Most guys think of their abs as one continuous slab of muscle, so they do one continuous set of exercises: crunches. If you really want to etch an impressive midsection though, it’s better to think of your abs as having two distinct sections – lower and upper. Crunches are fine for the top half, but to define what’s below the waistband, you need exercises that focus on the hip flexors and the lower half of the rectus abdominis. Add these moves to your workout routine to develop an even tighter, stronger, and leaner middle. Did you know that these two moves are united in a single exercise – V-ups exercise (also known as jackknife).
How to do V-ups with perfect form?
It’s time to master the V-ups.
STARTING POSITION: Lie flat on your back, legs extended straight (knees unlocked), heels resting on floor, arms extended overhead.
MOVEMENT: Use abdominals (ABs) to simultaneously raise your torso and legs together so your hands touch your feet, and your legs and arms are pointing up in a closed V. Then, in a controlled motion, lower your legs and torso back to the starting position. Repeat.
Exercise notes (Performance pointers)
- Get into hollow body position with your legs and arms extended. Lengthen as much as possible, then curl your arms and legs up into a V-position, touching your toes if possible.
- Focus on feeling your AB muscles pull your torso and legs.
- Focus on feeling your AB muscles pull your torso and legs together.
- Keep the movement controlled—don’t jerk yourself up.
- Don’t rest your arms and legs at the bottom of the movement.
- Hold a total contraction at the top of the movement for a count of two.
- Focus your mind on feeling your ABs do the work.
- The bent-knee version (see below) is easier and puts less stress on your back.
Bent-knee variation (Bent-knee V-ups). Same starting position, except you have your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. The movement is the same, except you keep your knees bent throughout the range of motion, and you end each repetition in the bent-knee position. This is much easier to perform than having legs extended straight.
V-ups with a cross (Oblique V-ups). In this version you also have to use your ABs to simultaneously bring your feet and hands together. However, as you raise your torso and legs, cross your right shoulder toward your left knee and your left knee toward your right shoulder. Then simultaneously lower your leg and torso.
Seated knee-up. In this version you have to sit on the flat exercise bench and then lean back slightly so that your torso makes 45 to 60 degree angle with the bench.
Alternating leg V-up. Here you raise only one leg up while you simultaneously lift your upper body (both hands) towards the active leg.
Generally speaking, to hit the upper abdominals you perform movements where the legs are stationary and your sternum moves toward the legs (e.g. crunches). Conversely, to bring in more of the lower abdominals you keep the upper body stationary and move the legs toward the sternum (e.g. reverse crunches, leg raises). Since V-ups require simultaneous lifting of both the legs and sternum they will equally engage your lower and upper abdominal muscles (ie. rectus abdominis).
V-ups are unique abdominal exercise targeting both your lower and upper abdominals at the same time (for the reasons already described in the section above). For this reason you can easily replace this exercise with any other lower or upper abdominal exercise. Simply pick any exercise from any of these two categories of exercises:
Make it harder
You can make this already difficult exercise even more challenging by doing it while seated on an unstable surface, such as a balance disk or a BOSU trainer.
Closing thoughts about V-ups exercise
When it comes to carving your core, there are sit-ups, and then there are V-ups. An advanced core exercise, the V-up works the coveted rectus abdominis, or “six-pack,” muscles; the deep-lying transverse abdominis; the hip flexors; and the obliques on the sides of your abdomen. They do all of this while also working the lower portion of the abdominals to a greater extent than traditional sit-ups.
If you have any back or neck problems, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about whether this exercise is appropriate for you. If not done with proper form, it can compress the spine and stress the neck. You can expect to feel your core muscles working, even burning, but stop if you feel any sharp pain.