Whether you’re brand new to working out or you have a long-time love for the gym, there’s one muscle group of your body that can make or break your fitness abilities—your core. A strong core is the foundation of balance and stability, and it can help you build muscle mass more efficiently and mitigate possible injuries.
Whether you like morning or evening workout, heavy strength training or light weights, working on your core is important. And one of the best ways to strengthen your core muscles is through weighted abs exercises. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the benefits of weighted ab workouts and share some of our favorite exercises for you to try.
#1 Improved Muscle Mass
One benefit of ab workout is improved muscle mass. If you want to see those defined abs, weighted moves are the way to go—adding weight to your core workouts can help you build muscle mass. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effects of high and low resistance strength training and discovered the following:1
- Lower loads with higher repetitions produced greater muscle mass
- Fewer repetitions at higher weight also increased muscle mass
- Higher weights also increased strength
Essentially, adding weight to your ab exercises can help to build muscle mass and tone your abs. Heavier weights are more effective at increasing strength. However, lighter weight and high reps are an excellent way to get started if you’re a beginner to ab workouts, and you can add more resistance as you grow stronger.
#2 Increased Core Strength
It comes as no surprise that a weighted ab exercise helps increase the strength of your core, which can benefit your overall fitness. A strong core is also advantageous beyond the gym: Research shows that core strength is an important factor in reducing the risk of lower back pain.2 A stronger core and pain-free back mean you’ll likely have:
- Better posture
- An easier time performing daily activities
- Improvement in athletic endeavors
So, don’t skip those weighted core exercises—they’ll pay off in many ways both in and out of the gym.
#3 Better Stability and Balance
Picture a spinning top—you give it a whirl and it wobbles from side to side. If your core muscle is weak, you may find yourself doing the same. That’s because your core doesn’t perform solo—it works in conjunction with your hips, pelvis, and lower back to keep you upright and stable.
A strong core can help prevent wobbles by improving your stability and balance. This is especially beneficial when at the gym. When you’re performing exercises, it’s critical to maintain proper form and balance to target the proper muscle groups and avoid injury.
#4 Enhanced Flexibility
If you’ve ever performed a yoga routine, you know how critical it is to engage and control your core muscle to maintain each posture. To that end, weighted ab workouts can help to strengthen your core and improve the flexibility of your hips and pelvis for full-body strength.
Better flexibility is linked to:3
- Improved posture
- Enhanced balance
- Fewer injuries
- Better athletic performance
If you see a trend here, you’re correct. All of these aspects of fitness are connected. Adding weights to your core routine improves strength, which in turn improves flexibility, leading to better overall health and performance.
#5 Reduced Injury Risk
When your core is made stronger with weighted ab workouts, you have better balance, flexibility, and muscle stability. To better understand why this is important, think about your car’s tires. When your car is properly balanced, the tires wear evenly. When something is off, one tire may wear more rapidly than the others, causing problems for your vehicle.
Your body is similar—your core doesn’t work alone, and when it’s strong, the rest of your body can rely on it to provide balance and stability and reduce one-sided wear and tear. This lessens the likelihood that you’ll suffer from unwanted injuries from the unbalanced use of one part or one side of your body.
#6 Improved Athletic Performance
Lastly, a stronger, more flexible, and better-balanced body will perform better athletically. A strong core is critical for athletes of all types, including:
- Weight lifters
- Team sport performers
Whether you’re new to working out or you’re a competitive marathoner, adding weighted exercises to your core exercise routine can help you reach your fitness goals across the board.
What Are the Best Weighted Ab Exercises?
