Best Upper Abs Exercises To Get Perfect Abs

If you are looking for the best upper abs exercises and workout, you are in the right place. When you think about your upper abs, you’re actually thinking about the top half of a muscle group called the rectus abdominis (commonly called your “six-pack” muscles)

In order to build impressive six-pack abs, we first needed to understand the anatomy and functionality of the abs, which help to perform abs exercises at the best level. In this article, we will learn about the best upper abdominal exercises and how to do them effectively.

Know About Abs Muscles

This muscle arises from the lower margin of the rib cage and sternum and passes vertically downward to attach to the pubic bone. The two rectus abdominis muscles (one on each side) are encased in a sheath of fascia that forms the central demarcation down the middle of the abs, known as the linea alba. Fascia divisions in the muscles are responsible for the “six-pack” appearance.

The rectus muscles cause flexion of the trunk, bending the torso forward toward the legs. The motion is carried out by the upper abs, which pull the rib cage down toward the pelvis, or by the lower abs, which lift the pelvis upward toward the chest.

So, if your goal is to get a better definition at the top of your abdominal wall or to get a six-pack, you’re actually targeting the same muscles.

Rectus Abdominis

How Do You Target The Upper Abs?

When trying to target the upper abs, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no true isolation exercise for any of the abdominal muscles. This muscle group works best when it works together. While some exercises may hit the upper abs more than the other core muscles, all the core muscles will be working together throughout the movement.

Your abs act on spinal flexion and hip flexion (as well as anti-extension). So, when discussing exercises for the rectus abdominis specifically, it will be one of these actions. 

For your upper abs, they will be the most activated during movements that bring your upper body toward your hips/legs (spinal flexion)Means bringing your chest closer to your pelvis.

For example, the following exercises will target your upper abs:

  • Sit-ups
  • Crunches

With such a variety, it’s easy to develop a great upper ab routine to go through a few times a week.

There are numerous upper abdominal exercises for both beginners and advanced learners. Additionally, there are upper abdominal exercises that don’t require equipment for people who train at home or aren’t ready to lead the movement.

10 Best Upper Abs Exercises

Here are 10 excellent upper abs exercises and workouts to build an impressive six-pack. Luckily, there are many exercises you can try at home without any special equipment, such as crunches, sit-ups, planks, and v-ups.

1. Sit-Ups

Sit Up is an excellent choice for creating muscular tension in your upper abs and help to strengthen your upper and lower abs transverse abdominis, and obliques in addition to your hip flexors, chest, and neck. They promote good posture by working your lower back and gluteal muscles.

The sit-up is a classic best upper abs exercise that you can do at home. They use your body weight to strengthen and tone the core-stabilizing abdominal muscles.

Decline Sit ups

Muscles Worked

Primary: Rectus Abdominis.

Secondary: Quadriceps, hip flexors.

Execution Technique

  1. Hook your feet under the pad and sit on the decline bench with your torso upright.
  2. Place your hands behind your head, contract through your abs to lift your shoulders and upper back off the decline bench.
  3. Hold this position for a second before slowly lowering back to the starting position, making the negative portion of the rep as slow and deliberate as the positive portion.
  4. Repeat the desired number of reps.

Tips

  • Avoid overusing your hip flexors. Focus on proper posture and using your core.
  • Don’t lean forward with your head. Keep a natural head position.
  • Don’t let your shoulders roll forward. Keep your chest up and shoulders back.

2. Crunches

Crunches are another great exercise for your upper abs workout. The crunch motion occurs in the upper spine, and your shoulders rise a few inches off the floor.

Your lower back remains in contact with the floor, and there is no motion at the hips. This is in contrast to the sit-up, where the movement occurs at the waist and hips.

You may position your hands at your sides or across your chest, or you may interlock them behind your head.

Crunches abs Exercises

Muscles Worked

Primary: Rectus Abdominis.

Secondary: Obliques.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet and low back are flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands behind your head, contract through your abs to lift your shoulders and upper back off the floor.
  3. Hold this position for a second before slowly lowering back to the starting position, making the negative portion of the rep as slow and deliberate as the positive portion.
  4. Repeat the desired number of reps.

Tips

  • Keep the movement slow and controlled. Don’t use momentum.
  • Don’t pull on your neck with your hands, this will strain the neck.
  • Breathe out as you crunch, maintain your core muscles tight and engaged.

