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July 19, 2021 9 min read

Is your current ab workout not giving you the results you want?  Are you putting in the work to get a six-pack but can't seem to get it? If this sounds like you, you need to add our top 5 weighted ab exercises to your abs workout!

Not only will these exercises carve out a chiseled six-pack, but they will also strengthen and refine all the muscles in your midsection (and a few others)!  Even better, these exercises don't require tons of heavy equipment, so you could even add them to your home workout routine.

Here is everything you need to know about the abs and the best-weighted ab exercises for building a six-pack!

Muscular man with six pack abs poses in the gym

Everything You Need to Know About Getting 6-Pack Abs

Getting a six-pack is more than just doing some crunches and expecting a washboard to show up one day.  Instead, it's about doing only the best exercises that target all of the muscles in the midsection. 

And, on top of that, it's all about consistency! With that said, before getting started on the exercises, get to know your midsection a little more and what makes it so important!

The Difference Between the Abs and the Core

First off, you need to know that your abs and core are not the same thing. Your abs refer to your abdominal muscles, including the:  

  • Transversus abdominis
  • Rectus abdominis
  • External oblique muscles
  • Internal oblique muscles

Overall, the abs are a pretty straightforward muscle group. Their primary function is to initiate movements of the trunk region. The rectus abdominis is the muscle whose characteristic bumps make the midsection look like a washboard. On the other hand, your core refers to an entire network of muscle groups in your midsection, including the:

  • Transverse abdominis
  • Multifidus
  • Diaphragm
  • Pelvic floor muscles

The core muscles are also known as core stabilizer muscles. Their primary functions are to work together to stabilize the entire body and coordinate body movements that include several body parts.

Whether you know it or not, these stabilizer muscles are activated whenever you exercise, walk around, and even as you sit down.  Essentially, you are most likely unconscious of the fact that you are constantly activating the stabilizer muscles. 

When people say that you need to have a strong midsection to do any exercise, they are referring to the core muscles.  The core is the foundation of the entire body and all of its movements.

While they are intertwined, the abs and core have different functions and include different muscles. Nonetheless, though, you need both ab strength and core strength to get that perfect six-pack.

Why a Strong Midsection is Extremely Important

We get it, you probably want strong abs because you want that amazing six-pack look.  But, there's more to having a killer midsection than just looking good.  In fact, having strong abs and a strong core is essential for:

  • Having good posture
  • Keeping back pain at bay
  • Increasing your max lifting load

First off, your core stabilizer muscles help maintain good posture in your abs and back. Without them, you wouldn't even be able to hold your chest or back up as you sit. Also, as you probably already know, having good posture while lifting is key to avoiding injuries.  Therefore, having a strong core is essential for good posture in everything you do.

Second, strong ab and core muscles work together to keep back pain at bay.  As we just mentioned, the core helps hold your chest upright; that nice posture is what keeps lower back pain at bay.  With better posture, your back elongates and your vertebrae have more room to breathe.  That extra breathing room is what prevents a lot of common back pain.

Lastly, having strong ab and core muscles helps you increase your max lifting load on almost every exercise.  For example, deadlifts, squats, and overhead press all require you to engage your abs and core.  However, if your midsection is weak, it’s hard to do extremely heavy lifting, even if your arms and legs are up to par. 

Therefore, if you want to progressively overload your lower and upper body muscles, you must continuously improve your midsection strength. Now that you know the basics of the abs and core, let's get into the best weighted ab exercises that you should add to your core workout right now!

1. Hanging Leg Raise

The hanging leg raise is an advanced, isometric hold ab and core exercise. It is challenging even for people who already have a six-pack of abs. Not only do hanging leg raises target the ab and core muscles, but they also fire up the hip flexors.

The hip flexors intricately connect with the core. Like the core, one of the hip flexors' primary jobs is to stabilize the pelvis and spine. Having a strong and stable pelvis and spine is key to avoiding back pain, having good posture, and better balance. 

The other awesome thing about the hanging leg raise is that it does a great job targeting the lower abs. The lower abs is a challenging part of the midsection to reach. Most exercises do a better job targeting the middle and upper abs. However, the hanging leg raise gets in there and works those stubborn hard-to-reach lower abs.

Here is how to do the hanging leg raise with proper form:

  1. Jump up to a pull-up bar, and dead hang with your hands about shoulder-width apart and in an overhand grip.
  2. When you're ready, exhale, tip your pelvis slightly backward, engage your abs, and slowly lift your legs to parallel with the floor. Keep your legs straight the entire time. All of the movement should come from your hip joint. 
  3. Squeeze your abs and hip flexors to keep your legs straight and in parallel. Your hips should be at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Inhale and slowly drop your legs back to the dead hang starting position.
  5. Repeat! Do nine more reps to complete the set.

While this exercise looks simple, it is uber challenging! One trick to make it easier is to coordinate your breathing with the leg raises. Every time you lift your legs to parallel, deeply exhale.

Then, when you drop your legs back to starting, take a deep inhale. Coordinating your breathing helps supply your muscles with energizing oxygen to help drive the movements. If you want to make the hanging leg raise even more challenging, try one of these more difficult variations:

  • Raising the toes to the hands, rather than stopping at parallel
  • Wearing ankle weights
  • Pulsing the abs while in the parallel leg position

2. Russian Twists

Russian twists target your entire midsection. The central core and abdominal muscles, including the transversus and rectus abdominis get a great workout.   But, the obliques on the sides of the abs put in the most amount of work.

