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The Best Dumbbell Ab Workout for Every Experience Level


Many people are in search of great ab workouts for one reason or anything. While some people want to do an ab workout because they are looking for sculpted abs, others want to increase their core strength and stability. There are a variety of different ways to get the ab results you are looking for. 

The great thing about ab workouts is that they can easily be customized to fit different experience levels, and tweaking them to help your progress is easy as well. While lying on the floor doing crunches will certainly work your abs, adding equipment like dumbbells to the mix gives you more bang for your buck in terms of increasing strength and hypertrophy.


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Adding dumbbells to an ab workout may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start with light weight and work your way up in both weight and complexity as your fitness level and strength improve. Here’s how to get the most out of your ab training with the best dumbbell ab workout for your experience level. 

Best Dumbbell Ab Workouts by Difficulty 

The Best Dumbbell Ab Workout for Beginners
The Best Dumbbell Ab Workout for Intermediates
The Best Dumbbell Ab Workout for Advanced Athletes

The Best Dumbbell Ab Workout for Beginners

As a beginner, it’s important to start with safe, effective, and suitable exercises for your fitness level. Using too much weight too early on or pushing yourself too soon on can wreck your workout before you even get started. Your form is especially important when you’re adding weight to ab exercises.

As a beginner, you’ll start learning the basics of the types of dynamic movements that dumbbells enable. These movements are different from your many bodyweight ab exercises that may be more difficult to progress in a varied, stimulating way.

The Workout

Here, you’ll be doing movements from various positions. You will start lying down, then move to a plank position, and then to the standing position. In doing so, you’ll get a taste of the variety that dumbbell ab training can provide.

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This workout can be done two to three times per week. Just make sure to leave time for recovery so that your core is able to repair itself and be ready to work again. 

Dumbbell Bicycle Crunch: 3×10 per side
Dumbbell Plank Row: 3×10 per side
Dumbbell Woodchopper: 3×10 per side

How to Progress

The key to getting a stronger core is being patient and properly executing the exercise movements. It is important to start with a weight you can manage well so that you do the movement properly. While you may be tempted to increase your weight immediately, utilize the same weight for about six sessions before increasing. 

Rather than increasing your weight right away, you can increase the number of reps to 12 or 15. Once that feels too easy, you can add an additional set to complete four sets total, starting at 10 reps and leading into 12 or 15. Only then will you increase your weight.

The Best Dumbbell Ab Workout for Intermediates

If you consider yourself to be intermediate in the fitness realm, then you want a workout that is more challenging but not too over the top. You’ll need to be disciplined enough to push through the diligence and attentiveness to form that core training requires.

This workout ups the ante from the beginner workout with more complex movements. It is crucial to note the positioning of your back during core work. Avoid arching your back away from the floor when lying down or letting your back or side cave in towards the ground when planking. Because of the complexity of these exercises, they are very effective and great for intermediate athletes. 

The Workout

Here, you’ll be training unilaterally to make sure that both sides of your core are getting as strong as possible. This can help translate into big gains when on the platform. When you’re trying to move heavy weight in your barbell exercises, you’ll want to be as efficient with your movements as possible. 

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To transmit as much force as possible to help you lift as much weight as you can, you’ll need a well-balanced core. That’s exactly what this unilateral training workout will give you.

Dumbbell Deadbug: 3×10 per side
Dumbbell Russian Twist: 3×10 per side
Dumbbell Side Plank with Twist: 3×10 per side
Dumbbell Russian Twist with Leg Extension: 3×10 per side

How to Progress

You should start by performing this workout three days per week. Doing this daily may seem easy enough, but you will not get the same type of return without allowing for some recovery time. This specific workout includes a lot of floor work. When doing ab workouts on the floor, you should focus on making sure the small of your back is pressed into the ground. 

If, at any point in time, the number of reps or amount of weight makes you unable to do so, then reduce the weight or reps. Slow your movements down instead of tacking on more weight merely for the sake of going heavier. By increasing your time under tension, you’ll be boosting your strength and muscle-building potential.

The Best Dumbbell Ab Workout for Advanced Athletes

Advanced workouts are not for the faint of heart. But if you complete ab workouts properly and consistently, you’re also bound to increase your stability and overall coordination. Whether you’re trying to improve your overhead press or get more comfortable at the bottom of a snatch, you’ll benefit from advanced ab workouts.

This dumbbell ab workout for advanced individuals will, without a doubt, be a challenge. It requires holding and maintaining a stable core intensive position while moving weight and working other muscles in your body. It also requires the ability to complete multi-step exercises that require focus and coordination. 

The Workout

Building on some of the movements from the beginner and intermediate dumbbell ab workouts, this workout combines multiple fundamental movement patterns. You’ll be rotating, resisting rotation, and holding isometric positions while moving your limbs dynamically.

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All of this adds complexity by requiring you to move your body across multiple planes while moving weight. Coordination and balance are key for this workout — and you’ll build a boatload of strength, too.