3. Bicycle Crunch

Compared with the standard crunch, the bicycle crunch was found to produce 148% more mean activity in the abs and 190% more mean activity in the obliques.

The bicycle crunch works out your abdominis muscles, your rectus femoris, your external obliques, and your Intercostal.

To make it easier to do the exercise you can make the angle that your knees make smaller and to make the exercise harder you can make the angle between your legs bigger.

Bicycle Crunch

Muscles Worked

Primary: Abs

Secondary: Obliques, Serratus anterior.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs straight and low back are flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands behind your head and raise your feet and upper back a little off the floor.
  3. Slowly start raising your knees about a 45-degree angle.
  4. Go through a bicycle pedaling motion with your legs as you alternately touch your elbows to the opposite knees, twisting back and forth.

Tips

  • Keep your neck neutral and your lower back pressed against the floor.
  • Make sure that you don’t pull your neck with your hands else you can get a neck strain.

4. Seated Knee Up

Seated Knee up is aka the seated knee tuck, and it is an essential part of any core workout routine. If you want to build six-pack abs or simply increase your core strength, seated knee tucks are for you! 

In addition, it is one of the excellent upper abs exercises for strengthening the core. Knee-ups are very important for athletes involved in running, jumping, and kicking when bringing the legs forward and upward and whenever raising the legs in execution of various stunts in a fitness competition, on gymnastics apparatus, and in dance.

Seated Knee Up abs Exercises

Muscles Worked

Primary: Rectus Abdominis.

Secondary: Obliques, Quadriceps, Hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris).

Execution Technique

  1. Sit on the edge of a flat bench, legs hanging down with knees slightly bent, and grip the bench behind you.
  2. Lean backward and raise your legs a little off the floor, keeping them straight and together.
  3. Raise your knees up toward your chest, keeping your legs together.
  4. Lower your legs back down until your heels almost touch the floor.

Tips

  • Keep your back straight and your feet off the floor.
  • Make the seated leg raise more difficult by holding a dumbbell between your feet.
  • Lean back slightly so that your torso makes a 45-degree to a 60-degree angle with the bench.

5. Cable Crunch

Cable crunches, also known as kneeling cable crunches, are a weighted crunch variation that targets your abdominal muscles.

Doing crunches on a cable apparatus offers one huge advantage over doing them on the floor. The cable allows you to increase resistance, enabling you to train to failure using heavier weights and fewer reps. Using a cable station allows your upper ab muscles to work harder at every point in the exercise’s range of motion.

Cable Crunch abs Exercises

Muscles Worked

Primary: Abs

Secondary: Obliques, Serratus anterior.

Execution Technique

  1. Kneel in front of a high pulley. Grasp rope attachment in each hand and place your wrists against the sides of your head.
  2. Lower your torso by flexing your hips, but allow the weight of the rope to lift your upper torso so that your lower back is extended.
  3. Keeping your hips fixed, exhale as you pull the rope downward by flexing your abdomen so that your back becomes arched.
  4. Hold for a count of two. Relax your abdomen and allow the rope to lift your upper torso so that your lower back goes back to being extended.

Tips

  • Keep your neck in a neutral position.
  • Keep your hips fixed. All of the movement should be in your abdomen.
  • Don’t choose a weight so heavy that your lower back handles most of the resistance. 

6. Twisting Sit-Up

A decline sit up bench positions your upper body at an angle so that it’s lower than your hips and thighs. This position causes your body to work harder, since you have to work against gravity and through a wider range of motion, and thus engages more upper ab muscles than performing crunches on the floor.

It’s a great exercise for intermediate to advanced lifters because it is moderately challenging but very effective for its intended purpose.

The decline-twisting sit-up is one of the best perfect isolation upper abs exercises when you want to develop the core muscles directly.

Twisting sit-up

Muscles Worked

Primary: Rectus abdominis, Obliques.

Secondary: Serratus anterior, Hip flexors.

Execution Technique

  1. Sit on the decline bench, hook your feet under the pad, lean back, and position your hands behind your head.
  2. As you sit up, twist your torso, directing your right elbow toward your left knee.
  3. Reverse the motion and lower your torso to the starting position; during the next repetition direct your left elbow toward your right knee.
  4. Keep repeating and alternating the side to which you twist your waist.

Tips

  • Keep your neck in a neutral position.
  • Use a slow controlled motion to target the muscles. 