Because most core exercises work the middle ab muscles, the muscles on the sides of the abs sometimes get left behind. However, you can't forget about those side abs if you want totally chiseled abs.  Thankfully, Russian twists are one of the best exercises for targeting the side abs!

Here is how to do Russian twists with proper form:

  1. Sit on the floor in a pike position. Grab a medicine ball or weight plate and hold it with both hands at chest level.
  2. Lean your upper body back about 45-degrees, bend your knees to 90-degrees, and lift your feet off the floor to balance on your tailbone in a V-sit position. Keep your pelvis neutral and back straight! No hunching the back!
  3. Balance on your tailbone, then exhale and twist your upper body to the right side. The medicine ball or weight should tap the floor on the right.  While your upper body twists, your lower body should remain stable and facing forward.  
  4. Inhale to twist back to center, then exhale and twist to the opposite side. Inhale back to the center to complete one rep.
  5. Repeat! Keep alternating between twisting to the right and left sides.

It is crucial to keep your back neutral throughout the exercise. People often curve their lower back and end up with back pain. As you do the exercise, regularly check your back to see if it is straight or not.

Lastly, if you want to make Russian twists more challenging, then try one of these variations:

  • Extend your legs straight while in the V-sit
  • Increase the weight of your medicine ball or weight
  • Pulse on each side of the twist
Barbell Ab Rollout

3. Barbell Rollout

If you're looking for a muscle-building exercise that sculpts solid abs, then look no further than barbell rollouts. As a bodyweight exercise, they look like a piece of cake. But they will fire up your entire midsection like none other!

In addition to the entire midsection, barbell rollouts also work the:

  • Upper back
  • Shoulders
  • Lower back

Barbell rollouts target the hard-to-reach erector spinae in the lower back. The erector spinae is a muscle deep within the back that balances out the core. While it is a small muscle, it works as a stabilizer muscle in almost every core exercise, bodyweight exercise, and free weight exercise. Therefore, when the erector spinae is strong, you'll be able to increase your max load on countless different lifts.

Here is how to do the barbell rollout with proper form:

  1. Load your barbell with small-sized weight plates.
  2. Get on all fours with your knees directly under the hips and hands directly under the shoulders.
  3. While still on your knees, roll the barbell towards you and grip it overhand with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Your hands and the barbell should be directly under your shoulders.
  4. When you're ready, exhale and slowly roll the barbell forward until your chest comes close to parallel with the floor. Be sure to get the full range of motion in each rep by rolling forward as far as your abs can go. Keep your arms and back straight as you roll forward.
  5. Inhale and slowly roll back up to starting position with the bar underneath your shoulders.
  6. Repeat! Do two to three sets of ten to twelve rolls.

If you want to make barbell rollouts even more challenging, try one of these more difficult variations:

  • Single-arm rollouts (start on the right arm, then switch to the left arm)
  • Do a push-up each time you inhale back to starting position
  • Do an isometric plank position hold when you reach the full range of motion

4. Low to High Dumbbell Chop

The low to high dumbbell chop improves strength in the upper abs and obliques. It also boosts your heart rate up into its fat-burning zone to stimulate weight loss.

The fat-burning zone is the point during exercise at which you start to burn body fat for energy. Most people's fat-burning zone begins at about 70 to 80% of their maximum heart rate. Moreover, if you want to build six-pack abs and burn belly fat, then the dumbbell chop is for you!

Here is how to do the low to high dumbbell chop with proper form:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and toes turned 45-degrees outward.
  2. Place a dumbbell on the floor by your left foot. 
  3. When you're ready, do a squat while rotating your core to the left. 
  4. Grab the dumbbell with both hands, then come back up to standing while simultaneously pulling the dumbbell across the right side of your chest and overhead. Your body should twist slightly to the right.
  5. Slowly untwist your body, squat down, and lower the dumbbell to the outside of your left leg.
  6. Repeat! Do ten to twelve reps twisting to the right side, then do another ten to twelve twisting to the left.

You will know you are doing these right if you look almost like you are chopping wood!

5. Kettlebell Halo

Last but not least, give the kettlebell halo exercise a try! Halos work the entire core and abs as well as the shoulders and upper back. What makes halos so good for the midsection is that they target all four core stabilizer muscles. 

Halos are one of only a few exercises designed specifically to target these muscles.  Here is how to do the kettlebell halo with proper form:

  1. Grab a kettlebell and stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the kettlebell upside down at chest level; the handle should face down, and the ball faces up.
  3. Grab the sides of the handle with your right hand and left hand.
  4. When you're ready, lift your left elbow to circle the kettlebell around the right side of your head; continue circling the kettlebell until it drops directly behind the head.
  5. Finish the circle by lifting your right elbow to return the kettlebell to the front of the chest.
  6. Repeat going the opposite direction! This time, lift the right elbow to circle the kettlebell around the left side of your head and then the left elbow to bring it back to the front.
  7. Keep alternating circles to the left and right. Do ten to the right and ten to the left for one complete set.

As you do the exercise, keep these form tips in mind:

  • The circles should be small and tight around the head
  • Do not let the kettlebell drop too far behind your head or you risk hurting your back
  • Take one deep inhale as the kettlebell drops behind the neck, then exhale to bring it back around to the chest

Final Thoughts

If you are serious about building that six-pack, then look no further than these best ab exercises. Having a strong midsection is central to good health and being a better lifter.

Therefore, the six-pack is about more than just aesthetics... it's about becoming an overall better version of yourself!

Bonus tip: Having a well-built midsection is something all of the strongest lifters have in common. But, what else sets them apart from the rest of the crowd? Here's one thing that sets the highest achieving lifters apart from the rest!