The Best Workout to Reveal Killer Upper Abs

The Best Workout to Reveal Killer Upper Abs

by Cole Matthews - Last Updated April 6, 2019

Possessing a set of well defined, fat-free abdominals is the true mark of fitness, regardless of what gender you happen to be.

For many, though, actually achieving a six pack seems as elusive as winning the lottery. But it doesn’t have to be.

In this article, we’re going to lay out the best exercises, reps, and sets to make your upper abs pop. Then we’ll go over the 3 biggest components of getting abs, as well as some helpful, ab-building tips that are sure to get that six pack popping.

15 Best Upper Ab Moves

Wide Leg Cross Sit Ups

Description:

(1) Lie on the floor with your legs spread out wide.

(2) Tighten your core, raise your torso and bring your right hand to your left foot.

(3) Return to the bottom position, extending your arms overhead and stretching out your core.

(4) Crunch up and touch the ground between your feet.

(5) Return back to the bottom position. Repeat step 2, but this time bring your left hand to your right foot.

(6) Continue the movement, alternating sides as you go.

Cable Crunches

Description:

(1) Position yourself in front of a high pulley and attach a rope handle to it. Kneel down in front of the pulley and take hold of the handles with both hands.

(2) Stick your butt out, set your hip back and tighten your abs. Now extend your chest out as you crunch your abs down toward the floor.

(3) When your chest is parallel to the floor, squeeze your abs as tightly as you can and hold for a count of two.

(4) Slowly come out of the contracted position by extending your back, abs and spine to return to the starting position.

Swiss Ball Crunch

Description:

(1) Lie with your back resting on the top of a Swiss Ball so that you body is arched over the ball. Place your hands alongside your ears.

(2) Extend back to 180 degrees and then crunch up, squeezing your abs. Hold the contracted position for one second. Make sure that your back remains in contact with the Swiss Ball throughout the entire movement.

(3) Extend your torso back over the ball and slowly repeat.

V Ups

Description:

(1) Lie on the floor with your arms and legs extended overhead and your leg straight out.

(2) Simultaneously raise your legs nd arms as you crunch your abs. Your body will form a V shape.

(3) Touch your finger tips to your toes at the top of the movement.

(4) Slowly return to the start position and repeat.

Bicycle Crunches

Description:

(1) Lie on the floor with your hands positioned above your ears and your legs up in a tabletop position.

(2) Push your right leg out s far as possible. At the same time, crunch your right elbow towards your left knee. Hold the contracted position for a one second count.

(3) Reverse the motion by drawing back your right leg and pushing out your left leg as you bring the left elbow toward the right knee. Again, hold for one second count.

(4) Continue in a rhythmic motion that resembles pedaling a bicycle.

Ab Wheel Rollouts

 Description:

(1) Get down on your hands and knees and place your hands on the wheel which is positioned directly in front of you.

(2) Slowly roll the wheel forward and out to the left, going as far as can while maintaining control. Hold the extended position for a second.

(3)  Slowly return to the start position. Make sure that your body is properly aligned before doing your next rep.

 One Legged Ab Wheel Roll Out

Description:

(1) Get down on your hands and knees and place your hands on the wheel which is position directly in front of you.

(2) Raise and extend your left leg behind you so that it forms a straight line with the hips. You will now be balancing on one knee.

(3) Slowly roll the wheel forward and out to the left, going as far as can while maintaining control. Hold the extended position for a second.

(4) Slowly return to the start position. Make sure that your body is properly aligned before doing your next rep. 

Tabletop Crunch

Description:

(1) Lie on the floor with your hands positioned above your ears and your legs up in a tabletop position.

(2) Tighten your core and lift your glutes slightly off the floor.

(3) Crunch your abs toward your belly button. Be careful not to pull at your neck as you perform this move.

(4) Hold for a one second hold and slowly return to the start position.

Toe Touch Crunch

Description:

(1) Lie on the floor and raise your legs up to form a 90-degree angle with the floor.

(2) Lift your up and point them toward your toes.

(3) Without moving your leg, contract your abs as powerfully as you can. Hold this position for a one second count.

(4) Return to the start position.

(5) You can make this exercise more difficult by holding a dumbbell or a medicine ball in your hands.

Pike Slide

 Note: Do this exercise on a sliding surface such as a polished floor.

 Description:

(1) Assume the plank position, with your hands directly below your shoulders. You need to have cloths or towels under your feet.

(2) As you exhale bring your straight legs up to your hands, with your hips driving into the air. Keep the core tight throughout.

Plank Crawl

 Description:

(1) Assume the normal plank position, with a straight body nd tight core.

(2) Take small steps with the toes and forearms to move forward, sideways and backwards. 

Scorpion Reach

 Description:

(1) Assume a plank position with your arms directly below your shoulders.

(2) Bring your left knee across and up to meet your right elbow.

