Get Six Pack Abs: Useful Tips, Observations and Nostalgia

Six pack abs” is a term that made many people millionaires. To this day quick six pack abs solutions remain a very effective technique, attracting the attention of those willing to change their bodies for the better. I predict that over the next few decades banks will be selling loans including bonuses in the form of six pack abs courses developed by Mike Chang’s successor. You heard it here first. Remember that.

Back in the day, I was also a severe victim of the six pack abs propaganda. As a teenager, I spent one summer doing all kinds of ab training routines downloaded from the Internet without a single moment of guilt. I would come home from my stupid summer job as a courier and do reverse crunches on my desk. The funny part was that my job alone required 6-8 hours of walking a day, which is more than enough to burn a ton of calories and get your abs, defined. At least this is what they say in the manual. In reality, however, I never really got to see my abs in a defined state. All I got was the poor man’s version a.k.a. a four pack.

At that time, I was “naturally” a skinny-fat individual due to my horrendous teen diet consisting of little calories, all coming from sugar. At the time, I didn’t know any better, although I still believe the main reason I didn’t get a six pack was not precisely the bad diet, but the fact that I quit my job after a few weeks, and my calorie deficit evaporated. Only if….

So, how do you get visible abs?

All people have abs and if you can’t see yours, it’s because they are covered in fat. It is that simple. The main rule of getting visible abs is losing weight so that the layers of protection disappear and unveil your mid-section. At this point your abs will show. Caloric deficit is number one. You may be eating a healthy diet, but if the overall calories are too high you will have a fat gut. Thus, many people live unhealthy lifestyles full of smoking; drugs; bad foods; alcohol…etc., and still have visible abdominal muscles because of their low calorie diets. (Think Amy Winehouse, 2PAC, Snoop Dogg and other victims.) This is why having a six pack is not always a sign of healthy living.

The golden rule leading to visible abs is to eat healthy and remain in a caloric deficit, so that you can lose weight while still supplying your body with protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. This approach works for most people, but there is one group that I feel particularly sad for – the team of the skinny fat warriors.


Unfortunately, the fact that you are skinny does not mean that are not also fat. It’s sad. I know, but it is also the reality of life.

Many people look slim in clothes, but are obese (15% or above body fat) and spot nice fat bellies resembling a spare tyre around the waist. I was one of those people and I know that getting out of this trap is painful, although there are much bigger problems in the world, so don’t cry too much – you big drama queen.

When I joined a gym I was around 17% BF and skinny-fat. I gained around 40 lbs. in three months and got to 23% BF. An incredible accomplishment….thank you.

In brief, I became an even bigger skinny-fat version of myself. I did not like it all. I felt uncomfortable moving around and it was just not right. That is why I lost all the 40 lbs. and then some a few months later. I was skinnier, weaker but 10 times happier.

Looking back, instead of bulking like a moron for three months, I would just eat a low carb diet with 500 kcal daily caloric deficit or something similar until I get to 10-12% BF. This would allow me to train as hard as I want while still creating the environment needed to lose some fat.

When you are 10-12% body fat your first 2 rows of abs are usually showing. This approach would have prevented me from spending a lot of money on food and gaining fat only to lose it a few months later. My bulk was not dirty by the way. I was eating quality foods and zero processed garbage like candies, sneakers, Coca-Cola…etc. My main food choices were eggs, fish, milk, cheese and fruits.

Once you have lost enough fat as a skinny fat warrior, you can eat to maintain your weight or a little more, if you want to gain some mass. However, avoid bulking at all cost. It is not useful at all. Unless you spent the last few years in prison, do not eat food quantities designed for whole families.

Note: I do not believe in losing fat while also gaining muscle as a natural. It may happen in some very specific conditions, but most of the programs promising such miracles are deception and lies. I know there are many people on different forums believing in similar principles, but for me it never happened, and spinning my wheels feels boring.

I remember reading the post of a popular powerlifter about how he lost weight (fat) and gained muscle on a 5, 000 kcal diet. I did not know how he did it, but in my world I got to 23% BF on a 3, 000 – 4, 000 kcal plan. At that time, however, I was naïve enough to believe that the person was telling the truth.


