Ab workout: 5 weighted abdominal exercises for a stronger core

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Take your core training up a notch with this challenging dumbbell ab workout. 

The beauty of a core workout is that you need nothing but a mat and your bodyweight to get fired up. It’s why almost every home workout you do will probably include some form of plank, mountain climber or crunch.

While no-equipment ab workouts are effective, we sometimes need extra resistance to keep ourselves challenged and interested in what our workouts have to offer – and of course, to build stronger muscles. “I personally love to use weights in my ab workouts. If you are no stranger to core work, you might like the extra weight to challenge and progress your training more – giving your body the chance to adapt to additional resistance and grow stronger,” says Emma Obayuvana, fitness trainer and member of the Strong Women Collective.

So, grab your dumbbell or kettlebell and get ready to challenge yourself. 

Weighted dead bug

“A dead bug is a great abdominal exercise that is kind to your lower back, but if you are used to core training, they can start to feel quite easy. Adding in a dumbbell is a game-changer,” says Emma. 

  • Holding a dumbbell in one hand, lie on the floor with your fingers and toes pointing towards the ceiling. Make sure your spine is flat on the floor and you aren’t arching through your spine. 
  • Lower your arm that is holding the dumbbell overhead towards the floor. At the same time, extend your opposite leg down towards the floor. 
  • When your arm and leg are nearly touching the floor, squeeze through your abdominal muscles to return them to the starting position. 
  • Repeat 10 times on each side. 

Weighted shoulder raise

“This can be quite a challenging move, so use a light dumbbell,” advises Emma. “All the lifting should come from the core – don’t use momentum to lift yourself.”

  • Lie on your back with your legs flat on the floor, with one arm extended out to the side and the other holding a dumbbell up towards the ceiling. 
  • Begin to curl your upper body up so you lift the shoulders off the ground while keeping the dumbbell held straight up above your body. 
  • Slowly lower back down to the floor. 
  • Repeat 10 times on each side. 

Weighted toe touches

“You can do this without a dumbbell, but once you add in extra weight your abdominals will be under a much greater load. It’s a real killer!” says Emma. 

  • Lie on the floor holding a dumbbell by either side. 
  • Lift your legs up towards the ceiling, keeping your feet flexed rather than pointed. 
  • Slowly crunch up to reach your hands and the dumbbell towards your toes. 
  • Lower back down slowly. 
  • Repeat 10 times. 
A woman doing crunches
Best bodyweight core exercises with no equipment needed

Weighted Russian twists

“Most people know of a Russian twist, but they’re a classic for a reason,” says Emma. 

  • Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you. Bend the knees and lift the toes off the ground. 
  • Holding a dumbbell in two hands, rotate your core and arms to the left so the weight reaches the outside of your left hip. 
  • Rotate back to centre and twist to your right-hand side. 
  • Make sure your legs don’t twist side to side. Instead, squeeze your core to keep them in the centre. 
  • Repeat 10 times each side. 

Weighted v-sit

“This is more of a challenging exercise, so nail it with bodyweight first before you add a weight,” says Emma. 

  • Lie on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms extended overhead, holding a dumbbell by either end. 
  • Squeeze your core to lift your arms and legs off the ground, keeping them straight so they meet in the middle. Your body should be in a ‘v’ shape. 
  • Slowly lower back down again. 
  • Repeat 10 times. 

Side-to-side leg raises

“This exercise uses the weight as a guide rather than to add resistance, but it’s still a great core movement,” says Emma. 

  • Sit on the floor with your legs reached out in front of you, your hands placed on the floor by your hips. 
  • Place the dumbbell on its head, standing upright, under the ball of your foot. Lift your feet up so they aren’t leaning on the dumbbell.
  • Bring your feet down to the left side, tapping the floor, then back up and over the dumbbell to the right-hand side. 
  • Repeat 10 times.

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).