The 6 Best Upper Ab Exercises You Should Be Doing
While it may be technically impossible to do only upper ab exercises (since everything is connected), you can certainly focus on the upper abdominal area with your workout choices.
Why Should You Train Your Upper Abs?
Abdominals are what help connect your upper body to your lower body in the front and on the sides of your physique. Your upper abs help you flex your body forward, and upper internal and external abs help you twist and stabilize your body. Used in virtually every movement, whether in a stabilizing manner or outright movement, your abdominals are a part of most functions, including walking, running, proper posture, breathing, and protecting your internal organs.
What are the Different Muscles in the Abdominals?
Perhaps a quick refresher on the structure of the abdominals is in order. Which muscles make up the abs and where are they located? You may be surprised to discover that your abs are probably larger, deeper, and longer than you originally thought. In fact, your “core” includes a number of different muscles all working in unison to hold up your body and support bending and twisting motions. Even your posture depends on your abdominals.
Which muscles form what’s known as the abs? While there are many supporting muscles, the four main muscle groups of the abdominals are the internal and external obliques and the rectus and transversus abdominis.
The group most responsible for what we call “six pack abs” is the rectus abdominis group. This group runs up and down from the ribs to the pelvis and make up the flat, blocked muscles in the front of the body. The internal and external obliques protect the body by wrapping around your core diagonally from front to back. And lastly, the transversus abdominis are the muscles located deep within your torso to support your entire body. This wall of muscle is located underneath all your other abdominal muscles.
The 6 Best Upper Ab Exercises
1. Swiss Ball Knee-Ins
Start with your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders. Place the tops of your feet onto a swiss ball and bring your knees to your chest. Your back will be slightly rounded. Unbend your knees as you straighten your legs, rolling the ball out behind you until you are in a plank-like position. Hold this position for a moment or two before bringing your knees back to your chest by rolling the ball toward you again.
This oldie but goodie should be a staple in your upper ab exercise routine. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place your hands lightly behind your head, being careful not to pull on your neck. Look straight up toward the ceiling as you lift your upper body and shoulders off the floor by squeezing your abs. Curl forward slightly as you perform this movement, blowing out your air as you crunch. Hold the crunch for a moment before slowly returning to the starting position and breathing in.
This favorite is another good exercise to keep around to work your upper abs. Start by lying on your back with your legs out straight and your hands placed lightly behind your head. Begin by raising your right knee up and back toward your head. Simultaneously, bring your left elbow toward your right knee as you crunch upward and slightly forward. Bring your right leg back toward the ground and repeat the sequence with your left leg and right elbow. Continue the movement in a manner that resembles “pedaling a bicycle.”
4. Cable Crunch
These upper ab exercises are best done on a cable machine at a fitness facility or with a heavy resistance band attached overhead. Get on your knees in a kneeling position and grasp the cable or band and bring it to your shoulders or in front of your chest. Keeping your torso straight, bend forward at the hips to bring your head (and the weight) to the ground. Touch down and return to the start in a controlled manner and repeat.
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These upper ab exercises are pretty much what they sound like. Start by lying flat on your back with your legs straight and your arms by your sides. Lift your upper body off the floor while also lifting your legs off the floor (keeping the legs straight). You can keep your hands behind your head or touch your toes (or legs if you’re not that flexible) and then return to the start. If you’re feeling advanced, you can hover your legs over the ground instead of completely touching down in between repetitions.
6. Bird Dogs
These will help strengthen and work your upper abs as well as the other sections of the abdominals. Start on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the ground directly under your shoulders. At the same time, lift your right arm and bring it out forward until it is parallel with the floor as you kick your left leg up and back. Keep your back flat and abs tight as you do this movement. Bring both your arm and your leg back into the starting position. Repeat with the opposite limbs.