17 Weighted Abs Exercises That'll Add Major Muscle Definition To Your Midsection

Load up your exercises to seriously sculpt your core.

Kathryn Wirsing

When it comes to core training, there are so many ways to strengthen and sculpt your muscles. You can use bodyweight abs exercises, target specific muscle groups at a time, like your obliques, or you can take a 360-degree approach and train the entire area at once, which is how Shakira got her Super Bowl Halftime Show abs, btw.

But if your main goal is adding muscle definition to your midsection the best (read: fastest) way to get abs is via weighted ab workouts. Performing exercises with a load that's heavy enough to make you struggle by the last couple of reps is the way to go. (You can use dumbbells or kettlebells interchangeably.) The extra pounds make your entire system work that much harder, and that's especially true of the muscles in your middle, because that's your center of gravity. So, when you pick up a weight and lift it overhead, for example, or move it from the floor toward the ceiling, all of that coordination comes from your core engaging and supporting your other muscles as they move.

Because of this, you can get a serious core workout by doing way more move than just traditional abs exercises. The result? Not only will you carve your core, but the rest of your body, too. Score!

Below, you'll find a list of the 17 best weighted abs workout moves. You can swap them in for the bodyweight versions of any of these exercises to dial up their muscle-defining magic, or you can perform them together as a workout two to three times per week. For the latter, you want to treat them as a circuit training session and perform them as an AMRAP workout. What that means is that you'll go through the list of moves, from top to bottom, doing as many reps as possible of each exercise in 40 seconds, then resting for 20 seconds and continuing immediately to the next. At the end, rest for two minutes before repeating the entire circuit again. Happy sweating!

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How to: Start standing with feet hip-width apart holding the handle of a kettlebell with both hands in front of face, elbows bent and wide at sides. Keeping both elbows bent, and the rest of body still, slowly circle the kettlebell around head once, keeping the weight at eye level. That's one rep.

Unilateral Dumbbell March

How to: Stand up straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and extend your right arm out to your side at a 45-degree angle from your body. Slowly lift your left leg up until you knee is at hip height. Then, with control, lower your leg down to the ground. Repeat on the other side. That's one rep.

Low To High Dumbbell Chop

How to: Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of chest. Rotate body toward left foot, lifting right heel and pivoting on right ball of foot so knee faces knees and hips face left side while bending over and lowering weight down outside of right foot. Reverse the movement, and continue rotating through center until body faces right side, pivoting on ball of right foot and raising weight up overhead at 45-degree angle. Reverse to return to start. That's one rep.

Single-Arm Kettlebell Push Press

How to: Start standing with feet just wider than hips, a kettlebell in right hand, right arm bent with elbow close to body so that the weight rests on shoulder, and left hand on hip. Sink hips slightly into a quarter-squat. Then, quickly push through feet to extend legs, simultaneously pressing kettlebell straight up until right arm is completely extended overhead. With control, lower kettlebell back down. That's one rep.

Squat To Overhead Press With Rotation

How to: Start standing, feet hip-distance apart, toes pointed out slightly. Dumbbells should be in either hand and resting lightly on shoulders. Sit back into a squat until thighs are parallel with the ground. Drive up through heels to standing while raising right arm toward ceiling, turning torso toward the left, and lifting right heel to pivot on it. Come back to center as you sit into the squat, then stand while raising left warm toward ceiling, turning torso toward the right, and lifting left heel to pivot on it. That's one rep.

Leg Drops

How to: Lie on your back with a dumbbell held in between your hands and extend your arms. (Think wrists over chest NOT your face.) Lift your legs up directly over your hips. Lower your left leg down as low as you can go without your lower back arching up off the mat. Return to start, and repeat on the other side. That's one rep.

Plank Dumbbell Drag

How to: Start in a high plank, shoulders over wrists and feet wider than shoulders. Place a dumbbell (or towel/other weight) outside right wrist. Keeping hips and shoulders level, reach left hand across body to drag the weight outside where left wrist will land. Return to high plank and repeat on the other side. That's one rep.

Half-Kneeling Windmill

How to: Start by kneeling on your left knee, and bring your right foot to the side of your body, with foot firmly on the ground and toes pointed to the right. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand. Rack the kettlebell at your chest, then lift it overhead, keeping your eyes on the weight. Slowly lower your body down until your left hand reaches the ground. Then continue lowering until your elbow and forearm reach the ground. Reverse the movement and return to start. That's one rep.

Turkish Get-Up

How to: Start lying face up with left leg straight on mat, right leg bent, foot flat on floor, left arm out at side on floor at 45-degree angle, and right arm holding kettlebell above shoulder, tricep on floor, and elbow at 45-degree angle from body. Raise the weight up above chest, keeping gaze on it, until arm is straight but not locked at the elbow. Push into left forearm to sit up. Rise onto left palm, lift hips off floor, and slide left leg behind body until kneeling on left knee with shin parallel to top of mat. Sweep left foot back behind body to come into kneeling lunge with both legs bent at 90 degrees. Push through your feet to stand bringing feet together under hips. Reverse entire movement to return to start. That's one rep.

Renegade Row

How to: Start in plank position, holding dumbbells in either hand on the ground. Pull right elbow toward the ceiling until right wrist is near ribs, then lower it down. Repeat on opposite side. That's one rep.

Forward Lunge With Twist

How to: Start in a standing position at back of mat, holding a medicine ball at chest. Take a big step forward with left foot and lower into a lunge until both legs are bent to 90 degrees while extended arms to straight at shoulder height. Then, twist arms and torso over left leg, return to center, then step back to start. Repeat on the opposite side. That's one rep.

Overhead Cossack Squat

How to: Begin by standing up straight, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and a kettlebell in each hand. Rack the kettlebells in front of your chest, and then raise your right arm straight into the air, bicep by your ear. Lift your left foot and take a large step to the left, then sit your hips back and lower down until your thighs are as parallel to the ground as possible. Straighten your left leg and rise back up. That's one rep.

Dumbbell Swing

How to: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding one heavy dumbbell like a goblet. Hinge from the hips and bend knees while reaching the dumbbell back and between legs, keeping back flat and core engaged. Thrust hips forward to swing the dumbbell to about shoulder height and then down again to start. That's one rep.

Planks With Triceps Kickback

How to: Get into a high-plank position with your feet slightly wider than shoulders. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, elbow bent until your tricep is in line with your torso. Extend your arm back, until it’s completely straight. Then return to start. That’s one rep.

Weighted Flutter Kicks

How to: Start lying face up with back pressed into mat, arms extended to straight over chest holding a weight, and lets extended in air at 45-degree angle. Alternate lifting legs up and down a few inches. That's one rep.

Seated Rotation

How to: Start seated, upper body leaned back until abs are engaged. Legs should be lifted and bent at 90 degrees, and arms should be bent, hands holding weight, with elbows wide. Rotate torso to right side so that right elbow is hovering just off mat. Keep lower body still while rotating upper body to left side until left elbow is just off mat. Return to start. Gaze follows hands as you move. That's one rep

Jack Knife Pullover

How to: Start lying on back, holding a single dumbbell in hands like a goblet. Core should be engaged and arms and legs should be held out straight, hovering a few inches off the ground so body forms one curved line. Bring elbows and knees in at the same time, lifting shoulder blades off the ground and pausing when arms and knees meet in the middle. Return to start. That's one rep.

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