5 six-pack mistakes everyone makes – and how to avoid them

Want washboard abs for summer? Avoid these six-pack mistakes, and you might

Fit young man going ab workouts on an exercise mat in a gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Getting a six-pack is not easy – if it were, everyone would be walking around with visible ab muscles all the time. To have a toned midriff, your nutrition game needs to be on point, and your workouts use the right exercises – and, of course, you must avoid the common six-pack mistakes everyone seems to make.

Want to know how to get a six-pack? You won't need fancy gym equipment or special supplements. What you will need, however, is persistence, mental resilience and a plan. You can do all the 5-minute ab workouts day in and day out, and we guarantee you won't see any results. There is a bit more to it than just that.

Start by reading the below list of six-pack mistakes to make sure you aren't doing either. Then, you can start planning workouts and meals to finally, after years of empty promises, you can too have six-pack abs.

1. Not tracking food intake

We'll start this list of six-pack mistakes not with a workout tip; It's to remind you that getting a six-pack depends more on your diet than your exercise regime. And the most important thing you must do is track food intake, which is easier than it sounds.

Knowing how many calories you eat a day is the first step in tweaking your diet so you can start losing some of that belly fat you've been carrying around for the last few years. There are many food intake tracking apps, the most popular being MyFitnessPal, which allows you to scan a barcode of any food, so you don't have to track macros manually.

Wearing a fitness tracker or a multisport watch will give you a good idea of how many calories you burn a day; from there, you can start calculating how many calories you need to lose weight sustainably over time using a food intake tracking app. 

Woman working out while on lockdown. She is lifting a barbell with weights in her home gym, crouching

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Focusing only on ab exercises

If you want bigger arms, you'll do arm workouts. Want a bigger back? Do back workouts. Want a six-pack? Start doing compound exercises. You might think the best way to grow your abs is doing ab workouts, but sadly, that's not the case.

To reveal the abs, you must lose weight and ab exercises burn very few calories. Compound exercises, such as deadlifts and squats, also use the abs (your core, more specifically), but since they use a number of different muscles simultaneously, they help you build strength and lose weight at the same time.

So next time you plan an ab session, make sure you include as many big lifts as possible.

3. Boost metabolism (HIIT, fartlek etc.)

Okay, you started looking after your food intake and incorporated compound lifts in your workout regime. Now, you must make sure your metabolism is going strong so you can shift stubborn fat as soon as possible.

You can boost metabolism in a variety of ways, but from an exercise point of view, we'd recommend doing more HIIT workouts and fartlek runs. Essentially, you want to repeatedly increase your heart rate for a short period, which kick starts metabolism and helps toxins out of the body.

Determined Young African American Female in Sportswear Doing Plank Exercises in Her Spacious Living Room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Doing the wrong six-pack exercises

Above, we recommended not doing only ab exercises to get a six-pack, but this doesn't mean you have to steer clear away from ab workouts. In fact, the right ab exercises will help you tone the abs and make them pop – but you must use the correct type of workouts.

So, forget crunches and start doing core exercises that train the whole torso, not just the top of the abs. Core workouts often incorporate movements that strengthen the lower abs and the lower back; both are essential in helping you move around easily. Plus, a strong lower back can also improve posture and ease back pain. Wins all round!

5. Assuming six-packs are forever

Unlike building muscle, maintaining visible six-pack abs all year round is as hard as getting them in the first place. Abdominal fat comes and goes, and how visible your abs are can also depend on how much water your body is holding onto.

After filming Baywatch, Zac Efron had this to say about the topic: "You got things like water under your skin that you’re worried about, making your six-pack into a four-pack." Not fat; water. Most pro bodybuilders dehydrate themselves before competitions, so their muscles are more visible; needless to say, this is a dangerous game to play and one that can seriously compromise your health.

Long story short, don't do it.

It takes a lot of effort to lose weight while simultaneously improving muscle composition, so it's best to have an end date in mind when trying to have a six-pack, whether it's an upcoming holiday or a bodybuilding competition.

And, most importantly, don't be afraid to let your six-pack go; you can always resurface them later.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym reviews.