Your abdominal muscles are located on the front and sides of your torso and make up a significant portion of your core, which is a group of muscles that stabilize and move your upper body at the waist. Exercising these muscles can strengthen them, thereby improving strength, balance and power. When your own body weight resistance is not enough, you can use the external resistance from dumbbells to train your abdominal muscles. Using dumbbells will help you overload your muscles with resistance, giving you a more effective workout. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.
The dumbbell crunch exercise targets your rectus abdominus muscle group, which runs from the bottom of your chest to just above your pelvis. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold onto a single dumbbell with both hands so that the dumbbell is over the top of your head. Contract your abs by pressing your lower back into the floor. Exhale and lift your head and shoulder blades off the floor and toward your knees. Inhale and slowly let your upper body back down to the floor and repeat. Perform three sets of 20 to 25 repetitions.
Dumbbell Side Bend
This exercise trains your external abdominal oblique muscles, located on either side of your rectus abdominus. Begin by standing up straight, with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold onto one dumbbell in one hand by your side, with your palm facing inward. Keeping your back straight, bend at the waist toward the side where you are holding the dumbbell. Bend until you feel a stretch in your obliques on the opposite side. Return to the starting position and repeat for 20 to 25 repetitions. Switch hands and perform the same amount of repetitions in the other direction.
This exercise will target both your rectus abdominus and your external oblique muscles, as well as the muscles of your lower back. Select a single weighted dumbbell and sit on the floor. Begin by holding your feet together and in front of you with your knees bent. For beginners, keep your heels on the floor throughout the exercise. For a more challenging workout, keep your feet together, but raise your heels off the floor slightly. Hold the dumbbell with both hands and position it so that it is about six inches away from your chest. Leaning back slightly, twist at your waist and bring the dumbbell toward the floor to the outside of one hip, then bring the dumbbell across your chest and down toward your other hip. Repeat this motion 20 to 25 times.
One-Arm Dumbbell Swing
This exercise builds strength and increases power in your rectus abdominus, as well as other muscles that support your trunk. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. Place a single dumbbell in between your feet. Squat down to pick up the dumbbell with one arm while keeping your weight on your heels. Make sure you look straight ahead and keep your back flat throughout the exercise. Next, forcefully swing the dumbbell backward between your legs as if you were tossing it behind you. Reverse direction and use your hips to push the dumbbell forward. Keep your arm straight and swing the dumbbell up to about shoulder height. Let gravity swing the dumbbell back between your legs and repeat for 15 to 20 repetitions with each arm.