The Reality Of Getting Abs

Whether you are young, old, male, female, it doesn't matter - everyone wants a set of cheese grater abs! But how do they come about? What exactly is required? And why don't you have them now?

Visible abs require a combination of hard work, consistency and dedication. No 30-day ab program or endless crunches on their own will get them to show. To get results, you need to reduce your body fat through well-structured and progressive training and nutrition programming. Everyone has abs, but not everyone has them showing!

If you do want to start the journey to abs this summer (or next) here are a few handy hints to know.


Abs are the result of low-body fat

The most important component of visible abs is a low body fat content. A body fat percentage in the low-teens for men and mid-high teens for females will usually see the onset of abs. However, this can vary between individuals with abdominal development and fat tissue distribution.

The definition of the abs will continue to increase as body fat decreases. If you want super-veiny abs, you'll need to get to 5-7% body fat, which is roughly the level a bodybuilder will compete at. However, the time and effort required to go from 12% to 5% body fat is significantly greater than it takes to get from 17% to 12%. 

Most people are happy with any visible abs, so they don't need to worry about the diminishing returns of getting super lean!


Hit core from multiple angles

Despite the muscles of the abdomen not having huge potential for hypertrophy, they can be developed to some degree. Mix up your 3x10 crunches with some stability, anti-rotation and trunk flexion to target the entire core. Even if your abs don’t grow dramatically, you’ll learn how to flex them properly, which is very handy next time you are at the beach!

Diet is more important than exercise

#absaremadeinthekitchen is one of the more annoying hashtags you will see on Instagram, but it does hold some truth. No amount of exercise will bring abs on it's own, there must be a nutrition program to support a reduction in body fat. 

A progressive decrease in energy intake is required to reveal abs. From experience and depending on your starting body fat and energy intake, this can usually be seen with a 400-650kcal deficit below maintenance. However, this is subject to individual variation and should only be used as a guide. 

Provided the nutrition plan is sufficient in creating an overall energy deficit, it doesn't matter how much exercise is taking place. However, more exercise allows a higher food intake to create the same energy deficit, along with being able to stimulate the development of muscle to provide a complete physique. 

You are not retaining fluid – that’s fat

Fluid retention can make you look puffy or less-defined, but it won’t completely cover your abs - that is fat. The whole ‘retaining fluid’ thing doesn’t really stand up - in every case, it’s actually body fat that is hiding your abs!

It's tempting to use this fluid excuse, particularly when 'fat' is a powerful word to many people. However, honesty is the best policy here in the short and long term. You can rid fluid overnight, but body fat can take weeks, so be upfront and acknowledge this. The reality is that any client who is at the stage of looking for abs, would have made excellent progress so far - celebrate that!

Very hard to maintain year-round

Unless your job involves having abdominals year round (or you pretend it does) there is no need to maintain ripped abs all year. Restricted energy intake can lead to nutrient deficiency (depending on programming) and metabolic adaption - where your body essentially begins operating at maintenance at a lowered energy intake.

Example: if you used to need 2500kcal/day to maintain your body weight, now you might only need 2000kcal.

This means that if you ate 2500kcal/day now, you would be in an energy surplus and likely to gain weight. Reverse dieting can be beneficial for people experiencing metabolic adaptation when applied correctly and progressively implemented.

ETA depends on the starting point – not the program

Just because a program is titled 'six week abs' or something similar, doesn’t mean it will get results. The ETA (estimated time of abdominals) is entirely dependant on the individuals starting body fat levels, aggressiveness of the program and adherence to the training and nutrition programs.

If you are at 15% body fat – you may well have abs in six weeks. If you are at 35% body fat – you won’t. Don’t less this demotivate you – huge amounts of progress can be made in this time-frame that will get you closer to those coveted abdominals.


If it was easy - everyone would have abs! But that isn't the case. If you are serious about this goal - train hard, eat well and continually progress your program to get the abs you so desire!