When it comes to obtaining a sculpted physique, the majority of individuals like yourself, want a tight, well-toned, and lean set of abdominals.
This is because that “washboard” look so many of you dream of and desire has become the pinnacle of what makes a physique look impressive.
Yes, you can have a gorgeously shaped booty, perfectly sculpted arms, and fantastic-looking thighs, but because our eyes are drawn to the middle of the body, that etched six-pack is where our attention rests.
In this ultimate guide, we are going to walk you through step by step on everything you need to know about achieving bigger abdominals.
This will include what a six-pack is, how to get rid of subcutaneous fat, what type of ab workouts you should be doing (with tutorials!), how you can obtain abdominals from home, what to eat for better abs, what rules you should be following, how often you should be working your abs out, and common questions associated with these areas.
Yes, it’s a lot to take in, but we will start slow by exploring what you are working towards and make our way from there.
The Six-Pack Abdominal Muscle Group: What You Are Working Towards
When you picture yourself with a deeply etched six-pack, what you are envisioning is the rectus abdominis (1). It is a flat band of muscle fiber that extends vertically from underneath your ribs down to your pubic bone.
This flat band of muscle fiber is split into a left and right half, which is segmented into three parallel areas which are attached via connective tissue. Due to how these six bands are bound together, this is what causes that “set” of abs that you desire.
If you have any subcutaneous fat, which is fat that lies underneath the skin, it does not matter how toned your abdominals are if it is hidden underneath layers of fat.
To unearth your abdominals, we must get rid of both your subcutaneous and visceral fat stores by lowering your body fat percentage.
Once this is done, you can work on making your abdominals bigger and bulkier.
Should You Focus on Subcutaneous Fat to Reveal Your Shredded Abs?
Although a lot of fitness tips and guides like to tell you to focus on shredding down the fat that you can grab with your hands (subcutaneous fat), we would like to offer a different approach when looking at cutting down on the body fat.
In 2015, a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who had what is called “normal-weight central obesity” were far more likely to have a higher mortality rate than those who had body mass index that indicated obesity (2).
What this means is that individuals who look overweight on the outside may be healthier than someone who looks thin, have a healthy BMI, but has a lot of internal fat around their organs.
This is because research indicates that subcutaneous fat can act as a protective measure by preventing the accumulation of triglycerides in one’s liver and it helps reverse glucose intolerance that comes from a “junk-food” diet (3).
So, what does this mean for you?
Rather than focusing on the fat, you can grab, you should be focusing on removing the visceral fat that you have around your organs as the visceral fat is the primary determinant of whether you have obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes (4).
When you choose to focus on eliminating the visceral fat, you, in turn, will also eliminate how much subcutaneous fat you have as both works in tandem with one another.
Type Of Exercise Routine For Fighting Both Visceral and Subcutaneous Fat
Research studies indicate that you should commit to high-intensity intermittent exercise training as this induced a greater subcutaneous fat loss compared to moderate-intensity training.
This is because high-intensity training is more likely to provide higher energy expenditure and therefore will have more calories burned during training (5).
Typical examples of this include the following circuits:
1. Do a walk and then sprint as fast as possible
This one is super simple in that you will walk to a designated spot and then sprint as fast as possible back.
If you want to put time into it, do a thirty-second walk followed by a thirty-second sprint. Repeat four or five times until you are exhausted.
2. If you are at a higher level of fitness, you can do a jog and sprint
Very similar to the line-sprint you may have done in high school, where you jog yourself to a certain point and jog back, increasing the speed as you go.
For this, you will jog one way to your indicated destination and sprint back. Repeat for four to five rounds or until tired.
3. Infinite pushups and infinite squats!
Let’s put it this way, these are not simple.
For the infinite pushups, do ten at a time and rest for thirty seconds and then do another ten. Do this for ten rounds or until you get exhausted and can no longer hold proper form.
For the infinite squats, do ten air squats, rest for thirty seconds and repeat. Make sure when you do the squats, you are going below the parallel.
4. Perform a sit-up and then jump
This one is pretty simple in that you will perform ten sit-ups and then get up and jump as high as you can for ten reps.
Rest once you’ve done the ten sit-ups and ten vertical jumps and repeat. If you want to make this harder, you can add pushups or squats as the third exercise.
5. Infinite burpees
As the name implies, do ten burpees and rest for thirty to sixty seconds. Repeat until you are exhausted or can no longer hold proper form.
6. Sprint, push, and squat
Perform a fifteen-second sprint, drop down and do ten pushups and follow them up with ten squats. Rest for thirty seconds to a minute and then repeat. Do this until you are exhausted.
