The colloquial “six-pack” muscles are the visible product of a strong, chiseled-out, well-defined rectus abdominis — the symmetrical, 2-by-3 columns of tantalizing midsection meat spanning from pecs-to-pelvis (they can be asymmetrical as well, it’s genetics).
While the obliques, serratus (the diagonal finger-like muscles below the pecs), lower abs, and transverse abdominis are each requisite elements of an elite core, the rectus abdominis (RA) is arguably the trump muscle that unlocks six-pack potential. It’s the meat-and-potatoes (or, better yet, salmon and goji) that helps the abs look like they’re always freshly pressed by a waffle iron and chiseled out with a fiery vengeance.
The surest way to add substance, striation, and density to the RA — and ultimately help the region pop — is with a heavy dose of effective, challenging upper ab exercises.
Our list of the 12 Best Upper Ab Exercises is abdominal Miracle-Gro. Use it as potent fuel to recalibrate your routine and annihilate your RA, leaving it prepped-and-primed to sprout budding little abs from the inside-out.
*As always, your abs won’t “pop” if there’s blubber plastering your core. Diet (read part 1 here) and a foundational workout routine/ample cardio are absolutely KEY — effective ab exercises are only one small contributor to a lean, healthy body.
The 12 Best Upper Ab Exercises; Miracle-Gro To Annihilate Your Rectus Abdominis & Cultivate A Six-Pack That Pops
Upper Abs Exercise 1: Wide-Leg Cross Sit Ups
Lie flat on the ground with your legs spread out wide.
Powerfully contract your core, raise your torso, and touch your right hand to your left foot.
Return to the bottom. Extend your arms long over your head and stretch out your core; immediately crunch up and touch the ground in between your feet.
Return to the bottom a 3rd time. Repeat the motion, touching your left hand to your right foot.
Continue to alternate left, middle, right.
Hold a dumbbell or medicine ball to increase the difficulty, if possible.
Upper Abs Exercise 2: Cable Crunches
Attach a rope handle attachment to the top of a cable pulley station.
Grab the rope with both hands and lower your body down onto both knees. Stick your butt out, set your hips back, and form a 45° angle with your torso.
Tighten your abs, puff out your chest, and slowly — WITHOUT moving your hips — crunch your abs down towards the floor.
Once your chest is roughly parallel with the floor, SQUEEEEEZE the life out of your abs for 1.5 seconds.
Slowly extend your back, stretch out your abs and spine, and return to the starting position.
Increase the weight as your abs strengthen.
Upper Abs Exercise 3: Sprinters
Lie flat on the ground with your arms at your side.
Powerfully contract your core and explosively raise your torso, right arm, and left leg; your elbow and knee should reach the same height so that they’re directly across from one another.
Return to the ground and immediately repeat for the opposite side.
Increase the difficulty by holding a light dumbbell in either hand.
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