According to celeb trainer Gunnar Peterson, the secret to awesome abs is "working consistently, working in different planes of motion, and adding weights to your abdominal work." Take this advice to heart — here are a handful of exercises that put these principles into action using a set of dumbbells or a medicine ball. Incorporate a few of these exercises into your next workout to really kick your abs into action.
Low to High Woodchop
This dynamic exercise works the obliques and upper abs while keeping your heart rate up. Although this is a full-body move, it doesn't require a lot of space, so you can do it almost anywhere. Use a five- to 10-pound dumbbell or a medicine ball.
- Squat, and twist left to hold the dumbbell on the outside of your left leg.
- Exhale, and lift the weight diagonally across your body, ending twisted to the right with the dumbbell above your head. Pivot on your left foot as needed.
- The move is a bit percussive, so focus on the rotation initiating in your torso.
- Control the weight back up to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Remember you are moving with force but also control. Don't give into the momentum of swinging the weight around. Do three sets of 15 reps on each side.
In yoga, Camel Pose increases the flexibility in your spine, but this challenging variation using a weight strengthens your abs while helping to create a lovely, lean torso. Besides working the entire abdominal wall, this move gives the quads an active stretch to boot!
- Start on your knees. If this hurts your knees, fold up a mat or towel and kneel on that for a little cushioning. Your thighs should be parallel.
- Hold a five- to eight-pound dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest.
- Take a breath in, and as you exhale, lean back, squeezing your glutes, and use your abs to keep your spine straight. As you inhale, return your torso back to the starting position.
- Repeat for a total of 15 times. Complete a total of three sets.
Standing Weighted Twist
Some call this move the flashlight, and we love it for the intense focus on the abs. Straighten your arms to increase the difficulty. Once you master the move, try speeding up.
- Stand with your knees slightly soft, holding a dumbbell at chest level.
- Keep your pelvis stable as you rotate your ribcage right and left, to complete one rep. Be sure to keep your abs pulled toward your spine as you twist from side to side.
- Do three sets of 30 reps each.
Seated Russian Twist
This classic move targets your obliques, and adding a dumbbell or medicine ball increases the challenge.
- Holding a dumbbell in both hands, sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your butt.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important, and difficult, to keep your back straight.
- Pull your navel to your spine, and twist slowly to the left, bringing the weight to your left side. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center, and rotate to the right. This completes one rep.
- Do 16 full rotations.
You can also make the move more advanced by lifting your feet three or four inches off the floor, as pictured.
Plank and Rotate
Twisting in a plank position fires up the core and works those love handles.
- Begin in a plank position holding a five-pound dumbbell in each hand, keeping your wrists stiff to protect the joints. Open your feet a little wider than hip distance.
- Lift your left hand to the ceiling, twisting through your entire torso — keep the motion smooth and controlled. Your pelvis will rotate, but keep it level without letting it raise or drop.
- Bring your left hand back to the floor, and repeat this action on the other side to complete one rep.
- Do 10-15 reps to complete a set.
As you stabilize your core while circling the medicine ball above your head, your abs will feel the burn. Your arms will feel it, too!
- Stand with your feet hip width apart with a slight bend in your knees. Keeping your spine in neutral, lift a five- to eight-pound medicine ball overhead.
- Begin to circle the ball to the left, in the largest circles you can make, while maintaining a still and stable torso.
- Circle eight times, then reverse directions for another eight reps to complete one set. Do three sets.
Dumbbell Crossover Punch
Adding weights to the classic sit-up brings a whole new level of toning to your workout.
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, about two feet from your butt. Hold weights, five- to eight-pound dumbbells, in both hands at your chest with your elbows on the floor.
- Keeping your hands at your chest, roll up to a sitting position. Twist your ribs to the left as you "punch" your right hand to the outside of the left knee.
- Bring the right hand back to your chest as you untwist, bringing your torso back to the center, and roll down to the ground.
- Repeat the sit-up, twisting to the right side to complete one rep.
- Fifteen reps complete a set.
Overhead Reach With Leg Lower
This move challenges both the lower and upper abs to maintain torso stability while your arms and legs move away from your center. It's great for runners.
- Lie on your back with your arms reaching toward the ceiling, holding one weight with both hands. With the sole of your left foot on the mat, bring your right toes toward the ceiling.
- Exhale and lower your arms and leg toward the floor, keeping your lower back touching the mat.
- Inhale and return to starting position to complete one rep. Repeat on the other side, and continue alternating for 20 reps total.
The secret sauce in this exercise: use your abs to control your movement on the way down. Uncurl slowly instead of just letting gravity pull you down.
