Almost everyone strives for a flat stomach or six-pack, but is it better to do bodyweight exercises or weighted ab workouts?
Knowing the best weighted ab workouts can make it easier for you to reach your goals.
Plus, having a strong core not only looks good, but it also helps with injury prevention and making everyday tasks effortless.
With progressive overload, a calorie deficit, and weighted ab exercises, your hard work will show through sooner rather than later.
I’m an experienced personal trainer who’s guided many clients through abdominal transformations. I assure you it works when you have a plan and are consistent!
Keep reading to get my weighted ab workouts with dumbbells. Plus, I’ll share ab workouts with a weighted ball that you can try at home or in the gym!
What are ab muscles?
Your ab muscles are located in your midsection to provide mobility, support the organs, and help ensure that you can do everyday tasks.
The muscles that are in the abdominal area are the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, external obliques, and internal obliques.
It is vital that you continually challenge these muscles to maintain a strong core and able body.
The Anatomy of Abdominal Muscles
When you think about someone having a six-pack, you are visualizing their rectus abdominis.
This long muscle is centrally located on your abdomen and extends from right below your chest all the way down to your pelvic area.
This muscle is located below the obliques and is positioned horizontally. Starting in the center of the front of your torso, it wraps around your side and stops at your spine.
This muscle is responsible for providing both protection and stability.
The external obliques are on either side of the rectus abdominis, and the muscle fibers run downward at a 45-degree angle. This muscle helps with the rotation of the trunk.
The muscle fibers of the internal obliques run opposite the external obliques, and this muscle also sits under the external. They’re responsible for maintaining proper abdominal tension and moving the trunk.
Weighted Ab Workouts Vs. Non-Weighted
If you don’t have access to weights, don’t let that stop you from trying to improve both the look and capabilities of your abdominal area!
While it is preferable that you do ab workouts with weights, you don’t need to have that extra resistance.
Either way, it is important to consistently utilize progressive overload to ensure your muscles are being challenged in a new way and your progress won’t plateau.
If you have access to weights, progressive overload is easy to implement by simply increasing the amount of weight you are using.
If you’re doing non-weighted abs workouts, then try switching up factors like sets, reps, and rest time.
Main Benefits of Exercising Abdominal Muscles
1. Reduction of Back Pain
When you want to ease pain or tension on a certain muscle, try strengthening the opposing muscle.
Because your abdominals sit opposite your back, they can help support it and reduce lower back pain.
2. Better Posture
Having a strong core means that you are better able to stand up straight and maintain good posture.
While we think of having our shoulders back and down to have good posture, keeping the trunk stabilized and straight also contributes.
3. Improved Balance
When you regularly train the muscles of your torso, they work together to provide the overall body with stability. This then leads to improved balance with both everyday activities and athletic movements.
4. Increase in Athletic Abilities
So many movements require a strong core. However, if you play sports or lift weights, it’s essential that your abdominals are prepared for the strain of your body performing explosive movements and carrying heavy weight.
5. Injury Prevention
On top of helping with the reduction of back pain, strong abs can help prevent your lower back from being strained and getting injured in the first place.
They can also minimize your chance of getting a hip or knee injury because of their ability to create stability throughout the body.
6. Ease With Functional Movements
While you may not be consciously aware of it, your abdominals can determine how easily you perform the simplest of tasks. Even turning your upper body while keeping your lower body stationary requires the contraction of your abs.
Drawbacks of Weak Abdominal Muscles
Having a weak core can lead to numerous problems. Not only are your posture and balance likely to be lacking, but your risk of injury is also higher.
There are many exercises you can’t do if your torso is not strong and stabilized. This means strengthening other parts of your body is much more difficult.
The Best Weighted Ab Exercises
Choose a dumbbell or weighted ball and start building stronger ab muscles for mobility and stability.
1. Dumbbell Crunches
The dumbbell crunch is one of many great weighted ab workouts, isolating your abdominal muscles to help you effectively target them.
Try using them as a superset for various exercises throughout a workout to keep your blood pumping!
How-To Perform Dumbbell Crunches
- Lay on your back with your feet planted on the floor and your knees bent.
- Hold a single dumbbell between two hands with your arms extended straight up. The dumbbell should be positioned above your chest.
- Tense your abs before lifting your upper back off the ground.
- Pause at the top of the movement before slowly lowering your back to the ground.
- Strengthens your abdominals
- Challenges your arms
- Stabilizes the upper back
- Keep your gaze on the ceiling rather than looking down at your legs.
- Keep your arms straight throughout the motion to challenge them as well as your abdominals.
2. Russian Twists With Dumbbell
Are you starting to find that Russian twists are a bit too easy for you? Add a dumbbell to increase resistance and help you implement progressive overload.
This dumbbell ab workout will help you work all four muscles of the abdominals, so be sure this is included in your full-body day!
How-To Perform Russian Twists With Dumbbell
- Take a seat on the floor with knees bent and heels on the ground. From your shoulders to your knees, your body should form a V.
