Abdominal Exercises That Target the Upper Abs
By Solomon Branch
, last updated March 19, 2012
Any exercise that works the abdominal region works all of the muscles, both upper and lower, says researcher Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico. However, certain exercises do work the upper abdominal muscles a bit more because the muscles are more active. The exercises limit the involvement of the lower abdominal muscles, forcing the engagement of the upper abdominal region.
The Captain's Chair
The captain's chair can be performed at the gym with a captain's chair or on a regular chair that has a flat seat. To perform the exercise on a chair, sit on the edge of a stable chair, keeping your feet flat on the floor and your spine straight. Hold on to the sides of the chair with your hands for stability. Exhaling, flex your abdominal muscles and slowly bring your knees toward your chest. Stop when your thighs start to feel tight. Hold that position for two to three seconds, then lower your feet to the floor slowly while inhaling.
The time-tested crunches are an effective exercise for the upper abdominals, according to the Men's Fitness website. To perform a proper crunch, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Touch your hands to your temples, but don't pull on your neck. Flex your abdominal muscles, then lift your shoulders off the mat and move your chest to your knees, curling your spine. Stop when the middle of your back lifts off the floor, leaving your lower back in contact. Hold that position for two to three seconds, squeezing your abdominal muscles, then lower yourself back to the floor slowly.
Supporting your legs and back using an inflatable stability ball helps keep the strain off your lower abdomen and forces you to use more of the upper abdominal muscles. To perform a ball crunch, lie on the ball so your back is in contact with the ball, but your buttocks are hanging off the edge. Bend your knees 90 degrees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Support your head by placing your hands behind your back. Flex your abdominal muscles, then move your shoulders to your knees, keeping your feet and legs locked in position, until your middle back is off the ball. Stop and hold that position, then return to your starting position. Exhale when moving forward and inhale when lowering your back on the ball.
Sit-ups on an inclined bench target the upper abdominal muscles because the lower abdominal muscles cannot engage as much when on an incline. To begin, position your feet under the supports at the top of the bench and lie on the bench. Support your neck by placing your hands behind your head. Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Flex your abdominal muscles and slowly lift your shoulders toward your feet, stopping when your back is off the bench. Hold that position for several seconds, then slowly lower yourself to your starting position.