7. Machine Crunch

Doing abs crunches exercises with an ab crunch machine is a great way to work your abdominal muscles and obliques. Without a doubt, adding this movement to your workout regime will help you on your path to getting great abs.

This is a convenient way to add resistance to your ab work for better abs development.

Your torso should move from the upright position to almost parallel with the floor. When you sit on an ab crunch machine, you stand a chance at going through a full range of motion.

Machine Crunches

Muscles Worked

Primary: Rectus Abdominis

Secondary: Obliques, Serratus anterior.

Execution Technique

  1. Sit on the ab machine and select a slight resistance. Position your feet under the pads and hold the handles at the top.
  2. Make sure your arms are bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Keep your feet stationary and perform crunches as instructed in the machine directions, focusing on the contraction of your abs.
  4. Pause and slowly return to the starting position as you inhale.

Tips

  • Use a slow, controlled motion to target the muscles.
  • Keep your motions slow and steady to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Do not overload the machine. Go with the weights that you have worked with before and eventually build up.

8. Decline Crunch

The decline crunch is very similar to the basic floor crunch, except with a larger range of motion. This exercise is another great option that will help you to target the upper abs.

It is one of the most effective abdominal exercises because the decline position creates a natural tension in the center of your abs before even beginning the movement.

As a matter of fact, the decline crunch is a fairly simple exercise that will not just improve your core, but also help you get closer to having a six-pack ab.

Decline Crunch

Muscles Worked

Primary: Rectus Abdominis

Secondary: Obliques, Serratus anterior.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie back in a decline bench with your feet secured under the foot pad.
  2. Place your hands behind your head, or place them by your ears.
  3. Curl up as high as you can to bring your shoulders and upper back off the bench, simultaneously pressing your lower back into the bench.
  4. Hold this position for a second before slowly lowering back to the starting position.

Tips

  1. Don’t allow any momentum to build up, keep the movement slow and under control.
  2. When at the top of your movement, contract the abs for a few seconds.

9. V-Up

The V-Up also known as a jackknife is a full-body move that works your core, legs, back, and shoulders. The exercise works the upper and lower abs muscles simultaneously.

A V-Up involves sitting on the floor or a mat and positioning the body in the shape of the letter “V. This helps you to build up core strength and upper ab muscle mass.

It requires you to lift the weight of both your arms and legs by using your abdominal muscles.

V – Up

Muscles Worked

Primary: Abs, Obliques.

Secondary: Serratus anterior, hip flexors.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie down on the floor on your back with your arms extended straight back behind your head. Your legs should also be extended.
  2. Exhale and bend at your waist while raising your legs and arms to meet in a jackknife movement. Try to hold the contracted position.
  3. Lower your arms and legs back to the starting position, inhaling as you do so.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips

  1. Keep the movement slow and controlled.
  2. Try to keep your back as straight as you can during the V-sit up.

10. Vertical Leg Crunch

Finally, if you’re looking for one more effective upper abs exercise, try the Vertical Leg Crunch.

Vertical leg crunches are aka the crunch up are a great exercise for targeting your abs and core. It is similar to the basic crunch, except that the legs are perpendicular to the floor.

This position increases the intensity of the exercise, so it is a good next step after you’ve mastered the basic crunch.

Vertical leg crunch

Muscles Worked

Primary: Abs

Secondary: Obliques, Serratus anterior.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie down on the floor on your back with your arms extended straight back behind your head. Your legs should also be extended.
  2. Raise your arms and legs straight up into the air. Extend your arms and reach toward your toes when you perform the crunch.
  3. Hold the contracted position for a count of two, slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips

  • Don’t round your neck and spine.
  • Reach as far as you can without rounding your shoulders and upper back.

Bonus: Abs wheel rollout

If you’re looking for a way to get more creative with your upper abs workout, why not try Abs wheel rollout. The ab rollout strengthens the upper abs by lengthening them, which targets your eccentric strength.

The wheel rollout exercise is one of the little advanced abs exercises.

To build yourself up to it, you can start with the plank and graduate to the wheel rollout when ready. You can also make the exercise easier by performing it up an inclined surface.

They’re also an excellent conditioning exercise for athletes. This ab wheel workout can be used at home or in gyms.