(3) Kick the leg back and up in the air, reaching it across the body to form a triangle with the body.

(4) Come back down to return the knee to the opposite elbow.

Sprinter Set

Description:

(1) Lay down on your back, completely stretched out with hands over head.

(2) Sit up as fast as you can, drawing one knee up to your chest.

(3) Hold the top pose for a second, strongly contracting your abs before returning to the start position. 

Toe Taps

Description:

(1) Lay on your back with your legs up and spread wide in a “V” shape.

(2) Place your hands together and reach across to first one ankle and then the other. Exhale as you reach across. Keep your chin off your chest at all times.

Vertical Leg Crunch

Description:

(1) Lay flat on the floor on your back with your arms extended out to the sides and your straightened legs sticking directly up. Your feet should be touching one another.

(2) Exhale as you crunch up to reach to the toes. Keep the legs as straight up as possible. Keep the chin off the chest 

The Workouts

From the above library of 15 exercises, we have created three workouts for you to perform. Do each program for a period of 4 weeks, going directly onto the next one without rest. This will provide you with a complete 12 weeks of upper ab focused training.

Upper Ab Workout A

  • Cable Crunches – 3 x 15 reps
  • Wide Leg Cross Sit Up – 3 x 12 reps
  • V Ups – 3 x 12 reps
  • Bicycle Crunches – 3 x 10 (each side)
  • Swiss Ball Crunch – 3 x 12

Rest between sets for this workout should be kept to a minimum. Try moving from exercise to exercise without any rest at all, with just 15 seconds between sets.

Upper Ab Workout B

  • Ab Wheel Rollout – 3 x 15
  • One Legged Ab Wheel Rollout – 3 x 12 (each leg)
  • Table Top Crunch – 3 x 15
  • Toe Touch Crunch – 3 x 15
  • Pike Slide – 3 x 12

Rest between sets for this workout should be kept to a minimum. Try moving from exercise to exercise without any rest at all, with just 15 seconds between sets.

Upper Ab Workout C

  • Plank Crawl – 3 x15
  • Scorpion Reach – 3 x 15
  • Sprinter Set – 3 x 15
  • Toe Taps – 3 x 12
  • Vertical Leg Crunch – 3 x 12

Rest between sets for this workout should be kept to a minimum. Try moving from exercise to exercise without any rest at all, with just 15 seconds between sets.

Component 1: Doing Your Ab Workout Correctly

Breathing

Whatever exercise you are doing, you should breathe out during the exertion part of the movement. For example, on the crunch you should breath out as you come up to contract your abs. However, as you breath out, you should also be cinching down to tighten the abs. Do not push out your abs as you breathe out as this will actually weaken the abdominal wall.

Full Range of Motion

A lot of people do not fully extend when they are performing their abdominal exercises. They do a good job contracting the abs but fail to allow them to move completely through the opposite range of motion. Often the floor is the limiting factor. Doing moves that allow your torso to extend back beyond horizontal is a key to full upper ab development.

Weighted Ab Exercises

Often guys will begin to be able to see their abs but will not be able to develop the depth of definition that they’re really after. This can be achieved by doing weighted ab exercises. The abs are a muscle just like any other and resistance training with allow them to grow. When they do they will stand out more prominently. You should, however, be careful as to just how big you want your abs to become in order to not detract from the symmetry of your physique.

You can also develop the ab muscles by including some explosive exercises that target you type 2 muscle fibers.

Component 2: The Right Diet

You’ve heard it before and maybe you’re tired of hearing it . . .

Abs are made in the kitchen.

Well, it’s not true. It’s close, but the real truth is that abs are revealed in the kitchen. It’s the hard work in the gym that will develop strong, washboard abdominal muscles. But, unless you are on point with what goes into your mouth, you’ll never see the benefit of all of that hard work – and neither will anyone else.

It doesn’t matter how much cardio you do. You will never be able to outrun a bad diet. It’s only when your diet is on point that you’ll actually be able to see the benefits of the abdominal workout that you’re about to putting so much sweat equity into.

In order to see the abs you need to get your body fat percentage as close to single digits as you possibly can. You should start to see some cloudy abdominal definition at around 13 percent body fat. For a really well defined mid-section, you need to be down under 10 percent.

The best way to get there is to follow a combination of the keto diet and intermittent fasting. A pattern that has allowed a lot of people drop their body fat fast is to have a daily eating window between 11am and 7pm. Between those hours they eat every three hours.

The first meal should be egg based, with lashings of bacon and avocado on the side. After three hours a handful of nuts and a low carb protein bar works well. Meal three can consist of grilled chicken and green vegetables. Three hours later, blend upon a protein drink and enjoy a dinner meal of tuna, beef or pork with cauliflower and cabbage.

Follow a similar eating pattern to this for the 12-weeks that you train according to the programs outlined here and you’ll be well on track to bringing your body fat levels down to the ab reveal level.

