The question we get asked most at Gym Junkies: How to get six pack abs. Want to know what really works?
What’s the number one thing on your fitness wish list? Is it chiseled arms? Killer legs? A broad, ripped back?
Well for a majority of people, it’s simple – they want six pack abs. Or any abs, really – just something other than the less-than-chiseled tire currently residing on their stomach.
Who doesn’t want six-pack abs?
After all, it’s pretty much the definition of fitness and definition. It’s evidence that you know the best workouts, nutrition and how to get the results everyone tries so hard for.
So why is it so hard to come by? Why do some people spend a majority of their life trying to get the elusive six-pack abs?
Well…unfortunately there’s some pretty crappy advice out there on how to get them, that’s why.
Six-Pack Abs: Getting Started
The advice on six-pack abs gets a little bit of everything. First off, when it comes to abs, you can save yourself a lot of time by focusing on the Best 6 Exercises for Your Abs.
Some trainers (and people who like to pretend like they’re trainers) will tell you to do their own special blend of exercises to get six-pack abs. Guess what? This won’t cut it.
Others will tell you that you just have to slim down to a leaner size in order to shed the fat and get to the muscle underneath. Guess what? There’s more to it than that, too.
Other people will tell you to focus heavily on exercises like deadlifts and really heavy squats. Guess what? Still not the whole story.
The remaining people will tell you what kinds of foods are ab-killers and what supplements can provide you with the washboard abs.
Today we’re going to go over the right combination of all these elements and how to tailor this approach to your specific body. One approach doesn’t fit all. So we’re here to help you find out what works for you.
What’s the Best Way to Get Abs?
A combination of isolation moves, core work and a fat burning diet tailored to the specifics of your body are the keys to unlocking six-pack abs.
There are a lot of things in fitness that are fairly straightforward in terms of results – and abs just happen to be one of them. And we aren’t just talking about for men – this is for women too.
We’ll get into all the details of it, including the physiology, so you can fully understand what you need to do to achieve six-pack abs – and what type of advice you need to avoid.
By the end of this article, hopefully you’ll have a better grasp on what words to heed and the waste-of-time advice that you should skip.
First of all, when someone refers to having the perfect six-pack, they are essentially talking about the rectus abdominis, which is a pair of muscles in the abdomen.
While these muscles play a large role in creating the ever-so-desirable six-pack abs, they aren’t the only muscles that come into play.
In fact, there are quite a few other “core” muscles that need to be developed correctly in order to achieve those results. In fact, you can Get Ripped with Core Exercises and these should make up a big part of your weekly workouts.
A good example of someone who has a good rectus abdominis but doesn’t really complete the whole package – remember the “The Situation” from Jersey Shore?
If you take a look at a few of his pictures, he isn’t really lean, but he also doesn’t have the V at the waist. There’s literally no development in the serratus area and no TVA line. So you don’t really want to aim to look like that (or act like he does, for that matter) because it isn’t a complete “balanced” look.
You should understand that Body Type will always play a role in what your stomach looks like before you put in the work. With the right level of dedication, you can certainly get a lot closer to a balanced, symmetrical panel of abdominal muscle.
You want nice, even development throughout the entire area – obliques, rectus abdominis and TVA and serratus. If you don’t, you might have the dreaded “floating” abs, which are basically abs that float in a completely flat area of skin.
Here’s some news that might come as a shock to some people – you may only be physically capable of achieving four-pack abs. It all depends on your genes. Some people have a six-pack gene in their family; others have a 4.
Either way, abs are abs and they’re going to look killer when they’re developed, no matter how many you have.
You also have to have a fairly strong core in order to get the full, complete affect. A fully developed core is key to having even, heavy abs. Do you know the Best Core Exercises?
Six-Pack Abs Myths and What You Might Be Doing Wrong
You’re probably still wondering What is the best way to get a six-pack?
We’re getting there. But we aren’t done with how to skip the crappy advice yet. We want to address why people think so much of the wrong advice we mentioned above is the way to get six-pack abs. After all, how can so many people be so wrong?
Listen – there isn’t any amount or level of exercise that’s going to give you a six-pack and allow you to stop right there. There are literally no shortcuts you can take, so forget the fancy and overly complicated exercises and fad diets.
When you’re trying to develop six-pack abs, one of your main goals is to Lose Fat While Building Muscle.
Of course ab exercises play a big role in helping you develop that strong core you need, but it still requires a lot more than just workouts to get you there. Your body fat levels have to be low or your abs won’t show.
And guess what? Once you’re there, and your abs are prime, it’s still a continuous fight to keep your abs. This means cutting out the starches–pretty much forever.
Six-Pack Abs Pro Tip: If you want abs, you’re going to need to cut out refined sugars and processed starches, immediately.
And being lean and fit aren’t enough to get you right there, either. While it is correct that you have to have lower amounts of fat in your body in order for your abs to fully develop, there’s more to it.
Six-Pack Abs Fact: In order for a guy to achieve fully developed abs, studies show they will have to aim for less than 10% amount of body fat. For women, that amount is under 20%.
But the truth is, you can get super lean and healthy but still not get the six-pack abs you want so badly.
How? Well, your core alone isn’t capable of showing those deep lines and cuts that are associated with an amazing six-pack. With us so far?
So to achieve six-pack abs, you need a strong developed core and low levels of body fat.
And you can’t just count on squatting and deadlifting your way to six-pack abs. You’ll want to add lots of planks and get creative with your core work. This will all pay off in your abs.