Other common exercises you can do in tandem together to help whittle down your subcutaneous and visceral fat include squatting and rear lunging, squat, planking, and doing push-ups, side to side lunge hops, plank pike jumps, and deadlift balance exercises which you can view here.
Beyond exercising, for visceral fat specifically, we recommend that you reduce your stress levels, cut back the amount of sugar you are taking in, and eliminate foods that may be causing insulin resistance.
By doing all three of these, you can discourage how much visceral fat your body creates.
What Type of Tick Ab Exercises Are The Best?
In this section, we are going to explore the best five direct ab exercises you should be doing to build that fantastic six-pack.
Each exercise will come with a small tutorial/instructional on how to do them correctly.
Top 5 Bigger Ab Exercises
1. The Walking Planks
To complete the walking plank, you start in the static plank position.
After holding for twenty to forty seconds (or as long as you can), move one arm forward, following behind with the second arm.
As you pull that second arm forward, hop or slide your feet up a few inches. Keep your body straight, do not bend your hips, and continue this pattern until exhausted.
2. Mountain Climbers
This exercise is great in that you can perform it directly on the floor, on an exercise ball, or even on a bench or chair.
Start by positioning yourself in a push-up position with your body straight and arms locked.
While keeping the rest of your body completely still, raise your right knee towards your left elbow and then return it to the starting position.
Repeat and do the same with your left knee towards your right elbow. Continue consistently doing this pattern as quickly as possible.
3. Ab Wheel Rollouts
You can do this with an ab wheel or a barbell that is loaded up with twenty-five to forty-five pounds of weight.
Kneel on your knees, place your hands in a comfortable position on the ab wheel and then roll it as far outward as possible.
You want to get your body to a nearly horizontal position. Rollback the ab wheel to the starting position and repeat while keeping your abdominals as tight as possible the entire time.
Note: if you do not have an ab wheel, you can replace it with any larger size ball.
4. Side Planks
Similar to a regular plank, keep your body perfectly still while completing this exercise.
Lay on either your right-hand side or left-hand side and rest your hand (or elbow for the modified version) against the ground.
Lift your hips upwards until your body is entirely straight and hold until exhausted.
5. Standing Cable Crunch
You will need a cable pulley system (cable machine) to complete this exercise.
Stand with your back towards the pulley system, hold the ends of the cables above your shoulders near your upper chest.
Make a crunching downward motion with your upper body while keeping your lower body stuff and try to touch your elbows to your sides.
The main thing you want to keep in mind with ab sculpting is that full-body workouts that use compounding exercises will be your primary source for building lean muscle.
This means that on the days you are not incorporating abdominal workouts into your main exercise routine, you should incorporate indirect compounding movements.
These will still cause your abs to work hard but they will also target multiple muscle groups.
Some fantastic indirect abdominal exercises you should be doing include kettlebell windmills, deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, and tricep pushdowns.
Common Questions Associated With Abdominal Workout
How Frequently Should You Be Working Yours Abs Out?
Like every other muscle in your body, your abdominals need time to recover after proper training.
Working your abdominals out every day will end up being ineffective, as it doesn’t give them time to recoup and rebuild and therefore, not become stronger.
For maximizing your results, you want to train your abdominals between one and three times per week at a level of high intensity.
How Many Reps and Sets Should You Do In Your Workouts?
Specifically speaking for abdominals, you want to do anywhere between ten and twenty-five reps per set.
Although this is not a hard and fast rule, it is a good baseline, to begin with as it doesn’t overwork or cause you to over-perform which may lead to injury.
Once you can do twenty-five reps per set with ease, try adding on an additional set with an additional 2-5 extra reps and see how that feels.
If you can do this easily without too much stress on your abdominals, then add in resistance and weights.
Why Should You Consider Weighted Ab Exercises?
Beyond the fact that resistance and weights put extra strain on your abdominals, they also increase your lean body mass, increase your metabolic rate, and decrease your risk of injury as they contribute to greater muscle strength.
According to the Journal of Exercise Science, “both high-frequency training and low-frequency training produce similar improvements in lean mass and strength” (6) which means you can do either three sets, three days a week or nine sets once per week.
Some popular weighted exercises you can do include the barbell rollout, weighted hanging leg raise, side-plank cable row, and weighted sit-ups.
Should You Consider Adding in More Time for Static Exercises?
If you choose to do any of the static exercises from the list above and find that over time, they become very easy to hold, add more time to them.
By increasing the amount of time that you hold these for, you force your abdominals to adapt, respond to the stress, and grow.
How Long Does It Take to Get Abs?
The answer to this question is entirely dependent on your diet, your body fat percentage, and whether you can hit that average of one pound of fat loss a week.
Luckily, there is a handy chart you can use to determine how many weeks it will take. Be warned though, you will need to know your starting fat percentage.
