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How To Get Six Pack Abs – A Simple 3 Step Formula

Updated on September 4, 2014
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David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.

six pack abs
six pack abs | Source

How You Can Get Six Pack Abs

It seems that everyone wants six pack abs these days, but very few people achieve them. So if you do manage to get a six pack it sets you apart from the ‘average Joe’. And although it will take a fair degree of determination, the approach required to do it is actually very simple. So without further ado, here’s how to get six pack abs, in three simple steps…

1. Build Up The Abdominal Muscles

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to build up your abdominal muscles is NOT by doing hundreds of sit-ups or crunches every day. The main role of the abdominals is to brace the body, so doing exercises like deadlifts (especially sumo deadlifts), squats and military presses serve to build the abs better than most things. When you do these exercises focus your mind on contracting your abs really hard. If you’re not used to doing this you’ll probably find you’ll be quite sore the next day.

Basic exercises like the above will serve to build and strengthen your abs very effectively, but you can also do an isolation exercise or two at the end of your workout once or twice per week if you wish. A couple of excellent choices are ab wheel rollouts and hanging leg raises. For more information on these see my article on bodyweight exercises.

2. Do Effective Cardio To Burn Off The Fat

You could have really well developed abs but if they are buried beneath a layer of fat no-one will ever see them. So you need to do an effective cardio routine to burn off the fat.

I say ‘effective cardio’ because far too many people rely on long duration low intensity cardio to exercise in the ‘fat burning zone’. But this is not the best way to do it. And in fact too much cardio of this sort will only serve to waste away your muscle, as well as potentially causing damage to your bones and joints.

So a much better way to do it is to do some form of high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is where you alternate brief periods of maximum or near maximum effort with periods of active recovery. So you might sprint for 20 – 30 seconds and then jog for 30 - 60 seconds. You can repeat this anything from 3 to 10 times depending on your fitness level. After your HIIT you can then burn additional fat by doing a short spell of lower intensity steady state cardio, such as jogging. 15 – 20 minutes will suffice.

The big advantage of this type of workout is that it really revs up your metabolism so you continue to burn fat well after your workout has finished – up to 24 hours after in fact. Sometimes even more. Do this two or three times per week for optimum results.

3. Eat The Right Foods

This is the most important point. To get a six pack you need to watch your diet and eat at a calorie deficit. It’s a myth that eating 6 meals per day is the best way to burn fat. Three meals per day (and a post workout shake) is just fine. In fact doing some form of intermittent fasting is an excellent way to put your fat burning mechanisms into overdrive. ‘Starvation mode’ in the way it’s commonly referred to in the fitness industry simply does not exist.

But what you eat is important. You need to eat a good amount of protein from meat, fish and eggs, and ensure you also have a decent supply of healthy fats from oily fish, nuts & seeds, avocado’s, olive oil etc. In fact even a little saturated fat from meat, eggs and butter (preferably from grass fed cows) is beneficial. Fats are needed to manufacture the hormones that help you build muscle and burn fat. Fat does not make you fat - it's excess calories that makes you fat.

You should also eat plenty of vegetables. And some fruit is ok too.

Carbs are best kept fairly low, as these tend to raise insulin levels, and you can’t burn fat in the presence of high insulin. So a low carb diet plan is a great way to burn off that stubborn belly fat. But do ensure you have a re-feed day once in a while to keep your metabolism stoked; otherwise your fat loss will soon plateau. Alternatively you could do some form of carb cycling, where you eat carbs on your workout days, but not on your off days.

By carbs I am referring to starchy carbs such as grain products, potatoes and sweet potatoes, as well as any refined carbs and sugary products. Sugar is the biggest enemy of a ripped physique and will certainly stop you from getting your six pack abs.

So there you have it. Now you know how to get six pack abs. It’s simple but not easy. As I said, you will need determination, but if you want it you can most certainly get it. Best of luck.


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    • dwelburn profile image

      David 9 months ago from Birmingham, UK

      You are correct in the first part - doing ab workouts alone will not give you abs, as I did say in the article. You need to eat at a calorie deficit to remove the excess fat. Cardio can be usful for this, especially high intensity cardio. Low carb and/or low fat diets are not essential by any means, but reducing carbs is probably the most sensible way to reduce calories for most people.

    • JvicIndia profile image

      John 10 months ago from India

      Doing ab workouts alone will not give six abs. Cardio workouts are basic for flattening one's abdomen. One should stick to a strict low-carb low-fat diet regime as well

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 3 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Yep that would work fine Frankie. I don't like to do it more than twice per week though or it could interfere with recovery from weights. If you want to do a third cardio day just do 20 - 30 mins. jog at a comfortable pace.

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      Frankie74 3 years ago

      For cardio in the off days would 15-20 minutes of the interval cardio with 60 seconds jog and 20 seconds sprint be ok?

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 3 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      I would not recommend doing direct ab work on your off days Frankie, as it will hinder recovery. Best to do a couple of sets at the end of your normal workouts. You can do some cardio on your off days though - but don't overdo it.

    • profile image

      Frankie74 3 years ago

      Would you recommend doing this in some of the break days from the 3 day full body gym routine? Or will that hurt the recovery process??

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      Braindan 4 years ago

      i tried him see is good l like this

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 5 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Yes; HIIT is excellent for a number of things. Glad you liked the article.

    • Pop Culture World profile image

      Pop Culture World 5 years ago from United States

      I think the HIIT must also be beneficial because it works your core intermittently from all angles. Wonderful information. I should follow it!