21 Best Weighted Ab Exercises For A Rock-Solid Core

Do you always do the same core exercises in the gym and aren’t getting the desired results? Or maybe you skip core training altogether as you find endless crunches and planks uninspiring.

Adding resistance exercises using dumbbells and weight plates when training your core is the ideal way to get results.

It improves muscular endurance and significantly enhances someone’s ability to develop a strong core and six-pack ab muscles.

Let’s dive into the 21 best weighted abdominal exercises.

1. Barbell Rollouts

The barbell rollout exercise is not only a very effective core exercise, but it also helps build strength in your back, arms, and shoulders.

This core exercise is the perfect alternative to ab wheel rollouts as it works the exact same muscle groups. It's also about the same difficulty level as well.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Place a barbell on the floor with weight plates attached.
  2. 2
    Start on your knees and place your hands on the bar at shoulder width.
  3. 3
    Tucking your pelvic to engage your abdominal muscles, slowly roll the bar forwards, going as far as you can go that allows you to come back up. Aim for closer to the ground if you have a strong core.
  4. 4
    Once fully extended, pull the bar back towards you until you reach the start position.
  5. 5
    Repeat for 8-10 reps, 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: You can also do this exercise using an ab wheel. If you want to increase the challenge, try adding a weighted vest.
Man in Blue Shorts Doing Barbell Rollout

2. Weighted Hanging Leg Raise

Hanging leg raises are a great way to challenge the abdominal muscles.

Rather than just performing the standard version, increase the stimulus and add weight to fire up the core muscles as an excellent substitute for standard leg or knee raises.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Hang from the pull-up bar with a dumbbell between your feet, or attach ankle weights. You should be in a hanging hollow body position with your legs slightly in front of you to engage your core fully.
  2. 2
    Flex at your hip joint, slightly bend the knees, and with control, pull the legs up until they are parallel to the floor.
  3. 3
    Tilt the pelvis forwards to fully engage the abs in this position.
  4. 4
    With control, lower to the starting position.
  5. 5
    Repeat for 8-10 reps, 3-5 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Do not use momentum to swing your legs up. Allow your abs to work harder.
Hanging Leg Raises

3. Kneeling Cable Crunch / Ab Pulldowns

This is one of the best-weighted abs exercises using the cable machine. The pin-loaded weights make it very easy to adjust the weight as opposed to plate-loaded machines.

Related Article - Plate-Loaded Vs Selectorized Machines

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Set up the rope attachment on one side of the cable machine at the highest setting.
  2. 2
    Set the pin to the desired weight.
  3. 3
    Hold onto each side of the rope and get onto your knees.
  4. 4
    Pull tension into the weight by lowering the rope to your head with your elbows on either side.
  5. 5
    Initiate the crunch movement by bending forwards at your spine, rather than your hips, and pull the shoulders towards your hips, creating a half moon shape with your back.
  6. 6
    Return to the start position and feel a stretch on your abs.
  7. 7
    Repeat for 8-12 reps for 3 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: This exercise can also be done from a standing position.
Kneeling Cable Crunch

4. Side Plank Cable Row

The side plank row is an incredibly effective exercise in building strength in your obliques, the muscles that run down the sides of the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles).

Choose exercises that build the obliques to train lateral core stabilizers to create stability throughout your core.

See Related - Best Cable Ab & Oblique Exercises

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Position yourself close to the cable machine with the handle attached, and start with a light weight.
  2. 2
    Facing the cable machine, get into a side plank on your elbow and maintain a neutral spine.
  3. 3
    Row the handle towards you keeping your elbow close to your ribs.
  4. 4
    Slowly release the handle to the start position, maintaining a strong plank position.
  5. 5
    Repeat for 8-12 reps, 3 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you do not have access to a cable machine, you can do this exercise using a resistance band.
Side Plank Cable Row

5. Side Plank Dumbbell Powell Raise

This exercise is extremely effective in training anti-lateral flexion. Training the lateral muscles of your core helps reduce muscular imbalances.

