Nine dumbbell ab exercises to strengthen and define your core muscle
We’ve pulled together nine dumbbell ab exercises from top fitness experts to help you build a stronger core
You might be wondering how to step up your ab workouts, well look no further than these nine dumbbell ab exercises to strengthen and define your core.
If you’re not sure where to start with ab exercises, or just want to add a level of intensity to your core workout, then incorporating one of the best adjustable dumbbells into some common ab exercises can help.
Dumbbells are versatile and easy to hold, making them a perfect addition to common exercises like crunches, cycles and even planks to increase the level of difficulty. If you’re looking for a toned tummy, better balance or just want to improve your core strength, then dumbbell exercises might be the right choice for you.
We’ve asked some of the best fitness experts around what their go-to dumbbell ab exercises are, and how to perform them.
Emily Rutherwood is a Studio Manager at FS8 Oxford Circus. Rutherwood began her career in the health, fitness and wellness industry as a qualified massage therapist before applying her interest in body biomechanics, injury prevention and movement and becoming a qualified personal trainer. She also teaches Barre and Pilates in both senior trainer and head trainer roles.
Jay Conroy is a Certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach, as well as a fitness model. He has been featured in Men’s Health and is a semi-professional footballer who played for four years at Crystal Palace.
Personal trainer, instructor and educator at Gymbox in Central London. Aaron has been coaching now around 9 years, 6 of them being with Gymbox. He coaches gymnastics, weightlifting and CrossFit via 1-2-1 and online athletes. He loves taking your average gym member and making them competitive and strong. At the risk of upsetting some, he says "Unpopular opinion, but I like the assault bike..."
Why add dumbbells to your ab workouts?
Adding weight to your ab workout is an easy way to increase resistance and step up the difficulty of your sets without doing loads of reps. Dumbbells are easy to hold, hard to drop and can be found in every gym worth it's salt. You can also incorporate these exercises into your home workout routine if you want to buy a dumbbell for personal use. If you’re learning how to build muscle then dumbbell ab exercises will be useful and you’ll develop a stronger core.
A strong core is vital for stability when performing day-to-day activities or more challenging workouts and can help support your overall physical strength. The abs are a component of your core muscles, but most of these exercises also engage deeper supporting muscles and back muscles, making them good for all-round core strength as well as ab definition.
We’ve spoken to three fitness experts: Emily Rutherwood, a personal trainer and a Studio Manager at FS8 Oxford Circus, Jay Conroy, a personal trainer, coach and ambassador for Bio-Synergy and Aaron Cook, a personal trainer, manager and coach at Gymbox. Each PT has given us their top three dumbbell ab exercises to help you step up your core workout this
Nine dumbbell ab exercises
1. Dumbbell dead bug
- Lie on your back with knees above hips
- Hold the dumbbell in neutral grip above chest keeping knees above hips
- Hold neutral spine to extend one leg towards floor
- Come back to starting position and alternate sides with control
2. Above the head abdominal crunch
- Engage your core and spine against the floor with your hands raised above your head
- Slowly curl your spine until you can’t raise your body any higher off the ground keeping your arm locked out and raised above your head
- The key is to always point your arm in a straight line towards the ceiling
3. Russian Twist
- You will start from a tall seated position with your feet tucked slightly into your bum. The dumbbell will be resting in a goblet position on your sternum (your breastbone)
- To increase intensity, you can lift your feet off the floor, but to maintain control I prefer to maintain contact with the floor even if it is lightly
- A common issue seen with Russian twist is the arms and shoulder initiate the movement (very similar to the party game 'pass-the-parcel'). Instead, we need to focus on rotating through the trunk while maintaining the dumbbell in the center of our chest
- Rotate through the trunk facing left and right while maintaining a tall spine
4. Dumbbell jackknife
- Lying down, hold dumbbells in a neutral grip overhead and extend legs
- Exhale and curl dumbbells forwards feet
- Lower shoulders and legs, extend arms overhead whilst maintaining neutral spine
5. Cycling with dumbbell
- While laying on the floor raise your legs as if you were about to start cycling
- Hold your dumbbell with both hands at either end using your opposite elbow to touch your opposite knee
- Now in a cycling motion kick out with one leg while raising the opposite knee back up towards you and engage that opposite elbow to touch it
6. Plank Dumbbell Pull Through
- A perfect hollow body plank position is rule number one - where you are pressing through the ground so your shoulders are rounded, the pelvis is tucked under and legs are long and tight
- With this movement, you will have a light to medium load dumbbell around torso height parallel to your body
- With the arm that’s furthest away, you will reach under your body to grab the dumbbell by rotating slightly through the torso while maintaining tight hips and legs
- You will then place the dumbbell on the opposing side of where it started with the least amount of deviation from your plank
7. Dumbbell kneeling/standing oblique
- Kneeling/standing, hold a dumbbell in one hand and place the other hand behind the head
- Side bend and lower the dumbbell towards the hip
- Exhale and squeeze upper ribs to hip to return to starting position
8. Static lunge with twist
- Get yourself into a strong low lunging position while leaning as upright as possible with your upper body
- Raise your hands outright to one side keeping your arms as straight as possible
- If you’re turning left, keep your right hand above the right
- While not moving your legs, or lower body, turn and face the other direction except turn your hands over so now your left hand is on top and your left is underneath
9. Dumbbell Toe Touches
- We begin by laying on our back with our legs perpendicular to the floor reaching for the sky
- Here we will make sure the quads and glutes are engaged with feet pointed
- You will then take your dumbbell and hold the dumbbell on your shins with your shoulders slightly on the floor
- You will then begin to raise the dumbbell as high as you can towards the feet before returning down with control
Looking to find out the ins and outs of why core muscles are important? We have the answers and can suggest other ways to strengthen your midsection muscles without requiring weight, such as this core yoga routine.
Lou Mudge is a Health Writer at Future Plc, working across Fit&Well, Coach, LiveScience, T3, TechRadar and Tom's Guide. Based in Bath, UK, she has a passion for food, nutrition and health and is eager to demystify diet culture in order to make health and fitness accessible to everybody.
Multiple diagnoses in her early twenties sparked an interest in the gut-brain axis and the impact that diet and exercise can have on both physical and mental health. She was put on the FODMAP elimination diet during this time and learned to adapt recipes to fit these parameters, while retaining core flavors and textures, and now enjoys cooking for gut health. You can find her on Instagram at @loulouapril
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