Can You Build Bigger Abs With Minimal Equipment?
Yes, you get a six-pack without joining a gym. Check out our calisthenics Ab workout guide.
Workouts For Getting Shredded Abs From Home
If you are planning on getting shredded at home and are without the assistance of machines, there are several workouts you can do.
Workout One – For Beginners
Choose two of any of the following exercises: planks (side planks work too), sit-ups, standing bicycle crunches, spider plank crunch, or the dead bug.
Do one to three sets of ten to twenty reps each. If you choose to incorporate the planks in, hold these for twenty to sixty seconds per rep.
Once you can do twenty reps each with ease, add in another set or continue until you can hold the plank for forty-five seconds per rep for one to three sets.
Workout Two – For Intermediates
For those who want a little more challenge, choose three of the following exercises: reverse crunches, planks (or side planks), seated leg raises, fingers to toes, or the scissor kicks.
Do two to five sets of ten to twenty-five reps each per set. If you choose to incorporate the planks in, hold these for one to two minutes per rep.
If these get too easy for you, add in limited rest between each set and use slow negatives to increase how intense each rep is.
Workout Three – For The Advanced
This is where you can begin to do supersets, which is when you perform two sets of two different exercises back to back.
Choose two out of the four exercises: a sit up to stand up, walking plank, knee ups, or leg swings.
Do three to five sets of these at ten to forty reps per set. If you choose to do the walking plank, hold in between each movement for one to two minutes.
Beyond these ab workouts, make sure to perform cardio either on your off days or on days where no resistance training is done. If you want low-intensity cardio, then choose to go for a walk or jog on the treadmill at home.
If you want to do high-intensity interval training, then choose to go cycling or running. You can also do a combination of walking, jogging, and sprinting in burst intervals.
What Should You Be Eating For Better Abs?
When it comes to chiseled and ripped abs, you can ultimately shape your body composition through exercise alone or diet alone, but if you genuinely want to make your abs pop, you are going to need to combine both diet and exercise to remove that last 2-3% body fat.
How do you do this?
By cutting out processed foods, removing sugars, and loading up on sustainable and whole foods like protein, fiber, and diversified carbohydrates that are low in calories and starch.
Below, you will find five mandatory tips for getting it right in the kitchen.
Tip One – More Meals
Although you should experiment and find out what works best for you, it is recommended that you eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large meals.
By eating a nutritious meal every few hours (we’re talking 2-4 hours), you will be able to stabilize your blood sugar, always have nutrients pumping through the body, and be able to control cravings for sweets.
This also means that your body will not cannibalize muscle because it won’t go for long periods without a fuel source.
Tip Two – Eat Before You Get Hungry
It is straightforward to wait until you get hungry to eat, but you want to head off hunger by eating beforehand. When you stay ahead of your hunger cues, you are far less likely to overeat.
Tip Three – Figure Out Your Protein
This is extremely important as you need protein to build muscle, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn when working out.
The more calories you can burn, the higher your calorie deficit, the more fat you will either burn away or keep off.
To figure out how much protein you need, figure out what your optimal weight is and multiply that number by 0.8g. This will tell you what your daily amount of protein is and you can diversify that across your meals.
Beyond this, make sure that every single meal has protein with it. Muscle burns calories when at rest, unlike fat, which means to minimize how much muscle mass you lose (or keep), you need protein.
Tip Four – Diversify Your Carb Intake
Although it may be straightforward to stick with familiar carbohydrates that you like, it’s better to keep your body guessing.
This means that you can indulge in a few simple carbohydrate sources like your morning cereal or the occasional candy bar, but you should not consume more than two-three grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that you are safe with carbohydrates because they do not have a high amount of fat.
Your body does not discriminate with calories, so whether those come from carbs, fat, or protein, if you are in excess, it will get stored as fat.
It is recommended that you consume foods like green vegetables which have a negative calorie balance and complex carbohydrates that come from whole grains.
Tip Five – Drink Your Water
If your body does not have enough water, not only will your muscles not get enough glycogen or amino acids, but your training efforts will all be for naught as your body will not be able to convert the protein you are consuming into muscle.
In addition to this, for your body to turn carbohydrates into energy, you must have enough water to make the uptake work.
Beyond this, having enough water prevents dehydration and is needed for almost every single function in your body to work optimally.
When it comes to carving out a shredded six-pack or obtaining that flat stomach, it comes down to getting in touch with your body and putting in the hard work.
Make sure you maintain a healthy diet that is balanced with proper nutrition, plenty of exercises, and one to two days of recovery.
In the end, it’s a lot easier than you think if you treat it as a lifestyle change rather than as a temporary choice.