If you’re looking for a way to level up your ab workout, adding some resistance is a great idea. Incorporating load into your core routine makes the moves more intense, more strenuous for your muscles, and gets results. “If bodyweight abdominal or core exercises are no longer challenging for you, add weights,” says Kristen McParland, CPT, a strength-focused personal trainer.
While increasing reps is one way of progressing, doing an ab workout with weights will help you gain strength and definition while maintaining a low rep range. (That means you don’t have to spend more time sweating.) Repetitions over 20 tend to focus more on muscular endurance and less on strength and hypertrophy. So, using a kettlebell, dumbbell, or any form of weight for 6 to 15 reps of each exercise in your core training program can further your toning while keeping your reps to a minimum, says McParland.
If your main goal is adding muscle definition to your midsection the best (read: fastest) way to get abs is via weighted ab workouts. Performing exercises with a load that’s heavy enough to make you struggle by the last couple of reps is key to ultimate definition success.
The extra pounds make your whole system work that much harder, and that’s especially true of the muscles in your middle, because that’s your center of gravity. So, when you pick up a weight and lift it overhead, for example, or move it from the floor toward the ceiling, all of that coordination comes from your core engaging and supporting your other muscles as they move.
Start standing with feet hip-width apart holding the ends of one dumbbell (or the handle of a kettlebell) with both hands in front of face, elbows bent and wide at sides.
Keeping both elbows bent, and the rest of body still, slowly circle the weight around head once, keeping it at eye level. That’s one rep.
Unilateral Dumbbell March
Low To High Dumbbell Chop
Single-Arm Kettlebell Push Press
Start standing with feet just wider than hips.
Hold a kettlebell in your right hand while keeping your right arm bent with your elbow close to body, so that the weight rests on the shoulder, and place your left hand on your left hip.
Sink hips slightly into a quarter-squat.
Then, quickly push through feet to extend legs, simultaneously pressing kettlebell straight up until right arm is completely extended overhead.
With control, lower the kettlebell back down. That’s one rep.
Lie on your back with a dumbbell held in between your hands and extend your arms. (Think wrists over chest NOT your face.)
Lift your legs up directly over your hips.
Lower your left leg down as low as you can go without your lower back arching up off the mat.
Return to start, and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.
Plank Dumbbell Drag
Start in a high plank, shoulders over wrists and feet wider than shoulders.
Place a dumbbell (or towel/other weight) outside right wrist.
Keeping hips and shoulders level, reach left hand across body to drag the weight outside where left wrist will land.
Return to high plank.
Repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.