Build ab muscle and strengthen your core with this six-move dumbbell workout

This high-intensity routine helps you build core muscle and abs with weights in just 36 minutes

Man performing dumbbell rows
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking to strengthen your abs, you'll be pleased to hear that you don't have to rely solely on workout staples like crunches and sit-ups—this short dumbbell workout is a more varied way to build ab muscle and core strength.

Whether you're training at home or exercising at the gym, you'll need a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. These customizable weights combine several dumbbells in one, making them a space-saving way to build muscle.

Your gym might not have adjustable weights, so use these beginner strength training tips to find a weight that'll challenge you but not impact your technique or form. But if you don't have access to dumbbells, that's no problem.

According to Rhiannon Bailey (opens in new tab), the personal trainer behind this ab-focused routine; "although dumbbells make this core workout more challenging, all these workouts can be completed without, and I guarantee you will still feel the burn."

Whether you use weights or not, the aim is to keep the intensity high, training for 40 seconds with a 20-second rest between moves. There are six exercises in total, and you can repeat the round up to six times for a 36-minute ab and core strengthening routine.

Watch Rhiannon Bailey's dumbbell abs workout

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Your core muscle, a section of mid-body muscle that includes your rectus abdominis six-pack ab muscle, plays an essential role in your workouts, helping promote circulation, improve balance and stability, and encourage a connection between your upper and lower body.

This is why Bailey's routine combines core strengthening exercises with high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) techniques, getting you to exercise in short, intense bursts with minimal rests for muscle-building results in just 36 minutes.

Using this program alongside other high-intensity routines like a HIIT workout for fat loss develop your core, but they help boost your metabolism for all-day fat-burning. This is crucial if you want to achieve visible six-pack muscle.

The key to this workout is to focus on your technique. Perfecting your form helps avoid injury—a particular concern when exercising with weights—but also means you get the most from your training. So, do use Bailey's demonstrations to practice before starting.

If you're new to ab-strengthening exercises, you might prefer to train with this core workout for beginners instead. There are six moves in total, and you only need dumbbells or a barbell for one of the exercises.

James Frew
Staff Writer

James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.


In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.