- Grab a dumbbell with both hands.
- Keeping your back straight and chest up, bring the dumbbell to the floor on one side of your hips.
- Tap it before bringing it to the other side in the same motion.
- Challenges the rectus abdominis
- Builds the obliques
- Works the transverse abdominis
- If you need more of a challenge, lift your feet off the ground throughout the motion.
- Make sure that your back doesn’t round during this exercise to prevent injury.
3. Plank Dumbbell Switch
Depending on your perspective, this exercise could distract you from the fact that you are planking or make it just that much more difficult!
The plank dumbbell switch is amazing for working the entirety of your core in addition to nearly every muscle of the body.
How-To Perform Plank Dumbbell Switch
- Get into a plank position with a dumbbell placed right behind your right hand.
- Keeping your body in as straight of a line as possible, grab the dumbbell with your left hand and put it on the ground right behind that hand.
- Use your right hand to grab the dumbbell again and repeat!
- Strengthens the entirety of the abs
- Promotes good posture
- Puts strain on almost every muscle in the body
- Keep your eyes on the floor in front of you as much as you can to ensure you are maintaining a proper plank position while moving the dumbbells.
- If moving a dumbbell is too difficult for you to start with, try grabbing a medicine ball that you can roll back and forth instead.
4. Side Plank Dumbbell Horizontal Press
Want an exercise that will kill your obliques while challenging your arms? Look no further than the side plank dumbbell horizontal press. Finish off an upper body workout with this exercise!
How-To Perform Side Plank Dumbbell Horizontal Press
- Start by laying on your side with a dumbbell in front of you.
- Stack your feet on top of each other, and use the arm closest to the ground to push yourself up into a side plank.
- Grab the dumbbell with your other hand and hold it next to your head.
- Press the dumbbell up and over your head until your arm is extended.
- Bring it back to the starting position before repeating while still holding the side plank.
- One of the most effective exercises for your obliques
- Works your lower body through stabilization
- Challenges your shoulders and triceps with the press motion
- You can perform this exercise either on your elbow or hand.
- If this overhead press is too difficult, try pressing the dumbbell straight up to take down the intensity.
5. Weighted Leg Raises
Leg raises are one of the most effective weighted lower ab exercises. This is a great exercise to superset with on your next leg day!
How-To Perform Weighted Leg Raises
- Lay down on your back and position your body in a straight line.
- Keep your arms down by your sides and hold a dumbbell between your feet.
- Tense your abdominals and quads and lift your legs up until the soles of your feet face the sky.
- Slowly lower your legs back down until the dumbbell taps on the ground before repeating the motion.
- Targets the lower abs
- Can also work the upper abs if part of the upper body is lifted
- Challenges the lower body
- To make this easier, place your hands beneath your bum for more stability.
- Experiment with keeping your head on the ground and holding it up throughout the exercise to see which strains your neck the least.
6. Dumbbell Side Bends
Dumbbell side bends are great for helping you develop strong obliques that lead to a wider trunk. Do these on a day you also work your back to contribute to the growth!
How-To Perform Dumbbell Side Bends
- Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell in one hand.
- Keeping your shoulders back, let the dumbbell’s weight pull your body to the side until the dumbbell is close to your knee. You should be doing a mini side crunch.
- Use your abdominals to bring your body back up to the starting position before repeating.
- Challenges the obliques
- Simple move almost anyone can do
- Works the back muscles
- Place two fingers of your other hand on the obliques you are working on to have a better mind-muscle connection.
- Don’t focus on how far down the dumbbell can go; focus on how much of a contraction you feel in your side.
7. Medicine Ball Slams
Not only do medicine ball slams work your abdominals, but they also provide a full-body workout with a cardio aspect!
You can end any workout with a few sets of these to have an intense finisher.
One medicine ball
How-To Perform Medicine Ball Slams
- Hold a medicine ball in both hands while standing.
- Bring your arms above your head and forcefully throw the ball on the ground.
- Squat down to pick the ball back up and repeat the motion.
- Strengthens the abdominals
- Improves cardiovascular abilities
- Works the whole body
- Tense your abdominals as you throw down the ball to maximize the effects of the exercise.
- Concentrate on using your legs throughout the movement to make it a killer leg workout also.
8. Medicine Ball Feet-Hand Pass-Offs
Looking for a more advanced movement? These medicine ball feet-hand pass-offs are guaranteed to leave your abdominals sore as they combine leg raises with crunches!
One medicine ball
How-To Perform Medicine Ball Feet-Hand Pass-Offs
- Lay flat on the ground while holding a medicine ball above your head.
- Bring your arms and legs up and transfer the ball from your hands to between your feet.
- Extend your body again until the ball taps on the floor.
- Bring your arms and legs up to transfer the ball back into your hands.
- Challenges the entirety of the rectus abdominis
- Works the lower body
- Can easily be modified
- To make this exercise more difficult, do a crunch when transferring the medicine ball.
