How do I get six-pack or washboard abs?

It's Really Hard

woman with measuring tape around abs
Getty Images/kristian sekulic

Anytime someone finds out I'm a personal trainer, the first thing they say is, "I really meant to get to the gym today but I just...well, I'll go tomorrow...really!  And, I'll eat a salad!  With no dressing!"

The next thing is:  "How can I get six-pack abs?"

The short answer:  Maybe, but it will take a lot of work.

Why Do We Have Fat Around Our Abs?

If you were to ask most people. "Where is the one place you tend to store extra fat?"  Most would say around their bellies.

  Genetically, many of us hoard extra fat around the torso and it's difficult to get rid of.

If you really want to get rid of that spare tire, get the facts and learn the right way to reach your goals.

The Truth About Six-Pack Abs

The first thing you need to understand is this:

We all have six-pack abs.

Six-packs aren't 'created' by doing ab exercises, they already exist. The reason most of us can't see our abs is because they're covered by a layer of fat.

What this means is that:

  • Doing ab exercises to achieve a six-pack is an impossible goal - Spot reduction just doesn't work, although you do still need to work your abs for a strong core. A strong core is exponentially more important than flat keeps your body in working order.  Flat abs just sit there and look good.
  • The only way to see your six-pack is to reduce your body fat  - Your body stores and loses fat in a certain order.  Think about it - If you've ever lost weight, you might have noticed you lost it first around your face or maybe your hips or some other area.  The order your fat is lost is really based on genes, age, gender and other factors we usually can't control.

    How to Reduce Body Fat

    Okay, so we've answered the question, how to get six-pack abs:  Lose body fat.  So, how do you do that?

    • Cardio - Obviously, cardio helps you burn calories and that calorie deficit is what you need to lose weight.  For best results, incorporate more interval training into your routine
    • Strength Training - Lifting weights gives you strong muscles and muscles are metabolically active, which means you'll burn more calories all day long
    • A healthy, low-calorie diet -  This is by far the most important aspect of your fat reduction plan.  You must get the diet right or you won't see the results you're after

    Keep in mind that, for some of us, it's just not in the genetic cards to get a six-pack.  The sheer amount of work you have to do to achieve flat abs usually doesn't fit very well into the average everyday life, so sometimes it's best to focus on other goals.

    Keep Doing Your Ab Exercises

    This doesn't mean that ab exercises serve no purpose--strong abs support your spine and protect your back, especially when you focus on building core strength. However, keep in mind that your ab workout is just one part of a complete program when it comes to getting a six-pack.

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