How do I get 6 pack Abs? Like this!
Abs are glorious, the ultimate sign of being in shape and without a doubt the most sought after look. Unfortunately, the chances of you getting them are as high as getting hit by lightning.
Unless… you actually start doing these 4 simple things that will get you that flat, chiseled stomach. Within 6 months most people can get a 6 pack, are you up for it?
What Are ABS?
To begin with, most people have no idea what abs even are, let alone how to get them. Does a gut turn into a rippled 6 pack? Do crunches get you abs? Do I have to do the "Abs Diet"? The answer to all these questions is no.
Abs, or as they're officially known, rectus abdominis, are actually a single muscle with multiple heads. The same way your bicep is one muscle with 2 heads. The main function of this muscle, surprisingly, isn't to crunch but to stabilize.
Muscle vs Fat?
Getting the abs look is done through both enlarging the abs muscle, and by reducing the fat around it. For aesthetic purposes, the mid-section is composed of two things: muscles and the fat sitting on top of them. You can have the most developed abs in the world, but they will just look like a big gut if they are coated by a thick layer of blubber. Since muscles do not use local fat for energy, the only way to reduce abdominal fat is by reducing overall fat, and that's mainly done through diet. Keep this in mind next time you try to tone up.
4 Steps to ripped Abs
Lets get down to business. How quick you get abs depends on three main factors:
- How high is your bodyfat
- How developed are your abs
- Your dedication to the plan. The more closely you follow the program, the quicker you'll get that six pack.
Step One: Sleep better
It's really counter-intuitive, but improving your sleep quality will get you ABS quicker. Why?
- Sleep raises your growth hormone levels , which means more muscle gain and more fat loss.
- In the same vein, other hormones are more favorably balanced with good sleep, such as testosterone and estrogen.
- Better insulin sensitivity , which is important to not be diabetic but also to feel great and be able to maintain the good lifestyle. Lack of insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance also has the effect of disproportionally storing fat in your gut.
- Your active thyroid hormone levels will be higher, which means your metabolism will run faster and you burn more calories.
This list can easily reach over a 100 reasons, but trust me when I say sleep is the biggest factor in whether you get abs or not.
How to sleep better
- Sleep before 11pm, 10pm is even better.
- Get 8-9 hours of nighttime sleep.
- Install f.Lux
- Supplement with ~1.5-6mg of melatonin 1 hour before bed. Read more about melatonin here.
See our sleep guide for more info.
Step Two: Do Daily Activity
Your Abs are heavily involved in most non-sedentary activity which means walking, hiking, swimming, etc. will all help develop them. Not to mention you will burn more calories, which can help you lose fat. The energy and motivation gains from activity cannot be overstated in their impact on long term success.
How to get more activity
- Set a time to do a daily activity. Try morning, right before breakfast, at your lunch break or right when you get home from work. Make it realistic. If you are always exhausted when you get home from work, that's probably not a good time to try and change your life. If you are really sedentary, don't aim for (fail at) marathon training, just doing daily 20 minute walks will get you amazing results.
- Constantly try to be more active. Take the stairs. Park further away. Do frequent breaks and just walk around. These things may seem insignificant, but they really add up and can hugely affect your overall results. A lot of this falls under Non-Exercise-Activity-Thermogenesis (N-E-A-T), which burns a ton of calories.
- Start hobbies and activities that aren't sedentary. Join a sport league or group fitness class. Go hiking with your friends. Take up gardening or biking. If you aren't sure where to start, check out sites like MeetUp.org and find new things to do.
Step Three: Eat Better
You can crunch till your obliques tie themselves in a knot, but it won’t get you a six pack--or even a smaller waist--without diet. If your abs remain covered in fat, diet is the only way to remove that. Think of it this way: you can train the abs all you want, but no one will see them if you always wear a winter parka. Diet is what strips off that parka.
To lose fat, ultimately you have to be at a caloric deficit, i.e. you are burning more calories than you eat, which means your body has to burn stored fat to compensate.
