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How To Get Six Pack Abs – a Simple 3 Step Formula

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David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.

A great six-pack

A great six-pack

How You Can Get Six Pack Abs

It seems that virtually everyone wants six pack abs these days, yet very few people ever achieve them. So if you do manage to get a six pack, it sets you apart from the ‘average Joe’. And although it will take a fair degree of determination, the approach required to do it is actually very simple. So in this article I'll explain exactly how you can get six pack abs - in three simple steps.

First, however, you need to realize that there are no quick fixes. You won't get a six pack by just doing a one minute ab workout every day, or by using the latest piece of equipment you saw on the shopping channel.

To get a six pack, you need to do the following:

1. Build Up the Abdominal Muscles

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to build up your abdominal muscles is NOT to do hundreds of sit-ups or crunches every day. The main role of the abdominals is to brace the body, so doing exercises like deadlifts (especially sumo deadlifts), squats and military presses will build and strengthen the abs better than most things. When you do these exercises, focus your mind on contracting your abs really hard. If you’re not used to doing this you’ll probably find you’ll be quite sore the next day.

It is, however, a good idea to do an isolation exercise or two at the end of your workout once or twice per week in order to bring up your abs even further. Some excellent choices for this include weighted crunches, reverse crunches, cable crunches, hanging leg raises, ab wheel rollouts, planks and side planks. One or two sets of 10 - 20 reps (30 - 60 second holds for planks), after a warm-up set or two, is all you need. If you can do more than that, you'll need to add more resistance, or perform a more difficult version of the exercise.

2. Eat the Right Foods

You could have really well developed abs, but if they are buried beneath a layer of fat no-one will ever see them. So you need to remove the excess fat in order to reveal your six pack. And the most important part of doing that is to eat the right diet.

You need to eat at a calorie deficit, that is you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. But it’s a myth that eating six small meals per day is the best way to burn fat. Three meals per day (and a post workout shake on training days) will work just as well, provided that your total calories and macronutrient proportions are the same. In fact doing some form of intermittent fasting is a simple way to reduce your calorie intake, as well as putting your fat burning mechanisms into overdrive.

What you eat is important, however. You need to eat a good amount of protein, which is best obtained from meat, fish and eggs. And make sure you get some healthy fats each day too. These can be obtained from oily fish, nuts & seeds, avocado’s, olive oil etc. A little saturated fat from meat, eggs and butter (preferably from grass fed cows) is also beneficial. Fats are needed to manufacture the hormones that help you build muscle and burn fat. Fat does not make you fat per se - it's excess calories that make you fat.

You should also eat plenty of vegetables, and some fruit, each day.

Carbohydrates, however, are best kept fairly low, as these tend to raise insulin levels, and you can’t burn fat in the presence of high insulin. So a low carb diet plan is a great way to burn off that stubborn belly fat. But do ensure you have a re-feed day once in a while to keep your metabolism stoked; otherwise your fat loss will soon plateau. Alternatively you could do some form of carb cycling, where you eat more carbs on your workout days than your off days.

By carbs I am referring to starchy carbs such as grains, potatoes and sweet potatoes, as well as refined carbs and sugary products. Sugar is the biggest enemy of a ripped physique and will certainly stop you from getting your six pack abs if you eat too much of it.

3. Do Effective Cardiovascular Training

You also need to do some cardiovascular training in order to further help burn off the excess fat and reveal your six pack.

But it needs to be effective cardio, and going out jogging for an hour every day is not very effective. Long duration, steady state cardio, like jogging, does not burn fat very efficiently, and in fact too much of it will only serve to waste away your muscle tissue, as well as potentially causing damage to your bones and joints over time.

So a much better way to do it is to do some form of high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is where you alternate brief periods of maximum or near maximum effort with periods of active recovery. So you might sprint for 20 – 30 seconds and then jog for 30 - 60 seconds. You can repeat this anything from 3 to 10 times depending on how fit you are. After your HIIT you can then burn some additional fat by doing a short spell of lower intensity steady state cardio, such as jogging. 15 – 20 minutes will suffice.

The big advantage of this type of workout is that it really revs up your metabolism, so you continue to burn fat well after your workout has finished – up to 24 hours after in fact. Sometimes even more. Do this two or three times per week for optimum results. No more though, as it can be difficult to recover from, especially when you are on a calorie deficit.

Apart from that, the only other type of cardio I really recommend is walking. You can walk for 30 - 45 minutes, 5 - 7 days per week if you wish, as it's quite easy to recover from, so it can have a significant impact on your fat loss efforts.

So there you have it. Now you know how to get six pack abs. It’s simple but not easy. As I said, you will need some determination, but if you want it you can most certainly get it. Best of luck.


David (author) from Birmingham, UK on December 22, 2019:

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You are welcome Jeff; glad you liked it.

J Zod from Nairobi on December 20, 2019:

Hi David,

I really enjoyed reading your article.Thank you so much.

David (author) from Birmingham, UK on August 11, 2017:

You are correct in the first part - doing ab workouts alone will not give you abs, as I did say in the article. You need to eat at a calorie deficit to remove the excess fat. Cardio can be usful for this, especially high intensity cardio. Low carb and/or low fat diets are not essential by any means, but reducing carbs is probably the most sensible way to reduce calories for most people.

John from India on July 23, 2017:

Doing ab workouts alone will not give six abs. Cardio workouts are basic for flattening one's abdomen. One should stick to a strict low-carb low-fat diet regime as well

David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 30, 2014:

Yep that would work fine Frankie. I don't like to do it more than twice per week though or it could interfere with recovery from weights. If you want to do a third cardio day just do 20 - 30 mins. jog at a comfortable pace.

Frankie74 on July 29, 2014:

For cardio in the off days would 15-20 minutes of the interval cardio with 60 seconds jog and 20 seconds sprint be ok?

David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 28, 2014:

I would not recommend doing direct ab work on your off days Frankie, as it will hinder recovery. Best to do a couple of sets at the end of your normal workouts. You can do some cardio on your off days though - but don't overdo it.

Frankie74 on July 27, 2014:

Would you recommend doing this in some of the break days from the 3 day full body gym routine? Or will that hurt the recovery process??

Braindan on March 02, 2014:

i tried him see is good l like this

David (author) from Birmingham, UK on August 29, 2012:

Yes; HIIT is excellent for a number of things. Glad you liked the article.

Pop Culture World from United States on August 28, 2012:

I think the HIIT must also be beneficial because it works your core intermittently from all angles. Wonderful information. I should follow it!

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