- Lie on your back with a three- to five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Raise your arms straight up above your chest, with a slight bend at each elbow. Raise your legs up to tabletop, with knees and hips bent to 90-degree angles.
- Inhale and open your arms to your side, with a slight bend at each elbow. Exhale as you bring your arms back up to starting position.
- Once your arms are back straight, lift your upper back and curl up toward your legs, pushing your weights toward your shins. As you curl up, stretch your legs out in front of you.
- Uncurl your spine slowly as you lower your upper body to the floor while bending your knees back to 90-degree angles. Once your head is back on the floor, release your arms to back out by your side, making sure not to let your upper arms touch the floor.
- Do 15-20 reps for a set. Do at least two sets.
High to Low Wood Chop
We love the wood chop, and this variation is one of celeb trainer Gunnar Peterson's favorites .
- Holding an eight- to 10-pound dumbbell overhead, twist to the left, pivoting your right foot as needed.
- Exhale, and slice the dumbbell across your body to the right as you raise your right knee, bringing the weight to the outside of your right hip.
- Raise the weight back to starting position, and lightly tap your right toes to the floor. This completes one rep. Do three sets of 15 reps on each side.
Reverse Lunge With Twist
This lunge variation works the entire body, and adding the twist ensures that your abs get a little extra attention.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Hold a five- to 10-pound medicine ball with both hands with your arms outstretched in front of you.
- Keep your core stable, and take a large step back with your right foot, planting your foot and then lowering your body until both legs are bent in right angles.
- As you sink into the lunge, twist your torso to the left.
- Bring your torso back to center, and exhale as you straighten your legs. Bring your feet back together, and then step back on your left leg, twisting to the right.
- This completes one rep. Do 10 reps for a set, and do at least two sets.
V-Sit With Single-Arm Chest Fly
In this variation, the abs work extra to maintain stability as you pull the dumbbell away from your center.
- Begin sitting with your heels planted about two feet from your butt, holding the weights at chest level with a slight bend in your elbows. Lean back a few inches, pulling your abs toward your spine to keep your spine long and straight.
- The left arm remains still, as you open your right arm to the side, making sure the weight doesn't go beyond your shoulder.
- Bring your right arm back to center to complete one rep.
- Complete 10 reps with the right arm, then switch sides for another 10 reps to complete a set. Do three sets total.
Standing Side Bend
The standing side bend works your obliques, and celeb trainer Harley Pasternak recommends this move to keep the love-handle area tight . We like that it simultaneously stretches one side of your torso while working the other — it feels good.
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart holding a five- to 10-pound dumbbell over your head. Squeeze your head with your upper arms to fire up your core and protect your neck.
- Bend sideways to the right, squeezing your waist on the right side. Keep your neck as neutral as possible, looking forward, not down.
- Pull the left ribs down to return to standing upright. This focuses the work on the left obliques. Switch sides, and bend to the left to complete one rep.
- Repeat for a total of 12 reps. Do three sets.
Double Crunch Pulse With Medicine Ball
The slow and controlled pulse of this exercise keeps the abs engaged throughout the set, and adding the weight of a medicine ball kicks your abs into high gear and increases the burn. Choose a weight between five and eight pounds.
- Begin lying on your back with your legs in the air, toes toward the ceiling, holding the medicine ball over your chest with straight arms. Engage your abs to press your low back into the mat while lifting your head, neck, and upper back off the mat.
- Exhale and round your low back so the bottom of the pelvis raises as you lift your upper body an inch higher off the mat. Aim the medicine ball toward your ankles as you perform this double crunch.
- Inhale, and lower pelvis and upper back an inch toward the floor. Continue this slow pulsing motion for a total of 20-25 reps. Do three sets.
Lying Overhead Reach
This move works your abs in a lengthened position as the muscles stabilize your pelvis and ribcage against the weight, as it lowers to the floor. You may be lying on the ground, but this move is quite challenging.
- Lie on your back with your hips and knees both at 90-degree angles, using your low abs to press your lower back into the mat. Holding five- to eight-pound dumbbells, raise your arms toward the ceiling, keeping the elbow joint slightly bent.
- Reach your arms overhead, tapping the dumbbells on the floor above your head. Do not let your back arch away from the floor as you lower the weights.
- Raise your arms back to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Do 15 reps to complete a set. Do two to three sets.
3 Moves For the Cable Pulley Machine
The cable pulley machine definitely puts the "fun" in functional, especially when it comes to ab work. This machine is perfect for toning your middle while working the entire body. Watch this video to learn how to do three different exercises that target your abs while also toning your arms and legs.