upper ab workouts

Upper Ab Workouts: 10 Best Exercises for Those Dream Abs

Explore the top 10 upper ab exercises to sculpt your core. Get effective workout tips and strengthen your abs with our expert guide.

Abs are all the rage in the fitness industry these days, we don’t know whom to credit for that! It might be Social Media or TV and Movie Industry but no matter how we got here, we are here!

And more and more people want to join this side.

Sculpting your abs is no easy feat, and it is impossible if you don’t understand the minuscule technical details about the muscles we call Abs. Are the abs more than just a visual marker of fitness? Do they provide any other benefits to our bodies?

This article will try to broaden your understanding of your abdominal muscles and will provide you with a list of Upper ab workouts and exercises to help you start your journey towards a 6, 8, or 10-pack, whatever you prefer! 

Understanding our Target Muscles

Abs, short for abdominal muscles, are a group of muscles that run along the front of your torso, between your ribs and pelvis. They are integral to overall health, stability, and functional movement.

They play a crucial role in your body's core, providing stability and support for your spine and pelvis, facilitating various movements, and maintaining posture.

There are actually four main abdominal muscles:

  • Rectus abdominis: This is the flat muscle running vertically down your center abdomen. The connective tissue sections within this muscle create the "six-pack" appearance when toned and with low body fat.
  • External obliques: These muscles lie on the sides of your upper abs, helping you rotate your torso.
  • Internal obliques: Located deeper than the external obliques, these muscles also assist with twisting and turning your body.
  • Transverse abdominis: This deep muscle wraps around your entire abdomen like a girdle, providing stability and supporting your organs. 

Consider your core as a sturdy pillar connecting your upper and lower body, forming the basis for all movements. It serves as a pivotal support system during various activities, from sitting and standing to bending, lifting objects, and engaging in physical exercises.

Deep within the abdomen and back, core muscles attach to the spine or pelvis, providing crucial stability and strength.

Among these muscles are the transversus abdominis, pelvic floor muscles, and oblique muscles, which work in concert to maintain posture and facilitate movement.

Another essential contributor to trunk movement is the multifidus, a deep back muscle that runs alongside the spine.

Collaborating with the transversus abdominis, it enhances spinal stability and guards against back injuries or strains, whether during dynamic movements or while maintaining regular posture.

These muscles work together to perform a variety of essential functions: 

  • Support: They provide a strong foundation for your spine, helping maintain proper posture and protecting your back from injury.
  • Movement: Abs are crucial for bending, twisting, and rotating your torso. They are involved in almost every movement you make.
  • Organ protection: Strong abs help keep your internal organs in place and protected.
  • Balance and stability: A strong core, including your abs, is essential for maintaining balance and stability during exercise and everyday activities. 

Why do we Need to Strengthen the Abs?

Beyond aesthetics and physical performance, having strong abs is essential for maintaining proper posture and preventing injury during daily activities and exercise routines.

A strong core stabilizes the spine and pelvis, reducing the risk of lower back pain and other musculoskeletal issues.

Furthermore, strong abs contribute to improved balance and coordination, which are vital for performing activities of daily living and participating in sports and recreational activities.

Having strong abs isn't just about aesthetics; it's about overall health and well-being.

Regularly engaging your core muscles through exercise can improve your posture, reduce back pain, enhance athletic performance, and even improve your breathing.

Also Read:  10 Superfoods for Weight Loss 

Upper Ab Workouts

Mastering proper 'core strengthening' techniques, ideally under the guidance of a skilled allied health professional, can optimize the collective function of these muscle groups.

By honing core strength and stability, individuals can safeguard against injury, improve posture, and enhance overall physical performance in daily activities and exercise routines.

Through targeted exercises and a commitment to proper form and technique, individuals can develop strong and resilient abdominal muscles that support a healthy and active lifestyle. 

Types of Ab Workouts

Numerous ab workouts are available to help you achieve a fit physique, many of which require no equipment and can be performed at home.

These include floor ab workouts, standing ab workouts, and beginner-friendly ab exercises.

For those with access to a gym, a variety of core exercises can be executed using fitness equipment, such as cable ab workouts and medicine ball routines.

As you embark on strengthening your core for improved stability and strength, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with safety considerations.

Prioritizing safety not only ensures you reap the full benefits of your ab workout but also minimizes the risk of potential injuries.

Before you Begin! Remember these tips:

  • Navel Pull: When performing exercises, draw your navel towards your spine to actively engage your abdominal muscles.
  • Lower Back Press: During exercises done on your back, press your lower back into the floor. This ensures your abs are doing the work, not your spine, which helps maintain proper form and reduces risk of injury.

Also Read:  How to Lose Weight After 40?

Here’s a List of Exercises to Include in your Upper Ab Workouts:

1. Up-and-Down Planks

  • Begin in a Push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Engage your core and glutes to stabilize your spine and prevent excessive hip movement.
  • Lower your body to the ground one arm at a time, transitioning into a forearm Plank position.
  • Return to the Push-up position by pushing back up one arm at a time, alternating arms with each repetition.
  • Perform three sets of 10–15 reps each. For beginners, modify by elevating your hands on an incline such as a bench or chair to reduce core strain. 

2. Bear Hold

  • Start on your hands and knees in a Tabletop position, hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your knees about 5cm off the ground, engaging your entire core.
  • Maintain stability and avoid arching your lower back. Imagine balancing a glass of wine on your back.
  • Hold for three rounds of 20–30 seconds each, focusing on consistent breathing throughout. 