If you're looking for a substitute exercise for standard side planks, this is the perfect option.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Get into the side plank position on your elbow and make sure you’re holding a neutral spine.
  2. 2
    Hold a light dumbbell in your free hand.
  3. 3
    Keeping your core engaged, with a straight arm, raise the dumbbell upwards until it is above your shoulder.
  4. 4
    With control, lower the weight back just off the floor and repeat.
  5. 5
    Do 8-10 reps on each side for 3 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: You do not need to use a heavy dumbbell for this exercise. Keep it light and controlled, and ensure your body does not twist when raising and lowering the weight.
Side Plank Dumbbell Powell Raise

6. Landmine Anti-Rotation

This exercise works on anti-rotation of the upper body and increases the tension on the abdominals and the obliques.

This is one weighted abs workout that will increase the strength and endurance of your core muscles.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Set up a barbell in a landmine attachment or the corner of a room and attached a weight to the end, or you can do this with an empty barbell.
  2. 2
    Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, pick up the barbell, and hold it straight in front of you.
  3. 3
    Keeping your arms straight and your hips stable, pull the barbell over to one side (the arm on that side will bend) till it reaches your hip.
  4. 4
    Pull the bar back to the starting position and, without pausing, take the bar over to the other side.
  5. 5
    Do not use your lower body to create momentum. To activate the abdominal muscle fibers, brace the core and exhale at the end of each rep.
  6. 6
    Repeat for 10-12 reps on each side, 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Ensure you keep your hips stable as you initiate this exercise.
Man Doing Landmine Anti-Rotation

7. Turkish Get Up

The Turkish Get Up is an advanced kettlebell movement that challenges all muscle groups but is also one of the best-weighted abs exercises due to the challenge it places on your core.

Build muscle and stability and increase coordination all in one movement.

Related Article - Do Kettlebells Actually Build Muscle?

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Starting with the kettlebell in your left hand, lie flat on the floor.
  2. 2
    Bend the left foot up, keep the right leg straight and prop yourself onto your right elbow.
  3. 3
    Place your palm on the ground and press into your right hand, and lift your hips off the floor.
  4. 4
    Bring your straight leg under you, so you are in a kneeling position.
  5. 5
    From here, come up to a standing position with the weight still above your head.
  6. 6
    Reverse the movement until you are lying back on the floor.
  7. 7
    Starting with the kettlebell in your right hand, lie flat on the floor.
  8. 8
    Bend the right foot up, keep your left leg straight and prop yourself onto your left elbow.
  9. 9
    Place your palm on the ground and press into your left hand, and lift your hips off the floor.
  10. 10
    Bring your straight leg under you, so you are in a kneeling position.
  11. 11
    From here, come up to a standing position with the weight still above your head.
  12. 12
    Reverse the movement until you are lying back on the floor.
  13. 13
    Do 2-5 reps on each side for 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Looking up at the kettlebell helps control the weight. This is a highly demanding exercise that requires lots of stabilization.
Woman Doing Turkish Get-Up with Kettlebell

8. Weight Plate Crunches

If you’re going to do crunches, do them weighted for a more effective result.

Doing weighted ab workouts over high volume work is much better as the muscle needs to be trained using resistance rather than a high amount of repetitions.

Read Also - How Many Weight Plates Do I Need?

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lying on your back, hold a weight plate in your hands.
  2. 2
    Lift your feet off the floor and bend your knees, so your legs are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. 3
    Press your lower back to the floor and lift far as you can and feel your abs are fully engaged.
  4. 4
    Lower back to the start position.
  5. 5
    Repeat for 12-15 reps, 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: You can also use a medicine ball for this exercise. You will only be able to lift a few inches to engage your abs.
Weight Plate Crunches

9. Dumbbell Straight-Arm Crunches

Weighted abs exercises will work those six-pack abs much more than bodyweight ab exercises. This core workout is similar to weight plate crunches but uses dumbbells instead.

