Upper Body Crunches: The Go-To Ab Exercise

upper body crunches

Upper Body Crunches

Upper Body Crunches, also known simply as ab crunches, are used by many celebrities during Harley Pasternack’s 5-Factor workout. Upper Body Crunches work the rectus abdominus, or upper abs. Think “six pack” or even “eight pack.” The upper body crunch is one of the most common ab exercises. It is becoming common to perform crunches on stability or Bosu balls. This is because of the added work your core has to do to maintain the exercise.

upper body crunches

Harley Pasternack likes his clients to do upper body crunches on Mondays. This is the day you work the rectus abdominus. Then, during your second workout of the week you work your lateral obliques. The third workout uses Lower Body Crunches to work your lower rectus abdominus, or the lower area of the six pack. Finally, during your last workout of the week, you do Double Crunches to work the upper abs and lower abs.

harley pasternak personal trainer

There is a mental cue that Harley Pasternack wants you to have through this exercise. He says that when doing the Upper Body Crunches you want to:

Shorten the distance between your sternum and belly button on the way up, and shorten it on the way down.

To perform Upper Body Crunches:

  1. Lie on your back on a padded or comfortable surface.
  2. With knees bent on the floor, and hands loosely placed behind your head, tuck your chin in toward your chest.
  3. Exhale as you bring your rib cage toward your pelvis.
  4. Inhale, and return to lying down starting position.

As shown in the video below, you can use a mat. Try not to cave your chin in, instead keeping your head lifted throughout the exercise.

Popular Upper Body Crunches Workouts

Crunches are much more effective than regular sit-ups because they specifically target your upper abdominal muscles rather than your hip muscles. If you’re not used to them, they can cause soreness a day or two later, but it’s a “cool” soreness. A badge of honor.

Upper Body Crunches Video

This video shows how to do upper body crunches on a stability ball, while holding a medicine ball. The stability ball makes you work your core more, while the medicine ball adds further resistance.

Heel Touch Crunches Modification

A common modification of the Upper Body Crunch is the Heel Touch Crunches. In the Heel Touch Crunches abs exercise, you touch your heels on each crunch. This transfers most of the work to your side (obliques) and lower abs (rectus abdominus). Jay-Z and Beyonce use this modification with their trainer, Marco Borges.

In his version, celebrity trainer Marco Borges says:

Tuck your knees into your chest and reach for your heels. Keep your feet together. Make sure your heels ar in the same line your your hands: parallel to the ground.

Upper Body Crunches Safety:

Make sure that your core is doing the work. Some people will stress their neck, but this is the wrong approach. Make sure that you squeeze your ab muscles and use them to propel you upwards.

You can learn more about Upper Body Crunches by reading about the 5 Factor Fitness Routine. Harley Pasternak, personal trainer to the stars, wrote several books describing exactly how he works with celebrities:

5 factor fitness

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