Isolating the upper abdominal muscles for a lean look can be challenging. Learning how to properly execute abdominal exercises that emphasize the upper part of the rectus abdominis will increase the benefits of the exercises, giving you stronger, leaner abs. An effective upper abdominal workout will provide balance by engaging the entire core: your abdominal, back, pelvic and hips muscles, according to the American Council on Exercise.
The plank pike is an intermediate to advanced exercise that engages the entire core with emphasis on your upper abs and obliques. This exercise also works your shoulders and arms. This exercise requires dumbbells and disks, but you may substitute hands on the floor for the dumbbells and socks on a wood or tile floor for the disks. Hold the dumbbells on the floor shoulder-width apart, palms facing in toward each other. Place each foot on a disk and slowly raise your hips toward the ceiling, straightening out the legs so you are in a pike position. Inhale and push your feet back behind you, this lowers you into a push-up or flat back position. Exhale and pull the feet back up toward the hands so you are back in the pike position. Repeat this exercise 10 to 12 times.
The Pilates Hundreds exercise engages the entire core with emphasis on the upper and lower rectus abdominis. Through proper breathing technique this exercise will strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles with minimal movement. Begin lying supine with you palms face down next to your side. Extend your legs up toward the ceiling and roll your shoulders up off the floor, tucking your chin toward your chest. Relax your shoulders, neck and head and lower your legs straight out toward the floor. If you feel any pressure in your lower back, bring the legs back up toward the ceiling. Inhale and lift your hands about 3 to 4 inches off the floor and pump the arms, palms down for five counts. Exhale and pump the arms five more times. Repeat this breathing cycle with arms pumping for a complete count of 100.
This exercise is an effective abdominal exercise and also engages the hamstrings and butt. Begin this exercise lying supine on the floor with your feet on top of the stability ball. Relax your shoulders, neck and head and slowly pull your pelvic bone up toward the ceiling, while pressing your heels into the ball. Keep your arms flat on the floor palms down for balance. Inhale and lift your right leg off the ball, up toward the ceiling. Hold for three to five seconds and release. Lift your left leg off the ball and hold for three to five seconds. Repeat this movement on both legs for 10 to 12 repetitions.
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