Abs, or a six pack as most people call them, are highly desired by many people. Indicating a good level of health and low body fat, they are often seen as an attractive feature on a person.
Typically, most men want a clearly defined, fairly bulky six pack. Women on the other hand tend to aim for a flat, toned stomach.
However, getting a six pack is not easy. For many people, their core is actually quite good, but their diet means their abs are hidden under a layer of fat. Unfortunately, you cannot target certain areas of fat with exercise, despite what most people think, so you need to lower your whole body fat percentage.
To reiterate - a low body fat percentage is key to having a six pack, so focus mainly on your diet.
Your main focus should be to get lean first, because even if you have strong abs, they will struggle to show through if you are carrying too much extra weight around your stomach.
You may have heard the phrase 'abs are made in the kitchen', and whilst exercise is still required, it's not wrong. Essentially you need to ditch unhealthy processed food and have plenty of fruit, veg, and protein-rich foods. For more in-depth help on nutrition check out our diet section.
However, don't make the mistake of thinking you need to do loads of cardio training to slim down. Research has found that weight training can burn more fat more effectively than cardio training, so if you want to lose fat and slim down then this is the type of training you need to focus on. Not only will it torch fat and speed up your metabolism, it will build the muscles up more than cardio does.
If you do choose cardio training however, the most effective types for burning fat are HIIT, fartlek, circuit and cross.
Don't overdo it
One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to get a six pack is doing huge numbers of sit ups and crunches, in the belief that simply working their core repeatedly will result in great abs.
Exercises targeting the core are fine, but you should increase the resistance you face to make each repetition harder to complete, doing 10 to 15 repetitions per set. Hold a weight or medicine ball, ideally in front of your chest or behind your head. Just like when you bulk up your biceps by increasing the resistance (weight lifted), you have to add resistance in order to sculpt your six pack.
Build up to heavier weights gradually, to ensure you can complete each repetition with the correct form and also reduce the risk of hurting your back, which can be a common injury for people working hard to get a six pack, especially if all you do is loads of sit ups and crunches.
There are a huge number of exercises which can work your core, especially as many upper and lower body exercises actually incorporate your abs in some way. For more in-depth workouts you can do to work on your abs, check out our core weight machines page. Below we have listed a number of exercises which you can do at home to help you get your six pack, with instructions found in the core workouts section:
- Sit ups
- Reverse crunches
- Bicycle crunches
- Side plank
- Leg raises