- To make it easier, bend your legs instead of keeping them straight, so you do not have to crunch up nearly as much.
9. Roll-Ups With Medicine Ball
Want to do the feet-hand pass-offs but minus the leg raise? These roll-ups target your abdominal muscles as you have to crunch up during the medicine ball transfer.
Be sure to give these a try on your next upper body day!
One medicine ball
How-To Perform Roll-Ups With Medicine Ball
- Start by lying on your back with your body extended.
- Grasp a medicine ball between your hands above your head.
- Tense up your abdominals and sit up.
- Place the ball between your feet, and then roll back down until you are on your back again.
- Perform another sit-up, grab the ball, and hold it over your head as you come back down to the ground.
- Strengthens the rectus abdominis
- Works the arms
- Improved strength in the hip muscles
- Keep your neck strong as you sit up to prevent injury.
- When you are laying back down, come down slowly to put more strain on the abdominals.
10. Mountain Climbers on a Medicine Ball
Performing mountain climbers alone is a great cardiovascular abdominal exercise, but doing them on a medicine ball takes it to the next level. Your abs have to do more work to help you maintain balance!
One medicine ball
How-To Perform Mountain Climbers on a Medicine Ball
- Place both your hands on a medicine ball, and get into a plank position.
- Steady yourself before bringing one knee up to your chest.
- Place that foot back on the ground before bringing your other knee into your chest.
- Continue to do this at a faster pace while keeping your hands on the ball.
- Strengthens the rectus abdominis
- Works the transverse abdominis
- Improves your balance
- Slightly round your back during this exercise to further engage your abs and protect your lower back.
- Start by going slow to ensure you are balanced before moving your legs quicker.
Weighted Ab Workout Program
Weighted Lower Ab Workouts – Program
|Roll Ups With Medicine Ball||2||8-10||1 minute|
|Unilateral Dumbbell March||2||8-10 each side||1 minute|
|Dumbbell Swing||2||8-10||1 minute|
|Medicine Ball Feet-Hand Pass Offs||3||12-15||30 seconds|
|Weighted Leg Raises||3||12-15||30 seconds|
|Alternating Leg Drops||3||12-14 total||30 seconds|
|Weighted Flutter Kicks||3||30 seconds||30 seconds|
Weighted Upper Ab Workouts – Program
|Dumbbell Crunches||2||8-10||1 minute|
|Medicine Ball Slams||2||8-10||1 minute|
|Russian Twists With Dumbbell||2||8-10 each side||1 minute|
|Turkish Get-Up||3||12-15||30 seconds|
|Plank Dumbbell Switch||3||12-15 total||30 seconds|
|Mountain Climbers on Medicine Ball||3||12-15 each side||30 seconds|
|Single-Arm Dumbbell Push Press||3||12-15||30 seconds|
Pro Tips For Training Abdominal Muscles Effectively
1. Diversify Your Routine
While it may be easy to just stick with a few of the basics, try to include new, different exercises in your routine.
Mixing up exercises will help with progressive overload and ensure that your abdominal gains will not plateau.
2. Train Each Muscle
The rectus abdominis is not the only part of your abs. Make sure every abdominal workout you do includes exercises that target each muscle to create the most well-rounded look.
3. Switch Up Your Method
Weighted ab workouts are certainly effective, but including other methods in your routine can take things to the next level.
Try cycling through workouts that contain bodyweight exercises and cardio/explosive movements.
4. Eat in a Caloric Deficit
So you have been working hard to develop your abdominal area, but why are they not showing through? You simply may just have a bit more fat to lose.
Try eating in a caloric deficit to eventually burn the necessary belly fat to let your hard work be exposed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are weighted ab workouts better?
If you have equipment readily available, it is optimal for you to engage in weighted ab exercises rather than bodyweight.
While using your body weight is certainly an effective way to develop muscle, especially with the abdominals, adding weight will allow the results to come about quicker and more prominently.
Can you build abs with weights?
Ab workouts with weights are a great way to build the abdominal muscles because the resistance causes microtears in the muscle.
When the muscles repair, they grow back bigger and stronger.
Does a weighted abs workout reduce belly fat?
Weighted ab workouts will reduce belly fat to a certain degree. Performing the exercises themselves will cause you to burn calories and therefore fat.
However, ab exercises do not target belly fat, as this is impossible. Your genetics will determine where you lose fat first when you are burning calories.
We hope that you enjoyed our list of the best weighted ab workouts and that you plan to give a few of them a try!
Just like with growing any other muscle group, it just takes a bit of time and dedication to see the results. Put in the work every week, and you’ll see how ab exercises with weights can really make a difference.
Comment below your favorite ab workout with weights, and don’t forget to share this article with anyone you know wanting to strengthen their abdominal muscles!
Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her passion is helping others learn how strong and healthy they can become by transforming their daily habits. She is also the owner of Edge of Longevity and spends most of her time in the gym and learning how she can influence others through positivity!