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Upper Ab Exercises

author image Sarka-Jonae Miller
Sarka-Jonae Miller has been a freelance writer and editor since 2003. She was a personal trainer for four years with certifications from AFAA and NASM. Miller also worked at 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness and as a mobile trainer. Her career in the fitness industry begin in 2000 as a martial arts, yoga and group exercise instructor. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University.
Upper Ab Exercises
A woman is doing crunches on the beach. Photo Credit travnikovstudio/iStock/Getty Images


The main muscle that people target with upper ab exercises is the rectus abdominis. This is the muscle that, when developed, you can see running vertically down your stomach. For this reason, it is nicknamed the six-pack muscle. Although it is impossible to isolate the top portion of this muscle from the bottom, you can emphasize the upper abs by doing exercises like ball crunches that move your rib cage toward your pelvis.

Exercise Ball Abdominal Crunches

The exercise ball abdominal crunches requires the use of an exercise ball to work your upper abs. You may know an exercise ball by the name stability or Swiss ball. The exercise ball supports your torso as you perform a crunch. To begin, lie face up on a ball with your knees bent at right angles and your feet on the floor. Extend your arms overhead. Your torso, arms and thighs are parallel to the floor in the starting position. Then, curl your back and raise your head and shoulders toward the ceiling. This brings your rib cage closer to your pelvis than it was when you were lying flat in the starting position. Lower yourself back to the starting position.

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Frog Legs

Frog legs is an upper ab exercise that is performed lying on the floor. The frog legs name refers to the position of your legs during the exercise. Your legs resemble the frog or butterfly stretch with your hips rotated outwards and your knees bent. To perform the frog legs exercise, lie on your back with your arms extended over your head. Bend your knees and lift them over your stomach. Cross your ankles and open your knees toward the floor. You may feel a stretch in your groin when you do this. Then, raise your arms, head and shoulders into the air. Keep your arms next to your ears. Lie back down without moving your legs.

Incline Crunches

Decline crunches are an upper ab exercise that is performed on a decline bench. (Some people call this an incline bench. However, in common gym parlance, an incline bench is different from an decline bench.) A decline bench slants toward the floor with leg rollers at the top for your ankles to hook under. A decline crunch is done lying on the bench with your head near the floor and your legs secured on the foot rests with your knees bent. Place your hands behind your head to support your neck, but do not pull on your head or neck. Alternative positions for hands are criss-crossed across chest or arms and hands extended straight ahead. Decline crunches can also be performed while holding a medicine ball. Squeeze your abs to press your lower back flat into the bench. Then, tilt your chin and raise your upper body toward the ceiling. Return your upper body to the bench.

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