The upper abdominals make up the majority of the abdominal muscle. They are the most prominent part of the “six-pack.” They are not, however, exclusive of the lower abdominals. The entire abdominal muscle is worked during abdominal exercises, but it is possible to put the majority of the stress on a particular region of the muscle.
Upper Ab Area
The upper abdominals comprise the region just below the rib cage down to the navel. This section of the muscle attaches to the bottom of the rib cage and sternum and pulls the rib cage down toward the hips. It is always under a small amount of tension to aid in maintaining an erect posture. It comes under much more stress during exercises such as the squat, dead lift, bench press and other exercises that require keeping the back in a particular posture under extreme loads. That is why many people who begin lifting find they get some abdominal development without direct abdominal work. However, to develop a solid set of upper abs it is important to work it directly with a combination of low weight, high repetition work along with some resistance work for fewer repetitions.
The Right Crunches for Upper Abs
Crunches are the staple of upper abdominal work. There are many variations of the crunch. There are many machines and products on the market to enhance the crunch, but they all follow the basic crunch principle. Resistance crunches, done on a high pulley machine in a kneeling position allow the abdominals to work under additional strain. A low pulley machine and rope handle can be used to do traditional crunches on the floor with some light resistance. Any time you can complete three sets of 50 repetitions relatively easy you should add a little resistance. Slant boards and roman benches are also great for adding a little extra resistance and a slight stretch to the exercise.
What about the Obliques?
The obliques are also considered part of the upper abs. These muscles are located on the sides and extend from the rib cage down to the upper portion of the hipbone. They pull the rib cage down toward the hips in a side bend, twisting motion. These muscles can be exercised using the twisting crunch, to combine the abdominals and obliques in one exercise, the weighted side bend, the weighted twist, weight machines designed to add resistance to the twisting or bending motion, or even home gym equipment like the Ab Circle Pro.
A good routine to develop the upper abdominals should include a crunching exercise, a twisting or side bending exercise, and some time spent flexing the muscle. A beginner program might include three sets of regular crunches of as many as you can do, three sets of weighted twists with a slight forward lean for 25 repetitions to each side, and five minutes of flexing the abdominals in fifteen to thirty second sets. Once this routine becomes easy add some resistance to the crunches for two of the sets, and then do a bodyweight set for as many reps as possible. Cut the twists to two sets and add two sets of side bends for 25 repetitions to each side. At this point some additional work for the lower abs should be added. And finish with 10 minutes of flexing the abdominals. The abs can be exercised every other day due to their rapid recovery ability, although it is important to allow at least one two-day rest period for total recovery.
So, to bring out the upper two to three sections of the six-pack it is important to hit the crunches, or some variation of the crunch. Work it hard, add a little resistance, keep the repetitions in the 20-50 range, and hit the obliques, as well. This will ensure total development and a tight, rock-hard midsection you can be proud of.