One of The hallmark of a torn body is a chiseled, noticeable upper ab-definition. Well-defined upper abs just below your chest create the V-taper effect that many men pursue and that immediately catches the eye. Because of this, many men work extra hard to reach their upper abs and keep the core definition in that one particular area.
For many reasons, this isn’t the best way to train your core, nor is it the best way to get the six pack of your dreams. A strong, functional set of abs is more than the upper abs. It is the upper abs, lower abs, obliques, hip flexors, glutes, and spine extensors that work as a balanced unit. And while you might want to focus on your upper abs, overfocusing on the upper abs doesn̵
Instead, the better approach is to build your core as the integrated entity it is. Yes, this requires a lot of upper abs training, but you don’t have to target your upper abs with exclusive movements to get there.
The function of your upper abs
When people talk about the “upper abs,” they are generally talking about the upper part of the rectus abdominis, a long muscle that extends from the bottom of your sternum to the bottom of your pelvis (your pubic bone). One of the main tasks of the rectus abdominis is called “trunk flexion,” essentially moving your upper body towards your thighs (think of situps).
The idea of trunk flexion is also sometimes split into two parts. There is a hip flexion, a movement strongly driven by your hip flexors, where the hips move toward your upper body. And then there is spinal flexion, a movement primarily driven by the rectus abdominis that causes your spine to bend forward towards the knee. Imagine the opening moments of an old school crisis where your lower back stays on the floor but your shoulder blades fall off the floor. This is an example of this spinal flexion dominated by the upper abdominal muscles.
These movements do not necessarily have to be broken down into separate parts. In fact, they shouldn’t be broken apart as this is not how your core is supposed to work. During almost every classic core movement, from a Russian twist to a V-up to a sit-up to a hanging leg lift, your entire core, from the upper abdominal muscles to the lower abdominal muscles to the hip flexors and inclines, is active and tense.
Why it is not worth targeting specific rectus regions
Your core is meant to function as an integrated unit, and it is best built as an integrated unit to avoid imbalances that can cause long-term problems. This is most common in people who focus only on lower abdominal and hip flexion movements: their hip flexors often contract and pull their torso forward.
Similarly, the force you created in these muscles could pull your upper body forward instead of giving you that six-pack look that you actually got when you tried to target your upper abs and this actually succeeded (at least no guarantee for it)
The better plan: all-round core strength
Your better plan, instead, is to focus on general core strength and rely on movements that will get all of your core muscles to work together. You are training your core to work with the synergies it is supposed to have. This makes you stronger for both sports activities (you are more willing to make contact on the basketball court) and everyday activities (remember to pick up a heavy box).
You also stand a great chance of extreme entire abdominal definition as you can challenge your core with greater loads. A combination of upper abs, lower abs, and obliques, for example, can move more weight on a Turkish stand than your upper abs can move on their own during a weighted crunch, for example.
Exercise your abs for full core strength and you will get the results you want. These 10 moves can also lead you to this all-round core strength.
Movements for all-round ab strength
The base plank builds up an all-round core strength. Remember to squeeze your glutes, which are part of your core, when you do this.
Elevated Plank Row Hellset
Yes, you can do more than your abs on certain core movements! Your entire core needs to be stable as you row up and attack the upper, lower, and glutes during this elevated plank. Make sure your hips and shoulders stay straight to the floor!
Copenhagen Knee Drive Series
Your entire core works (and doesn’t get a break) during the Copenhagen Knee Drive series. Yes, it targets the sloping spots, but your upper abs will scream too.
The basic hollow hold is an important core movement that engages the upper abs (and your entire core) without affecting your posture. Load it with a weight for more challenge.
Resisted Plank Stability Challenge
Planks are simple, but again, they challenge your entire core. Adding the tape forces you to deal with anti-rotation, another important way to develop overall core strength.
Dragon Flag Flutter Challenge
Working through dragon flags challenges the entire rectus abdominis in a unique way: it has to hold your legs up and keep them in a straight line. Your abs have no chance to breathe.
Hollow Rock to Sprinter Situp Challenge
The hollow handle and rock are two great ways to attack the upper abs organically. Both of these force your core to work against anti-extension, essentially making sure you don’t arch your back. This is a key function of your entire rectus abdominis.
Sprinter Situp to Gator Roll Countup
This attacks the upper abdominal muscles during the sprinter sit-up, especially if you are doing the sprinter sit-up with long arms, so your core has to balance an ultra-long lever.
One-armed sweater until March
Few movements will tear your entire core apart like this one, which challenges balance and also squeezes the upper and lower abs to stabilize against rotation and extension protection.
3-step core getup
This core pull from Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, attacks the upper abs, lower abs, and glutes all at once. Since you are using a one-sided load, it will also do oblique hits.
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