5 Uncommon Upper Abs Exercises for a Great Six Pack and Strong Core

Strengthen your core.

A well-defined six-pack and a strong core are often regarded as the epitome of physical fitness and a symbol of dedication to a healthy lifestyle.

Beyond the allure of aesthetics, a strong core plays a crucial role in supporting the body’s daily movements and promoting overall fitness. However, achieving a chiseled six-pack is not as straightforward as popular media may lead us to believe.

Many people are misled by misconceptions surrounding core training and believe that a few basic exercises alone will suffice.

In this article, we aim to debunk these common misconceptions and introduce you to a set of uncommon exercises specifically targeting the upper abs and core muscles. These exercises will not only help you achieve that coveted six-pack but also build functional strength and stability throughout your core.

Let’s explore the significance of a robust upper abs and core, challenge the misconceptions about attaining a six-pack, and dive into the world of lesser-known exercises that will take your core training to the next level. Get ready to sculpt your midsection and unleash the full potential of your core muscles!

The Science of Upper Abs and Core Training

To embark on a journey of effective upper abs and core training, it is essential to understand the scientific underpinnings of these muscle groups. The core is a complex network of muscles that includes not only the famous six-pack, or rectus abdominis, but also the transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, and the deeper stabilizing muscles.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Upper Abs and Core Muscles:

a. Rectus Abdominis: The rectus abdominis, commonly known as the six-pack, is a paired muscle running vertically along the front of the abdomen. Its primary function is to flex the spine, bringing the ribcage closer to the pelvis.

b. Transverse Abdominis: Often referred to as the body’s natural corset, the transverse abdominis wraps around the abdomen, providing crucial stability and support for the spine and internal organs.

Abs-and-Core-Strength-for-Athletes How to Build more Visible AbsSource: Photos Courtesy of CrossFit Inc

c. Internal and External Obliques: The oblique muscles, located on the sides of the torso, enable rotation and lateral flexion of the spine. They play a vital role in stabilizing the core during various movements.

d. Deep Stabilizing Muscles: These muscles, including the multifidus and pelvic floor muscles, provide intrinsic support to the spine and contribute to overall core stability.

The Role of Upper Abs in Achieving a Well-Defined Six-Pack:

The rectus abdominis is divided into upper and lower segments by connective tissue called the linea alba. When people refer to the “upper abs,” they are specifically targeting the upper portion of the rectus abdominis.

To achieve a well-defined six-pack, it’s crucial to target both the upper and lower portions of the rectus abdominis. This requires engaging in exercises that involve trunk flexion, such as crunches and leg raises, as well as exercises that involve trunk extension, like back extensions. By training the entire rectus abdominis, you can sculpt a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing six-pack.

Benefits of a Strong Core for Functional Movements and Stability:

Beyond aesthetics, a strong core is fundamental for overall functional fitness and stability in daily activities and sports performance. A robust core provides the following benefits:

Improved Posture: Strong core muscles help maintain proper alignment of the spine, reducing the risk of postural imbalances and related issues.

Enhanced Balance: Core strength is essential for maintaining balance and stability, especially during dynamic movements and challenging exercises.

Injury Prevention: A stable core protects the spine and supports the body during various movements, reducing the risk of injuries.

Tricks to Help your Abs Grow BiggerSource: Szabolcs Toth / Unsplash

Better Performance: A strong core enhances athletic performance by providing a solid foundation for powerful movements and efficient energy transfer.

Understanding the anatomy and science behind upper abs and core training is the first step toward achieving a well-defined six-pack and a strong, functional core. By targeting all core muscle groups and recognizing the broader benefits of core strength, you can create a comprehensive training regimen that will not only improve your aesthetics but also enhance your overall fitness and well-being. So, let’s get started on sculpting those upper abs and building a robust core to unlock your full physical potential!

Exercise 1: Hanging Leg Raises with a Twist

Hanging leg raises are a classic core exercise known for targeting the lower abs, but by incorporating a twist, you can amplify the engagement of your upper abs and obliques, taking your core workout to the next level.

Proper Form and Technique for Hanging Leg Raises:

Find a sturdy pull-up bar: Locate a secure pull-up bar that can support your body weight. Grip the bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Hang with control: Allow your body to hang freely from the bar, engaging your shoulder and arm muscles to stabilize yourself.

Initiate the movement: Keep your legs straight and together. Begin the exercise by engaging your lower abs and lifting your legs upward.

Lift with control: As you raise your legs, focus on using your core muscles, especially the lower abs, to lift them as high as possible.

Lower with control: Lower your legs back down slowly and with control, avoiding any swinging or momentum.