Dumbbell V-Up: 3×8
Dumbbell Hollow Body Hold with Press: 3×10
Dumbbell Turkish Get-Up: 3×4 per side
Dumbbell Renegade Row: 3×10 per side 
Dumbbell Lateral Plank Walk: 3×10 per direction

How to Progress

Once you have found yourself to be at the advanced level, stepping up your workouts can be a challenge. It becomes less about adding weight and more about adding variation and different forms of intensity. 

As you reach an upper limit with the weight you can safely lift with these moves, slow your tempo down. Count slowly to five with each part of each movement to increase your time under tension. This will give your muscles a lot more ability to resist movement. That’s exactly what you want when you’re deadlifting 500 pounds or chasing a one-rep max in your back squat.

Benefits of Dumbbell Ab Workouts

Your ab workouts do not have to be boring and repetitive. You can easily swap out your resistance bands and medicine ball for dumbbells and spice up your routine. Using dumbbells over other exercise equipment as part of your ab workout gives you more room for variation.

You can complete workouts using a dumbbell in each hand, one hand, between two hands, or by holding one securely between your feet. There are endless ways to utilize dumbbells for your ab workout, and you may find yourself with a newly lit desire for more powerful abs when you start incorporating dumbbells. 

Increased Resistance

While ab workouts can easily be done using only your body weight, you can only take bodyweight workouts so far. By adding dumbbells, you are providing added resistance. 

Doing this makes our ab muscles work harder than they typically would, and you are able to increase the load and the positive stress on your muscles. As a result, you may see greater strength gains and muscle development. 

Variety and Challenge

To progress in the gym, your program needs to include switching up your training stimuli — in this case, by adding weight to movements that are generally bodyweight-only.

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Dumbbells offer a wide range of exercise options, allowing you to target different areas of your core. This variety also helps prevent boredom and ensures that you’re using progressive overload to continue challenging your core.

Core Stability and Balance

Adding dumbbells tests and challenges your core stability and balance. Many athletes don’t realize they have weaknesses in those areas until they attempt to do core exercises using free weights

By more frequently utilizing dumbbells for your ab workouts, you may see some improvement in the strength of your core muscles that support your spine. This can ultimately improve your overall posture and even balance. 

Anatomy of the Abs

The abdominal muscles, which are more commonly referred to as the abs, are a group of muscles located in the front of the abdomen. These muscles play an important part in the stability of your core, posture, and your ability to complete various movements.

The abs are made up of several distinct muscle groups. Different ab exercises target different ab muscle groups. 

Rectus Abdominis

This muscle is one of the most well-known and prominent muscles of the abs. It is a long, paired muscle that runs vertically along the front of the abdomen, from the pubic bone to the sternum (breastbone). 

The rectus abdominis is responsible for flexing the trunk, as in performing sit-ups or crunches, and contributes to overall core stability.

External Obliques

The external obliques are located on the sides of the abdomen. They run diagonally from the lower ribs to the pelvis. 

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These muscles help with trunk rotation and the spine’s lateral flexion (side bending). When you engage these, they create the appearance of diagonal lines on the sides of the torso.

Internal Obliques

Positioned beneath the external obliques, the internal obliques run in the opposite direction, which forms a crisscross pattern. 

These muscles help with trunk rotation, compression of the abdomen, and lateral flexion. The internal obliques work together with the external obliques to provide core stability and support.

Transverse Abdominis

This deep layer of muscle wraps around the abdomen like a corset. It is located beneath the external and internal obliques.

The primary function of the transverse abdominis is to provide stability and support to the spine and internal organs. It is particularly important for maintaining proper posture and core strength.

How to Warm Up for a Dumbbell Ab Workout

You may not need to be quite as intense about warming up before jumping into an ab workout. However, you still don’t want to jump in totally cold. Increasing blood flow before muscle activation can help manage injury risk.

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When you’re warming up, focus on fluid movements that gradually increase your range of motion. Toward the end of your warm-up, you can and should also add bodyweight versions of the weighted exercises you’ll include in your workout.

Light Cardio: 5-10 minutes
Leg Swing: 10 per side
Hip Circle: 10 per side
Torso Twist: 10 per side
Bodyweight Sit-Up: 15 reps
Cat Cow: 10 breaths
Mountain Climber: 15 per side

Dumbbells for Core Strength

Regardless of your experience level, a strong core is the center of getting stronger in the gym. A well-rounded and balanced approach to ab training is key to improving all aspects of your program. Your abs play crucial roles in supporting the spine, stabilizing the core, and allowing you to complete movements like bending, twisting, and maintaining an upright posture.

Adding free weights to the mix can bring your core strength and musculature to a whole new level. Gone will be the days of endless reps with little reward. Use these dumbbell ab workouts to maximize results and minimize boredom on your exercise mat. Don’t waste any time — grab a dumbbell and get to work on those abs now.

Featured Image: Just dance / Shutterstock

The post The Best Dumbbell Ab Workout for Every Experience Level appeared first on BarBend.

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