Abs wheel rollout

Muscles Worked

Primary: Rectus Abdominis, Hip flexors

Secondary: Obliques, Quadriceps, Rhomboids, Lats, Pectoralis, Posterior Deltoid, Erector Spinae.

Execution Technique

  1. Kneel on the floor and grasp the ab wheel roller with your hands, your arms should be straight and your torso fairly upright in the start position.
  2. Allow the abs wheel to roll forward as far as possible with just your knees and toes touching the floor while you maintain your grip on this.
  3. The goal is to be as flat as possible in the finish position, with your torso and upper legs parallel with the floor and hovering just a couple of inches above it.
  4. Then reverse the motion to pull the abs wheel back toward your knees until your body is upright again. Repeat for as many reps as possible.

Tips

  • Squeeze your abs and glutes throughout the movement for stability.
  • Move within a comfortable range of motion. You should not strain your lower back.
  • Do not allow your hips to sag at any point during the movement.

Abs Training Tips

Reps And Sets

Below, I have listed sample workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. I’ve also provided the number of sets and reps you should aim for. It is important, however, that you not approach these exercises with speed in mind. Keep your focus on form and motion, and do it slowly and controlled.

Upper Ab Workout Samples

If your upper abs are lagging, and you really want to build an impressive six-pack abs, you can prioritize it, but still don’t forget about your lower abs and oblique muscles.

Beginner level Upper abs workout

If you’re new to lifting weights, don’t worry. This beginner-friendly abs workout routine is a great place to start.

  1. Sit-Ups: 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
  2. Crunches: 4 sets of 12-15reps.
  3. Bicycle Crunch: 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Intermediate level Upper abs workout

If you are an intermediate level or have outgrown the beginner routine, try the intermediate abs workout routine below.

  1. V-Up: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  2. Bicycle Crunch: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  3. Seated Knee Up 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
  4. Decline Crunch: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Advanced level Upper abs workout

If you are an advanced level athlete or have already completed the beginner and intermediate abs workouts, give the advanced routine a try.

Here, you’ll challenge more of your balance, stability, and strength.

  1. Cable Crunch 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  2. Twisting Sit-Up: 4 sets of 12-15 reps.
  3. Vertical Leg Crunch: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  4. Abs Wheel Rollout: 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

You don’t exercise every other body part every day, so don’t do it for your rectus abdominis either.

It is especially the case with an intense exercise routine where your muscles need some time to recover.

Conclusion

For anyone, who is interested in building abs muscles and gaining strength, these abs exercises are highly recommended. It not only allows for targeted upper abs muscle development, but also provides overall abs muscle development. It is easy to do and requires no more scientific details. If done consistently, the results will speak by themselves.

Thanks for reading, enjoy your Upper abs exercises and Workout!

Frequently Asked Question

What is the best exercise for upper abs?

Here are the best upper abs exercises to build impressive six-pack abs and stronger core.

  • Sit-Ups
  • Crunches
  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Seated Knee Up
  • Cable Crunch
  • Twisting Sit-Up
  • V-Up
  •  Vertical Leg Crunch
  • Abs Wheel Rollout

Can you target upper abs?

When attempting to target the upper abs, it is important to keep in mind that there is no true isolation exercise for any of the abdominal muscles. However, if you are interested in targeting your upper abs specifically, you can do that by focusing on movements that involve pulling your chest toward your pelvis.

Do planks work upper or lower abs?

Planks target the whole abs including the upper and lower abs. Additionally, planks don’t just work your core, they work your entire body. Plank is one of the brilliant bodyweight abs exercises that you can add to your home workout regime. It helps you to develop the strength and stability of your core.

Do crunches work upper abs?

The crunches and sit-ups are both best exercises that work the upper abs. They provide intense muscle isolation, which makes them a popular exercise for people trying to get six-pack abs.

How Often Should You Train the Upper Abs?

Most beginners will notice improvement in their abdominal muscles after training them directly two to three days per week. Since many strength movements involve the core and upper abdominal muscles.

How can I build my upper abs at home?

To build a solid core and chiseled upper abs at home without any special equipment, you must add crunches, sit-ups, planks, and v-ups to your abs workout regime. With such a variety, it’s easy to develop a great upper ab routine to go through a few times a week.

Know More About Abs Training

15 Best UPPER ABS EXERCISES For A Stronger Core (SCULPT YOUR ABS)

Complete Abs Home Workout (Circuits For Upper Abs, Lower Abs, And Obliques)

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