Also Read: How to find balance in life?

3. Crunches

  • Lie on your back with feet on the ground and hands by your head for support.
  • Lift your upper body using your upper abdominals while pressing your lower back against the ground.
  • Initiate the movement from your upper abs, not your neck. Look up toward the ceiling to engage the upper abs fully.
  • Lower back down and repeat for three sets of 15 reps each. 

4. Bicycle Crunches

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, feet off the ground, and hands beside your head.
  • Contract your abs and flatten your lower back against the floor.
  • Bring your left elbow to meet your right knee as you straighten your left leg, then alternate sides.
  • Perform three sets of 20–30 seconds each, maintaining a steady pace and engaging both the rectus abdominis and obliques.

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5. Hollow-Body Hold

  • Lie flat on your back with legs extended and arms overhead, keeping feet together and biceps by your ears.
  • Press your spine into the ground as you lift your head, neck, shoulders, and legs off the ground.
  • Hold the position for three sets of 20–30 seconds each, ensuring only your lower back remains in contact with the ground.
  • If you feel strain in your lower back or hip flexors, modify by bending your knees into a Tabletop position to alleviate tension. 

6. Downward Dog Toe Tap

  • Begin in a high plank position with your head to heels aligned and shoulders over wrists.
  • Press your torso back toward your legs, lowering your heels to the ground, while reaching your left arm to your right toes.
  • Maintain a long spine throughout the movement.
  • Return to the high plank position.
  • Repeat the movement, this time bringing your right arm to your left toes.
  • Return to the high plank position to complete 1 rep.
  • Continue alternating sides for multiple reps. 

7. Plank Knee-To-Nose

  • Start in a high plank position with your right foot slightly lifted off the floor.
  • Exhale as you pull your right knee toward your chest, rounding your spine to bring your nose toward your knee.
  • With control, reverse the movement to return to the plank position with your right foot lifted.
  • That completes 1 rep. Repeat for desired repetitions. 

8. Alternating Leg Lowers

  • Lie on your back with your hands by your hips and your lower back pressed into the mat.
  • Lift both legs up to point straight toward the ceiling.
  • With feet flexed, slowly lower your right leg down toward the floor.
  • Bring the right leg back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat the movement with the left leg.
  • Each lowering and lifting of one leg constitutes 1 rep. 

9. Shoulder Tap

  • Begin in a plank position with your hips level.
  • Keeping your hips steady, touch your left shoulder with your right hand.
  • Place your right hand back on the floor.
  • Repeat the movement on the other side, touching your right shoulder with your left hand.
  • Each touch to both shoulders counts as 1 rep. Aim for 10 reps in total.

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10. Sprinter Situp

  • Start lying on your back with your hands by your sides and legs extended straight on the floor.
  • Explosively sit up, bringing your right knee toward your chest while simultaneously bringing your right arm back and your left arm forward at 90-degree angles.
  • Reverse the motion with control, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat the movement on the other side, bringing your left knee toward your chest while switching the position of your arms.
  • Each full sit-up and return to the starting position constitutes 1 rep. 

Craft Your Own Set!

Plan A

  • Choose 3-4 exercises.
  • Perform each exercise for 30-60 seconds.
  • Transition immediately to the next exercise after each one.
  • Once you've completed all 3 exercises, rest for 15-30 seconds.
  • Repeat the entire circuit (all 3 exercises) for 3-5 total rounds.
  • If it gets repetitive over a period of time, Change the exercises to keep the fun and challenge! 

Plan B

  • Choose 4-5 exercises.
  • Perform every single one of the exercise for 10-15 reps (repetition) for 3 sets.
  • Take one minute to rest.
  • Start again with the next exercise. 

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FAQ’s About Ab Workouts!

What’s the Best Time to do an Ab Workout: Before or After Cardio?

When it comes to core strength training, the question of before-or-after cardio can be tackled from two angles: maximizing core workout effectiveness and enhancing your overall workout.

Focusing on Core Work:

  • Fresh is Best: Starting your workout with abs allows you to attack them with more energy, leading to better form, more repetitions, and potentially greater results.

Optimizing Your Entire Workout:

  • Warming Up the Core: Including dynamic ab exercises in your warm-up can "turn on" your core muscles, making them ready for action during cardio or any other exercise. This improves your movement patterns and overall form.
  • Efficiency Boost: A primed core (abs, obliques, back, and glutes) can help your body transfer energy more effectively, leading to a safer and stronger workout, especially during activities like running. 

How Many Times a Week Should I be Doing Ab Workouts?

While consistency is key, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should train your upper abs. Women’s Health Magazine, recommends a frequency of two to three workouts per week for optimal results, but emphasizes that several other factors can influence how well-defined your upper abs become. Let's explore these additional considerations:

  • Your Fitness Goals: Are you aiming for a sculpted six-pack or simply seeking to strengthen your core for better overall fitness? More aggressive goals might call for slightly more frequent upper ab training, but proper recovery is still crucial.
  • Your Training Program: How does upper ab training fit into your overall workout routine? If you're already engaging your core through compound exercises like squats or deadlifts, you might not need dedicated upper ab sessions as often.
  • Your Diet: Remember, achieving a visible six-pack requires not just muscle development but also a low body fat percentage. A balanced diet that keeps you in a calorie deficit will help reveal the toned muscles you've been building. 

Over To You

By considering these factors alongside the recommendation of two to three training sessions per week, you can create a personalized approach to upper ab development that optimizes your results. 

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