Build a stronger core without sit-ups using this four-move dumbbell workout

Boost your balance and prevent back injuries by strengthening your core

A woman pressing two dumbbells overhead during a home workout
(Image credit: Getty)

Sit-ups and crunches aren't the only way to build a strong core. In fact, there are plenty of other functional exercises you can do to strengthen these muscles, boost your balance and even improve your coordination.

Functional workouts are designed to replicate the movements you do on a day-to-day basis, such as walking, standing up and carrying grocery bags. By doing this, they can strengthen the muscles and joints you use for these activities, helping reduce your risk of injury and relieve pain in areas like the lower back. 

This core session from Julie Cap (@juliexfit), combines four exercises to help you build a stronger core—all you need is a couple of dumbbells. We’d suggest investing in a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells if you don’t already own some, so you can change the weight to suit the exercise you’re doing, but a few fixed weight options will also work for this workout. 

Watch Cap demonstrate each of the exercises in this workout below, then try them for yourself to decide what dumbbell weights you should use before starting the session. 

Complete three rounds of each exercise for the number of repetitions listed in Cap's video before moving onto the next one. Try taking short, 30-second rests between each round to really challenge your core.

Focus on maintaining good posture throughout the workout. Keep your chest up and your spine neutral, maintaining tightness in your core muscles by squeezing them to feel the full benefits of this workout.

These exercises require good balance as well as strength so, if you feel unsteady, practice them without any weights to begin. Yoga can also help improve core strength as well as balance—this core yoga for building stronger abs session will help you work on both.

This is a great workout to add to the end of weight training workouts, as building core strength can benefit your performance in compound exercises like squats and deadlifts. 

Try pairing Cap's session with this lower-body dumbbell workout, or if you’re focused on improving your upper-body strength, try this 20 minute arms session instead.

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.