Just because you only have a limited amount of equipment doesn’t mean you can’t always get a great workout in. As part of a video series on the best exercises to do using just dumbbells, Athlean-X founder Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. outlined some killer moves that he uses overload his abdominal muscles.
He broke down the list into seven different categories depending on their focus: Strength, Power, Hypertrophy, Total Body, Corrective, Metabolic, and Miscellaneous.
The one arm Otis-up is a no-momentum move that’s great for building strength, according to Caveliere. “The only challenge is to get up into a high sitting position, and then lower yourself down in controllably,” says the trainer. Doing this without the assistance of your legs makes your ab muscles do all of the work.
Conversely, you can try a dragon thrust, which works the same muscle group, but from the opposite direction. Anchor yourself to something fixed while lying on your back, place the dumbbell between your feet, and try to lift the pelvis up and extend your legs out.
The move which Cavaliere recommends for power is the dumbbell twisting toe tap. The timed movement of both the upper and lower body means that the abs are placed on a rotational stretch in every rep. “There’s coordination and synchronisation of the lower and top half, and more importantly, there’s the overcoming of an external load with speed,” says Cavaliere.
For hypertrophy, the best dumbbell move is the slow, weighted levitation crunch. Most ab exercises are done on the floor, meaning you never go past a neutral position. With this move, when you lay in an elongated manner over the physio ball, you’ll get an exaggerated stretch on your abs that you then have to come through. “When we come out of this, every single contraction should be purposeful,” says Cavaliere. “You should think about trying to contract each row of the abs.”
When it comes to metabolic training, Cavaliere proposes two moves: The dumbbell rock the boat and the hollow rock, both of which are isometric exercises which focus on maintaining a stable, locked position rather than dynamic contraction. “The idea is you’ll reach that metabolic overload faster, because the demands on the muscle are greater,” he says.
5. Total Body
Cavaliere’s choice for a total body move is the dumbbell overhead carry. “Any time we elongate our body, we’re creating an instability of our entire body,” he says. The goal is to force your abs to bring stability to the position to keep the weights steady while you walk. Cavaliere suggests using a combined weight that equals about a quarter of your body weight, but you’d be better off starting out with whatever weight you can handle, then working your way up.
The dumbbell ab roll-up comes next. You’ll be working to stretch the lower back, which can get tight after compensating for other weak spots in the body. You’ll create an eccentric challenge as you lower your torso down on the ground, which creates control at every segment of your back.
The wildcard that hits the muscles differently is the weighted gymnast ab tuck. Cavaliere stresses the wide range of benefits that come with the movement, from the loaded posterior tilt to the twisting and rotation of the obliques to the overload of the serratus anterior.
No dumbbell? No worries. Why not try the plank variation below to get Man of Steal abs?