Sculpt a set of lean, hard and defined abs and build a six-pack to be proud of at home or in the gym with our rundown of the best abs-focused dumbbell exercises
Clearly defined and visible abs ranks near the top of most men’s better-body wish-list – and with good reason. Nothing proves physical fitness or athletic capability as much as a sculpted, rippling six-pack.
If you want to get rid of your beer belly and replace it with rock-hard abs, then there’s no better place to start than with these dumbbell exercises we’ve specially selected for their core-crafting power.
Each move will work your core in a slightly different way so you can do them individually, or why not combine all the moves into a fat-torching, stomach-scultping circuit?
Simply do eight to 10 reps of each exercise, rest 10 seconds, then start the next move, repeating this work-then-rest pattern until you’ve finished the final exercise. At that point rest for 60 seconds the restart the circuit, and do between three and six circuits in total (depending on your current fitness level or on your fitness experience).
Don’t have dumbbells? Try these no-kit bodyweight-only six-pack moves to sculpt hard abs!
Dumbbell goblet squat
Why? Your abs must work really hard to keep your torso upright and stable as you squat down and up.
How? Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart gripping a dumbbell in both hands against your chest. Keeping your chin and chest up, your back straight and your abs tight (exactly like you brace and tense them if you were about to receive a punch to your stomach), bend your knees and push your bum backwards to squat down until your thighs (upper legs) are at least parallel to the ground. Pause for a second, then push down powerfully through your heels to stand back up, keeping the dumbbell locked in position against your chest on the way down and the way back up. That’s one rep.
Why? Your abs have to be fully engaged and working hard to prevent your torso from falling forwards, backwards or to the sides as you lunge down and up.
How? Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart gripping a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. With your eyes looking forward to prevent your chin falling towards your chest, tighten your abs, then take a big step forward with your left leg. Plant it on the floor then bend both knees to lunge down. Pause at the bottom for a second, the push up off your front foot and step back to the start position. Repeat the movement with your right leg. That’s one rep.
Why? Most people think press-ups are only worth doing when you want to build a bigger, stronger and wider chest, but they also involve your triceps and shoulders, not to mention your entire abdominal region which must be firing on all cylinders to maintain a straight and stable body throughout every single rep.
How? Start in a press-up position with each hand gripping a dumbbell handle harder. Tense your abs so that your body forms a completely straight line from the back of your head right down to your heels. Maintaining a straight back, bend your elbows (keeping them tucked into your sides, and not flaring out to the sides) to lower your chest down to the ground. Pause at the bottom then press back up to return to the start. That’s one rep.
Dumbbell renegade row
Why? As in the dumbbell press-up, your abs – including your deep-lying core muscles – need to be 100% engaged to keep your entire body in a safe and stable position for each rep. What’s more, the slight rotational movement as you lift up each arm in turn adds another level of complexity to work your abs that little bit harder for faster results.
How? Get into a press-up position but holding the dumbbell handles, rather than your palms flat on the floor. Take your feet slightly wider than you’d have them in a press-up (the closer together your feet the harder the renegade row is; the wider your feet the easier it is). Tense your core by drawing your belly button on, then row your left hand up so the weight is by your side. Pause in this top position for a second then lower the weight back down to the floor. Repeat the movement with your right hand rowing the weight up. That’s one rep.
Dumbbell plank drag
Why? This challenging but highly rewarding abs-specific move will work your core in ways hard to replicate with any other lift, allowing you to take giant strides towards a lean and defined midsection.
How? Start in the press-up position with a dumbbell or kettlebell just outside of your right arm. Engage your abs so your body is straight from heels to head. Lift your left hand up then under your body and pick up the weight. Lift it under your body then put it down just outside your left arm then put your left hand back down flat on the floor. Then lift up your right hand and move it under your body to pick up the wight. Lift it back under your body to return it to its starting position, then put your right hand back down flat on the floor. That’s one rep.
Dumbbell crunch and reach
Why? This move is an evolution of the classic bodyweight crunch, but the additional weight in the form of a dumbbell (or weight plate, pictured), forces your upper abs to work overtime to manage and move your torso up then back down. You can do this move on a gym ball or flat on the floor with bent knees, just makes sure you’re lying on soft surface, such as a carpet or a yoga mat, to protect your lower back.
How? Lie over a gym ball or flat on your back with feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Hold the dumbbell or weight plate in both arms with arms fully straight. Engage your abs then use your upper abs to raise your torso up, keeping your chin up and your arms straight. Reach the weight up as high as you can into the air, and at the highest point you can manage hold the position for one second, then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Dumbbell Russian twist
Why? It’s tempting to dedicate all your training time to your upper abs – after all, they are the first ones to become visible – but it’s so important you also work your side abs (obliques) to build a genuinely strong and balanced core. This tough move hits the obliques hard to start with a light dumbbell or weight plate to fully master the movement and only then increase the weight.
How? Lie with your back on a gym ball or flat on the floor with your feet on the floor and knees at right angles. Hold a dumbbell (or weight plate, pictured), in both hands with arms completely straight. Slowly rotate to your left, as low as you can whilst still maintaining complete control of the weight, then rotate back up to the start position, then over to your right. Slowly return to the start. That’s one rep.