Let’s get real: six-pack abs are the glamour muscles of the core. And yes, six-pack-abs look great and are fun and sexy. But it’s important to note that having a stomach that has ridges is not a barometer of health. In fact, in many ways, it is quite the opposite. To have six-pack abs you need to have somewhere around the order of 6% body fat. That’s…uh… pretty unsustainable. Extremely low body fat (that’s below 5%) can put a strain on the body’s system, causing testosterone to drop, the immune system to struggle, brain fog, splotchy skin… the list goes on. For many, all of that effort just to be extremely hot might not be worth it.
In other words, great six-pack abs workouts for men are a vanity pursuit. Despite that fact, it is the clarion call for tons of men. To that end, we understand the need to look damn good while mowing the lawn or swimming. Listen, getting six-pack abs is not impossible, but there is a very high bar you’ll need to hit repeatedly to get a six-pack, from dedication to six-pack abs workouts to an extreme dietary discipline.
So the first step to get six-pack abs is to watch what you eat. The fastest way to get abs entails sticking to lean meats and vegetables, and cutting out all sweets and most carbs. The second step is committing to an intense six-pack workout routine — not the twice a week deal you do now, but three to four times a week, with determination and focus — to see your abs transform themselves.
The final ingredient to building your six-pack is a solid dose of daily cardio. Developing your overall fitness will help train your body to use energy more efficiently and teach it to start torching calories the minute you begin to move. And that’s key because you can have the strongest abdominals in the world, but if they’re covered with a layer of fat, you’ll never see them.
Confused yet? Don’t worry, we’ve broken it down into seven easy-to-understand (but maybe not so easy-to-follow) steps. Good luck.
Step 1 to Six-Pack Abs: Eat Less Fat, and More Protein.
Protein helps your body build muscle and recover from tough workouts. It also has the highest thermogenic property of the various food categories (carbs, fat, etc), meaning pound per pound it requires more energy to burn, helping you lose weight faster.
Step 2 to Six-Pack Abs: Count Your Calories
Yes, your meals should be filled with high-quality nutrients and low on processed crap. But at some point, a calorie is a calorie, and to lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you expend. The average guy needs about 2,500 calories to maintain his weight. Shoot for 200 less than that a day to help hit your target safely. (For easy reference, that means cutting out the bowl of chips before dinner, or skipping dessert.)
Step 3 to Six-Pack Abs: Pick Exercises That Hit Multiple Muscle Groups.
Crunches and sit-ups have their place, but exercises that involve multiple muscle groups give you more bang for your buck. Two of the best ones, which should be performed to the point of temporary muscle failure (i.e., you cannot do another rep), are planks and reverse crunches.
Plank: Start lying face-down on the floor, torso propped up on your elbows. Engaging your core, raise your body up onto your forearms and toes, making sure your body forms one long line from shoulders to feet. Hold this position as long as you can, working your way up to 90 seconds.
Reverse crunches: Lie on the floor on your back, knees bent at 90 degrees, feet raised several inches off the ground. Contract your abs and hike hips off the floor, keeping your spine rounded. Raise knees high toward the ceiling. Relax and repeat as many times as you can.
Step 4 to Six-Pack Abs: Do More Hanging Leg Raises
Don’t be fooled by its name — hanging leg raises are one of the best abdominal workouts you can do. The move works those deep, lower abdominal muscles that basic exercises like crunches miss. Start by hanging from a bar, legs straight. Engage your core and raise both legs straight in front of you (if this is your first time, it’s likely you will not be able to lift them very high — that’s OK). Repeat until failure.
Step 5 to Six-Pack Abs: Vary Your Routine.
Even though you’ll need to do some ab-specific exercises along with general strength and cardio work, you’ll see better results if you alternate the moves you do, as each one works the abdominals in a slightly different way. A few to add to your repertoire:
Pronated Leg Raises. Lie flat on your back, legs straight, hand tucked beneath your lower spine for support. Engage your abs and raise your legs to about 45 degrees. Lower. Do 10 times.
V-Holds. Sit on the floor, knees bent, hand tucked under your knees. Engage your core and slowly raise your feet off the floor several inches. Once you find your balance, extend your legs in front of you, creating a V-shape with your body. Hold 60 seconds.
Bicycle. This favorite of aerobic classes everywhere gets your heart rate up with working your obliques. Start on your back, knees bent, hands behind your head. Raise your head and feet off the floor and begin cycling your legs back and forth as if you’re riding a bike. Bring opposite elbow to the knee as you go. Do 60 seconds, rest 20 seconds, and go again.
Step 6 to Six-Pack Abs: Make Your Cardio Workouts More Intense (And Shorter)
Cardio is an essential component to getting your six-pack because it speeds up the weight-loss process. Despite what you’ve probably read about moderate-intensity cardio being the best method for burning fat (which is true), the fastest way to achieve overall calorie burn is HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), which goes like this: 60 seconds of biking, rowing, or sprinting as hard as you can, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat 10 times.
Step 7 to Six-Pack Abs: Prioritize Hydration.
It’s true, all the water in the world isn’t going to make your abs pop overnight. But it’s also true that drinking at least 8 glasses of water (or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages) a day helps boost your energy levels so you can commit to your next workout. It also helps prevent water retention, which can give your gut a bloated appearance.