It only takes eight minutes to build core strength with this five-move ab workout

You don't need sit-ups or crunches to develop your core with this short dumbbell routine

Woman exercising with a dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You don't need endless sit-ups and crunches to strengthen your core. Instead, you can switch things up with this standing ab workout to sculpt your midriff and improve your balance in as little as eight minutes. 

All you need to get started is a set of the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab). These are a great space-saving option if you're training at home as they combine several weights in one. Plus, you can increase the weight gradually as you get stronger over time. 

If you've got fixed-weight dumbbells or you're working out at the gym, you'll want to choose a load that will challenge your muscles but won't affect your form by the end of a set. Then you'll be ready to take on this standing ab workout from trainer Sophie van Oostenbrugge, known by her handle gainsbybrains (opens in new tab)

It's ideal if you're not keen on floor-based exercises as you'll stay upright for eight minutes, building core strength through dumbbell ab marches, side bends, and dumbbell halos. These movements are designed to challenge your stability and activate your ab muscles. 

Whether you're new to these weighted exercises or could use a refresher, it's worth following van Oostenbrugge's demonstrations to practice your technique. This will help you get the most out of your training and avoid injury. 

Watch Sophie van Oostenbrugge's eight-minute ab workout

If you're wondering why we've been talking about building core strength from an ab workout, it's because the two terms are similar but have a few crucial differences. Your core consists of several muscles located around the stomach, including your rectus abdominis. Sometimes known as the six-pack muscle, this is what most people typically mean when they refer to the "abs". 

However, the best abs workouts (opens in new tab) recruit all muscles in your core, including the stabilizing transverse abdominis and both the internal and external obliques (which play a pivotal role in rotational movements). This is something this standing ab workout does well, as holding the weight in one hand puts you off-balance and kicks your core into overdrive to keep you upright. 

And, as the five-move workout only takes eight minutes, you can add it to the end of your regular session as a core-focused finisher. Alternatively, you could repeat it several times or combine it with other core strengthening exercises (opens in new tab) for a more comprehensive mid-body workout. 

If your goal is to build visible ab muscle, it's worth noting that developing core strength holds plenty of benefits beyond aesthetics. It can enhance your posture, bolster your balance and stability, and even improve your circulation. After taking on this routine, you might find you enjoy weighted ab workouts (opens in new tab)

If this is the case, it's worth picking up one of the best kettlebells (opens in new tab) and learning how to do kettlebell swings (opens in new tab). This multi-muscle exercise builds full-body strength, raises your heart rate and boosts your metabolism for fat-burning, muscle-building results. 

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.