Strengthen Your Core With These 18 Weighted Ab Exercises
The key to getting a stronger core is pretty simple: spend more time strengthening your abdominal muscles. No, you don't have to schedule hour-long ab sessions, but your workouts should contain a core proponent. Whether you're doing abs before a workout or after you crush your treadmill workout, you've got to commit to working your core if you want it to become stronger — and weighted ab exercises can be a great tool to do so.
As a trainer, I think your ab workouts should entail stability aspects, strength aspects, and some explosive work. Having those variations will help stabilize your spine and prevent injury. I love bodyweight exercises like planks and hanging leg raises to work my abs, but I also like to up the intensity with weighted ab exercises.
If you're a beginner, don't let these moves intimidate you. The key is to select a weight you can work with. You can do weighted ab exercises with dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, or even a cable machine — no matter what, my recommendation is no more than 10 pounds. Don't be afraid to decrease the weight if your form is falling apart; better safe than injured.
If you're inspired to do an ab workout with weights once you finish reading this post, go ahead: Add a few of these moves to your next workout, but I don't recommend doing more than eight exercises from this list in one session or else you will be extremely sore. Now get ready to blast your abs with these 18 moves.
Ab Exercise With Medicine Ball: Overhead Circles
How to do overhead medicine ball circles:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a slight bend in your knees. Keeping your spine in neutral and core engaged, lift a five- to 10-pound medicine ball overhead.
- Begin to circle the ball to the right, in the largest circles you can make, while maintaining a still and stable torso.
- Do 10 reps, then reverse direction.
Ab Exercise With Dumbbell: Seated Russian Twist
How to do seated Russian twists:
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot away from your butt.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine. Hold a dumbbell or a medicine ball just below your chest. Keep the weight close to you and progress by moving the weight further away from your body.
- Pull your navel to your spine and twist slowly to the left. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center and rotate to the right. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Dumbbells: Plank Rotation
How to do a plank rotation:
- Begin in a plank position holding a five-pound dumbbell in each hand, keeping your wrists straight. Open your feet a little wider than hip distance.
- Lift your left hand to the ceiling, twisting through your entire torso. Your pelvis will rotate, but keep it level.
- Return your left hand to the floor, and repeat this action on the other side. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Medicine Ball: Twisting Wood Chop
How to do a twisting wood chop:
- Start standing with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart. Holding a medicine ball in both hands. Twist to the left, raising the ball over to your left shoulder.
- On an exhale, pull your abs toward your spine and "chop" the ball down diagonally across your body toward the outside of your right knee, bending both legs and pivoting on your left foot.
- With control, lift the ball back up to the starting position. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Kettlebell: Windmill
How to do a kettlebell windmill:
- Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, holding a kettlebell in both hands. (You can also do this move with just one kettlebell, holding it in your top hand.)
- Rotate your left toes outward and raise your right arm above your head, keeping your eyes trained on the weight.
- Shift your hips to the right, allowing your weight to shift about 60 percent onto your right foot. Don't allow your hips to swing backward.
- Lower your torso toward the floor, so the bottom kettlebell or hand hovers just off the floor, right in front of your left foot.
- Keep your body as flat as possible, with the ankles, hips, and shoulders in one plane. This position feels a lot like a tight Triangle pose in yoga.
- Keeping your core engaged and your right hand overhead, slowly raise your torso to return to a standing position. Shift your pelvis back to center once again to distribute your weight evenly between both feet.
- That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Dumbbells: Side Bend
How to do a side bend with dumbbells:
- Get into starting position by standing with your feet hip-width apart holding a pair of five- to 10-pound dumbbells or plates by your sides.
- Begin the movement by bending sideways to your right.
- Squeeze your obliques to lift your torso to return to starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Medicine Ball: Weighted Straight-Leg Crunch
How to do a weighted straight-leg crunch:
- Grab an eight- or 10-pound medicine ball.
- Lie flat on your back with your legs extended straight up toward the ceiling and your arms fully extended behind you, holding a medicine ball with both hands.
- Keeping your arms straight, bring the medicine ball up over your chest and lift your shoulders off the mat, pushing the ball toward your feet.
- Return to starting position by lowering your upper body back to the floor and then extending your arms backward. Let the medicine ball touch the floor. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Dumbbell: High Knee
How to do dumbbell high knees:
- Stand holding a dumbbell horizontally with both hands, arms extended forward at chest height.
