethora of health benefits. These exercises not only enhance physical strength but also contribute to better posture, improved respiratory function, and a more balanced body, highlighting the multifaceted advantages of a strong core.

7 Best Weighted Abs Exercises

holding a weighted ball for ab workouts

Here’s our list of the seven best ab exercises with weights.

1. Weighted Hanging Leg Raise

When performing this abs exercise, the body moves from a hanging hollow body position to a pike position as muscles contract from global extension to global flexion, a great leg exercise that maximizes muscle building.

It utilizes the lats, core, hip flexors, biceps and smaller muscles in the back.

In my experience, the weighted hanging leg raise, transitioning from a hollow body to a pike position, dramatically enhances core and leg strength.

To do the exercise:

  1. Start by hanging from a pull-up bar with your arms straight.
  2. Hold a dumbbell between your feet or ankles.
  3. Raise your legs until they parallel the ground.
  4. Hold this position briefly before lowering your legs to the starting position.

Read more: Best Hanging Ab Exercises

2. Barbell Rollout

This exercise heavily targets the abdominal muscles and demands significant core strength while avoiding strain on the lower back.

To perform it: 

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and load a barbell with 5 kg (10 lb) plates.
  2. Hold the barbell with an overhand grip.
  3. Place your shoulders above the bar and roll it forward slowly.
  4. Hold for a moment, and then return to the standing position.

3. Staggered Woodchop

Doing staggered woodchop exercise

The staggered woodchop is a weighted ab exercise involving diagonal chopping movement with a cable or resistance band.

The staggered woodchop, a personal favorite of mine, effectively engages the core with its unique diagonal chopping motion.

Follow these steps to do it with good form:

  1. Start staggered with one foot in front of the other and hold a weight with both hands above one shoulder.
  2. Bring the weight diagonally across your body towards the opposite hip, pivoting your back foot and rotating your torso.
  3. Pause briefly before returning to the starting position.

4. Weighted Russian Twists

The weighted Russian twist is a favored exercise for athletes as it enhances rotational movement commonly needed in sports.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit with knees bent and feet flat, inclined at 45 degrees.
  2. Hold a small weight plate, dumbbell, or medicine ball before you.
  3. Rotate your torso left and right, lowering the weight to the floor.
  4. Keep the same torso angle, the core engaged, and maintain form throughout.

5. Turkish Get-Up

Holding a kettlebell doing a turkish get-up

Turkish get-ups are effective belly fat-burning exercises that involve several movements in sequence.

Having incorporated Turkish get-ups in my routine, I've observed their exceptional ability to engage multiple muscle groups for effective fat burning.

The exercise is performed as follows:

  1. Lie face up with left leg straight, right leg bent and feet hip-width apart on the floor.
  2. Hold the kettlebell above your shoulder with your right arm at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Raise the weight until the arm is straight but not locked.
  4. Sit up by pushing into the left arm.
  5. Rise onto the left palm and lift your hips off the floor.
  6. Slide left knee behind body until kneeling.
  7. Sweep the left foot back into a kneeling lunge.
  8. Push through your feet to stand.

6. Weighted Planks

Doing a plank with a weight on her back

Weighted planks are a variation of the traditional plank exercise where weight is added on the back, challenging the upper abs to maintain a stable back.

To perform a weighted plank:

  1. Kneel and place forearms on the floor with hands extended in a plank position.
  2. Walk your feet out until your body forms a straight line.
  3. Have a training partner place weight on the lower back.
  4. Hold the position for 20–30 seconds.
  5. Increase the weight if able to hold for longer.
  6. Have your partner remove the weight.

“Planks create contractions of the core, arm, and shoulder muscles as you stay in a push-up position. The key is staying as stiff as you can, like a wooden plank.”

- Marty Boehm, Physical Therapist

7. Half-Kneeling Windmill

The half-kneeling windmill is an exercise that involves kneeling with one leg and holding a kettlebell with one hand.

In my coaching experience, the half-kneeling windmill has proven excellent for enhancing oblique strength and flexibility.

Follow these steps to do this exercise:

  1. Kneel on your left knee with your right foot beside you and hold a kettlebell in your right hand.
  2. Rack the kettlebell at your chest, then lift it overhead.
  3. Lower your upper body to your left hand, then your elbow and forearm on the ground.
  4. Reverse the movement.

Tips To Maximize Gains in Your Core Muscles

To maximize gains in your core, challenge yourself with progressive overload, vary your exercises, and focus on proper form, according to the European Journal of Applied Physiology [2].

I always advise my trainees to embrace progressive overload and varied routines for core gains, a strategy that has brought remarkable results.

Incorporate both body weight and weighted abdominal exercises, such as planks, Russian twists, and crunches.

Prioritize compound exercises for multiple muscle groups, like deadlifts and squats.

To maximize the results of your weighted ab workouts, integrating nutritional guidance is key. Don't underestimate the importance of a balanced diet, focusing on protein-rich foods, hydration strategies, and optimal meal timing, to support muscle recovery and growth, thereby creating a synergy between diet and exercise.


Can You Get Abs by Lifting Heavy Weights?

Yes, you can get abs by lifting heavy weights to some extent, but a combination of exercise and proper supplementation is necessary to achieve visible abs.

Do Weighted Ab Exercises Burn Belly Fat?

Weighted ab exercises alone do not burn belly fat. A calorie deficit through exercise and a healthy diet is necessary to lose belly fat.

Should I Do Heavy Weight or High Reps for Abs?

You should do a combination of both heavy weight and high reps for developing abs, but it ultimately depends on your goals and training program.


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23542879/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4215195/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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