How to Work Your Abs Standing Up

Functional Training for Your Core

Medicine ball woodchop

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Most people do ab exercises lying down. One of the most popular ab strengtheners, the abdominal crunch, is performed in a supine position with the back on the floor or on a mat. And to do a plank, you'll start in a prone position on the floor. But what if you can't lay on the floor? Or what if you want to add variety to your ab routine? Then standing abdominal exercises are a smart choice.

Adding more standing ab exercises to your workout can build your core so that you feel strong in every position, whether you're standing, sitting, or lying down. Learn why and how to get your ab routine up off the floor.

Ab Workouts: Lying Down vs. Standing Up

There are different benefits and drawbacks to doing abdominal exercises on the floor and standing up. Consider the pros and cons of each position to choose the best program for you.

Ab Training on the Floor

Doing ab exercises on the floor makes sense—to work your muscles, you have to be in a position where your muscles work in direct opposition to gravity. For certain abdominal muscles—such as the rectus abdominis—that means lying down and crunching the shoulders towards the hips, with gravity adding resistance in just the right direction.

In years past, the most effective ab exercises were all floor-based movements. In fact, according to one very widely publicized study conducted by the American Council on Exercise, the list of effective exercises included bicycles, ball crunches, and vertical leg crunches. The study was groundbreaking in 2001 because it was one of the only research investigations that compared 13 different movements.

But since that report was published, there has been a shift in perspectives about training the abdominal area. Most notably, exercises that train the entire core region have taken center stage. The "core" includes not just the rectus abdominis, but also the deeper muscles in your trunk (transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques) but also back muscles that help to stabilize the body (erector spinae).

Exercises such as the plank and its many variations have become more popular in gyms around the country. Research has supported its use as an effective form of training the important truck muscles. But even the plank and plank variations have drawbacks and it is not the best mode of training for everyone.

Ab Training Standing Up

For some people, doing abdominal exercises in any position on the floor Is not do-able. For example, some people with joint or back issues or people with larger bodies may have a harder time getting up and down from the floor. And women who are pregnant are advised to avoid lying flat on their backs as much as possible.

But even people who can comfortably get on and off the floor can benefit from doing standing ab exercises. When you train your abs in an upright position, you challenge them in the same way that you use them throughout the day. This is a concept called functional training.

Trunk stability is important to maintain an upright body posture, and to change positions when sitting, standing, and walking. These everyday movements can become more challenging as you age if you don't keep the muscles strong.

Even athletes use important trunk muscles in upright movements. Core strength is very important to improve body balance and postural control in movements such as landing and contact.

In short, you need strong abs, not just while lying on the floor, but for all the movements you perform each day. So it can be helpful for anyone to look at a new way of working your abs with exercises that are effective, functional, and, even better, get you off the floor.

Standing Ab Exercises

Crunches, planks, and other floor exercises can still have a place in your training routine. But standing ab work can add a new depth and dimension to your workouts, giving you more than just strong abs, but a strong core and a stable base of support in athletic activities and through activities of daily living.

The best standing ab exercises will involve moving your body through multiple planes of motion and include movements like bending, rotating, and bracing your core. It's also a good idea to include a mixture of both standing and floor exercises to hit all the core muscles for a strong, fit torso.

Basic Standing Ab Exercises

To get started you may want to try to do a simple side crunch or crossover crunch in an upright position.

Standing Side Crunch

Start standing tall with feet about hip-distance apart. Extend the right hand all the way up and overhead. Now lift the right knee up towards the right side body while tilting the torso and bringing the right elbow down to meet the knee. Return to the starting position and repeat. After a few reps, switch sides. If you're new to this exercise or feel unstable use a chair or the wall for balance.

Standing Crossover Crunch

Start standing tall with feet about hip-distance apart. Extend the left hand all the way up and overhead. Now lift the right knee up and across the body while curling the torso and bringing the right elbow down to meet the left knee. Return to the starting position and repeat. After a few reps, switch sides. Again, use a chair or the wall for balance, if needed.

Once you feel comfortable with these basic exercises, challenge yourself with intermediate and advanced standing ab exercises.

More Standing Ab Exercises

The following are examples of more complex standing ab exercises that target all the muscles of the core, including the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominis, and the lower back muscles. Many of these exercises will also challenge your balance and stability, both of which require heavy core involvement:

Integrated Core Training

Keep in mind that you don't have to train your abs separately. Core training happens during almost every workout, especially weight training. In fact, there is some evidence that doing a basic back squat is more effective at activating more of the core muscles the plank exercise.

But the bottom line is that any exercise that requires you to stabilize your body as you lift weight will involve your core, particularly if you're doing compound exercises, moves that involve both the upper and lower body at the same time. Some examples include:

Add more core challenge to your workouts by trying the above exercises or combining your own moves together. You can also do exercises on the exercise ball while standing on one leg, or on an unstable surface (like a BOSU). Not only will your abs be stronger and better able to handle all of life's movements, but you also won't have to do a single crunch.

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Article Sources
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