Weighted ab workouts can be quite challenging, but the benefits make them well worth it. While there are countless exercises you can perform, we’ve narrowed it down to our 5 favorites which can also be found on our iChuze app for better visualization. These moves will help to target your entire core, including:
- Upper abdominals
- Lower abdominals
#1 Weighted Plate Crunches
Crunches are the bread and butter of core work. They are excellent for targeting your upper abs and, when you add a little weight, they can help to define that six-pack you’ve been working toward. To perform weighted plate crunches, you should:
- Select a weight plate that is challenging but not too heavy to lift
- Lie on your back with the weight plate in your hands
- Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, lifting your feet off of the floor
- Extend your arms straight above your chest
- Engage your core and lift your entire torso off of the floor
- Hold for several seconds and then release
- Repeat for up to 20 reps, keeping your arms straight and knees bent
As you increase your strength, you’ll be able to complete more reps or use a heavier weight plate.
#2 Weighted Leg Raise Crunches
Next, you should work on your lower abdominal muscles. We love laying dumbbell leg raises to strengthen those hard-to-reach muscles. To perform this core exercise, you will:
- Select a dumbbell that isn’t too heavy
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat with the dumbbell between your ankles
- Engage your core
- Keep your legs straight and lift them as high as you can
- Slowly lower your legs back to the mat and repeat
- Make sure you keep your back, shoulders, and hips in contact with the floor throughout
You should feel your core working as you lift and lower your legs.
#3 Weighted Russian Twist
You should also work on strengthening the oblique muscles. These are the muscles running along the side of your abs. To strengthen the obliques, we love the weighted Russian twist abs workout. This is an easy to perform move in which you:
- Use a weight plate, dumbbell, or kettlebell
- Sit on your mat holding the weight in front of you
- Bend your elbows and pull the weight in toward your stomach
- Lift your feet slightly off the ground
- Engage your core and twist your entire torso to the left, then the right
You’ll need to fully engage your core to remain upright and keep your feet from touching the floor throughout the exercise.
#4 Weighted Plank
Want to work your entire core with one move? Try a weighted plank. You’ll need a weight plate and a friend to help you get into position:
- Get into a plank position—either forearm or fully upright
- Engage your core to balance your body
- Have your friend or trainer gently place the weight plate on your lower back
- Hold the plank as long as you can
- Have your partner remove the plate before lowering your body to the floor
This ab exercise adds a little more difficulty to a standard plank.
#5 Dumbbell Plank Row
Another weighted ab workout that helps strengthen your entire core (with a bonus arm and shoulder boost) is a dumbbell plank row. To perform this move:
- Gather a pair of dumbbells at a challenging (but not maximum) weight
- Place the dumbbells under your shoulders and get into a plank position
- Fully engage your core
- Alternate lifting each dumbbell, bringing your elbow to your ribcage
The key to performing a plank row is to keep that core working the whole time. This will keep you balanced and stable as you lift the dumbbells.
How Often Should You Perform Weighted Ab Exercises?
The CDC recommends that adults work on strengthening the major muscle groups, abs included, at least twice per week.4 The amount of core work you’ll be able to do during each of those sessions depends on two key factors:
- Your overall fitness level
- Your fitness goals
If you’re just starting your fitness journey, you might need to begin with lighter weights or fewer repetitions. Over time, you’ll get stronger and be able to do more. Finding the right core workout for your body is important to building a stronger core.
Build a Strong Core at Chuze Fitness
Adding weights to your ab workout routine can help to strengthen and tone your core muscles. And your future workouts will benefit from the added muscle mass, strength, stability, and flexibility, whether you’re going for 6-pack abs or building a stronger core.
If you’re unsure where to begin strengthening your core, Chuze Fitness is here to help. We offer a wide range of group exercise classes, team training, free weights, and more to help you achieve your fitness goals. Discover more exercises from TRX workouts to HIIT and more. Check out one of our locations today to see how we can help you build a stronger foundation in all things fitness.
About the author:
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- PubMed. Effects of Low vs High Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25853914/
- PubMed. Optimizing Performance by Improving Core Stability and Strength. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19026017/
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. The Recommended Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory and Muscular Fitness and Flexibility. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/1998/06000/ACSM_Position_Stand__The_Recommended_Quantity_and.32.aspx
- CDC. How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm