The six-pack is probably the most sought out physique among athletes. To make your midline pop, you must have a strong and defined rectus abdominis. Upper ab workouts should help you achieve your goals and we will help you design your own.
A strong midline is indicative of an overall outstanding fitness level. No wonder people try to get a thinner and more defined waist. However, you cannot cheat your way into getting a six-pack.
We will help you with upper ab workouts, which strengthens your midsection, but it does not matter if you have the strongest abs in the world and also have a high body fat percentage level. Underneath that fat are your abs and you need to lower your body fat in order to have your abs show off.
In the meantime, nothing stops you from doing upper ab workouts to strengthen your core. Here we will focus on exercises that should activate more your upper abs.
What Exactly Are the Upper Abs?
The upper abs are usually referred to as our rectus abdominis, the part of our abs that are closer to the diaphragm. The lower abs are the region of the muscle closer to our pelvis, though it is still the same muscle, the rectus abdominis.
Although it is the same muscle, you may use exercises that focus more on the upper part of your abs which is usually what people tend to do more, as this is the most visible part of the ab and the one that gets the “six-pack” stamp.
You may target your upper ab more effectively, but you will still be activating your lower abs and possibly your obliques as well (your side abs).
Upper Ab Workouts
Usually, we give you ready-made workouts, but since you want specifically upper ab workouts, BOXROX will show you 10 incredibly effective upper ab exercises and you can mix and match them any way you like to create your own workout depending on your preference.
However, to get the most out of your own workout, here are a few guidelines:
- Limit to 3 or 4 exercises – this way when you need to change exercises, you still have many options to choose from and your body will continue to get stronger even though you are still activating the same muscle group.
- Choose a type of exercise – this can be Tabata, regular sets and reps, or a closed circuit.
Tabata: typically 20 seconds of one exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat for 8 rounds and move on to the next exercise. This type of workout asks you to go all-out from the beginning to get your heart rate high in a short amount of time.
Regular: choose one exercise and a fixed number of sets (usually 3) and a fixed number of repetitions (around 20). Rest between 15-30 seconds between each set. Move on to the next exercise.
Closed-circuit: With 3 or 4 exercises chosen, do 10-20 reps of each exercise in order then rest for 30-60 seconds. Repeat the exercises for two more sets.
Upper Ab Workouts Example 1
* 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off:
- Hollow rock
Repeat four times (totalling 4 sets of 20 seconds of hollow rock and 4 sets of 20 seconds of inchworm).
* 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off:
- Ab rollout
Repeat four times (totalling 4 sets of 20 seconds of ab rollout and 4 sets of 20 seconds of V-up).
Upper Ab Workouts Example 2
20 reps of:
- Mountain climbers
- Weighted crunch
- Long lever plank
* rest 60 seconds then repeat three more times.
As mentioned before, these upper ab workouts are focused on the upper part of the rectus abdominis, but possibly engage your entire core. The following exercises were chosen as they should engage your upper abs higher than other variations.
Upper Ab Workouts
1. Hollow Rock
A tough, yet simple exercise. The hollow rock works your entire core with a high focus on the rectus abdominis. It will also improve your stability and will help you on pull-ups, push-ups and dips.
If it is too difficult, you can build up your core strength with the hollow hold.
2. Long Lever Plank / Extended Front Plank
Planks are usually not recommended for people looking to get a six-pack and that is only because you can plank for a long time before getting any result. You can use your time better with the long lever plank, also known as the extended front plank.
The only adjustment you need to make is to slide your arms forward while in a normal plank position. You will feel your abs working harder the further away from the initial position your arms are.
This plank will also engage heavily your lower abs – two birds with one stone.
3. Ab Rollout
It might not be easy to find an ab rollout at the gym, but you may also use a barbell with plates on it to assist you with rolling back and forth.
The main mover of this exercise is the abdomins rectus, which is perfect as an exercise to incorporate as one of your upper ab workouts.
The V-up combines a little bit of the hollow rock but flexes much more your spine. Since you will not hold the position, you will also target different muscle groups such as your legs, back and shoulders, although the upper and lower abs are still the predominantly target here.
Another exercise that does not only target your core, but also your arms, chest, and back. Don’t get fooled, as this is a complete core exercise and it can be performed by new and advanced athletes.
Upper Ab Workouts
6. Weighted Crunch
Similar to the plank, crunches are not the best way to activate your abs, but a variation of it can be beneficial. That is what the weighted crunch proposes.
Do your normal crunch with a dumbbell or any weight held against your chest or above your head and you will be adding resistance to your abs. The best thing about the weighted crunch is that you can simply add more and more weight which in turn will create more muscle. It’s that simple.
7. Dragon Flag
This is probably the hardest exercise on this list. The dragon flag will work tirelessly on your entire rectus abdominis along with your lower back, obliques and glutes.
To be able to perform it correctly, you must already be in great shape and have overall strength (especially the upper body) to lift your legs up in the air at the proposed angle and keep it there.
8. Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers, if done correctly, will increase your heartbeat rapidly and work your entire body. Since you are required to stay in a similar position to plank, it engages your core throughout the entire movement, making it a great upper ab exercise.
In short, it burns more calories than the other exercises in this list and also works your abs, which is a sure way to make your six-pack appear faster.
9. Cable crunch
The cable crunch is an alternative to the weighted crunch in case you have a cable machine at your disposal. It makes it even easier to add weight as you simply hold on to the rope while performing your crunches.
Make sure to lock your arms in position while doing the cable crunch, otherwise you will not engage your abs as much as the exercise prescribes.
10. Stability Ball Crunches
Also known as the Swiss-ball crunch, this exercise adds an unstable platform for you to perform your crunches. That means you will have to engage and keep your core tense for longer to be able to do the exercise properly, which only translates to more muscle fibres being used.