What is the fastest way to get six pack abs?
Dara: There are two very separate but equally important parts to this question. First of all, you need to have ab muscles in order to have a six pack. And obviously, you need to be lean enough to be able to see those muscles. You can get lean enough to have a “flat” stomach, but you won’t have any muscle separation if you don’t work on building your ab muscles. So if you are starting from an untrained state, you need to spend time building up core strength and stability just like you would with any strength training program. And then you need to focus on building your ab muscles specifically. This means lots of ab work and adding weight to exercises like crunches and using the cable machine. Once you feel like you have some hard abs under your body fat, then you need to tighten up your diet and incorporate HIIT if you aren’t already, in order to shed the layer covering your abs. It’s only when you get lean enough to see ab definition that you can determine if you need to build more muscle or not to have the six pack you desire. Ultimately I haven’t answered the question, but as I think you suspected, the “fastest” way doesn’t actually exist.
JC: I’m glad you asked this question, because I happen to be an expert on Abs. Dara is right, it’s one thing to have abs and another to be in a state to show them – but if you follow my simple steps you will be there in no time.
Warm up with a little of this:
Then do three sets of this for three minute periods
Once you figure out how to use this, do three sets to failure:
Grab a beer, put the game on, and finish with this:
If you stall, eat these:
Once you have tried all of the above and then thrown them away, only then will you realize that the abs are muscles that need to be trained just like any other in the body. Since we tend to hold most of our fat around our mid-section, seeing the result of your hard work is going to come down to more hard work – and that is dieting to the point where you can see them. Everybody has abs, just as everyone has pecs, bis, and tris etc. The leaner you are, the more defined you will appear. I’ve seen skinny dudes with “abs” (faint lines where abs should be) – and I’ve seen dudes with ABS – bulging lumps where a stomach should be. Choose your style. I train my abs as hard as the rest of my body. I don’t do ten or fifteen minutes at the end of a workout. I have an actual ab day – and yes, I get a lot of crap from dudes at the gym about it. Like Dara said, developing them is the first step before putting them on display. Unfortunately, there are no legitimate short cuts.
Colin: JC has jokie jokes! Now first, the answer to the question what is the fastest way to six pack abs? Well good genes are the quickest and easiest. Though even those blessed with the right genetics have to work for it, and obviously there is nothing you can do about genetics. An ectomorph is going to have a much easier time getting abs than endomorph. I agree with JC about training abs like any other muscle group. Muscle tissue is muscle tissue. If you are someone who does a lot of heavy lifting and/or a lot of big compounds lifts I’d argue that you may even want to work them less than some other groups. You get plenty of indirect ab work from deadlifts, squats, etc.
I personally do one quick 30 minute workout of direct ab work per week at the most, often I don’t train them directly at all during the week. Then again I’m admittedly one of the lucky ones genetically when it comes to abs (don’t worry I have my weaknesses too, don’t even ask me about how hard it is to build calves!) Just like any other lagging body part, if abs are your weak spot working them one extra time per week can help. You just have to ask yourself and be honest, are your abs a lagging muscle group of if you just need to burn the fat to show them?
The real key to abs is a low body fat. You can have the strongest abs in the world but if they are covered by fat it will never do any good. So this in a way goes back to our previous discussion, what’s better building the muscle first or losing the fat first? When it comes to abs, however, I go against what I normally say in building muscle first. If you want abs, like JC said, you have abs already regardless of how thick they are. If you get a low enough body fat they’ll be visible. It all depends on how much you want them to pop I suppose.
As for specific ab work I don’t like many exercises that incorporate flexing your lumbar spine. Stabilization exercises are way better for your spine and back and I think more effective too. I will never do a crunch or a situp, no way, that’s just my preference. Turkish getups, ab-wheel rollouts, farmers carries, and planks are all solid moves if performed correctly.
JC: Colin is correct – great compound lifts like the squat and deadlift help tremendously in strengthening the abdominals. Genetics however, would not really have a part in whether you have a six pack. Genetics will determine the shape of your abs, nothing more. Colin also has the right idea in avoiding those typical and ineffective ab routines. I will never recommend a sit up, and that has come from trial and a lot of error in the past. Nothing is more damaging than a sit up. If you look hard enough, you will find videos out there of me illustrating an ab routine that involves a weighted decline situp. I cringe now at the very idea. If memory serves, Michael wrote volumes on ab routine when he first came on here – perhaps revisiting his columns may bring a new perspective to light…
Colin: Yes JC, genetics determine the shape of your abs (and all muscles) but what I meant more was having the genetics in your favor of carrying less body fat than an average person. Some people work endlessly trying to lose body fat and struggle to have visible abs even with a great training routine and diet while others at least have visible abs even if doing less than optimal things. I think back to when I was a teenager weighing 130-140 lbs eating nothing but junk food and having a visible six pack… That’s all genetics there. It wasn’t impressive by any means and I had hardly any muscle anywhere, but I did get complemented on my abs even then…
Matt: The most common method I see employed is to do endless crunches, side crunches, leg raises and then more crunches. Usually up to 30 minutes, every single time one enters the gym. When this fails to produce the desired results after several years, the plan is either to either stay the course, because it’s bound to work eventually, or add in more ab exercises, ensuring a ripped mid section will poke through the layer of fat covering the abs.
I can answer this question in one word: diet. That’s all you need to do. If you squat, deadlift, do pull ups, even standing barbell curls, then you are engaging your abs. If you run, walk, carry groceries, and stand with good posture then you are also engaging your abs.
The need for endless hours spent trying to build abs is unnecessary and can be counter productive. All of that crunching can produce an imbalance between your abs and low back. Your core is just as much back as it is front. This over training of crunches can lead to a dangerous pelvic tilt that is a disaster waiting to happen, especially with exercises like squats and deadlifts. Train your abs like you would any other muscle: briefly and intensely.
Round 1: The best fat loss method
Round 2: Fasted vs fed cardio for fat loss
Round 5: The best 3 exercises
Round 6: The ideal training program
Round 7: How much protein for fat loss
Round 8: The last 10 pounds
Round 9: The ultimate training split
Round 10: Do carbs or fats make you fat?
Round 15: Are cheat meals good or bad?
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