7 Best Upper Ab Exercises For Muscle Gain Or Fat Loss

Sculpting your abs is a great way to achieve a toned and muscular physique. Not to mention, working on your abs will help you to develop a strong core.

Core muscles are required for a range of exercises at the gym, making these muscles an essential part of your gym routine. 

It’s important to work your entire ab region. However, the upper abs are an ideal way for strengthening your core. Just bear in mind that perfecting chiseled abs will require plenty of persistence and determination. 

Here are the best upper ab exercises, regardless of whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle. 

1. Reverse Crunches

Crunches are one of the best exercises for your core. Yet, reverse crunches are even better, as they specifically target your upper abs.

This exercise will target an assortment of muscles, including the rectus abdominis, hip flexors, quadriceps, and obliques.

To perform this exercise, you should lie with your back to the ground or against a yoga mat. Place your hands on the floor at the side of your body. Bend your legs at a 90-degree angle at your knees. 

Exhale and engage your core as you raise your feet off the ground. Keeping your knees bent at this degree, bring your legs forward.

Lift your legs without raising your back off the ground and be sure to keep your head straight. Hold this pose for a few seconds before inhaling and gradually lowering your legs back to the start position. 

This abdominal exercise is ideal if you work out at home, as you will not require any additional equipment. 

2. Cable Crunch

Cables are a great piece of equipment to add to your exercise schedule at the gym. Crunches are a versatile exercise that you can improve by adding weight. 

The first step of this exercise will require you to find the perfect weight on a cable machine.

You may also need to adjust the height setting so that it is suitable for you. Then, ensure that the cable rope attachment has been put onto the machine. 

Once the machine has been set up, you can start the exercise. Stand with your face toward the cable machine. Hold the rope attachment with your hands so that it is above your head.

Taking a few steps backward, kneel on the floor whilst still holding the attachment. Ensure that the weight has been lifted off the stack. 

Place your hands above your head as you pull on the cable. Hinge your body slightly. This movement should be occurring from the spine. Make sure to keep your head tucked during the exercise. 

Ensure that you squeeze your abs when you perform the crunch, especially toward the bottom of the exercise.

Steadily return the cable attachment to the original position before repeating these steps for as many reps and sets as desired. 

Also referred to as kneeling cable crunches, this exercise will activate your abs and the rest of the core. Cable crunches are an ideal method for strengthening your posture.

3. Barbell Rollout

Next, you can also use your barbell to activate your upper abs. One of the benefits of this exercise is that it will not just activate your core, but also will have a secondary effect on your shoulders. 

To do this exercise, add sufficient weight to your barbell. Kneel onto the floor and raise your feet, leaving your knees on the ground.

Put your hands on the barbell, roughly shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight and the core tight, propel the barbell forward in a rolling motion. 

Move your body forward with the barbell and stop when your arms are entirely extended. Using your core, bring the barbell back.

Do not drop your hips during this exercise. Perform as many sets and reps as you want. 

If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can use an ab roller instead.

These rollers will take up much less space than a barbell, making them perfect for people who exercise at home. Not to mention, ab rollers are budget-friendly. 

You can also use a stability ball as a replacement for a barbell. Just bear in mind that this will require a lot of balance. 

4. Bicycle Crunch

Another type of crunch that you can try is the bicycle crunch. This exercise will reach deep into your cores, including the rectus abdominis.

Consequently, we recommend that you try this exercise if you want to sculpt your upper abs. 

If you want to do this exercise, get into the start position by lying on your back against an exercise mat.

Bend your knees while keeping them against the floor and place your hands behind your head. Your elbows would be wide as you nestle your head with your hands. 

Bring your right knee forward as you lift your shoulders off the floor. As your feet are raised off the floor, bring your right leg to a 45-degree angle.

Rotate your core, so that your right leg meets your left elbow. Then, lower your body to the start position. 

Repeat these steps but alternate sides each time. This way your left knee can reach your right elbow.

Complete up to 20 reps and perform as many sets as wanted. As you become more experienced with this exercise, try to increase your speed.

This exercise will require no equipment, making it an outstanding option for beginners.

Yet, there are certain common mistakes that you should attempt to avoid. For instance, many people will rotate with their hips instead of their core. 

5. Hanging Leg Raises

Hanging leg raises are an incredible isolation exercise that will utilize your body weight. It will work both your lower and upper abs. 

To do this, you will need to hang from a chin-up bar. Using a wide grip, hang with your arms extended and your legs dangling. 

Slowly raise your legs toward your torso, bending them so that they are at a 90-degree angle. Pause for a few seconds as you hold this position. Next, gradually lower your legs to return to the original position. 

To make this exercise a little more difficult, you can add weight. Place a dumbbell or another form of weight in between your ankles.

We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the standard version of this exercise before adding additional weight. 

This exercise is also great for improving your flexibility. Namely, it will improve the flexibility of your hamstring. 

6. Stability Ball Crunch

An exercise ball can be a fun addition to your workout routine. These inflatable balls are perfect for bodyweight exercises. One such exercise that you can try is the stability ball crunch. 

Also known as the Swiss ball crunch, the stability ball crunch is ideal for training your abdominal muscles and the rest of your core.

It will also target your hip flexors. Though this exercise is perhaps better for your lower abs, it can nonetheless strengthen your upper abs. 

To begin these crunches, simply sit on the ball whilst your feet are still on the ground.

Lower yourself so that your shoulders and back are against the surface of the ball. Meanwhile, your toro should be just off the ball whilst your feet remain firmly on the floor. 

In terms of your arms, you can either place them behind your head or at the side of your body.

Engaging your core, gradually lift your shoulder so that it is completely off the ball. Inhale before returning to your start position. 

It’s worth noting that exercise balls can be a little tricky to work with, especially if you are not familiar with them.

After all, they have a penchant for rolling away. Consequently, it’s recommended that you get comfortable with these tools before you try this exercise.

7. V-Up

Lastly, you might want to add v-ups to your fitness routine if your goal is to enhance your upper abs. This exercise will engage your core, working both your upper and lower abs. 

To start this bodyweight exercise, lie on your back against a yoga mat. Your head should be facing forward.

Extend your arms so that they are behind your head while your legs should be stretched in front of you. Keep your feet together with your toes pointed.

Slowly raise your legs, keeping them straight as you do so. Tightening your core, your lower body should be raised from the ground.

Simultaneously, move your arms until your hands reach your toes. Your body should look akin to the letter V.

Hold this position for a couple of seconds before slowly returning to the original pose and repeating this exercise.

This exercise will not just enhance your core strength, but it can also boost your flexibility. As a variant, you can try lifting one leg at a time. This will put increased strain on the obliques.

Final Thoughts

Abs are an important muscle to train, especially if your fitness goal is to lose fat or increase muscle.

If you have strong upper abs, you can strengthen your entire core. By combining these exercises with a determined approach to exercise, you can develop toned abs. 

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