Adding a Twist for Increased Activation of Upper Abs:

Once you have mastered the basic hanging leg raise, you can introduce a twist to intensify the engagement of your upper abs and obliques.

Lift your legs as usual: Start by performing a regular hanging leg raise, bringing your legs up toward your chest.

Rotate your hips: At the top of the leg raise, engage your obliques and rotate your hips to one side, bringing your knees slightly toward your opposite shoulder.

Return to center: Lower your legs back down and return to the starting position.

Repeat on the other side: Perform the leg raise again, but this time, rotate your hips to the opposite side.

Modifications for Beginners and Advanced Variations:


If you’re new to hanging leg raises, start with knee raises instead. Bend your knees as you lift your legs toward your chest, focusing on engaging your core throughout the movement.

You can also use resistance bands for assistance. Loop a resistance band around the pull-up bar and place your feet in it to help support some of your body weight during the leg raises.

Advanced Variations:

To add an extra challenge, perform hanging leg raises with ankle weights to increase resistance.

For advanced practitioners, combine the hanging leg raise with the twist and hold a medicine ball between your feet for added weight and stability.

how to get shredded weighted sit up

Remember, core exercises require proper form and control, so it’s crucial to progress gradually and avoid swinging or using momentum. Incorporating hanging leg raises with a twist into your core routine will not only target your upper abs effectively but also enhance your overall core strength and stability.

Exercise 2: Ab Wheel Rollouts on an Incline Bench

Ab wheel rollouts are an effective core exercise that targets the entire abdominal region and strengthens the muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine.

By performing ab wheel rollouts on an incline bench, you can introduce an additional challenge and increase the range of motion, making this exercise even more beneficial for your core development.

Utilizing an Incline Bench for Added Challenge and Range of Motion:

An incline bench provides an inclined surface for your ab wheel rollouts, which requires your core muscles to work harder to control the movement. This added challenge engages not only your rectus abdominis but also your obliques and deep stabilizing muscles, making it a fantastic compound exercise for core strength.

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing Ab Wheel Rollouts Correctly:

Set up the incline bench: Position the incline bench at a slight angle, ensuring it is stable and won’t move during the exercise. Place the ab wheel at the top of the bench, ready for use.

Kneel in front of the bench: Begin by kneeling on the floor, facing the bench with your ab wheel placed just above your knees.

athlete performs Dave Durante core workout with hollow holdSource: Stevie D Photography

Grasp the ab wheel handles: Reach forward and hold the ab wheel handles with an overhand grip, shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be fully extended but not locked.

Engage your core: Brace your core muscles and maintain a neutral spine position throughout the exercise. This will help stabilize your body during the movement.

Roll out slowly: Initiate the movement by rolling the ab wheel forward along the incline bench. As you roll out, your body should extend, and your arms should move above your head.

Maintain control: Focus on using your core muscles to control the descent. Avoid letting your lower back arch or your hips sag.

Roll back to the starting position: Once you have reached the maximum range of motion or feel your core muscles fully engaged, begin rolling the ab wheel back toward your knees.

Finish in the starting position: Return to the starting position while maintaining control and keeping tension in your core.

Safety Tips and Common Mistakes to Avoid:

Start with a manageable incline: If you are new to ab wheel rollouts, choose a bench angle that allows you to maintain proper form and control. Gradually increase the incline as you gain strength and confidence.

Don’t overextend: Avoid rolling out too far and compromising your lower back. Keep the movement within a range that allows you to maintain a neutral spine.

Keep your core engaged: Throughout the entire exercise, focus on keeping your core muscles activated. This will protect your spine and enhance the effectiveness of the workout.

Avoid using momentum: Roll out and back in a slow and controlled manner. Using momentum to perform the exercise diminishes its effectiveness and increases the risk of injury.

By incorporating ab wheel rollouts on an incline bench into your core routine, you can challenge your core muscles in new ways and work toward achieving a stronger, more stable core. Remember to maintain proper form and progress gradually, and soon you’ll be reaping the benefits of this excellent core-strengthening exercise.

Exercise 3: Pike Push-ups

Pike push-ups are a powerful compound exercise that primarily targets the shoulder muscles while also engaging the upper abs and core.

This exercise is an excellent variation of traditional push-ups and can be modified to suit different fitness levels and flexibility.

How Pike Push-ups Target the Upper Abs and Shoulder Muscles:

Shoulder Muscles: Pike push-ups primarily target the deltoids, which are the muscles responsible for shoulder movement. As you lower your body into the pike position, your shoulders have to work hard to stabilize and control the movement, resulting in effective shoulder muscle activation.