Suggested Equipment - Best Affordable Adjustable Dumbbells 

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back with your legs bent and hold two dumbbells in each hand.
  2. 2
    Extend your arms straight in front of your face.
  3. 3
    Press your lower back to the floor and lift far as you can and feel your abs are fully engaged.
  4. 4
    Lower back to the start position.
  5. 5
    Repeat for 12-15 reps, 3-4 sets.
Dumbbell Straight-Arm Crunches

10. Decline Cable Sit Ups

Another great weighted exercise using the cable machine and a decline bench.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Place a decline bench in front of the cable machine with the rope handle attached at the lowest setting. Your head should be positioned close to the cable machine.
  2. 2
    Lie on the bench with your feet anchored by the pads.
  3. 3
    Grabbing onto the rope handles, pull the weight so that your arms are on either side of your face and your elbow is tight, and sit up as far as you can.
  4. 4
    At the top of the movement, extend your arms overhead, then slowly lower back down to the start position.
  5. 5
    Bring the elbows back in and go into the next sit-up.
  6. 6
    Repeat for 8-10 reps, 3-4 sets.
Decline Cable Sit Ups

11. Dumbbell Reverse Crunches

Weighted lower ab exercises such as the reverse crunch are great for specifically targeting the lower abs. They also help improve lower back strength.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lying on the floor, place your arms on either side for stability and your legs straight out.
  2. 2
    Anchor a dumbbell in between your feet.
  3. 3
    Engage your core and lift your feet off the floor, bending your knees slightly towards your chest.
  4. 4
    Extend your legs back out, straightening them as they get close to the floor.
  5. 5
    Bring your legs back to the start position.
  6. 6
    Repeat for 8-10 reps, 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Keep your back flat against the floor as best as possible throughout the movement.
Dumbbell Reverse Crunches

12. Weighted Russian Twist

The weighted Russian Twist is one of the best alternatives to regular Russian twists and one of the most well-known exercises for the oblique muscles.

Due to the required balance, this exercise will also give your rectus abdominis muscles a serious workout. They also benefit your hip flexors and upper back.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Sit on the floor and place a weight plate beside you.
  2. 2
    Sit so your torso is at a 45-degree angle, then find your balance on your tailbone and raise your feet off the floor with your knees bent.
  3. 3
    Hold onto the weight plate or medicine ball and rotate your torso taking the weight so it touches the floor, then switch over to the other side.
  4. 4
    Repeat for 10-12 reps on each side for 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If this is too challenging, you can keep your feet on the floor for extra stability.
Weighted Russian Twist

13. Weighted Deadbug

The Deadbug is one of the most effective weighted abs exercises for those who struggle with back pain.

This exercise will target the upper abs due to the pullover movement of the weight plate or free weight.

Due to the position on the floor, this movement is ideal for keeping the pressure off the spine.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lie on the floor and bend your knees, so your legs are at a 90 degrees angle.
  2. 2
    Holding a weight plate, raise it above your face with your arms straight.
  3. 3
    From here, brace your core and lower the plate towards the ground above the top of your head and lower one leg straight towards to ground; the other leg stays bent.
  4. 4
    Bring the plate and the leg back to the start position and then lower the plate again, this time lowering the other leg. This is counted as one rep.
  5. 5
    Repeat for 10-12 reps, 3-4 sets.
Woman Doing Weighted Deadbug Exercise

14. Dumbbell Side Bend

The side bend is one weighted ab exercise that targets the lateral core stability muscles. Use a heavier weight for this exercise as going too light will not create enough work for the obliques.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Stand with feet hip-width with your knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand.
  2. 2
    Keep your shoulders stacked over your hips, keep your abs tight and lower the weight down your leg to one side.
  3. 3
    Return to the starting position and lean a little the other way.
  4. 4
    Repeat for 10-12 reps on each side for 3 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: You do not need to lean too far for this exercise to work the abdominal muscles. Make sure you do not bend forwards or backward while doing this exercise. Keep your spine neutral.
Dumbbell Side Bend

15. High Cable Woodchop

The high cable woodchop ab exercise is excellent for targeting the obliques. Using the cable machine is great for keeping the muscle under tension and for adding variation.

