Ab Workout Part 1: Upper Ab Exercises For A Flat Stomach Or A Six-Pack

Upper Ab Exercises

Whether your goal is to get six-pack abs or just tone your abdominal muscles, compound exercises are the best way to train your upper and lower body at the same time. Ab muscles are the hardest body part to train, but achievable nonetheless as it can be done by splitting up the workout into three parts for better results.

The biscuit-shaped ab muscles (rectus abdominis) that you see among fitness professionals extend from the pubis all the way up to the upper end of the stomach. Each pair of the rectus abdominis is separated by a connective tissue called the linea alba.

The ab muscles help the body in turning and twisting front, back and sideways, thus making the body maintain posture, flex the spine, and narrow the gap between the pelvis and the ribs. They contain mostly slow-twitch muscle fibres that help in muscle contraction and have a more prominent capacity toward sustained work.

These separate workouts can be easily performed even in the comfort of your home to train the upper and lower ab muscles individually.

The first part of this series contains a series of exercises meant to work on your upper abdominal muscles, while the second and third will focus on exercises meant for the lower abs and the obliques (the muscles to the side of the abs) and core muscles respectively.

The following collection of exercises can be performed in a circuit in any order and doesn’t even require the use of additional equipment, which means that they can be performed even in the comfort of your home. You must, however, warm up before proceeding to perform these movements with a run or a few rounds of jumping jacks.

The crunch

Those ripped ab muscles of your favourite movie star or sportsperson have taken a lot of sweat and work, along with hundreds of crunches. It is one of the best movements to build strength in the upper rectus abdominis, it creates pressure on your core muscles while reducing fat at the same time.

Equipment required: A mat (optional)

Sets & reps: 3 sets of 20 to 25 reps each

Intensity: Low (beginner)

How to do it

-> Lie down on your back on the mat or the ground with bent knees.
-> Now lift your upper body off the ground about a third of the way.
-> Try to curl your upper body to create tension around the upper abs.
-> Hold for a few seconds and then come back slowly to the starting position. This is one rep.

Tip: As a beginner, do not lift your whole body as it will target your full rectus abdominis muscle. First, try to raise your chest and the back to feel the tension in your upper abs.

Tuck and crunch

Another ‘crunch’ exercise that can train the rectus abdominis including the core muscles. To add more tension to the basic crunch exercise, keep your legs in the air or put them on an elevated platform, knees perpendicular to the floor.

Equipment required: A mat (optional)

Sets & reps: 3 sets of 20 to 25 reps each

Intensity: Low (beginner)

How to do it

-> Lie on your back with the knees raised at a 90-degree angle.

-> While raising your torso, take your chest close to the thighs.

-> Hold for a few seconds and curl your upper body to add more tension to the abs.

-> With a slow and smooth movement, move back to the starting position. This is one rep.

Tip: If you’re unable to hold your legs in the air, try to use an elevated platform such as a bench or sofa at home. Tuck (put) your legs on the elevated surface and try to complete the movement.

Sit-ups

An extension of the crunch, the sit-up is a great upper ab exercise to strengthen your primary target (upper abs). Sit-ups also allow you to strengthen your core, improve muscle mass, increase flexibility and reduce the risks of back pain and injury.

Equipment required: Mat (optional), along with heavy furniture or a bench to anchor your feet under, or a second person to stand on your feet!

Sets & reps: 3 sets of 15-20 reps each. Increase your repetitions as you gain more strength and comfort with the movement.

Intensity: Low (beginner)

How to do it

-> Lie down flat on a mat with bent knees and feet anchored under a piece of heavy furniture or a bench.

-> Put your palms slightly above your ears or else you can keep your hands across your chest.

-> Raise your torso till your elbows or head touch the knees. Try to flex your abdominal muscles as much as you can.

-> Holding the tension on the abs, and slowly lower your body back to the starting position. This is one rep.

Tip: Don’t go up or come down too fast, and try to maintain stability throughout. Avoid ‘falling back’ to the resting position as it puts unnecessary pressure on the spine.

Side crunch

A crunch with a twist, quite literally! Often confused with the bicycle crunch, this variation trains the upper abs and the inward obliques. Your ab muscles feel the burn and every move of this exercise.

Equipment required: Mat (optional)

Sets & reps: 3 sets of 15-20 reps each

Intensity: Low (beginner)

How to do it

-> Lie flat on your back on the floor with your knees bent.

-> Put your hands slightly above your ears, with your fingers touching the side of your head.

-> Raise your upper body in the direction of either knee alternatively. You can try to do this by making your right elbow touch the left knee.

-> Curl your upper body while ‘twisting’ to create tension on the primary target, the upper abs.

-> Hold for a few seconds and then return slowly to the starting position. This is one rep.

Tip: This exercise is an equivalent and a variation of the basic crunch, raising the torso in the crunch, but add a little twist to the movement in the side crunch.

Toe touch

Another killer exercise for the ab muscles, the toe touch has many variations but the most basic movement of the exercise remains the most effective.

Equipment required: Mat (optional)

Sets & reps: 3 sets of 15-20 reps each

Intensity: Low (beginner)

How to do it

-> Lie down flat on your back on the floor with the legs outstretched.

-> Lift your legs and arms to a 90-degree angle, almost on a reverse all-fours.

-> Raise your torso to touch the toes with the help of your fingers.

-> Squeeze or curl your upper and lower body together to perform the movement.

-> Return slowly to the starting position. This is one rep.

Tip: To make the movement easier, raise only one leg. Try to push your upper body hard to touch the toes.

Although there are a collection of five exercises here, you do not have to perform all five in a single circuit, and even a combination of any three of the exercises can be performed in one circuit and mixed up in various combinations. One of the advantages of doing circuit exercises like these is that they can be completed quickly (15-20 minutes).

All one needs to do in the circuit is to take any of the three exercises, perform three sets of each with 60-90 seconds rest between each exercise, if you’re only starting out. As you gain in strength and endurance, you can move on to increase the number of reps you perform with each set.

SOURCE: bit.ly/38TE41h

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