Can’t See Your Abs? Building Visible Six-Pack Abs Comes Down To Two Simple Things
“How can I get a visible set of six-pack abs?”
I‘ve been asked this question approximately 1,329,229 times. It might just be THE most popular fitness question on earth. And also the one that’s conveniently overcomplicated beyond belief.
Let’s get back to basics and oversimplify. Because god, we need more of that.
A stellar set of six-pack abs is one of, if not the most illusive and coveted features on the human body. Well, maybe outside of Jen Selter’s butt. Abs are also probably the most difficult to attain and hold onto—in all of their shining glory—for a sustained period of time. The reality is, building, revealing, AND maintaining a visible set of abs is a passion project. It’s really, really hard and requires discipline, relentless training, clean eating, and a ton of sacrifice (read: less pizza and beer).
Gasp, the horror. But what a six-pack isn’t is rocket science.
People tend to convolute the process and let it escalate into an unfathomable jigsaw puzzle. That’s why every fitness magazine plasters its cover with the newest “secret” to build amazing abs. There’s no magic marker (or eraser) that’ll automatically add a sheath of rock-solid marble to your torso or chisel out aesthetic cuts, swerves, and undulations.
It’s called calculated hard work, over time, on a very regular basis.
First off, to dispel the mythical notion that abs are impossible to build, I’ll go ahead and say it — anyone can construct washboard abs. Yes, you. I said you. Stop putting them on a pedestal.
The road varies, and the obstacles WILL be larger for some people depending on everything from starting body fat % and genetics to previous training history. But in the end, abs are very doable — the result might just look a little different than what you’re visualizing. Some people develop a perfectly aligned 3×2 grid. Others fill in an offset, zipper-like 5-pack. That’s mostly out of your control, but that’s a part of being human. We all have our own unique differences.
Sure, the specific tactics and steps to obtain a killer six-pack will vary (key word: obtain), and the changes you personally need to make will all carry different weights, but at the core the solution that you need to pursue always falls into 1-of-2 buckets.
Or, more likely, some combination of both.
Six-Pack Abs — It Comes Down To Two Simple Things
First off, if you’ve got abs already—and I mean a real, grab-able, six-pack—congratulations. Go pop champagne and throw a party. You’ve earned it. That’s a masterclass achievement.
But in the more-likely scenario that your core isn’t where you want it to be, there are two potential issues, both of which can be viewed as hurdles that run in parallel. Abs occur at the precise intersection of the two—when both are at a high degree of proficiency—much like a venn diagram.
You need to fix both.
- 1. Excess Body Fat — AKA you can’t see your abs.
- You might have RIDICULOUS ab muscles, but if there’s a thick layer of blubber covering up your stomach, they’ll lie dormant invisible to the outside world.
- 2. Underdeveloped Ab Muscles — AKA your abs aren’t big enough.
- You might be lean and in single digit body fat (or the teens for women), but if you don’t have any muscle mass, well, there’s literally nothing to see but a blank canvas.
Be crushingly honest with yourself and stop coddling your ego. Is your body fat ACTUALLY low enough or do you still need to melt off a few percentage points? If so, you need to emphasize clean eating, do more HIIT, and follow a more intense workout routine. Guys typically need to be sub 10% body fat, and women around 18% or lower.
Most people THINK they’re as lean as a bodybuilder—and in condition to showcase abs—when realistically they’re sitting somewhere in the teens (or 20’s, for women). We highly recommend a cheap body fat monitor as a replacement for your scale.
Alternatively, are you a lean stick-figure with non-existent ab muscles? It’s time to slap on muscle mass.
In that case, you’ll need to increase the difficulty of the ab exercises you’re doing, increase the weight of those ab exercises progressively over time, eat a little bit more (especially protein), and indulge a legitimate weight training program. Squats, deadlifts, lunges, rows, overhead presses, snatches, kettlebell swings, medicine ball throws and other compound movements are THE best ab exercises, even though they’re not conventionally thought of that way.
Identifying the issue (or both) is step 1. But once you’ve figured out the necessary path, go forth, buckle down, and absolutely crush it.
Here are a few resources, tools, workouts, and training techniques to further attack both paths:
The results are oh-so-worth it. What better time to start than 2015? GIDDY UP.
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto.
I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP
, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid
, and all-around fitness junkie.
I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine
When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses
and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.
Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO)
& Snapchat (BRYDISANTO)
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