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What are the Different Types of Upper Ab Exercises?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Upper ab exercises work a specific set of the abdominal muscles to build strength and tone. Upper ab exercises also contribute to a solid core workout, which improves general health, balance, back strength, and overall strength and stability. Basic upper ab exercises can be done at home without any special equipment, though some types of gym equipment can enhance the workout. When performing upper ab exercises, remember to go slow, as a sustained exercise is better for the muscles than quick, jerky motions. Start with fewer repetitions and build from there; starting too intensely can lead to injury.

When building a routine of upper ab exercises, start with bicycle kicks. Lying flat on the ground face-up, place the hands palm-down on the ground. Lift the legs up so they are perpendicular to the ground, and lift the hips off the ground slightly by placing weight on the hands. Then, begin a pedaling motion, as though pedaling a bicycle. Remember to go slow, as sustained motion is more beneficial to the abs than quick, jerky motions. Do this for a minute or minute and a half, then rest.

A variation of the bicycle kick involves lying flat, with the hands behind the head. Bring one leg up toward the chest and bring the opposite elbow toward that knee. Relax, then do the same motion with the opposite limbs, then rest. This works the upper abs and obliques. From there, move on to a hip lift, which starts in a lying down position as well. Lift the legs up so they are perpendicular to the ground, and using the hands for support, lift the hips off the ground slowly. Hold, then relax. Repeat several times, making sure to engage the upper ab muscles when conducting the lift.

While crunches are an effective addition to any regiment of upper ab exercises, if not performed correctly, they can do more harm than good. For beginners, instead of doing crunches lying on the ground, try sitting in a sturdy chair with a straight back. Sit up straight with the hands grasping the seat of the chair. Lift the legs straight upward so that the shins remain perpendicular to the ground. This should crunch the abdominal muscles. Hold in this position, making sure to engage the upper ab muscles, then relax. Do several repetitions. A variation on this exercise can be done by twisting the legs to one side when lifted.

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Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By seag47 — On Feb 09, 2013

I like doing upper and lower ab exercises with a dance routine. I bought a DVD that shows me how to incorporate an abdominal workout into the dance movements, and it is fun and helpful.

I can feel my abs burning a few minutes into the workout. This means that it's working!

It's not boring, so I'm not tempted to give up on it. I gave up on crunches long ago because they were both boring and painful. This dance workout is so much more helpful!

By lighth0se33 — On Feb 08, 2013

I like using an ab exercise ball. Instead of just focusing on my upper abs, I can do both upper and lower, and my back gets a good workout, too.

I can also use the ball when doing yoga. So, the same piece of equipment that I use to work my legs can be used to work my abs. It's the most useful workout tool I own.

By OeKc05 — On Feb 07, 2013

@DylanB – I get what your friend is saying, but I still think that crunches are a great upper ab workout. True, you do have to learn how to do them correctly, but once you establish a method, you can benefit from them a lot.

I have to always remember to use only my ab muscles to pull myself up. The temptation is to use my hands and neck to help out, but this is wrong and doesn't make my abs do the work.

You really have to have some core strength to begin with to be able to do crunches properly. If you can't pull yourself up with your abs, then you shouldn't use your hands and neck.

By DylanB — On Feb 07, 2013

I think that sit-ups are great upper abs exercises, but I have a personal trainer friend who disagrees with me. He says that too many people injure their backs and strain their necks when doing them, and they do more harm than good.

He says that crunches are better, but still, if you don't know the proper way to do them, you can hurt yourself. He thinks that other types of ab exercises are better, and these are the kind that don't involve lying down and lifting yourself up.

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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