Component 3: Knowing Basic Ab Anatomy

The muscles of your core can be likened to a central link in a metal chain that connects your upper and lower body. The stronger that central link the more effectively the rest of the body will function. That’s because everything you do, from hitting a baseball to reaching into the pantry, originates with the core.

The most prominent core muscle group is the rectus abdominis – those sought after six pack muscles. Developing the abs will do more than give you that sought-after athletic look; it will stabilize the torso, providing a strong central base that will give power to every movement of your body.

The linea alba is what separates your rectus abdominals into its separate compartments. The fibers of the abs run up and down. That means that flexion and extension allows you to contract that muscle.

The obliques are the diagonal muscle group that run around your waist. They allow you to twist and rotate your upper body.

 

The transverse abdominis muscles act like a corset to wrap around the waist. They pull the abs up and towards the spine. Keeping them tight will improve posture and relieve strain on the lower spine.

Focus on Targeting the Upper Abs

In order to focus on the upper abs, you need to be doing exercises that initiate the movement from the top down. This will involve exercises where the legs stay stationary but the head and shoulders come off the ground. The crunch is the classic upper ab exercise that follows this rule.

To hit the lower abs you need to do the opposite; that is the lower body contracts while the upper body stays stationary. This will usually involve drawing the legs into toward the upper body. 

Because of the weight of the legs, lower body exercises are usually more difficult than upper body ones. When it comes to ordering and structuring  your workout, you should perform your lower ab work before your upper ab exercises.

4 Habits for Great Upper Abs

While there are no secrets to obtaining a washboard mid-section, there are some habits that you need to take on board and consistently follow. Here are 4 super effective ways to reveal your abs in record time.

Tip No. 1: Up/Down Sequencing

To reveal your abs as quickly as possible, you have got to maximize your training time with a focus on multi joint movements that will burn the most calories. A key way that they do this is by utilizing Up/Down Sequencing. This involves interchanging an exercise for the upper body with one for the lower body. It’s a great way to turbo charge your metabolism into rapid fat burn because the quick change in emphasis is shunting the blood around your body as you switch emphasis.

An example of up/down sequencing would be moving rapidly between supersets of squats and chin ups.

Tip No. 2: Combining Dynamic and Stabilization Ab Exercises

The abdominals have two main purposes; to stabilize the spine, preventing it from moving around, and to flex the spine by bringing the abdominals closer to the hips. To get full, complete abdominal development and, therefore reveal your abs, you have got to do exercises that target both of these dimensions. Including both dynamic exercise to draw the abs in, and stabilization moves like the plank, are absolutely necessary for complete development.

Pure stabilization training involves simply keeping the spine straight while in a horizontal position. Doing this will immediately fire your abdominal wall. The plank is the granddaddy of all pure stabilization movements.

Exercises that draw your abs to your hips are also necessary to strengthen and define your core area. Crunches are the go-to exercise here.

Tip No.3: Supplement

Let’s face it – fat is stubborn. In men, especially, it likes to hang on around the mid-section. You need every advantage in combating that fat, especially when you’re trying to reveal your abs. By focusing on non-stimulant fat burning products, you’ll be able to supply your body with natural herbs and micro nutrients that it needs to ramp up the fat loss.

Check out our Best Vitamins and Supplements for Weight Loss review for more information.

Tip No. 4: Carb Cycling

Carb cycling actually originated with bodybuilders, but people the world over have been using it to strip off body fat for some time. When you reduce carbs from your diet, you lose body fat and water. But as the time of carb depletion continues, the metabolism actually slows down, which is not really what you need for maximum fat loss. Reintroducing carbs into the diet allows for fat loss without the metabolism slow down. On low carb days, you enter into a catabolic fat burning state, while the high carb days act as a boost to the metabolism.

To get started on carb cycling, alternate between low carb and high carb days. You should consume about 500 more total calories per day on your high carb days. Continue on this program for 12 weeks to strip those last vestiges of body fat from your physique.

Keep the fat burn going can be tough, especially when it comes to those stubborn deposits of lard that refuse to see reason. The four fat blasting tips that you’ve just learned will give your body that extra nudge that it needs to turbo charge the fat burn – leaving you with the shredded, lean body that you deserve.

Conclusion

Many people find the upper two rows of abs as the hardest to develop. Achieving deep, complete upper abdominal development is not easy. In this article, we’ve revealed a lot of exercises, programs habits and tips that will help you to get there. But the number one thing that you need in order to achieve your upper ab goals is consistency.

Consistency must be evident first and foremost when it comes to your nutrition. Get into the low carb habit, eat every three hours and keep your food intake to an 8-hour window every day. When it comes to your training, take the moves slowly, focus on full contraction and extension on every move that you are doing. Apply yourself diligently and, after 12 weeks, you killer upper abs are going to be ready to be revealed!

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