8 Best Dumbbell Exercises for Your Abs to Get a Six-Pack for Summer

8 Best Dumbbell Exercises for Your Abs

There’s a popular notion that abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. There’s no doubt that a proper diet and a low percentage of body fat are prerequisites to create a six-pack. Without the right nutrition, no amount of ab-specific training will produce visible abs.

Assuming proper nutrition is in place, there’s another popular notion, brought about by the popularity of core training, that there’s no need to work the abs specifically. A rigorous core workout targeting the hips, midsection, and shoulders is all you need to produce six-pack abs.

That approach can be effective, of course, and some prefer that two-for-one approach to spending specific workouts crunching, planking, twisting, and otherwise pushing the abs through a session of grueling bodyweight movements. Studies suggest that core training is effective in building core stability.

But a dumbbell workout focused on the abs and obliques is a happy middle ground for athletes looking to challenge the midsection while getting added strength and stability benefits from training with iron.

With this dumbbell workout, we’ll work through four sets of these eight moves in a circuit fashion to produce abs. We will alternate between pushing and pulling movements, so we can produce maximum results with minimal time and equipment, resting only briefly between sets.

Get your abs to pop!

Single-Arm Overhead Press

What it does: It forces the abs to both stabilize the weight at the top of the lift and keep you from twisting.

How to do it: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in the right hand in front of your shoulder, drive it straight up. Lock out the arm; the bicep should be next to the ear. Repeat for 10 reps and switch sides.

How many? 4 sets.

Russian Twist

What it does: It targets the abs and obliques and challenges your rotational strength, which most people tend not to train nearly enough.

How to do it: Sit on the floor and lean slightly back with knees bent and heels on the ground. With straight arms hold a dumbbell in front of you. Rotating from your chest, take your arms to the left and the dumbbell to the floor. Return to the starting position and turn to the right. Repeat for 10 reps to both sides.

How many? 4 sets.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

What it does: Unlike a traditional RDL, where your feet are planted on the ground, a single-leg RDL challenges your abs to keep you stable and from falling over.

How to do it: Stand on your right foot holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Hinge forward from the waist, lowering the dumbbell as your left foot lifts behind you. Contract your glutes to return to the standing position. Repeat for 10 reps on the right and change sides.

How many? 4 sets.

Dumbbell Crunch

What it does: It adds to the degree of difficulty of a traditional crunch.

How to do it: Lie on your back, feet flat on the ground, with knees bent 90 degrees. Hold a dumbbell to your chest. Roll your shoulders three to four inches off the floor, keeping your lower back on the ground. At the top of the movement, pause for a second and flex your abs before returning to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps.

How many? 4 sets.

Waiter’s Walk

What it does: Your abs must work hard to stabilize a heavy weight held overhead while walking as a waiter might with a tray of heavy drinks.

How to do it: Grab a dumbbell in one hand and hold it overhead. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back and down and fire your glutes as you walk. Keep your wrists straight, as if you were waiting tables and holding a tray. Walk 10 yards out and 10 yards back. Switch hands and repeat. Like the farmer’s carry, you’ll soon increase distance and weight.

How many? 4 sets.

T Pushup

What it does: It strengthens and stretches the abs and obliques while also providing all of the standard pushup benefits.

How to do it: Start in pushup position, arms straight, with hands on light dumbbells. Lower yourself and as you push back up, lift your right arm and rotate to the right until your right arm is straight up and your left side faces the floor. Your body should look like a “T” on its side. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side. Repeat for 10 reps to both sides

How many? 4 sets.

Farmer’s Carry – One Arm

What it does: A traditional farmer’s carry holding dumbbells in each hand challenges the shoulders and overall core strength. But carrying just one dumbbell forces the abs to work overtime to keep you stabilized.

How to do it: While carrying a dumbbell in one hand, walk 10 yards out and 10 yards back. Don’t hunch over. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back and down and fire your glutes as you walk. Switch hands and repeat. The farmer’s carry can be a challenging move at first, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re able to walk further or increase the weight.

How many? 4 sets.

Side Plank

What it does: The side plank targets the obliques more than a traditional plank.

How to do it: Start on the ground on your left side with your left forearm on the ground and your elbow under your shoulder and holding a light dumbbell in your right hand. Push up off your elbow, creating a straight line from ankle to shoulder. Your hips should be off the ground and only the side of your bottom foot and your elbow should be on the ground. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat for 10 reps on each side.

How many? 4 sets.

Pete Williams is a NASM-CPT and the author or co-author of several fitness books, including Core Performance and Every Day is Game Day. His work has appeared in publications such as Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and USA Today.