Forget sit-ups – you only need these three exercises for solid core strength

Not one of them are done on your back and you just need a dumbbell

man doing a kneeling overhead press
(Image credit: Getty)

Sit-ups aren’t for everyone; they require strong ab muscles to lift your upper torso off the floor and, even if you can do them, they’re not exactly the most 'fun' exercise in the world. Plus, did you know they’re actually not the most effective move when it comes to building up your core strength as they’re abdominal focused? If you’re looking to build your core and abs then these three exercises are far better – all you’re going to need is a single dumbbell and 10 minutes. No dumbbell? Check out our best dumbbell guide.

The term ‘core’ and ‘abs’ can get used interchangeably, but the two are different. When we talk about ab exercises, we’re referring to workouts that target the abdominal muscles, known as the 'six-pack muscles'. However, our core muscles include the abdominals, hips, pelvic floor, lower back and obliques. All these muscles improve our balance and stability and reduce the likelihood of injuries and lower back pain.

These three exercises are very beginner-friendly and ideal for adding onto the end of another workout as a finisher. Aim for 12 to 15 reps of each exercise and try and complete three to four rounds. Start off with light weight dumbbells. Having the correct form over how much weight you're holding is really important here to make sure you're doing each exercise correctly and engaging your core. Here's your exercises:

  • Gorilla rows 
  • Overhead dumbbell marches 
  • Alternating kneeling shoulder press

You can also use a pair of kettlebells for these exercises too and, even if you don't have two dumbbells, you could always create your own DIY dumbbells by filling up two large water bottles. The best ones to use as dumbbells are keg water bottles, like the one in our best gym water bottle guide. We've also got stacks of other great core exercises here at T3, including this low-impact Pilates style core workout, or if you've only got one dumbbell, give this standing single dumbbell workout a whirl.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.