V-ups Lower Abs Exercise: 3 Variations

/ 7.30.10 / Medically Reviewed

In my Strengthen Your Abs: 5 Great Abs Exercises video, some of you wanted me to discuss V-ups in more depth. So I have below 3 variations you can use depending on your fitness level. V-ups are a great exercise because they hit the entire rectus abdominus (six pack muscle) that extends from your pelvic region to your sternum.

Overall, this is a more advanced exercise that you should NOT attempt if you have any lower back issues, or experience any low back pain as you complete the exercise. I have video along with 5 tips to ensure you use excellent form every repetition.

V-ups: 3 Variations

1) Easy – Feet touch the ground each rep

2) Medium – Feet are off the ground the entire time

3) Hard – Hold a dumbbell in between your legs to make this exercise MUCH harder

V-ups Abs Exercise

V-ups Tip #1: Straight Neck

If you have neck issues, you should NOT try this exercise. Your hands are not helping support your head because they are extended behind you. Keep your neck straight, try not to push your head foreword too much and hyperextend your neck.

V-ups Tip #2: Legs Form 45 Degree Angle

Except in the first variation, your feet should never touch the ground. At the start of the movement, keep your feet about 6 inches off the ground, then lift them up to a 45 degree angle, then SLOWLY lower them back down. Your feet and toes should be flexed towards your body. If you want to make the exercise more challenging, you can add a dumbbell in between your feet, just be careful.

V-ups Tip #3: Back stays on the ground

When people normally do the V-up, also known as Jack Knives, they bring their shoulders a good foot off the ground, and their entire back raises off the floor. To really emphasize the lower abs, keep your back on the floor and only raise your shoulders a few inches from the floor. Your really thinking about controlling your legs.

V-ups Tip #4: Straight Arms

I’m not doing a good job of this in the video, but you want to keep your arms really straight and get a stretch in your abs at the bottom of the exercise. That’s really the whole point of straightening out your arms and stretching backwards. As you come up, bring your hands to your knees and forcibly contract your abs intensely.

V-ups Tip #5 Slow and Controlled

This is really the differentiator that makes this exercise very effective. As I discussed in tip #3, most people use momentum when completing this exercise (and most exercises in general). The key is to really control the movement and focus on the stretch and contraction. When I do abs, the bottom and the top of the movement are most important, the stretch, then the contraction. The mind muscle connection is powerful, so really focus on the burn.

So there you have it! If you are advanced enough to give this exercise a shot, let me know how it goes. I usually try to get 15 reps and rest minimally in between sets (under 20 seconds) to keep that abs burn.



  1. profile avatar
    Brad Hawkinson Jul 30, 2010 - 11:53 #

    Nice advanced ab exercise – has been tweeted!


    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Jul 30, 2010 - 21:22 #

      Thanks, Brad. Appreciate it.

  2. profile avatar
    Mary Aug 01, 2010 - 23:16 #

    You really make this look easy. I can feel my abs working, however, it is going to take some practice do these exercises without jerking my body. Definitely not easy.

  3. profile avatar
    Toni Jul 05, 2011 - 11:00 #


    Is the rectus abdominus muscle (that you speak of) the muscle that starts to show as what is typically referred to as ‘v’ cuts? I’m wondering because I started doing v-ups awhile back and noticed those defined cuts by my torso where it meets my upper thigh. Anyway, these take loads of practice and to get the most benefit have to be performed slow and controlled as you so aptly mentioned. BTW, now I do them with a dumbbell like you suggested but I’m only up to 2 lbs. at this point in time.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Jul 10, 2011 - 17:41 #

      @Toni – The V shape is the oblique muscle protruding above the rectus abdominus muscle, so there is a clear separation between the two muscles. That impressive you have achieved that look. It’s not easy.

  4. profile avatar
    Andrew Mar 05, 2012 - 21:39 #


    im 16 , 5.10 190 lbs in good shape benching about 250, not sure of body fat or anything. well over the last few weeks ive developed a strong desire to get ripped so i stopped eating any sweets, sodas, ..etc i do about 12 mins of cardio about 5 times a week, beating up on the punching bag doing 5 mins straght then 4 mins straght then 3 mins straght and then 1 fast paced minute of constant beatings on the bag. i also workout back arms abs about 5 times a week im just curious do u think my cardio routine would be sufficient ive seen some results but i dont know if it just hasnt been long enough for real changes… well any input would be appreciated and also curious what your thoughts are of protein shakes? would u reccomend them? in trying to lose fat and become more ripped/ buff

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Mar 10, 2012 - 17:27 #

      @Andrew – Good to hear you are looking to tone up. Benching 250lb is solid, but I frankly don’t think working out back/arms/abs 5x per week in the gym is necessary, if that’s what you are doing. I would strongly consider using a more balanced program, like my BuiltLean Program. Not saying you have to use it, just saying an exercise routine that uses more functional exercises would be a lot more effective. It also sounds like you are not focusing on your nutrition, which is the most important part of losing fat. You didn’t mention the word nutrition, or food once in your comment, which makes me think that may be an area you want to focus on. Doesn’t matter what exercise program you are on, or how much cardio you do if you are not eating properly. You won’t get the results you want if you don’t eat better!

  5. profile avatar
    Abdul Blossomgame Jul 12, 2012 - 14:16 #

    Fantastic article! It was really interesting. I’ll be checking back here again soon! Keep up the good work!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jul 12, 2012 - 17:05 #

      Thanks, Abdul.

  6. profile avatar
    Megan @ Fiterature Aug 01, 2012 - 17:38 #

    Great video, demo and explanation! Thanks!

  7. profile avatar
    Janet Markee Oct 25, 2016 - 03:56 #

    In my experience as a crossfitter, the most difficult area to burn or to lose fat is the lower abs, especially if you used to be obese or you’ve have a lot of fat. There are many experts who argue, and I agree, that focusing only on ab exercises can’t help you to lose your lower ab fat. Rather, combining proper diet with high intensity exercises, such as burpees, box jumps and other crossfit exercises, is the most effective method to lose that last layer of fat.

    Janet Markee

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Rooke, CPT Oct 25, 2016 - 11:22 #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and personal experience, Janet! We totally agree – a high intensity workout combined with proper nutrition is the most effective way to shed fat and built a lean, strong body.

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

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