Upper Abs and Core: To perform pike push-ups, you elevate your hips, bringing your body into an inverted V-shape. This position activates your upper abs and core muscles to stabilize your body and maintain balance throughout the exercise.

Variations for Different Fitness Levels and Flexibility:

Beginner Variation:

If you’re new to pike push-ups or have limited shoulder strength, perform the exercise against a wall instead of the floor. Stand facing a wall with your feet hip-width apart.

Place your hands on the wall, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and walk your feet back until your body forms a 45-degree angle with the wall.

Perform the push-up by lowering your body toward the wall, bending your elbows until your head is close to the wall, and then pushing back up to the starting position.

Intermediate Variation:

For those with some experience, perform pike push-ups on an elevated surface such as a sturdy box, bench, or step.

Assume a push-up position with your hands on the elevated surface and your feet on the ground. Walk your feet in towards the bench to create an inverted V-shape with your body.

Perform the push-up by lowering your head towards the ground and pushing back up, engaging your shoulders and core throughout the movement.

Advanced Variation:

To challenge yourself further, perform the traditional pike push-up on the floor.

Start in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet together. Lift your hips and walk your feet in towards your hands, creating the inverted V-shape.

Perform the push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your head towards the floor. Push back up to the starting position, engaging your upper abs, shoulders, and core muscles.

Incorporating Pike Push-ups into Your Upper Body Workout Routine:

Pike push-ups can be incorporated into your upper body workout routine to complement other shoulder and core exercises. Here’s how you can include them:

  • Warm-up: Start with a dynamic warm-up to prepare your shoulders, chest, and core for the workout.
  • Pike Push-ups: Perform 3-4 sets of pike push-ups, choosing the variation that aligns with your fitness level and goals. Aim for 8-12 repetitions per set.
  • Shoulder Exercises: Follow up with other shoulder exercises like shoulder presses, lateral raises, or handstand push-ups, depending on your equipment and skill level.
  • Core Exercises: Conclude your workout with core exercises such as plank variations, leg raises, or Russian twists to further target the upper abs and core muscles.
  • Cool-down: Finish with static stretches to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension.

By incorporating pike push-ups into your routine and modifying them according to your fitness level, you can build shoulder strength, engage your upper abs, and elevate your overall upper body workout for enhanced strength and stability.

Exercise 4: Swiss Ball Russian Twists

Swiss ball Russian twists are an effective core exercise that targets the upper abs and obliques while also engaging the stabilizing muscles of the lower back. Incorporating a Swiss ball into this exercise adds an element of instability, which forces your core muscles to work harder to maintain balance throughout the movement.

The Role of the Swiss Ball in Engaging the Upper Abs and Obliques:

Instability Challenge: The Swiss ball creates an unstable surface, requiring your core muscles to continuously adjust and stabilize your body during the exercise. This constant engagement enhances the activation of the upper abs and obliques, making the exercise more effective in toning and strengthening these muscle groups.

Range of Motion: Using a Swiss ball allows for a deeper range of motion during the twist, allowing your upper abs and obliques to stretch and contract more effectively, leading to better muscle development and flexibility.

Proper Twisting Technique to Maximize Results:

Starting Position: Sit on the Swiss ball with your feet firmly planted on the ground, hip-width apart. Walk your feet forward slightly as you recline on the ball, so your upper back is supported, and your hips are raised slightly above the ground.

Engage Your Core: Brace your core muscles to stabilize your spine and maintain a neutral posture throughout the exercise.

Twisting Movement: Hold a weight or a medicine ball with both hands at your chest level. Rotate your torso to one side, bringing the weight or ball toward the floor beside your hip.

Return to Center: Rotate back to the starting position and then twist to the other side, bringing the weight or ball down to the opposite hip.

crossfit abs workoutsSource: CrossFit Inc

Control the Movement: Perform the twists in a slow and controlled manner, focusing on engaging your core muscles and avoiding any jerking or sudden movements.

Additional Exercises with the Swiss Ball for a Complete Core Workout:

Swiss Ball Crunches: Sit on the Swiss ball and walk your feet forward until your lower back is supported on the ball. Perform crunches by engaging your upper abs and lifting your shoulders off the ball.

Swiss Ball Planks: Place your forearms on the Swiss ball and extend your legs behind you into a plank position. Hold the plank, engaging your entire core and maintaining a straight line from head to heels.

Swiss Ball Knee Tucks: Start in a push-up position with your feet resting on the Swiss ball. Pull your knees towards your chest, rolling the ball in. Extend your legs back to the starting position.

Swiss Ball Reverse Hyperextensions: Lie face down on the ball with your hips resting on top of it. Keep your legs straight and lower them towards the floor. Raise them back up to create a hyperextension movement.