- Run in place, driving your knees as high as possible. Engage your abs as your knees come up.
Ab Exercise With Dumbbell: Overhead Circle
How to do overhead circles with a dumbbell:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips with your knees soft. Hold the dumbbell overhead with both hands.
- Keeping your abs pulled to your spine, circle the weight around your head starting to the left. Your ribs can move slightly, but your pelvis should stay still.
Ab Exercise With Dumbbell: Single-Arm Chest Press
How to do a single-arm chest press:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and bring both hands to the ceiling.
- Bend your left elbow, lowering your upper arm to floor.
- Exhale and straighten your elbow, pressing the weight back to the ceiling. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Cable Machine: Cable Crunch
How to do a cable machine crunch:
- Attach a rope handle to the pulley on a cable machine. Adjust the pulley so that it's near the top third of the machine. The exact position will vary based on your height.
- Next, select the amount of resistance you want — 15 or 20 pounds is a great starting point. As you become more comfortable with the movement, feel free to increase the weight.
- Facing the pulley, start in a kneeling position approximately one and a half feet away from the machine.
- Grab the rope handles and brace your core. Simultaneously pull both handles with bent arms toward your knees, performing a crunch. You should feel this movement in your abs; if not, increase the weight.
- With control, return to the starting position as you maintain tension on the pulley. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Medicine Ball: Slam
How to do a medicine ball slam:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with a 5- to 10-pound medicine ball on the floor in front of you.
- Squat down and pick up the medicine ball, keeping your head up, core engaged, and back straight.
- Stand up, lifting the medicine ball above your head, fully extending your arms overhead.
- Forcefully slam the ball down on the floor as hard as you can. If the ball is light enough, catch the ball as it bounces slightly off the floor. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Cable Machine: Pallof Press
How to do a cable machine Pallof press:
- Lower the pulley of a cable machine so that it's about chest height, and attach a handle to the pulley. Adjust the weight so that it's at 10 pounds. If this is too heavy or too light, feel free to change the weight.
- Standing with the left side of your body closest to the machine, grab the handle with both hands and take two or three steps out so that there's tension on the cable. Hold your hands at your sternum, and make sure that your body is square. If you feel like you're getting pulled to the left, this is an indicator that you should lighten the weight.
- On an exhale, press the cable straight out in front of your chest. Be sure not to rotate toward the machine. Hold for two seconds before returning to the starting position. That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Kettlebell: Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry
- Start with a lightweight kettlebell in your right arm. I'm using a four-kilogram kettlebell, which is roughly nine pounds.
- Lift your arm up, turning the kettlebell upside down and creating a 90-degree angle at your elbow. Be sure to keep your wrist straight. If you notice that your wrist is moving, use a lighter kettlebell or a lightweight dumbbell.
- From here, begin walking forward. Take 20 steps forward or walk for 20 feet, depending on the space available.
- Switch the kettlebell to your left hand and walk back to your starting point.
Ab Exercise With Medicine Ball: Rotational Slam
How to do a medicine ball rotational slam:
- Start standing in a quarter lunge with your right leg forward and both knees bent. Hold a medicine ball in both hands on the outside of your left hip.
- Raise the medicine ball overhead, rotate your arms to the right, and slam the ball down on the outside of your right foot.
- That's one rep.
Ab Exercise With Kettlebell: Orbit
How to do a kettlebell orbit:
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and arms by your sides, holding a kettlebell in your left hand at one corner of the horn.
- In a fluid motion, swing the kettlebell behind you. Reach your right hand back to grab it on the other side of the horn.
- Keep the motion fluid as you swing the kettlebell around your right side to the front of your body, and grab it with your left hand. It should feel like you're making the kettlebell orbit your waist. That's one rep.
- Keep your core engaged throughout the movement; don't allow your back to arch or your torso to bend.
Ab Exercise With Dumbbells: Plank Row
How to do a plank row:
- Start in a plank position with your legs wider than hip distance apart. Hold onto a dumbbell with each hand, keeping your wrists locked and straight.
- With your core tight and your glutes engaged, exhale, rowing the weight up to your chest while drawing your left elbow toward the ceiling. Keep your hips square to the floor.
- With control, return the weight to the ground and repeat on the opposite side. That's one rep.