Forget sit-ups—use these eight dumbbell moves to build total core strength

Boost your balance, improve your stability and strengthen all of your core muscles with this quick dumbbell workout

Personal trainer Rachael Sacerdoti completing a core workout
(Image credit: Rachael Sacerdoti)

The core muscles play a role in everything from your balance to your spinal health and pelvic stability. But if you want to strengthen these muscles effectively, you need to take a break from sit-up-centric workouts. 

That's because sit-ups focus on spinal flexion, or bending your spine forwards, which is a move that's driven by your rectus abdominis (the muscles on the front of the stomach responsible for the "six-pack" shape). 

A more comprehensive core workout—like this one below from certified personal trainer Rachael Sacerdoti—will include exercises that work a wider range of mid-body muscles. 

This routine features eight dumbbell exercises in total. Perform each one for the number of repetitions listed below, then move onto the next exercise. When you've finished the first circuit, repeat it two more times, giving yourself a 30 second rest in between rounds. If any of the exercises are new to you, watch Sacerdoti's video for a demonstration. 

How to do Rachael Sacerdoti's core workout

  • Bear stance pull through x10
  • Dumbbell alternating leg lift x10 each side
  • Dumbbell Crunch x6 each side
  • Kneeling dumbbell press x12
  • Side plank extended hold x30 secs each side
  • Alternating heel drop to extension x10 each side
  • Dumbbell toe touch crunch x10 each side
  • Weighted Russian twist x20

What are the benefits of this workout?

The main benefit of this workout is that it will build comprehensive core strength. "The combination of exercises in this routine will target all of your core muscles," says Sacerdoti. 

This includes working the rectus abdominis, obliques (responsible for twisting and rotational movements) and spine-supporting transverse abdominis, among other muscles. 

As Sacerdoti notes, improving your core strength will boost your stability and posture, and it will make everyday movements feel easier too. Plus, the low-impact workout will challenge your balance and co-ordination, helping you to avoid injury. 

Rachael Sacerdoti's top tips for tackling this workout

Sacerdoti's first piece of advice to anyone taking on this workout is to "focus on your form". 

"Incorrect form can lead to injury," she warns. Make sure you are engaging your core effectively for each move, and refer back to Sacerdoti's demonstrations in the video above if you're unsure on the technique for any of the moves. 

She also says a thorough pre-workout warm-up is non-negotiable. If you need some advice on how to do this, take a look at this quick warm-up from trainer James Shapiro. 

Finally, Sacerdoti advises adjusting this workout to suit your fitness level.

"It’s okay to take short rests between exercises, especially if you’re just beginning your fitness journey," she says. "Don’t push yourself too hard.  When you get more comfortable, reduce the rest times between exercises."

Need help picking your next set of weights? Our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells can help

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.


Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.