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When it comes to building a strong core, incorporating specific exercises into your upper abs workout is essential.
In this article we’ll recommend some of the best upper ab exercises you can do either at home or in the gym designed specifically for this muscle.
Your upper abs, also known as the rectus abdominis, play a crucial role in bending and straightening your torso.
Recommended Reading – Weighted Ab Workouts At Home: 8 Best Dumbbell Core Exercises
An affective upper abs workout at home or in the gym can help improve your overall core strength and stability of your upper body and lower body, making it easier to perform everyday tasks like walking, sitting and lifting.
A stable core is also essential for maintaining correct posture, improving the performance of your hip flexors, and reducing the risk of injury.
By focusing on upper ab exercises, you can create a stable foundation for the rest of your core muscles to build upon.
Best Upper Abs Workouts & Exercises
Now that we know why it’s important to work on these muscles, let’s jump to the best exercises for upper abs that you can do to strengthen your core muscle group and build some impressive six-pack abs.
Before committing to a new exercise program, it’s a good idea to seek advice from a personal trainer to ensure you complete exercises with a full range of motion and proper form to prevent injuries.
Plank Knee Taps
The plank to knee taps exercise is a variation of the traditional plank exercise that adds a dynamic element to target your upper and lower abs, with an emphasis on your obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen).
It also engages your shoulders, chest, and arms for stability.
It’s a good idea to get familiar with the regular plank before progressing to this exercise.
Here’s How To Perform The Plank To Knee Tap Exercise:
- Start by getting yourself into a traditional plank position. Place your forearms on the ground, aligning them with your shoulders.
- Keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and your palms flat on the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Engage your entire core and keep your back flat.
- From here, slowly bend your right leg so that your knee drops towards the floor.
- Once it touches the floor, bring the right knee back to the starting position and repeat the same on your left leg.
- Complete 10 to 15 repetitions on both legs.
Ab walkouts, also known as inchworms, are a great exercise for upper abs as well as your shoulders, and hamstrings.
They involve a dynamic movement pattern that requires coordination and strength.
Here’s How To Perform Ab Walkouts:
- Start in a standing position with your feet around hip-width apart and arms down by your sides.
- Hinge forward at the hips and allow your fingertips to touch the floor. This is your starting position.
- Now slowly begin to walk your hands forward so that your body lowers towards the ground.
- Take your hands at as far as is comfortable, you should be in a high plank position.
- Hold this position for a few seconds and then reverse the movement by walking your hands by to the start.
- Repeat this exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions.
The bicycle crunch is a great way to engage your rectus abdominis muscle (six-pack muscle) and external obliques while promoting flexibility and coordination.
How To Do The Bicycle Crunch Exercise:
- Start by lying flat on your back, ideally on an exercise mat. Place your hands lightly behind your head and press your lower back into the floor.
- Lift both your legs off the ground, keeping them bent at a 90-degree angle. Your shins should be parallel to the floor, and your knees should be positioned directly above your hips.
- Engage your core by squeezing your belly button.
- Raise your head and shoulders away from the floor. Keep your elbows out to the sides so you don’t pull on your head as you perform the exercise. This is the starting position.
- Bring your right elbow towards your left knee by rotating your upper body. At the same time, extend your right leg out straight, hovering it above the ground.
- Now reverse the movement by bringing your right leg back to a bent position whilst extending your left leg and at the same time rotating your body so that your left elbow touches your right knee.
- Continue to alternate sides, pedalling your legs in a bicycle-like motion while crunching and rotating your torso with each repetition.
- Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
The Russian twist, also known as the oblique twist, is an effective exercise which involves all your ab muscles including your rectus abdominus, transverse abdominis and your external and internal obliques.
You can perform it using just your bodyweight or by adding resistance by holding a medicine ball or a similar light weight.
How To Do The Russian Twist:
- Start off in a seated position with your knees slightly bent and heels resting on the floor.
