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

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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.

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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
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