When people do their core workout, it usually looks like this:
Plank. Side planks. Sit ups. Crunches. Repeat.
And while you’ll get some results, you’ll need extra intensity and new angles to target your core for a complete ab workout — that’s where dumbbells come in.
With these exercises, you’ll not only hammer your core, but you’ll also boost your total-body stability and strength. (Don’t get mad at us if you’re super sore the next day.)
1. DUMBBELL BEAR CRAWL
Bear crawls are as simple as they are effective. It’s a fundamental movement that we do as babies, which creates great movement patterns, improves the cross-body connection in your body (i.e. left arm and right leg moving in sync) and targets the muscles deep inside your core.
While the bear crawl is a great exercise as a warm up, if you add dumbbells to the mix, you’ll crank up the intensity, get a bigger cardio effect and speed up the results on your abs.
How to do it: Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders (holding onto hexagon-shaped dumbbells) with your knees under your hips; keep your knees an inch above the ground. Crawl forward by taking a small step with your right arm and left leg simultaneously, then alternate. Keep your hips low and your head up.
2. TURKISH GET-UP
The Turkish get-up combines seven exercises into one, which takes you from lying with your back on the ground to a full stand (while under resistance the entire time).
It might seem intimidating if you’ve never seen it before, but it does so much for your body. First, it teaches you great movement patterns and improves your total-body mobility so you can move better. Second, it forces your core to stabilize your entire body while you make several different movements, all while holding a dumbbell over your head.
How to do it: Lie on the ground with your right knee bent, right foot flat on the floor, right arm holding a dumbbell above you, and left arm and left leg at your side. Drive through your right foot and roll onto your left elbow. Then, straighten your left arm. Squeeze your right glute and drive your hips straight up. Pull your left leg underneath and behind your body, resting on the knee and ball of the foot. Move your torso straight up, then lunge to a stand. Reverse the sequence to descend. Do all your reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Keep your chest up and watch the dumbbell the entire time.
3. SINGLE-ARM FARMER’S CARRY
The farmer’s carry is a foundational exercise that builds powerful forearms and a strong core. (It’s also very simple to execute.) By holding a heavy weight on just one side of your body while walking, your midsection works overtime to prevent your torso and hips from leaning.
This is also a great ab exercise because it works your core dynamically — most ab exercises (like planks, for example) are done in-place. With a farmer’s carry, however, you strengthen your core while you move, which has a carryover effect to almost every sport.
How to do it: Grab a heavy dumbbell in one hand, keep your chest up and shoulder blades squeezed and walk forward.
4. SINGLE-ARM WAITER’S WALK
The waiter’s walk is similar to the farmer’s carry: Hold a heavy weight and walk. But instead of holding the dumbbell at your side, you’ll hold it overhead.
Not only does this improve your core strength, but it also increases the stability of your shoulder joint and girdle. That way, you’re improving the health of your shoulders while preventing injuries.
How to do it: Grab a heavy dumbbell in one hand and hold it overhead. Keep your shoulder down-and-back and walk while keeping your hips and shoulders level. Keep your wrists as straight as you can.
The cool thing with pushups is that they target your core — it’s kind of like doing a plank, but with your arms moving.
But, by adding a twist, you’ll crank up the stimulus on your shoulders and torso. Then, by holding dumbbells in your hands while doing T-pushups, you’ll increase the resistance on your entire body for more strength and better stimulus on your core.
How to do it: Start in a pushup position while holding dumbbells. Descend to the bottom and, as you’re pushing up, and extend one hand to the sky. Watch that hand with your eyes. Repeat and reach up with the other arm.
6. SINGLE-ARM DUMBBELL OVERHEAD PRESS
Whether you use a dumbbell, barbell or kettlebell, pushing something heavy over your head while standing will strengthen your arms, upper body and core. It might not seem that way, but when your arms are locked out overhead, your core has to work like crazy to stabilize everything above your waist.
Dial up this move by pressing with only one arm, which will increase the intensity on your abs — with an asymmetrical weight, your core has to work even harder to prevent your body from leaning as you press above.
How to do it: With just one dumbbell held in front of your shoulder, drive it straight overhead and lock out your arm with your bicep by your ear. Don’t lean or twist with your body.
Make sure to squeeze your glutes while you press to prevent your lower back from overarching as you reach overhead.