Pages Navigation Menu
Categories Navigation Menu

The 12 Best Upper Ab Exercises — Miracle-Gro To Annihilate Your Rectus Abdominis & Upper Abs

Use ← → (arrow) keys to advance

The 12 Best Upper Ab Exercises; Miracle-Gro To Annihilate Your Rectus Abdominis & Cultivate A Six-Pack That Pops


If you’ve ever wanted a chiseled six-pack or a flat, defined set of abs, you HAVE to be focusing on the rectus abdominis.

But WTF is a rectus abdominis and why should I care?

Let us educate you. The colloquial “six-pack” muscles are the visible product of a strong, chiseled-out, well-defined rectus abdominis. It’s the muscle chain that encompasses the upper abs and forms the symmetrical, 2×3 columns of ab blocks that span from pecs-to-pelvis (and sometimes 2×4 if you’re rocking an eight-pack).

They can also be staggered and asymmetrical as well, that’s just 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 that makes the abs look like they’re freshly pressed by a waffle iron and chiseled out with a fiery vengeance. Build up the RA and it’ll make your abs pop in gorgeous 4K high-definition.

The surest way to add substance, striation, and density to the rectus abdominis is with a heavy dose of effective, challenging upper ab exercises.

Our list of the 12 Best Upper Ab Exercises works as abdominal Miracle-Gro. Use each of the exercises here as potent fuel to recalibrate your routine and annihilate your rectus abdominis, and ultimately leave your core prepped-and-primed to sprout budding little abs from the inside-out.

MAJOR KEY: As always, your abs won’t make an appearance if there’s blubber plastering your core.

Clean eating (use our guidelines here), a foundational workout routine, and ample cardio are absolutely KEY. Effective ab exercises are only one small contributor to a lean, healthy body and a beautiful set of abs.


The 12 Best Rectus Abdominis & Upper Abs Exercises

The 12 Best Upper Ab Exercises; Miracle-Gro To Annihilate Your Rectus Abdominis & Cultivate A Six-Pack That Pops

*Click each exercise name for a pop-out video demo.


Upper Abs Exercise 1 — Wide-Leg Cross Sit Ups

Upper Abs Exercise 1: Wide-Leg Cross Sit Ups

How To: 

Protocol: 12 reps left/right/center

Target Muscle(s): Upper Abs (Rectus Abdominis), Obliques

  • (1) Lie flat on the ground with your legs spread out wide.
  • (2) Powerfully contract your core, raise your torso, and touch your right hand to your left foot.
  • (3) 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.
  • (4) Return to the bottom a 3rd time. Repeat the motion, touching your left hand to your right foot.
  • (5) Continue to alternate left, middle, right.

Hold a dumbbell or medicine ball to increase the difficulty.

Use ← → (arrow) keys to advance

Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
  • Myron Gains

    No such thing as upper and lower ab workouts. That’s ridiculous.

    • Nagrom.Sille

      Are you some sort of expert then cause if you are make up your own website and post the link.

      • Jeff elridge

        Shortsighted chump know-it-all….
        what’s the matter? Steroids causing you not to think straight?

        • jeff elridge

          I apologize, that was toward myron

    • Sure it’s all one long muscle, but that’s not true whatsoever. Try any “lower ab” exercise — do it correctly and you’ll find your lower ab muscles, pelvic muscles, lower obliques, etc. all working to a MUCH higher degree than the muscles in the upper half of your abs.

      Why do you think a “six-pack” looks the way it does? There are individual muscle silos within the larger group. They absolutely can and will grow differently depending on your training.

      Certain exercises (e.g. bicycle crunches, planks) activate the entire area. Other moves specialize in one specific chunk (e.g. cable crunches primarily hit the upper abs).

      It’s an easy framework to segment the core and work it evenly.

      • John

        Good point. I noticed doing reg exercing i wasnt covering the upper abs.

      • fitmix

        Excellent exercises and yes, while its all one muscle, there are ways to train portions deeply to maximize results! Great explanation Bryan!

  • Kelly Marjamaa
  • having six pack abs is a dream for cara alami mengobati keputihan yang gatal

  • Frankie

    Funny one of the exercises has a “never do this exercise” link right above it — EXACT SAME EXERCISE….