If you're in the market for a cable machine, jump over to our guide on the best cable crossover machines for home gyms.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Set the cable machine high with the handle attached.
  2. 2
    Standing with one side at the cable machine, with your feet hip distance apart, hold onto the handle with your arms straight, and pull the weight across your body until it reaches your hip.
  3. 3
    Hold this position for a second, then release it back to the starting position.
  4. 4
    Repeat for 10-12 reps on each side for 3 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: You do not need heavy weight for this exercise.
High Cable Woodchop

16. Cable Pallof Press

The cable machine offers a great variation to work the abs. The Pallof Press is anti-rotational, which builds endurance and strength.

This "anti rotary tension affect" resists rotational movement and should always be part of core training to build overall strength.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Set the cable to mid-torso height and attach the handle.
  2. 2
    Standing next to the cable on one side, holding onto the handle, step away so the cable becomes taut.
  3. 3
    Place feet hip distance apart and start with your elbows bent and hands at your sternum.
  4. 4
    Keeping your core braced, extend your arms out in front of you, resisting and pulling movement from the cable machine.
  5. 5
    Pause when your arms are in front of you for 3 seconds.
  6. 6
    Return with control to the start, ensuring you are not twisting.
  7. 7
    Repeat for 10 reps on each side for 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: If you do not have a cable machine, then a resistance band works well for this exercise. This can also be done from a kneeling position. If you are rotating while doing this movement, the weight is too heavy.
Cable Pallof Press (Standing)

17. Weighted Plank

The weighted plank has to be one of the most effective weighted ab workouts, as training abdominals in an isometric position is key for strength, balance, and muscle building.

Adding weight will be much more effective than holding a plank for a long time as it creates more stimulus for the abdominal muscle fibers.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Holding a weight plate and starting on your knees, take the weight above your head and slide it down, so it's resting on the middle of your back, and assume the plank position.
  2. 2
    Coming down onto your elbows and onto your toes, keep your core engaged and squeeze your glutes.
  3. 3
    Avoid allowing your back to sag while holding the plank.
  4. 4
    Hold for 45-90 seconds and repeat for 3-4 sets.
Weighted Plank

18. Dumbbell Alternate Toe Touch Crunches

Talk about hardcore weighted abs workouts: If you are familiar with the body weight V-Up exercise, then this is the chance to progress the movement to get your core working even harder. 

Related Article - V-Up Substitute Workouts

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Lie on your back in the hollow body position with your legs slightly off the ground and arms by your side.
  2. 2
    Holding a light dumbbell in your right hand and raise it above your head; keep the left hand where it is.
  3. 3
    With your arms and legs extended, bring the right arm forward, and at the same time, lift your left leg until they meet.
  4. 4
    Your left arm and right leg should stay where they are.
  5. 5
    Control back to the start position
  6. 6
    Repeat for 10-12 reps on one side, switch the dumbbell to the left hand and repeat with the opposite leg. Repeat for 3 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: You do not need to use heavy weights for this exercise.
Dumbbell Alternate Toe Touch Crunches

19. Prone Kettlebell Pull Through

This is one of the best-weighted abs exercises there is. It effectively targets the upper abs and lower abs and works the lateral core stabilizers.

This exercise includes rotation that works on the obliques and also works the rectus abdominis.

See Related - How Many Kettlebells Do I Need?

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Get into a high plank position on the floor with a kettlebell on one side.
  2. 2
    Position your feet out wide to help with balance.
  3. 3
    Start with the weight on your right side. Reach your left arm under the right arm and grab the kettlebell.
  4. 4
    Slide the kettlebell underneath you and keep sliding over to your left side.
  5. 5
    Switch sides by taking your right arm under your left arm and reaching for the kettlebell, sliding it underneath you and back to the start.
  6. 6
    Repeat for 8-10 reps on each side, 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Try to slide the kettlebell as far away as possible to get the most rotation you can.
Man Doing Kettlebell Pull Throughs

20. Push-Up To Renegade Row

This abs exercise is an amazing whole body movement that will build strong shoulders, a strong chest, and a solid core.

