How to Get Abs
Ah, the elusive abs. Of all the milestones of my fitness and weight loss journey, achieving abs was both the most difficult and the most rewarding.
It’s also the thing I probably get the most questions about.. “How do I get abs?!”
The thing about getting abs is that it’s actually SUPER simple.
So why do so few people have them?
Because it takes a LOT of consistency and dedication and frankly, most people will give up.
3 Step Process to Getting Abs
The process for getting abs is extremely simple and can be broken down into 3 easy steps:
1. Lose Belly Fat
First things first, you could have the most ridiculously strong and defined abdominal muscles out there, but they will go completely unseen if you have a thick layer of stomach fat over them.
All too often I see people in the gym who are significantly overweight doing tons and tons of crunches and ab exercises.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to strengthen your core no matter what, but if your goal is to have visible, defined abs and you have a significant layer of fat on your belly, then you’re wasting your time.
In order to be able to see your abs, you have to get your body fat percentage to an extremely low amount.
For women, you will need to be roughly between 15%-18% body fat.
For men to have visible abs, they need to be around 11%-13% body fat.
Body fat percentages this low, especially for women, are often regarded as being too low to maintain for long periods of time due to health concerns.
They are often sought after for specific events and competitions and then the body fat percentage is brought back up to healthier levels again afterwards.
Scroll to the Body Fat Calculator section on this post to see images of what different body fat percentages look like on men and women to get a better idea of where you are currently.
There are two different kinds of fat: visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.
Visceral fat is what grows around our organs and is dangerous to our health.
Subcutaneous fat is the fat we’re really concerned with for the purposes of getting abs. It is the fat that grows just below our skin.
The good news is the work we put in for getting rid of the subcutaneous fat to reveal our abs will also be effective for reducing visceral fat as all.
Okay, so how do you lose your stomach fat?
One of the BIGGEST myths surrounding weight loss and fitness is that you can spot reduce fat.
You cannot spot reduce fat.
“But I just want to lose fat on my stomach, I don’t want to lose my butt!!”
Sorry. I 100% promise that anyone who tells you that you can spot reduce fat is lying to you.
Some people naturally hold on to more fat in different areas of their body and lose fat in areas of their body faster, but there is nothing you can do to control this.
When you start losing body fat, it will come off where it pleases.
Here’s how to lower your body fat enough to make your abs visible:
How to Burn Fat
1. Eat in a caloric deficit.
The rules of weight loss (withholding special circumstances) are simple:
Eat less calories than the amount of calories you burn.
How do you know how many calories you burn in a day? A calories burned calculator.
How do you know how much of a deficit and how many calories you should be eating? A calorie calculator.
2. Get your diet right.
Have you ever heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”?
If you haven’t, there you go, you have now.
It’s a very popular saying and for good reason.
More than anything else, if you want abs, your diet has to be completely on point.
If you want abs, I highly recommend following the IIFYM style of eating.
Following IIFYM will help you to reduce your processed foods intake and increase the amount of whole foods you eat while still allowing you some flexibility.
3. Take advantage of supplements.
Let me be clear by first saying that supplements are never required or necessary.
However, I do take them when I am cutting body and need a little extra help.
I never, ever recommend weight loss pills as they have significant side effects that can affect your health negatively.
That being said, as always, consult your doctor before making any changes at all to your diet or exercise routine.
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4. Drink enough water.
Drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day will help you burn fat faster.
For example, if you weigh 150lbs, you want to get at least 75oz of water per day.
Although it is common to go beyond that to try and get in at least a gallon a day.
5. Reduce water retention.
Once you’ve gotten your body fat percentage down, you may still be holding to extra water in your abdomen that could be diminishing the visibility of your abs.
Keeping your sodium intake moderate can help avoid this effect. You can monitor your sodium levels by tracking it in food tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal.
If you already feel some bloating and extra water weight, sweating it out can help reduce the effect.
Sweet Sweat is a gel that you can rub over your abdomen to help you sweat out the extra water you may be holding onto.
They also have a belt that can be worn over the gel to increase sweating even further. As I’ve been using Sweet Sweat for years, you can use code jillianf10 to get 10% off any order and it will be applied in addition to any sales going on.
2. Strengthen Your Core
While this is a 3 step method, these are not meant to be sequential steps.
You do not need to wait until you’ve gotten your body fat percentage down to begin working on your core and ab muscles.
Ideally, we want to be working on our abs so that when we do get our body fat percentage down it will reveal our awesome abs that were hiding underneath.
It should go without saying that you should also be working out during this time.
What workouts should you be doing?
To be honest, it doesn’t matter that much.
People in the fitness industry like to take hard stances on “You should only do cardio!” or “You should only lift weights!”
The fact of the matter is as long as you’re burning more calories than you’re eating, you’ll lose weight.
It’s more important to pick something that gets your body moving that you’ll enjoy so that you’ll remain consistent with it.
Personally, I do a mix of cardio and weight lifting.
You don’t need to do full days of abs every single day.
5-10 minutes at the end of your workout is plenty.
What Kind of Abs Do You Want?
People have different definitions of what abs are.
Some people are thinking of the full on ripped six pack.
Other times you may be just picturing a very lean, toned stomach.
How to Get Lean Abs
If you just want a lean, toned stomach, you don’t need to get your body fat quite as low as if you wanted a full on six pack – as you might have noticed from the pictures in the body fat percentage post.
The other difference is that you want to stick to body weight ab exercises.
How to Get a Six Pack
If you want a six pack, you’ll need to get your body fat percentage on the lower end of the visible abs spectrum
You can absolutely get a six pack by still doing just body weight ab exercises, however, if you want to speed up the process and get even more defined abs, you can add in weight.
Weighted ab exercises are essentially the same as the body weight version, except that you add in some additional weight one way or another.
For example, while doing sit ups, you can hold a weight out in front of you.
You alter many ab exercises this way. You can get creative in how you add in the weight, the goal is to make the exercise more difficult than before and make your ab muscles have to “lift” the extra weight.
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3. Stay Consistent
As I mentioned in the very beginning, the hardest part, and where most people fail is in consistency.
Depending on your starting point, it could take a lot of time before you start actually seeing your abs show through.
Abs Workout for Women – 30 Day Challenge Abs
To help you start getting in the habits to help you succeed in getting abs, here is a 30 day challenge!
Add each days ab workout to the end of your normal workout.
Don’t forget to follow the other tips and your diet during this time!