Who is fat-fat?

Individuals who are obviously obese (15% or above body fat for males), but have some decent muscle mass such as “fat man’s calves” or something. A popular example would be farmers who are strong but drink beer in large quantities, eat rice, potatoes and other things that make you fat.

When you are fat-fat, you just have to lose weight to see your abs. You can cut much more aggressively than a skinny fat person can since you have more fat to lose. The more fat you carry, the harder it is to lose muscle mass on a diet. {more}


Finally, we arrive at skinny – skinny. This group does not deserve much attention since skinny-skinny people usually have abs already. An example would by Keira Knightley. She is, or at least was, a perfect example of a skinny – skinny: low muscle mass and low body fat levels. (Note: the body fat percentage I am talking about above are for men).


Q: Do I need to train my abs?

A: It won’t hurt, but technically it’s not needed. If you are doing compound exercises like the squat and the deadlift, you will have some decent ab strength and mass, although not gymnast level. Still, if your body fat is low the little blocks will show one day.

In all cases, there is no need to get mad crazy and do 40 different exercises as they show you in the P90X program. Stick to 1-3 basic movements and stick with them.

Q: I am afraid of losing muscle. What should I do?

A: Unless you eat only grass for a week or two, you will not be losing muscle mass. I am not a science guy, but I don’t believe you will lose muscle if you consume at least 100 grams of protein on your diet. If you are over 15% BF and your diet is decent, losing muscle mass is almost impossible. The fun part is from 10% to 5% BF, but you do not need to be 5% BF to see your abs anyway.

Q: Will my lifts go down on a diet?

A: Depends on what you call a diet. There are people who start a diet plan with a 200 kcal daily deficit thinking they are doing something. Look, if you want to lose weight you need at least 500 – 700 kcal daily deficit. Anything less becomes too small to measure. You eat two apples and your deficit goes to hell.

With that being said, when you are on a diet your energy levels go down, at least for the first few days.

The more severe the deficit, the harder it is to match your previous numbers. How much your lifts will go down depends also on the total weight you will be losing. If you go from 250 lbs to 180 lbs, your lifts will suffer too. If you cut 20 lbs, or less you may not even see a regression.

The results are also influenced by the actual lifts we are talking about. Bodyweight stuff will be easier, while squats and bench press like movements will go down.

One door closes, another one opens.

Q: Rippetoe, said that only people with Justin Bieberz’ level of manliness care about abs. How about that?

A: Rippetoe can say whatever he wants. His athletes just get fat.

I would rather be able to squat 225 lbs. for 10 and have abs than squat 350 for 5 and have a 41-inch gut. In addition, you cannot measure self-worth in such a childish way.


Alex Lowe image credit: Conrad Anker

In the picture above you see Alex Lowe, one of the most popular and respected mountaineers of all time. In his lifetime, he had plenty of achievements that would qualify as manly. Look closely at the picture and focus on his legs. How much do you think he was able to squat? 180 lbs. for one rep? I have no idea, but obviously, it was not much. However, he was able to do about 400 pull-ups in a session and met many scary obstacles on his way to the tops. It is all about priorities. The fact that someone places a lot value in heavy squat numbers means nothing. Who is the bigger man? Ed Coan, Alex Lowe or your father? Only the creator knows for sure.

Q: How long does it take to get abs?

A: Depends on how fat you are and how aggressive your diet is. I have followed some super low calorie diets with decent results.

To lose the 40 lbs. I gained after my bulk I spent something like a month on 2, 000 kcal, four weeks on 1,500 kcal and 4 weeks on a 800 kcal – 1000 kcal diet. Was it the healthiest approach? I do not know for sure, but it worked.

A general rule would be:

If you are 25% + BF, you will need over 3 months to get to see your abs for the first time.

If you are 20% BF, you can do it in 3 months.

If you are 15% BF, you can do it in 2 months.

If you are less than 15% BF, you can reach 10-12% BF in a month.

Good luck and remember: Do it to feel and perform better. Girls should love you with or without visible abs.

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