I tried this five-move dumbbell core workout, and my abs feel stronger already

This short dumbbell routine only took 10 minutes, but it really put my core to the test

Woman doing the dumbbell halo exercise in a gym
(Image credit: Alice Porter)

I love training my core (the muscles around my stomach), but sit-ups and crunches can get a bit repetitive. I was worried that my core sessions were getting a bit boring and my progress was plateauing, so I knew something needed to change. 

The best ab workouts are a great way to train without equipment, and they've been really effective at helping boost my balance and improve my stability, but I knew I needed to challenge myself if I was going to see progress. 

That's when I found this routine created by James Stirling, better known as London Fitness Guy on social media. The workout is made up of five movements, all of which incorporate a single dumbbell.

I decided to use the routine as a finisher to my morning CrossFit session at the gym, so I had plenty of dumbbells to choose from. But if you’re working out at home, it’s worth investing in a pair of adjustable dumbbells, so you can change up the weight you use depending on the style of workout.

It's a useful option to have, as I initially started the workout with a 15lb dumbbell, but quickly realized that I needed a lower load to make sure I stuck to the correct form, so I dropped down to a 10lb dumbbell instead. 

Although I've done all of the exercises before, it's always been with my bodyweight alone, so adding a dumbbell into the mix was a challenge. It was more intense than I expected, so the 10-minute session definitely put my core to the test. 

Watch the London Fitness Guy’s dumbbell ab workout

The five moves in this workout are all examples of functional strength training, as they mirror the way we move in everyday life. 

For example, the dumbbell halo helps to increase shoulder mobility and overhead strength, so you won’t struggle to reach the top shelves when putting your groceries away.

I tried a few repetitions of each exercise before I started without a dumbbell so I could warm up properly, but if you don't have weights nearby, you can still do this routine without equipment as it has several core strengthening exercises that are effective in their own right. 

Stirling stresses that the most important thing is to keep your movements slow and controlled, whether or not you’re using weights. This will engage your core more successfully and increase your time under tension, which is essential if you want to strengthen and grow your muscles. 

Woman doing dumbbell mountain climbers

(Image credit: Alice Porter)

To do this workout, complete each exercise for 30-40 seconds, going through three rounds of the workout in total. If you manage to do this without rest, the workout will take around eight minutes.

However, to make sure I wasn't straining my muscles or letting my form drop, I took a minute to rest between rounds, so it took me just over 10 minutes in the end. But it was worth it to get the most from the session without hurting myself.

But it's still an intense routine, and by the end, my abs and core were aching. I could sense that I was going to feel the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), post-workout aches caused by tiny tears in your muscle fibers.

You can get ahead of this and reduce the pain by making sure your body has enough protein to repair the muscles. Although you can get protein through your diet, the best protein powders for weight loss are a great way to stay topped up and develop lean muscle. 

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.