Adding dynamic movements like this will challenge the core and work it hard. This is one hell of a core-burning substitute for regular renegade rows.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Place two dumbbells of the same weight on the floor.
  2. 2
    Holding onto them, place your hands shoulder-width apart and get into a push-up position.
  3. 3
    Next, bend your elbows back and initiate a push-up.
  4. 4
    When your arms are fully extended, row one dumbbell up, then place it on the ground, and then repeat on the other side. This is one rep.
  5. 5
    Repeat for 6-8 reps on each side, 3-4 sets.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: You can also use kettlebells for an added challenge, but you need to be careful they do not tip and injure your wrists.
Push-Up To Renegade Row

21. Single Arm Farmers Carry

This unilateral exercise is guaranteed to build core strength.

The single arm farmers carry is a weighted core exercise that will target the oblique muscles as you need to counteract the weight from pulling you to the side.

How to do it:

  1. 1
    Choose a moderately heavy kettlebell that you need to resist from pulling you to one side.
  2. 2
    Bend your knees and pick up the kettlebell on one side.
  3. 3
    Stand tall, and keep your shoulder level and the kettlebell away from your side.
  4. 4
    Walk with a moderate pace and keep your core engaged. Don’t let the weight pull you to the side.
  5. 5
    Walk for 30-60 seconds and switch sides.
  6. 6
    Repeat for 3-4 reps.
Garage Gym Pro Tip: Focus on your posture with this exercise, and make sure you don't slouch. Get the most out of this exercise by not letting the kettlebell lean against your leg.
Single Arm Farmers Carry

Pros and Cons of Doing Ab Workouts with Weights

Benefits

Choosing weighted abdominal exercises when it comes to training abs will make your core much stronger than without.

  • Doing weighted core exercises regularly will help build more strength and size.
  • It adds variation to core training and keeps things interesting.
  • Weighted core exercises will have a beneficial effect on your performance in the gym and help you lift more.[1]

Risks

When training core using weight, it is important always to choose the proper exercise appropriate to your abilities.

There are a lot of ab exercises that are not suitable for those with lower back issues, and that especially includes weighted exercises.

  • Weighted ab exercises may put more of a strain on your lower back than without.
  • Intense core exercises may cause overactive pelvic floor muscles, causing the muscle to become too tight.

Common Questions On Weighted Ab Exercises

Do weighted ab exercises help you lose weight?

Doing weighted abs exercises regularly will help you build a strong core which helps increase performance in the gym, helps in daily life, and develops six-pack abs. However, doing weighted ab exercises alone will not help you lose weight.[2]

Can weighted ab exercises make your waist bigger?

The benefit of doing weighted ab exercises is to provide more stimulus and challenge to the muscles and increase size. If you are doing weighted ab exercises regularly, then after a period of time, your waist can get bigger because the muscle has grown.

How heavy should weights be for abs?

This all depends on which exercise you are doing and how strong your core currently is. Most weighted ab exercises don't need heavy weight to be effective. But as your core gets stronger, you will need to use more weight. 

What’s better for abs: cardio or weights?

It is best to use a combination of both, particularly if you need to reduce body fat in order to see the definition in your core. On the other hand, if you already have lower body fat and want to build more strength and muscle in your core, then it is better to focus on weighted abs exercises.

How often should I train abs?

Most exercises you already do in the gym are working your core muscles, but it is always a good idea to train your core independently. Your core muscles are like any other muscle group in your body and require rest to elicit the desired response. It is recommended to train your core 2 to 3 times per week.


Conclusion

If you want to build a strong core and create a more defined mid-section, then make weighted core training part of your training schedule for great results.

The best weighted abs exercises are those that challenge all the different areas of the core and include anti-rotational and isometric movements.

References: 

1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21804427/

Jo Taylor

Last Updated on November 29, 2022