Even if you push it with heavy weights, using just these two exercises won’t get into the rectus abdominis, obliques and transversus abdominis like people seem to think.
We aren’t saying that these two exercises don’t build a strong core- they definitely do. But standing on their own just simply isn’t enough to get you those results you’re craving.
By now, maybe you’re wondering what the heck it does take for you to get a strong core – and still, how to get six pack abs.
You really only need two things to have a killer six-pack (and core). Do you know what they are?
The 2 Keys to Six-Pack Abs
First, you need to cut back your percentage of body fat. For men, you really aren’t going to see a lot of results until your body fat percentage reaches somewhere 10% or below. The core muscles will start to really stand out when you get down to 8%.
As for women, it really starts at 20% and 18% is going to make core muscles stand out like crazy.
Do you know how to Accurately Measure Body Fat?
An important thing to remember is this: No matter how slamming your core muscles are, you will not get a six-pack if your body fat percentage is high.
The second key to getting six-pack abs is performing the right kind of both ab and core exercises. Don’t worry, we’re going to jump right into what those are.
The best ab exercises requires you to train your rectus abdominis. You also want to mix in other types of exercise that help train the various other essential core muscles. These two types of exercises combined are going to give you the look you want.
A lot of people make one similar mistake – and that is not doing any type of weighted ab exercise. So basically, they’re doing a million never-ending leg raises or crunches, but their abs are weak and small.
Like most other muscles in the body, the abs need progressive overload in order to grow to maximize capacity. The only way you’re going to be able to do this is by adding some resistance to your exercises.
Also, if this is your first exploration into building muscle, make sure to read up on Strength Training for Beginners.
We aren’t saying you have to add weights to every single ab training or exercise you do. But if you want your abs to stand out, you’re going to have to incorporate it to a few.
Some of the best exercises you can do for six-pack abs:
- bicycle kicks
- ab wheel rollout,
- cable crunches,
- hanging leg raises
- captain’s chair leg raise
Rest assured, this isn’t just some random selection based on preference. These are exercises that have been studied heavily by researchers, who discovered they are the best types for training both of the obliques and the rectus abdominis.
Have you worked with an Ab Wheel before? This is an inexpensive and very challenging, muscle carving tool you can keep at home.
Your abs are going to have a better response to not just weighted work, so you want to add in some unweighted work too. One of the great things about ab workouts, is that you can do them almost anywhere.
Pick up a good Ab Mat for extra spinal support. You can keep this at home and torch your muscles without ever leaving the house.
Six-Pack Abs Routine
You can follow this routine to help you get the jumpstart you need until you find a specific routine that works for you.
1. First start with 1 set of a weighted exercise.
This can be anything we mentioned above, like the hanging led raise, cable crunch or the captain’s chair leg raise. Do these for 10 to 12 reps. If you want, add some weight to the captain’s chair leg raise or the hanging leg raise. You can do this easily by keeping a dumbbell in between your two feet.
2. Next switch to 1 set of an unweighted exercise of your choice.
Do this until you begin to fatigue and lose your form. Switch to a different type of unweighted exercise and the same rules apply – do it until you lose your form.
Alternative Six-Pack Abs Routine:
Too much wiggle room in there? OK, do this routine: One full set of cable crunches, going for a rep range of 10 to 12. Switch over to captain’s chair leg raises for 1 set until you lose your form. Next, go over to bicycle kicks for 1 set until your form is lost. For about two to three minutes, rest and let your body recover.
Try to complete this routine 2 to 3 times every week, aiming for 6 to 9 times. You’ll be shocked to see how quickly your obliques, core and abs develop.
Heavy compound weightlifting is a great way to train your core and other other muscles at the same time. These lifts are excellent for developing overall body muscularity.
When it comes to heavy compound lifts, if you can aim to work with 80% + your 1RM, you’re going to see results a lot faster.
This includes moves like:
- military press,
- clean and press
Try to perform each of these exercises on a weekly basis with heavy weights. If you’re able to do this, you’ll build strength and continue to develop your core and other muscles.
Maybe you’re wondering, if you’re trying to develop six-pack abs, Do Squats Really Work? The answer is that they are a part of a bigger whole. Squats work 85% of your body’s muscles. This includes abs and core.
But what about the serratus? We aren’t done yet.
You want to develop great serratus muscle to make everything look even and balanced.
Serratus: The Six-Pack Abs Secret Weapon
The serratus muscles resemble fingers and attach along your rib cage. It turns out that these are the final touch to the perfect core.
You can really target the serratus (anterior) with certain exercises. Our favorite is the the dumbbell pullover, but there are other options you can pick from. Some of these exercises include barbell rows, ab wheel rollouts, deadlifts and dumbbell bench presses.
Developing the serratus muscles is like putting a portrait of your abs in a nice frame for a presentation.
Every single weightlifting routine should have at least the deadlift, the barbell row, and the dumbbell bench press. The heavy weights will help you train your serratus a hell of a lot better than lighter weights will. Plus, Ab Wheel rollouts are just a great ab and core exercise overall.
So you feeling ready to hit the gym? Remember that there are no short cuts to six-pack abs. The keys we’ve gone over today all work together to achieve your goals. If you don’t see progress, take a look at each area of your abdominal assault. Remember, you will need to combine a fat-burning diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates with both weighted and unweighted exercise. If you don’t get your body fat percentage down, how will anyone see all the hard work you’ve been putting in? Lastly, remember to use those compound lifts that engage the core along with planks and other body weight exercise, and of course, try out the routines above for a blast to your midsection.