Swiss ball Russian twists offer a dynamic and challenging way to engage your upper abs and obliques while also promoting core stability and balance. By maintaining proper technique and incorporating a variety of Swiss ball exercises, you can create a complete core workout that targets all aspects of your abdominal muscles. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced fitness enthusiast, the Swiss ball can be a valuable addition to your core training routine, helping you achieve a stronger, more toned midsection.

Exercise 5: Hanging Windshield Wipers

Hanging windshield wipers are an advanced core exercise that targets the upper abs and obliques while also engaging the entire core for stability. This challenging movement requires a high level of strength and control, making it suitable for those with a solid foundation in core training.

Building Up Strength and Stability Before Attempting this Exercise:

Master the Basics: Before attempting hanging windshield wipers, ensure you have a strong core foundation. Regularly practice exercises like hanging leg raises, Russian twists, and plank variations to build core strength and stability.

Develop Upper Body Strength: Since hanging windshield wipers require considerable upper body strength to support your body weight, incorporate pull-ups and chin-ups into your routine to build strength in your shoulders, arms, and back.

Strengthen Obliques: Target your obliques with exercises like side plank variations, bicycle crunches, and oblique twists to prepare them for the rotational movement involved in hanging windshield wipers.

Tips for Performing Hanging Windshield Wipers with Control and Precision:

Start with a Stable Hang: Grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Hang with your legs straight and feet together, engaging your core to stabilize your body.

Initiate the Movement: Begin by raising your legs as you would in a hanging leg raise. Lift them until they are parallel to the ground, forming a 90-degree angle with your upper body.

Controlled Rotation: Initiate the rotational movement by engaging your obliques and twisting your hips to one side. Slowly lower your legs to the side until they are close to the ground, making sure to keep them straight throughout the movement.

Reverse the Twist: With control, bring your legs back to the starting position and then twist to the other side, lowering your legs toward the opposite side.

Maintain Control: Focus on controlled movements throughout the exercise. Avoid swinging or using momentum, as this can strain your shoulders and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.

Source: Karl Solano on Pexels

Gradual Progression: If you find hanging windshield wipers challenging initially, start with a smaller range of motion and gradually increase it as you build strength and control.

Spotter or Resistance Band: If needed, use a spotter or a resistance band looped around the bar and placed under your feet for assistance. This can help you perform the exercise with more control until you develop the required strength.

Avoid Overexertion: Hanging windshield wipers are an intense exercise, so be mindful of your body’s limitations. Avoid overexertion, and if you feel any discomfort or strain, stop the exercise immediately.

Hanging windshield wipers are an advanced core exercise that demands considerable upper body strength and core stability. Before attempting this movement, make sure you have built a strong foundation through regular core exercises and upper body strength training. With patience, dedication, and proper form, you can master hanging windshield wipers and achieve exceptional strength in your upper abs and obliques, taking your core workout to new heights. Always listen to your body, progress gradually, and remember that consistency and technique are key to performing this exercise with control and precision.


A strong core, including well-developed upper abs, is not only vital for aesthetics but also plays a crucial role in overall fitness and functional movement.

Throughout this article, we have explored various exercises targeting the upper abs and core muscles, highlighting the benefits and providing guidance on proper form and modifications.

Firstly, we reiterated the significance of core strength, emphasizing how a robust core enhances posture, balance, and injury prevention. Understanding the anatomy and science behind upper abs and core training is essential for maximizing results and achieving a well-defined six-pack and a strong, stable core.

Secondly, we introduced uncommon exercises like hanging leg raises with a twist, ab wheel rollouts on an incline bench, pike push-ups, Swiss ball Russian twists, and hanging windshield wipers. These exercises challenge the core muscles in unique ways, promoting better muscle activation and development. By incorporating these less common exercises into your routine, you can break plateaus, stimulate new muscle fibers, and take your core training to a higher level.

Finally, we encouraged diversifying your workouts to optimize overall fitness and aesthetics. By incorporating a variety of exercises, you can target different muscle groups, improve flexibility, and enhance overall athleticism. Beyond the physical benefits, diversifying your routine keeps workouts engaging and enjoyable, making it easier to stay committed to your fitness goals.

In conclusion, cultivating a strong core, including the often overlooked upper abs, is fundamental for achieving a well-rounded and functional physique. By incorporating uncommon exercises and embracing diversity in your workouts, you can unlock your core’s full potential and pave the way to a healthier, fitter, and more aesthetically pleasing you.

Remember, consistency and dedication are key to achieving your fitness aspirations, so stay committed, keep challenging yourself, and enjoy the journey to a stronger and more impressive core!

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