How to get a six-pack – best abs exercises and diet tips to get a flat stomach

Our best tips on how to get a six-pack and how to maintain it once you get one

How to get a six-pack: Pictured here, a lean and muscular person standing in a CrossFit gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to get a six-pack? You won't need special gym equipment or a new-and-improved fitness supplement. Persistence will get you shredded – all you have to do is stick to your workout and diet plan to help reveal your ab muscles. Easier said than down, of course, but if you're happy to do the work, you'll be rewarded by washboard abs faster, as explained below.

We've put together a six-pack of tips (five, actually) that will skyrocket your efforts in making those abdominal muscle humps visible to everyone. Surprisingly enough, most of the list consists of non-exercise-related tips because, as they say, abs are made in the gym and revealed in the kitchen. Are you more interested in how to get six-pack abs after 50? We can tell you that, too. It's possible to get fit over 40; age is just a number, after all! Are you ready to get lean? Let's get started.

How to get a six-pack

No matter what everyone is saying, building muscles is not rocket science. You only need to adhere to a few rules, and you don't necessarily need loads of equipment either. This is especially true for abs. You can use dumbbells, kettlebells or resistance bands to provide extra resistance during your abs workouts, but most ab exercises are bodyweight-only moves.

However, two things that can assist you in your pursuit of better understanding your fitness needs are a fitness watch and an ab roller. These old-school devices are having a resurgence in popularity because they work. And if you bought an ab roller, check out our best core exercise guide and train the whole of your core, not just the abs. It will help you alleviate back pain and improve your sleep, too.

A watch provides continuous heart rate tracking to keep your heart rate in the correct zone during your workouts – usually, for abs workouts, this is not an exceptionally high heart rate. The accompanying apps will help you analyse your performance further and, more importantly, keep a log of your previous workouts for a sense of progression.

Best tips to getting a six pack fast

1. Do some abs exercises (almost) every day

It goes without saying that the best way to get a six-pack is by working the abs. Whether it's the most challenging abs exercise or the best core exercise, as long as you spend some time chiselling your abs (almost) every day, you'll see results soon enough. Abs are high load-bearing muscles, much like calves, so the normal hypertrophy levels don't apply here. Instead of going for the 8-12 reps with abs, aim for 15-20 reps in each set.

As well as doing higher reps, another way to ensure your abs are growing is to work all areas of it. This means working the upper abs with crunches, the lower abs with flutter kicks and the obliques with Russian twists. You'll see results ridiculously soon doing two exercises only: ab rollouts and mountain climbers – see our best bodyweight exercises list. Both work a range of muscles but mainly target your abs and core. Rollers are dirt cheap, and they are one of the most underrated bits of fitness equipment ever.

2. Consume the right amount of calories

The way to determine your maintenance calorie level is to measure your intake by logging what you eat using a calorie-counting app like MyFitnessPal and keeping track of your weight. Maintenance calorie is the amount that keeps your weight at a steady level.

Now, even if you aren't overweight, you will need to go slightly under this to lose weight and for your abs to start showing. You must have a seriously low body fat percentage for your abs to' pop'. We are talking 16-17% for women and sub-10% for men (generally speaking). Even if you go down to that level during the summer months, when your abs can be on display, it is recommended not to keep fat levels too low for extended periods.

Plate of healthy food on a wooden table

A healthy diet can make or break your journey to a life with a six pack

(Image credit: Unsplash)

3. Cut back on added sugar/salt

You should reduce added sugar in your diet, even if you aren't trying to reveal your ab muscles. Consuming food with high added sugar content can cause a range of illnesses, even short term, let alone in the long run. Your body hides excess sugar (and carbs) over your abs in the form of subcutaneous fat. Men are especially susceptible to gaining weight around the hip area first, so gents, say goodbye to all those Mars bars if you want to have a six-pack!

Another item on the harmful food ingredients list you should avoid is too much sodium. Adding too much salt to your food will not only result in high blood pressure levels, but also makes your body retain more water. And that, as we know, is not how one gets a ticket to Flat Stomach Land.

Fries and ketchup on a plate

Fries? No, thank you.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Swap out processed carbs and avoid bad fats

We know people who refused to eat at a restaurant because they said they couldn't serve fries that evening (the fryer broke). Not only is it sad that fried white potatoes need to be eaten with everything, but they are also high in both bad carbs and vegetable fat. We aren't suggesting everyone transition from eating fries to gobbling up raw broccoli overnight. Even swapping half the fries for something healthier can help you effectively cut back on calories effortlessly.

