You can find thousands of articles and videos on getting abs on the internet but I promise you, this one stands out from the rest.
There is no universal formula for getting abs such as most videos and articles claim. What each individual needs to do differs depending on their current condition.
This is where this video and article is different from the others. It has two parts. In the first part you’ll learn the theory: how lean you need to be and how much muscle you need to get abs, and what should you do first (depending on your current physique). Then in the second part you’ll learn the practical stuff: how to set up your nutrition, training and ab routines to suit your individual needs.
Sounds good? Alright, let’s get to it.
The Two Essentials for 6 pack Abs
There are two sides to getting 6 pack abs:
1. You need to have very little body fat
2. Your ab muscles need to be decently developed
Having only one or the other doesn’t cut it. You need to have both at the same time.
If you have well developed abs but they are covered in fat you don’t see anything. On the other hand if you have a very low body fat but little to no muscle development you just look skinny and thin. Again, not very impressive.
The key is to combine the two. That’s when you get a clearly defined 6 pack that looks awesome.
So as you noticed some people only need to lose fat to get abs because they already have the muscle mass. Others only need to build muscle because they are already very lean. But the majority of people need to do both – lose some fat while training for muscle growth.
Can you spot reduce belly fat?
Please don’t fall for the idea that you can reduce your belly fat by doing special ab exercises. I used to believe that too. A few years ago I used to do all those 8 minute ab routines and Ab Ripper X from P90X. The reason I was doing them was because the guys were saying that working your abs for more than 8 minutes activates local fat burning.
After many months I found that was a lie. When you lose fat you lose it from your entire body not only from the areas that you work. Since fatty acids are taken from the bloodstream to be burned for energy, the proximity of body fat to the working muscle is irrelevant.
People seem to confuse fat breakdown with fat oxidation. The study that gave birth to all this spot reduction controversy actually showed that fat breakdown was greater in fat depots adjacent to working muscles compared to distant muscles. The study simply showed a very slight increase in mobilization from the underlying muscle, which really doesn’t mean anything on the grand scheme of fat loss.
Getting your abs to show comes down to reducing your overall body fat percentage, you can’t spot reduce.
This leads to two very good questions: How lean do you need to be to have good ab definition? and How much muscle mass you need to have a 6 pack when you’re lean?
We’ll address them one by one.
How Lean do you Need to be to Have Good Ab Definition?
From my observations, you need to be under 15% body fat – with decent muscle development of course. 15% body fat is the point where you have a very blurry 4pack in good lighting while flexing your abs very hard. As you get leaner, your abs start to show better and better. 10% body fat I found to be the point where you see a blurry 6pack in good lighting even without flexing. And at 6-7% body fat you have veins running across your abs.
Now, the best way I found to estimate body fat percentage is through your waist measurement at the navel. For the majority of people, the waist circumference correlates with their body fat percentage. If you compare your waist measurement with your height you can usually estimate body fat pretty accurately.
For this reason I no longer tell clients to get to a certain body fat, I tell them to get their waist to a certain measurement.
So, we said previously that to get abs you need to be under 15%, preferably under 12%. That means you need to get your waist down to those values. When you do that, you know you will be lean enough to have abs.
Now if you do get down to those values and you don’t have abs that means you probably have too little muscle mass. So let’s now see how much core development you need to have to get a 6 pack when you are lean.
How Much muscle Mass you Need to Have a 6 pack when you’re Lean?
You don’t need much actually. If when you touch your belly you can feel your abs, then all you need to do reveal them is to get lean.
I remember when my brother Andrei first started lifting.
After 6 weeks of cutting and strength training, he lost 6kg of fat. Massive difference. As you can see all he had to do to get abs was to get lean, although he did train his abs during this time.
As I said there are guys that cannot achieve 6 pack abs only by leaning down. They are usually young guys who never played sports and are mostly sedentary. They have too little muscle mass. Even if they did lean down to 7% body fat their abs will not show.
So what they need to do is to build some muscle first. Then, after they’ve built a solid base of strength and size they could diet down and get abs.
At this point people usually ask: Ok then so what ab exercises should I do?
Well, I don’t think ab exercises alone will be enough. You see, the abdominal muscles grow in relation with the rest of the body. I don’t think it’s possible to develop them on their own. To illustrate this, have you ever seen someone who looked like the picture below:
Of course not, that’s ridiculous. The only way you’re going to get a core like that is if you get very muscular in general. As a side note: What do you think of my photoshop skills?
In fact I think it’s impossible to have big legs, back, and chest without having well developed abs
That is where the debate on whether you actually need to train abs started. People noticed that if you get strong and muscular all over, the abdominal muscles develop very well on their own.
I noticed this myself. For example the picture on the right side of this page was taken last december after I didn’t train abs directly for more than 6 months. I was just training with heavy weights and got very lean. And there you go, a very nice looking set of abs.