- Lean back slightly so that your feel your lower and upper abdominals engage.
- If holding a weight, hold it to your chest with both hands otherwise clasp your hands together. This is the starting position.
- Twist your torso to one side whilst keeping your legs still and tension to your core. Keep facing forwards throughout.
- Return back to the start and then switch sides to repeat the same movement.
- Complete 2 to 3 sets for a count of 15 to 20.
Straight Leg Lifts
Leg lifts, sometimes referred to as leg raises, is a bodyweight exercise which will work both your upper and lower abdominals along with the hip flexors.
The movement can be modified in several way.
For example, you can make it more challenging by holding a stability ball in between your feet or by hanging from something such as a pull-up bar.
Here’s How To Perform A Leg Lift Exercise:
- Begin by lying on your back on an exercise mat. Keep your legs out straight and arms down by your sides with palms facing the floor.
- Keeping your legs straight, lift them off the ground until they are perpendicular to the floor or as high as you can without straining your lower back.
- Pause at the top and then slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position without letting your heels touch the floor.
- Aim to perform 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Toe reaches, also known as toe touches, are a simple and effective abdominal exercise that targets the upper abs.
They involve lifting your upper body off the ground and reaching towards your toes, creating a movement that mimics touching your toes with your fingers.
How To Perform Toe Reaches:
- Lie flat on your back on an exercise mat and press your lower back into the floor.
- Raise your legs up until they are perpendicular to the floor and your toes point towards the ceiling.
- Raise your arms straight out in front of you.
- From here, engage your core muscles and lift your upper body off the ground, reaching your hands towards your toes.
- As you lift your upper body, try to touch your toes or get as close to them as you can. Keep your arms straight and your neck relaxed throughout the movement.
- Slowly lower your upper body back to the starting position and then repeat.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
The hollow hold, sometimes referred to as the hollow body hold, is an isometric exercise meaning that no movement is undertaken.
It’s great for targeting your upper abdominals and your deep spinal stabilizer muscles.
It’s a simple bodyweight exercise that will help with core strength and stability.
How To Do The Hollow Hold Exercise:
- Start by lying on the floor on an exercise mat.
- Engage your abs and press your low back into the floor.
- Lift your knees up so that they are directly above your hips. Keep your knees bent to 90 degrees to start with.
- Take your hands over your shoulders so that they point towards the ceiling.
- Now slowly straighten out your legs, you should feel the tension increase to your abs.
- If you want to make this exercise more challenging, keep your legs straight and lower them towards to the ground. The lower your legs are to the floor, the more your core muscles have to work.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Should You Eat Less To Get A Six Pack?
When it comes to achieving a visible six-pack, diet plays a crucial role.
No matter how many crunches or sit-ups you do, if you’re not eating a healthy diet, you won’t see those defined upper abs.
If you have unwanted belly fat that is preventing your six pack from showing, then you’ll want to ensure you’re in a calorie deficit to get rid of it.
So, it’s not necessarily a case of eating less, but certainly eating less of the wrong foods such as processed junk foods.
This is because they tend to be higher in calories and less nutritious.
You’ll need to make sure that you are consuming enough protein to build and repair muscle cells and tissue.
Protein also helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied, which can prevent overeating and snacking on unhealthy foods.
To reduce belly fat, you need to make sure that you are consuming a well-balanced diet that is rich in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
These foods are nutrient-dense and can help you feel full and satisfied while also supporting your overall health.
Incorporating upper ab workouts into your fitness routine can help you achieve a stronger core and improve your overall fitness.
By targeting the muscles in your upper abs can lead to good posture, a reduction in low back pain, along with better stability and mobility.
Remember, to get the most out of your upper ab workouts, it’s important to maintain proper form and gradually increase the intensity of your exercises.
Start with a few sets of each exercise and gradually increase the number of reps and sets as your strength improves.
Building a strong core and well defined upper abs takes time and consistency.