I’m not sure any of us can say why, but having abs is cool.
They’re sexy, something to be proud of. To show off, even. They’re the fitness equivalent of “having arrived.”
That’s probably why many people start working out with the sole purpose of getting a six pack.
And then the confusion begins.
Diet after diet, workout after workout, supplement after supplement, all claiming to be the key to getting a ripped core.
Frustration is next.
After months of trying anything and everything, still no abs. Just belly flab.
Well, if you can relate to any of that, you’ve come to the right place, because in just a few minutes, you’re going to know the exact steps to get abs.
And I think you’re going to be happy to see that it’s much easier than you’ve been led to believe by mainstream “gurus.”
At bottom, there are just three things you have to do to get the abs you really want:
- Lose the belly fat.
- Do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting.
- Do the right ab and core exercises.
Yup, that’s it. No “weird tricks” or strange diets or silly supplements.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.
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1. Lose the belly fat.
You’ve probably heard that everyone has abs…underneath the belly fat.
Well, it’s true.
Everyone has abdominal muscles, and in some cases, they’re naturally well developed but not visible because there’s too much fat covering them.
Get rid of the blubber, though, and, voila, a six-pack “magically” appears.
Now, this probably isn’t news to you. Most people know or at least suspect that they have to lose their belly fat to see their abs, but just don’t know how to do it.
Well, the first thing you need to know on that front is this:
Despite what you may have heard, you can’t “spot reduce” your belly fat by doing ab exercises.
Research shows that exercising a muscle group increases blood flow and lipolysis (the breakdown of fat cells into usable energy) in the area, but not enough to noticeably reduce surrounding fat stores.
That means that no amount of crunches, leg raises, and planks are going to get you to your goal.
You also can’t burn away belly fat with special diets or supplements. “Clean eating” and pill-popping isn’t enough to get the job done.
What you can do, though, is reduce your body fat percentage.
That is, you can reduce the total amount of fat you’re carrying around, and this will inevitably cut into the fat that your abs are hiding behind.
Generally speaking, guys start to see abs around 15% body fat, and girls around 20%.
So that’s your first goal: take your body fat percentage from where it is now to where it needs to be.
And you’re in luck, because that’s really easy to do. A bit of proper dieting and exercising is all it takes.
Want to know the exact steps for losing belly fat for good? Check out this article.
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2. Do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting.
Getting lean is always enough to see some abs, but it’s not always enough to have a great six-pack.
Hence, the people out there that are relatively lean, but that have rather unimpressive cores.
The reason for this is there are quite a few muscles in play here.
There’s what most people associate with “abs”–the rectus abdominis–but then there are the smaller, lesser-known muscles of the core like the obliques, transverse abdominus, and serratus.
Here’s a helpful visual:
Most people focus on training just the rectus abdominus, and neglect everything else.
Well, to get a great looking six-pack, you need to fully develop all the core muscles, and one of the best ways to do that is with heavy compound weightlifting.
By “heavy,” I mean using loads that are between 75 and 95% of your one-rep max, and by “compound” I mean exercises that train multiple major muscle groups, like the squat, deadlift, and bench press.
You probably don’t think of these as “ab exercises,” but research shows they actually train the core better than many traditional ab exercises (and especially when heavy loads are used).
That’s one of the reasons that every great muscle- and strength-building program is built on heavy compound lifting.
Want to know how to build an effective weightlifting routine? Check out this article.
3. Do the right ab and core exercises.
Heavy compound lifting is fantastic for improving your overall core development, but most people find they need to do more to get the abs they really want.
And that’s where traditional ab and core exercises come in. When done right, they can make a huge difference in how your six-pack develops over time (and the rectus abdominis in particular).
Which ab and core exercises are best, though?
Well, out of the hundreds and hundreds that you could do, all you really need are the following:
- Kneeling Cable Crunch
- Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
- Hanging Leg Raise
- Air Bicycle
- Ab Wheel Rollout
Each of these exercises allow you to safely train and overload all of your core muscles, and don’t require much in the way of technical skill, flexibility, or athleticism.
Bottom line: they’re simple and they work.
The key isn’t just doing these exercises, though. It’s progressing on them.
The core muscles are like any other in that they respond best to progressive overload, which means that you need to focus on getting stronger over time.
You get stronger by increasing the number of reps you can do with a given weight, and then increasing the weight itself, and repeating the process.
For example, let’s say you’re doing kneeling cable crunches in the 10-to-12 rep range with 50 pounds.
Once you can get 12 reps, you should increase the weight to 60 pounds and work with it until you can get 12 reps, at which point you should increase to 70 pounds, and so forth.
I should note, however, that some ab exercises don’t lend themselves well to this approach.
The captain’s chair leg raise is a good example. You can add weight by snatching a dumbbell between your feet, but this eventually gets awkward (good luck trying to do it with anything over 25 or 30 pounds).
In this case, you’re better off increasing weight as much as you comfortably can, and then just focusing on increasing the reps you can do with the maximum comfortable weight.
For example, if you work your way up to doing 10 to 12 reps of leg raises with a 25-pound dumbbell but can’t comfortably go higher than that, you can then just focus on getting as many reps per set with that weight as possible.
In this case, if, over time, you were able to go from 12 to 30 reps, that’s progress, and your core will continue to develop as a result.
Want to know how to build core workouts that really work? Check out this article.
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Want to Know Even More About How to Get Great Abs?
If you follow the 3 simple steps in this article, you’ll get abs. Really nice ones, too. 🙂
I guarantee it.
If you’d like to know more about how to get great abs, though, and how to get them faster with proper diet and supplementation, then you should check out this longer, more in-depth article:
Beyond the “Best Ab Exercises” (How to Actually Get Abs)
What’s your take on how to get abs? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
+ Scientific References
- Nuzzo, J. L., Mccaulley, G. O., Cormie, P., Cavill, M. J., & Mcbride, J. M. (2008). Trunk muscle activity during stability ball and free weight exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(1), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31815ef8cd
- Martuscello, J. M., Nuzzo, J. L., Ashley, C. D., Campbell, B. I., Orriola, J. J., & Mayer, J. M. (2013). Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises. In Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Vol. 27, Issue 6, pp. 1684–1698). J Strength Cond Res. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e318291b8da
- Stallknecht, B., Dela, F., & Helge, J. W. (2007). Are blood flow and lipolysis in subcutaneous adipose tissue influenced by contractions in adjacent muscles in humans? American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, 292(2). https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.00215.2006
- Vispute, S. S., Smith, J. D., Lecheminant, J. D., & Hurley, K. S. (2011). The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(9), 2559–2564. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fb4a46