woman doing crunches

Getting a Six-Pack: 6 Things to Keep in Mind

5 min read

One of the most desired results from exercising is being able to attain visible abs, however, like any body part that people get fixated over, we tend to try and apply different rules to attaining abs, and a lot of times we forget basic things and overcomplicate the process.

Here are six things to keep in mind if you want to make your goal to visible abdominals more realistic and attainable. In the words of my middle school science teacher, “Remember to Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS).”

1. Eating in a Caloric Deficit is Required

Unless you already have your six-pack abs, and you’re eating at a maintenance level, you need to be in a deficit to get abs. The idea from this is that you don’t want excess fat so that your muscles are more apparent.

A lot of people think that doing crunches is the answer, but this is only part of the solution, and the least important one at that. There’s a reason why people say “Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.”

2. Having a Low Body Fat Percentage is Required

Did you know, visible abs are more of an indicator of someone’s body fat percentage than they are an indicator of exercising in the gym? By logical extension, then, visible abs are an indicator of someone’s diet.

This ties in with having to eat in a deficit or at maintenance. When you’re fixing your diet to be in line with your goal(s), the next factor you have to consider is how high your body fat percentage is. When decreasing your body fat percentage from eating in a caloric deficit, you want to think about how much fat you’re consuming compared to the other macronutrients.

3. If Diet is King, Cardio is Queen

What this means is that diet is the first (and main) thing you need to get right to get six-pack abs. If you have your diet right, or even if you’re struggling to get it right, the next best thing that will help you on your goal to a six-pack, is cardio.

Cardio is more effective than core-focused exercises because it burns more calories and the idea is that you’re trying to lower your body fat percentage. You can do all the crunches you want but if you have a lot of fat, it’ll just cover the muscles below – remember, fat and muscle are separate tissues, one doesn’t convert into the other; fat covers muscles, so burn off the fat to reveal the muscles below.

4. Ab Exercises Do Help

Again, crunches don’t get you abs. But what they do do is make your abs look a lot more impressive. Let’s not forget that your abs are muscles, like any other, therefore doing exercises will develop them (and doing exercises where you overload the muscles are the best versions).

Therefore, if you want to improve your abdominal muscles, your best option is to perform exercises where you can increase the weight load to make the movement more challenging, or, if you don’t have the option of weights, progress to more challenging core movements – don’t waste time doing 100 crunches or sit-ups, progress to more challenging movements where you’d struggle to even reach 20 reps – remember, the abs are like any other muscles; if you wanted to develop your biceps, triceps, chest, or back, you wouldn’t do 100 reps, you’d add more weights to make whatever exercise you’re doing more challenging – abs are no different.

5. Compound Lifts Help

Depending on your time or how you setup your exercise routine, sometimes it can be tricky to slot in additional core-focused exercises. If this sounds like your situation, it’s not the end of the world; compound exercises that require core stability also work your abdominals.

Basically, you want to incorporate compound exercises where you stand instead of sitting because standing is a more active position where you have to incorporate your core in a movement to retain form or go through a motion, compared to sitting where you may hold a passive position because the bench is supporting you. If you have an injury or discomfort and have to sit, it doesn’t mean you can’t engage your core, you just have to be more conscious of your posture, compared to standing where your core is automatically engaged because of the lack of support from a bench or other structure.

6. Ab Insertions are Down to Genetics, Not Hard Work

Take the time to look at anyone whose body you admire. You’ll notice that their abs don’t look the same; some of them have more impressive abs, while others leave room for desire; and some have four, six, or even eight packs – this difference in appearance is due to genetics, not hard work.

Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. They don’t have the most impressive ab insertions. With what they have achieved, do you really think it’s from a lack of hard work, gym knowledge, or dedication? No, it’s genetics, something they can’t do much about and have to work around what they’re given.

When trying to get your abs, you need to keep in mind that your abs will look very different to other people. You may have an amazing six-pack, an average-looking one, or it might possibly be underwhelming. Don’t get hung up on it, because we all have different strengths and weaknesses. You might find that your abs don’t look impressive but you have another body part that looks great that others would kill for.

Genetics are a lottery, some of us win big, and others are left with little, just don’t let what you can’t control impact how you feel.

More Plates More Dates on why The Rock doesn’t have abs for “Black Adam”.

A writer, gamer, geek, and gym rat all packaged into one. I'm a certified personal trainer who writes about the things he loves and I enjoy sharing them with others all on MXFitness.