When it comes to working your abs, you need to single out each section (upper, lower and oblique) to get the best results from your workouts. The upper abs form the top part of a long band of muscle known as the rectus abdominis. You can effectively work this area be executing several key exercises. The main thing to remember is that quality is more important than quantity.
Perform a set of planks with no range of motion. Lie face-down on the ground with your hands directly under your shoulders and your toes hip-width apart behind you. Push your body up and fully extend your arms. Lift your hips in the air by contracting your abs. Stop when you form a straight line from your heels to shoulders. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. Rest and repeat three to four times.
Squeeze your abs while lying face-up on a stability ball. Assume a position where your knees are bent and your feet are flat on the floor. Place your hands by your ears and lift your head and shoulders slightly off the ball. Lift your body up and slightly forward by contracting your upper abs. Hold for second, lower yourself down and repeat. Perform 15 to 20 reps and three to four sets.
Lie face-up on the ground to do hip lifts. Straighten your legs and lift them up in the air so your body forms a 90-degree angle. Place your hands at your sides and raise your hips off the ground, pushing your feet toward the ceiling and back at a slight angle. Squeeze forcefully and slowly lower your hips back down and repeat 15 to 20 times. Perform three to four sets.
Move your arms and legs in a cycling motion to do bicycle crunches. These exercises emphasize your upper abs, lower abs and obliques all at once. Lie face-up with your legs lifted, knees bent 90 degrees and shins parallel to the floor. Bring your left elbow and right knee toward each other while straightening your left leg. Reverse the move and bring your right elbow and left knee toward each other while extending your right leg. Keep going back and forth for a set of 15 to 20 reps. Do three to four sets total.
Perform your exercises three times a week on nonconsecutive days.
If you have a lower back injury, such as a herniated disc, do not perform abdominal exercises unless advised by your physician or physical therapist. They will be able to recommend a specific sequence of exercises tailored to your injury.