Let's say you have 100 grams of fries as a side. Instead, have 50 grams and another 50 grams of vegetables. You are still eating 100 grams of food but also cutting back on all bad things without eating less. Not to mention, swapping fries for even just baked potatoes or, even better, baked sweet potatoes can make a huge difference too. Gradually, you can change your 100 grams of fries for 100 grams of quinoa; the latter is a million times healthier.

5. Add more protein to your diet

Adding more protein to your diet can help you build muscles faster, and it can also help you lose weight more efficiently. Some easy swaps can make the transition to a more protein-rich diet easier. It's all about planning your snacking right. Instead of having a chocolate bar, have a protein shake or a protein bar. Again, you aren't eating less; you are eating better. By eating better, you are fuelling your body with the nutrients it needs, so it won't struggle to break down all the excess carbs and fats. This will leave your body in a state where it can tend to build and repair muscles.

Best workout for six-pack abs

Getting a six-pack is one of the most searched things on Google, and we're here to supply some answers. Or, more accurately, Jermaine Johnson is. He knows many tricks for obtaining a killer washboard stomach via the most cutting-edge abs workouts. The sad truth is today's social media-obsessed society has been duped into thinking that every young, beautiful creature has a belly that's seemingly made of steel. But those rippling abs take a lot of hard work, both in the kitchen and in the gym. 

How to perform the workout

"The workout below is focussed on the external core by performing a variety of different crunches targeting the upper, middle and lower abs as well as the obliques," Jermaine explains. "We will also work the internal core (the deeper ab muscles), so you will perform a variety of different planks to fire up those deeper muscles that lay the groundwork for a solid six-pack," he adds.

Jermaine suggests performing each exercise back-to-back without rest, but if that feels too much, have a 30-second breather between each one before moving on to the next. Complete all of the exercises in the list, and that is considered one set. Rest for 45 seconds between sets and perform four sets in total before congratulating yourself on a job well done.

Don't forget to drink plenty of water while exercising and ease your body into this routine with a 10-minute cardio warm-up, whether that's on the treadmill, static bike or with a round of jumping jacks, high-knees or jogging on the spot. 

The best abs workout

1. Ab Crunch

30 seconds

This exercise targets the rectus abdominis muscles in a controlled manner, flexing and releasing the core muscles in order to give them a thorough workout. 

Lay flat on your back, and then rise up to meet your pelvis using the shoulders and the core to maintain and propel you forward. Use the hands to support your neck.

Repeat at a comfortable pace for 30 seconds. 

2. Bicycle Crunch

30 seconds

This move also works the rectus abdominis, as well as the upper abs and obliques, giving a nice rounded workout in one fairly simple manoeuvre.

Lay flat, rise into a crunch and ensure the back of your shoulders are off the floor, rotate to the right and try to meet the left knee with the right elbow while you extend the right leg straight out and then do the same for the opposing side. 

When performed correctly, this exercise should look like you're pedalling an invisible bicycle (hence the name), while simultaneously connecting opposing elbows and knees with a slight twist of the trunk.  

3. Reverse Crunch

30 seconds

Now we move on to the lower abs. Lie flat on your back with your legs up at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Then, using just your core, pull your legs and hips towards the ceiling, while bringing your knees towards your chest and repeat. Ensure you feel your bum leave the floor, while pulling legs and hips up towards the ceiling. 

4. Plank

60 seconds

It's a tough cookie, but the plank targets so many muscle groups and is an absolute must for sculpting a well-defined stomach. Lay facedown with legs extended and elbows bent and directly under shoulders. Clasp your hands together. 

Your feet should be hip-width apart, and your elbows should be shoulder-width apart. Squeezing your abs, lift your body weight onto your toes with forearms still on the floor; keep a nice straight line from the top of the head to the lower spine. 

5. High Plank or Straight Arm Plank

60 seconds

This is essentially the same exercise as above, but the body weight should be placed on the hands rather than the forearms. Jumping directly into this from the previous plank will keep the core activated and work those muscles twice as hard. It will be tough, but the abs will be pumping after this.

6. Plank jacks

60 seconds

Still focussing on the plank, this variation is a killer way to end the workout and really makes the core muscles pump. Maintain either a High Plank or regular forearm-based plank, but add a jumping jack movement with the legs while maintaining a strong posture and alignment of your spine. This is sure to get the pulse racing and has that stomach feeling nice and tight afterwards. All you need to do now is rest and repeat the entire session. It's going to hurt, but nobody said it's going to be easy.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.

With contributions from