Another two examples of this are Eric Helms and Martin Berkhan, two of my favorite fitness experts. They both do very little direct ab training (if any at all) and yet they have outstanding core development. That’s probably from all the compound movements they are doing such as deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, and so on.
So I think if you don’t have enough muscle mass to support a 6 pack your best strategy is to start strength training. If you get strong on the main exercises at the gym it’s impossible not to develop your abs as well.
Of course you’re going to be doing direct ab training as well. That certainly helps. But you need to remember than ab training alone will probably not do much if you don’t get muscular everywhere else.
Ok, now before we move on to the ab routines and nutrition strategies, there is one more thing we need to talk about. What is the ideal first step for YOU.
The First Steps YOU need to take
To make it perfectly clear what YOU need to do, I want to give you the overall roadmap you need to follow. For that let’s review the physique categories beginners can find themselves in. Pay close attention to this because it’s important:
1. Fat with very little muscle development
2. Fat with good muscle development
3. Average (average body fat and little muscle development)
4. Skinny-Fat (average body fat and very little muscle)
5. Skinny (low body fat and very little muscle)
Watch the video for the complete explanation for what you need to do.
If you are in the categories Average, Fat with very little or Fat with good muscle development, the first step for you is to cut down to around 10% body fat. During this time you need to train for strength at the gym. This process will probably give you abs in and of itself.
If you have no idea how to lose fat check out this series of articles:
Get Shredded Without Losing Muscle
Best Food Choices when Cutting
Meal Frequency & Food Distribution When Cutting
Weight Training while Cutting
Cardio for Fat Loss – Why and How
Now, if you’re in the Skinny-Fat or Skinny categories then you need to build some more muscle before you can have a 6 pack. To learn how to do that, download and read my ebook “The Path to Your Goal Physique” and follow the recommendations given for those categories. You’ll see that there are chapters specifically written for your physique category. Click here, and get it now for FREE.
How long it will take for you to reach your goal depends on how much body fat you need to lose and how much muscle you need to gain. If you’re like my brother you could get a 6 pack in 5 weeks. On the other hand if you have 40lbs of fat to lose, it may take 5 months. You’ll have to follow the process and see how it goes.
Now finally let’s talk about direct ab training.
The Training Routine
The reason we talk about direct ab training last in this article is because it’s less important for the overall results than being lean and getting strong at the gym. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true.
With that said most people need direct ab training to maximize their core development. I have all my clients do some sort of ab routine but I always tell them they shouldn’t make it their primary focus because it’s not necessary.
Without further ado let me show you what I think are the best exercises for abs.
1. Hanging Leg Raises
This is one of the most efficient ab exercises in my opinion. I like ab exercises that have you raise your legs instead of your torso because they probably work the lower abs better. As Bret Contreras pointed out after researching the topic “the upper and lower abs are innervated by different nerves, providing a mechanism for selective activation. Hips to shoulder flexion, or abdominal exercises that have you bringing your hips toward your shoulders such as reverse crunches, activate higher levels of lower RA than upper RA.”
Most people have pretty well developed upper abs because crunching is a movement we do everyday – like getting out of bed. But almost everyone complains about their lower abs not being well developed. Leg raises may help you bring up the lower abs.
If you can’t do these yet, start with just knee raises and build up from there.
I like doing 2 or 3 sets of 10-15 reps for these.
2. Ab wheel rollouts
This is another exercise I like because it’s difficult. Apparently this can strengthen your TVA, your deep abdominals and help tighten your core so your belly doesn’t stick out that much.
Even if that’s not true I still like it that it combines a static hold at the end of the movement with a brief flexion to get you back up to the starting position.
I like doing 2 sets of 5-10.
3. Heels to the Heaven
This is an exercise that not many people perform, yet it is one of my favorite. I find this one works the lower abs very well too.
If you are more advanced you can do dragon flags instead.
Do these for 2 sets of 10
4. Side to Side Knee ups
I like doing this exercise because it can help develop the lower part of your obliques which give you those V lines in your lower abs. It is very difficult to target those muscles and I always feel them working when performing this movement.
Do these for 2 sets of 15-30 reps.
And at the end of the workout finish off with some sort of bridge. You can do hip bridges if you find them easier. The idea is to stretch the lower back muscles which can become tight when doing ab exercises.
And that’s it. 4 exercises are all you need. As I said training the abs directly doesn’t deliver as much as you’d think but it can make a noticeable difference.
You can set up your routine two ways:
You can do all these 4 exercises one after the other 2 times a week or you can do 2 of them after each workout. Both options work very well.
So this is it guys. Everything you need to know about getting abs. 90% of it comes down to being lean and the rest of it to having good muscle development.
Thank you for reading the article until the end and if you have any questions make sure to leave a comment below. I’m going to answer as many comments as I can. Also any other type of feedback is appreciated.
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