Watch for this trap
If you just thought "I need to eat less and exercise more" then you've fallen on one of the biggest fat loss confounds. You can't just eat less, if you could you already would just eat less. There are very strong reasons to why you eat the amount you do, and going against them is like swimming against the current. This is because what you eat directly affects your appetite; poor food choices raise your appetite, making eating at a deficit next to impossible. If you want to eat less, you have to eat better.
How to eat better
- Start having breakfast. Most people skip breakfast because they slept horribly and ate a massive dinner. Then 5-8 hours later they are Ha-ungry and demolish the Great Wall of China Buffet.
And don't have a 99% carb breakfast. You need to eat protein + fat + veggies + some carbs. For example, 3 eggs + veggies + 1 toast or fruit adds up to ~400 calories.
- Pack a lunch! Sandwiches and wraps are easy and quick. Try deli meat + sourdough + veggies + cheese for a balanced meal. Just start taking food with you to work/school, anything. Once you develop that as a habit you can clean up your diet more.
- No liquid calories. No, milk and juice aren't healthy beverages. Both are high in sugar, bad for appetite control and poor choices for optimal nutrition. Stick to solid foods and water. Drink at least 2 liters of water per day.
- Balanced meals. Does your plate look like a pasta convention? A good diet is a diverse diet. The benefit is more essential vitamins and nutrients, which will improve satiety and wellbeing. Aim for something like 30% protein, 25-45% carb, 30-40% fat. The more active you are the more carbs you need. Those who are sedentary should eat lower carb and higher fat.
Step Four: Building the Abdominals
You probably thought this would be on top of the list, but the truth is you don't need to do that much ab work to get abs. As we've said earlier, the abs are involved in most movements, so when you train regularly with big compound movements - think Squat, Deadlift, Military press - your abs are getting a workout from that.
Lets assume you're doing that, what else should you do?
What Ab exercises to do?
No, not the Australian variety, but the stability exercise. The main thing to look for is getting your body as long as possible - don't hunch up! Keep your shoulders stable and arms pressing straight into the floor. Don't let your hips sag or jump up. Extend your knees so they aren't bent. Don't look up, keep your neck neutral.
If you've never done a plank before, start with the half-plank, meaning your knees on the ground. Once you're able to do about 45-60 seconds with great form, move on to the full version. Trust me on this. You have to train your core at its current capacity, if you overload it, then other muscles will take over and it won't get trained at all.
I recommend working up to 1-1.5 minutes of any plank before progressing to a harder version. Once you've mastered the full plank, you can try elevating a foot or arm, or adding a side to side rocking movement to introduce instability.
Beyond being great for fixing anterior pelvic tilt, i.e. making your gut and butt look smaller, this will also build up your abs. Start with a simple leg raise done laying on your back, with the legs bent. Once you can do 10-15 of any version, with slow, controlled form, work up progressions below.
- Laying on your back
- In Roman chair
- On parallel bars
- Hanging leg raises
For all these start, knees bent and progress to straight legs.
Core side cable hold - AKA pallof press
This exercise is as unusual as it is effective. The basic idea is that you're resisting the cable which is pulling you to the side. This will be done chiefly with your Abs, Obliques and Glutes.
To start out, set up the cable handle at shoulder height. Grab it with two hands, take 2-3 steps back with your arms extended. Then turn so that your body is parallel to the cable and it's pulling you to the side.
From there you are focusing on extending your arms straight in front of you, flexing your abs and glutes/hips. Hold each set for 30 seconds or so per side. Start really light, and ramp up the weight until you barely can finish 30 seconds with good form.
Other ab exercises
There are a lot of ab exercises to choose from, but not all work well. Stick to heavier, more stability focused ones as the foundation of your ab training. Situps and crunches are good once you are very lean, since they will put the final touches on your abs.
Now start working on your 6 pack
While getting Abs is seen as a Herculean task, it doesn't have to be that hard. It requires dedication and focus, but most important, consistency. Continuously improve your lifestyle, keep hitting the gym, and getting Abs is no longer a question of if but when.