AB Exercises With Dumbbells

Fact Checked

If your ab workouts don't feel as tough anymore, add dumbbells.

In an effort to improve your posture, prevent back injuries and sport a stronger stomach, you’ve been crunching, planking and twisting on a regular basis. A strong core — that is, the muscles of your trunk, including the abdominals, obliques, hips and glutes — benefits your everyday activities, from swinging a golf club to picking up a child or a heavy sack of groceries. When you feel like you’ve plateaued, however, it’s time to add extra resistance to your moves by incorporating dumbbells into your core workout routine.


Sit-ups and crunches were once the crème de la crème of core exercises. However, they can actually lead to back pain and, because they only focus on the abdominal muscles, they don’t benefit your whole core the way other exercises can.

Isolation Exercises

If you want to focus solely on your core, engage in movements that isolate and strengthen your abdominals and its surrounding muscles.

Straight-Arm Climb

Lie on your back and, holding a pair of dumbbells, extend your arms straight above you. Position your palms so they’re facing toward your feet.

Lift you head and neck off the floor, engaging your abdominal muscles. Press your right arm up toward the ceiling, lifting your right shoulder blade off the floor.

Lower your right shoulder, and repeat the lift on the other side. Do 20 repetitions, changing sides each time.


Don't let your elbows bend as you lift your shoulder blade off the floor.

Side Bend

Hold a dumbbell in the left hand while standing with your back straight, shoulder blades retracted and your core muscles — including the abdominals — engaged.

Lean to the left until you feel a comfortable stretch in the right oblique. Using your abs and obliques to push up, return to the starting position. Complete 10 reps on the left side.

Move the dumbbell to the right hand and repeat the move 10 times, feeling a stretch in the left oblique.

Choose a weight that feels heavy, but doesn't cause you to compromise form.

Compound Exercises

While you might feel like you’re targeting the abdominals with isolation exercises, compound exercises, which use multiple muscle groups at one time, benefit the body more as a whole. Perks of compound exercises include increased net energy expenditure, better muscle coordination and a higher heart rate.

Wood Chop

Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in both hands.

Move the dumbbell up to the left side of your head so your arms are stretched to the upper left.

Move the dumbbell down in a diagonal line across your body in a chopping motion, so the weight ends up next to your right shin. Return to the starting position, and repeat nine more times.

Complete 10 repetitions on the other side.

Reverse Lunge with Rotation

Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest.

Take a step back with your left foot, lowering your left knee so it nearly touches the ground. Keep your back straight and your elbows tight to your ribs.

When you’re at the bottom of the reverse lunge, engage your core and twist your upper body, including the dumbbell, to the right. Return to the center, and step back up to the starting position.

Reverse lunge again and, this time, twist to the left. Return to the starting position, and repeat on both sides nine more times, for a total of 10 repetitions.

Read more: Difference Between Isolation and Compound Exercises