Having strong, well-developed core muscles can make exercising and completing everyday tasks a whole lot easier. When you work on strengthening your core, your body will benefit from improved stability and balance. It can even reduce the strain on your back as you go about your normal life.
But the journey to a stronger core won’t be easy if you’re performing the wrong kinds of exercises. Beginners often make the mistake of performing endless sit-ups, but these are actually one of the least effective ways of developing the abs you dream of. Consistently doing core workouts with weights and exercises that target different parts of your core can give you a more well-rounded physique in less time.
This guide will highlight the top 10 core exercises you can do at home, with or without weights. Build a variety of these into your weekly routine and see your abs get stronger over time.
Most of these core exercises with weights can be performed without dumbbells as well. It all depends on personal preference, so make sure you tailor your routine to suit your fitness level and goals.
The perfect move for beginners, planks are easy to get started with and pose a low risk of injury. While planks are simple enough to learn, they take a lot of effort to hold for extended periods of time. You’ll be toning not only your abs, but your shoulders, back, glutes and hamstrings too, making it a full body workout.
The plank position can be transformed into more than holding your body still. It’s important to keep your spine in one long line but there’s no reason not to make this movement more active. Adding shoulder taps and leg raises can bring your planks to the next level, adding an extra challenge to your routine.
If you prefer core exercises with weights, try holding dumbbells in your hands and raising them towards your chest in a rowing motion one at a time.
A classic part of any core workout with weights, leg raises are great for targeting your lower abs as well as your hips. You can start with your legs on the floor and lift them to a 45-degree angle, or you can lower your legs from a raised position. Squeeze your dumbbell above your ankles if you’re using one.
The key to performing a leg raise safely and effectively is to only lower your legs as far as you can without lifting your back up off the mat. While most workout videos will show the trainer lowering their legs all the way to the floor, this might not be accessible for you. You’ll still be getting all the ab benefits even if you don’t lower your legs completely and you’ll avoid straining your lower back.
To really get into your obliques (the muscles at the sides of your core) add Russian twists to your core workouts with weights. Start by sitting on your mat and elevating your legs with bent knees. Hold a single dumbbell in between your hands (optional) and twist from side to side.
Undoubtedly one of the top 10 core exercises you can do, the crunch is a staple in nearly all ab routines. While traditionally performed without weights, you can hold a dumbbell to increase resistance for an extra challenge.
To do a crunch, make sure you’re lying on your back with your feet firmly planted on the floor or your mat. Your knees should be bent and your elbows should be wide with your hands behind your head. Make sure your chin is tucked down towards your chest to protect your neck and spine. When curling upwards, your core should be engaged. Lift until your shoulder blades come up off the floor and hold before releasing back down.
Side planks are a great addition to core workouts with weights because they can be adjusted to suit both beginners and more experienced athletes. You have the option of performing your side plank by supporting yourself with your wrist when your arm is fully extended, on your forearm, or with your knees lowered to the mat. When using a dumbbell, hold it close to your upward facing hip and use your core to lift and lower. Repeat the exercise on both sides and try to avoid using your legs to move your hips.
Perfect for anyone looking for standing core exercises with weights, the woodchop targets your obliques and helps to improve your overall coordination. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and take one dumbbell between your hands. Raise the weight to one side of your body to around the height of your head and then lower it back down. Perform multiple reps on one side before switching over.
Similarly to a plank, a V-sit challenges your ability to hold your body still. It involves sitting on the mat and raising both your legs and upper body to form a V shape. While the exercise is traditionally performed with straight legs, beginners can bend their knees to make the move more accessible. If you want to place a weight between your ankles you can. Don’t be afraid to make this exercise more dynamic by straightening out your body on the floor before sitting back up again.
One of the top 10 core exercises amongst Pilates practitioners, the C-curve involves sitting on your tailbone and bending your knees with your feet on the floor. You’ll need to round your spine and lower backwards until you’re about halfway between sitting and standing. Hold your arms out in front of you and add weights if desired.
Working more than one section of your core, dead bugs are an all-round toning exercise to get you well on your way towards that six pack. One of the best ab exercises, dead bugs are performed lying down with your legs on the tabletop and arms straight up towards the ceiling. Simply straighten your opposite arm and leg before bringing them back to centre and switching to the other side. Do one rep on each side at a time. If you’d prefer not to use dumbbells here, you could consider ankle weights to add extra resistance.
One of the many moves targeting your lower abs, flutter kicks help you to develop a strong core while working your legs. Because you won’t be able to hold a dumbbell between your ankles here, ankle weights are a must. Raise your legs and cross one over the other quickly. Make sure you keep your core engaged all the way through.
Core workouts with weights can transform your training routine, helping you to become fitter, stronger and more confident in your body’s abilities. You don’t need to make your abs workout part of your everyday routine, but you should consistently show up to do the work a few times a week if you can.Thinking of investing in some new kit? Make sure you check out our gym equipment essentials for all your workout needs.