Jump to the main content

FREE SHIPPING On Orders to the Continental U.S.

Secure Checkout


Master Your Core: Effective Weight Training Abs Exercises for Ultimate Strength

Transform Your Abdominal Workouts with Weighted Crunches, Planks, and More

Abs exercises are like any other: in order to remain effective, the challenge level must increase. Now, if you WANT to do 1000 crunches like Patrick Bateman, be my guest (but ideally, not his). For those of us who want to be a little more efficient with our time—and have a thicker, blockier, more badass midsection—there is a simple solution: Weight Training Abs.

Let’s get right to it. There are two main categories of weighted abs exercises: Crunches and Planks. We will discuss the main movement, some helpful tips, the best variations, and even how to work the obliques in each movement pattern, where applicable.


Crunches include any abs exercise that primarily involves bending at the lumbar spine. This includes crunches, leg raises, and side bends, and to a lesser extent, situps, which primarily involves bending at the hips.

Weighted Crunch

This is exactly what it sounds like: you hold a weight on your chest during the exercise. Keep the weight as close to your neck as possible without choking yourself. A dumbbell is often ideal, but a weight plate also works well. A weight vest is also an option. 

Pro Tip: Make sure your abs get tired first, not your lower back. If that happens, it means your abs aren’t “firing” properly. Try doing it very slowly, unweighted, and “flexing” your abs on each rep, until your abs start to tire out.

Variations: Doing crunches on an exercise ball, Bosu ball, or Abmat, on a decline bench, or, for the real showoffs out there, hanging upside-down, can all increase effectiveness (and fun).

Oblique Variation: Hold the weight on one side and turn to the opposite side as you come up.

Weighted Situp

During a situp, the movement begins at your hips, as if to bring your chest to your thighs. You add weight to a situp the same way you add it to a crunch.

Pro Tip: Rather than doing a “crunch into a situp,” keep your abs as stiff as possible coming up and down on the situp. This “strict situp” engages the lower abs more effectively.

Variations: Situps on a decline bench are a time-tested variation. Add weight and you’re officially in Badass Country. Any of the crunch variations should theoretically work on the situp as well.

Oblique Variations: same as the crunch, plus the always-amazing Russian Twist.

Weighted Leg Raise

One of the most epic ab-builders of all time. There are three main versions: the Lying Leg Raise, the Chair Leg Raise, and the one to rule them all, the Hanging Leg Raise with Ab Straps. They are all good and they can all be weighted simply by holding a weight between your ankles, or wearing ankle weights.

Pro Tip: You MUST round your back on each rep. If your legs are coming up but your back is arched, you’re mainly working your hip flexors, which is all right, but we’re trying to grow our abs, right?

Variations: The knee raise is a great regression to the leg raise as well as being effective on its own merit. Slow-negative weighted leg raises have been known to destroy grown humans. 

Oblique Variation: Raising your legs or knees to one side, or bending your hips to one side.

Weighted Side Bend

The weighted side bend involves holding a weight by your side, bending towards it, and standing back up. It’s a tried-and-true builder of the obliques, and it even strengthens the lower back.

Pro Tip: Make sure to bend directly to the side, and NOT forward. Generally, the movement should not involve rounding your lower back forward. 

Variations: Try holding the weight just in front of you or just behind you to hit the obliques differently. Use the one that you feel the most.

Oblique Variation: N/A


Traditional plank variations include the front plank and the side plank. Unlike crunches or situps which involve a muscular contraction of the abdominal muscles leading to movement, planks involve a sustained muscular contraction that resists movement.

The Weighted Plank

Hold a plank position with weight on your back, usually weight plates. This is an amazing exercise for building core stiffness, which not only can improve your aesthetics but has a more appreciable carryover to many compound exercises such as the squat and deadlift. 

Pro Tip: Position the weight right over the lower back. I don’t recommend using a weighted vest for planks because it puts a lot of the weight’s emphasis on the shoulders. And what are we trying to build? The Abs!

Variations: Try both high planks (hands down) and low planks (elbows down). Try holding a “flat back” position by tucking your pelvis under and/or keeping your belly button “drawn in” for a powerful variation. Try retracting the shoulderblades throughout the movement and when you’re about to give up, protract them. You might find you have another minute in you!

Oblique Variation: The side plank. Hey, that’s the next exercise!

The Weighted Side Plank

Adding weight to the side plank is easy: you simply hold a dumbbell in your free hand. The weight should rest on the hip. So, if you’re holding a side plank on your left side, you hold the weight in your right hand.

Pro Tip: Unless you’re a beginner to the movement, avoid high side planks

Variations: Decline side planks, when your feet are elevated, are brutal. Also, try a weighted DYNAMIC side plank. While holding the movement, lower your hip towards the floor, and then push it up towards the ceiling and repeat. Good luck!

Oblique Variation: N/A

How to Incorporate Weighted Abs Training Into Your Program

When trying to build strength in your core, approach it as you would any other muscle group. Avoid heavy singles or triples, but sets of 5 reps are great, and even as high as 8 to 10 reps. 

If you find your progress stalls, consider building more core endurance. Basically, increasing endurance means being able to sustain the exercise for a longer period of time. Therefore, we’re talking low weight and high repetitions. Some great exercises for Abs Endurance are the Abs Bicycle, Butterfly Situp (crossfit style), Decline Situp, Russian Twist, or any unweighted high-rep ab movement where your core eventually “gives out.” 

Try starting out with three sets of continuous reps for 30 seconds. The next workout, go for 45 seconds, and so on. Separate core strength and core endurance workouts by 2-4 days. Your weighted core exercise should start improving again! 

Who Should Do Weighted Abs Training?

There are those who would say you “shouldn’t” do any weighted abs training until you can do some arbitrary number of bodyweight repetitions. There’s validity to that, in that you should master the bodyweight movement before adding weight to it, but that’s where the validity ends.

The bottom line is, you should do weighted abs training if, A) you want to take your abdominal development to the next level, B) you want to improve performance, or C) you enjoy it. 

I have a feeling one of these sounds like you! Enjoy!

About the Author

Mark Ludas CPT is a NASM-certified personal trainer with a decade of experience in the fitness industry. After an asthmatic childhood, Mark discovered his natural aptitude for fitness in his late twenties. At age 36, he accomplished a 300+ pound conventional deadlift and 280+ high-bar squat as a 6’5” 170-pound ectomorph on a fully vegan diet, all after just one year of proper self-programming. Mark is the founder of Resistance Quest Fitness, established in 2016, and the creator of the Paralinear Method of strength training. Additionally, he is a writer, actor, model, and musician. Find him on InstagramFacebookYoutube, and at www.resistancequest.com.

Check out all of our Movement Tutorials on YouTube: 


Equipment in this program

Since 1978, Ironmaster has been dedicated to producing top-quality home gym equipment.

Visit Ironmaster.com to explore our comprehensive range of personal strength training gear. Our renowned Super Bench Adjustable Weight Bench is a staple for any home gym setup. The popular Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells feature a system of interchangeable weight plates, offering a space-saving and cost-effective solution. Another top choice, the IM2000 Self Spotting Machine (Smith Machine style half rack), allows you to create a complete gym in your spare room, garage, or basement.

Discover how to create a custom package and benefit from our everyday discount program—the more you bundle on eligible items, the more you save!

#ironmaster #homegym #abs #exercise #fitness #health #weightloss #HomeGymEquipment #strengthtraining #weightvest

1 Comment

Please log in to leave a comment.

Back to Blog Home

Search Blog

Recent Posts