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The Best Upper Abdominal Exercises

author image Sunny Griffis
Sunny Griffis, a certified performance technologist, is a fitness coach who has been a professional writer since 1998. Her work can be seen in online and print publications such as "Family Fun," "Cappers," "Rutherford Woman Magazine" and "Healthy Family Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in metaphysics from AIHT, and a CPT certification from NFPT.
The Best Upper Abdominal Exercises
A woman is doing crunches on a yoga mat. Photo Credit kjekol/iStock/Getty Images


Abdominal exercises strengthen the core region and help develop coveted abs. One of the easiest areas of the abdominal region to target is the upper abs. Effective ab exercises require no equipment, little space, and can be performed anywhere. Upper ab exercises consist of small, focused movements that necessitate mental focus for maximum effectiveness. Form and quality are more important than quantity and speed when performing abdominal exercises. Keep the entire core tight and contracted while implementing the following upper abdominal exercises.

Bicycle Exercise

Strong abs foster better posture and long-term health, according to an Americas Council on Exercise-commissioned study, the most effective abdominal exercise is the bicycle maneuver. To perform the exercise, lie flat, place hands behind the head, and let elbows flair out to the sides. Bring legs off the ground and make a pedaling motion in the air. Crunch the upper abs and touch each elbow to the opposite knee while pedaling. Practice this exercise slowly, to perfect form and balance, before increasing the speed.

Stability Ball Crunch

The stability ball crunch is a small, effective movement. Lie back on the ball, with feet extended and placed firmly on the ground for support. Lean back until the upper body is parallel with the ground. Place hands behind the head, crossed on the chest, or clasping a weight plate on the chest. Crunch the upper abs and raise the torso upwards. Keep eyes focused on ceiling to keep head in alignment and to avoid neck strain. Exhale and contract the abs at the top of each repetition. Don't pull on your head with your hands.

Hanging Knee Raises

The hanging knee raise is an intermediate to advanced exercise that targets the upper abs. A pull-up bar, monkey bars, or a sturdy branch is needed for this exercise. Hang from the bar, with legs slightly bent. Without using momentum, crunch the abs and bring the knees to the chest. Avoid swinging and keep the abs tight throughout the entire movement. To increase the difficultly, keep the legs straight and raise them until they are parallel with the ground.

V-Sit Exercise

The V-sit exercise is one of the best exercises to activate the upper abdominals, according to a 2001 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. This exercise works the obliques and hip flexors, in addition to the upper abs. To execute the V-sit, raise the legs to a 45-degree angle. Reach the arms toward the feet and raise the torso off the floor. This is a static exercise that requires balance. Hold this V position until the abs are exhausted and form is compromised. With conditioning, the time in the hold position can be increased.

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