Have you ever search the internet looking for the secret to getting a 6 pack, only to be disappointed, as they haven’t worked how you’d hoped? If so, then this article is for you.

Unfortunately, it’s tough getting a sick pack, and there is no short cut. Getting a 6 pack requires a strict diet, a well-structured workout programme, and a body fat percentage below 10% for men, and below 15% for women. It may be tough, but it isn't impossible! Follow these steps and you’ll soon be on your way having a 6 pack, no matter what body fat level you are currently at! 

"abs are made in the kitchen"

You've probably heard this phrase before "abs are made in the kitchen", meaning diet is the only way to get abs. This is true to some extent; you need to be lean in order to see your abs and your diet is the only way to achieve that. However, to really make them stand out, it is crucial to perform exercises which help develop your abs. We will touch on both of these topics in this article.

The abs are built up of multiple layers, in order to know how to effectively train the abs, we first must understand the basic anatomy and function of each layer. 

External oblique

Location:

  • Side of the torso
     

Functions: 

  • Flex the lumbar spine (like doing a crunch)
  • Compress the abdominal wall, which helps increase intra-abdominal pressure, this stabilises the spine
  • It rotates the trunk
  • Allows you to flex laterally

Internal oblique 

Location:

  • Behind the external oblique
     

Functions: 

  • Supports the abdominal wall
  • It rotates the trunk
  • Allows you to flex laterally


Transverse abdominus

Location:

  • Behind the internal oblique

Functions: 

  • Supports the abdominal wall
  • It aids breathing by assisting in exhalation and compressing the internal organs. 
  • It stabilisation the pelvis and lower back
  • It restricts flexion of the lumbar spine


Rectus abdominus (6 pack muscles) 

Location:

  • Located at the front of the abdomen, is typically known as the 6 pack muscle.

Functions: 

  • Flexes lumbar spine
  • Allows trunk rotation


A common misconception is that performing heavy compound exercises like the squat and deadlift is all you need to for in order for your abs to develop, and exercises that directly target them, like the crunch do nothing - this simply isn't true as these compound exercises require no flexing or rotation of the spine.

So what are the best exercises to grow the abs?

Generally, crunching exercises are very good at targeting the abs as the primary function of the rectus abdominus is to flex the spine, which is exactly what a crunch does.

A study by Moraes, et al, found a trend in rectus abdominus activation with an increase in external load when performing crunches. This suggests that performing weighted crunches is a great way to enhance the abs.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19376473

A study by Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies (2000) found that there is no true way to isolate each region of the abdominal muscles evenly with just one exercise. The graph below shows how much each muscle is recruited when performing a particular exercise. For example, the crunch primarily targets the upper portion of the rectus abdominus (dark blue bar), leg raises are best at targeting the lower portion of the rectus abdominus (dark green bar), and side bends are great at targeting the obliques (purple bar).

6 pack
  1. Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies, Fitness- Krafttraining. Die besten Übungen und Methoden für Sport und Gesundheit, 2000

From the data, we can see that crunches, leg raises, and side bends are the best exercises to add to your routine if you want an all-round, sculpted abs.

How many reps and sets should I do?

In order to grow your muscles, the best rep ranges to be working at is 8-12,for 3-4 sets. This means you shouldn’t be able to perform any more than 12 repetitions, and no less than 8. If you find it too difficult to reach the required rep range, you need to decrease the weight, if you find it too easy, you need to increase the weight. Aim to train your abs 3 times a week, allowing days for recovery.

Below is an ab workout you can follow that will help shape your six pack.

Weighted Crunch:

weighted crunch

Weighted Leg Raises:

leg raise

Weighted side bends:

side bend

Bosu cable crunch

Bosu cable crunch

Cable wood choppers

Cable wood choppers

Decline Reverse Crunch

rev crunch

Abs roll outs

roll out

Diet

It doesn’t matter how many abs exercises you do, in order to make them visible, you must be at a low enough a body fat percentage.

How do you reduce your body fat?

If you are not yet at a low enough body fat percentage to see your abs, you need to focus on your diet. There is no secret way to lose weight; the way you reduce your body fat is by eating fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight. You first need to work out how many calories you need in order to reach your goal, I’ve written this article to help you figure out that.

Once you know how many calories you need, you then need to track your consumption. You can do this via a number of methods, either with pen and paper, or on apps that allow you to do so, a great app I use is My Fitness Pal.

Follow these tips and you will be on your way to achieving your 6 pack.