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

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? The one thing you need is not special gym equipment or a new-and-improved fitness supplement. Persistence will get you shredded; sticking to your workout and diet plan will help reveal your ab muscles. You must put the work in yourself, but a few things can speed up the process, as explained here.

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.

Best tips to getting a six pack fast

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 to better understand 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, make sure you 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 especially high heart rate. The accompanying apps will help you analyse your performance even further and, more importantly, keep a log of your previous workouts to have a sense of progression.

1. Do some abs exercises (almost) every day

It goes without saying, 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 (opens in new tab) 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. The reason being, for your abs to pop, you will need to have a seriously low body fat percentage. For women, we are talking about 16-17%, and for men, sub-10%.

Even if you go down to that level during the summer months, where your abs can be on display, it is recommended not to keep fat levels too low for an extended period of time if you aren't a top athlete.

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 cut back on added sugary stuff anyway, even if you aren't trying to get them abs out. Consuming food with high added sugar content can cause a range of illnesses even short term, let alone on the long run.

Not only that, but excess sugar (and carbs) get stored away in your body, hiding your abs behind layers of soft visceral 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 bad food ingredients list you should avoid is too much sodium. Eating too much of it will not only result in high blood pressure levels but it also makes your body retain more water. And that, as we know, is not how one gets a ticket to Flat Stomach Land.

How to get a six pack

Fries? No, thank you.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Swap out processed carbs and avoid bad fats

I personally know people who refused to eat at a restaurant because they said they can't serve fries that evening (the fryer being broken). Not only it is very said that fried white potatoes need to be eaten with everything but they are also high in both bad carbs and vegetable fat.

Not saying everyone should transition from eating fries to gobbling up raw broccoli overnight. Even just swapping half the fries to something more healthy 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 have another 50 grams of vegetables. You are still eating 100 grams of food, but you are 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 swap your 100 grams of fries to 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 nutrients it needs, so it won't have to struggle with breaking down all the excess carb and fats. This will leave your body in a state when it can tend to building and repairing muscles.

Best workout for six-pack abs

How to get 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's head PT at London's finest: BLOK, and knows many a trick 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. 

Get a six-pack… or just a flatter stomach

The reason we mention the kitchen is this: your body fat percentage will need to dip below 10 per cent before a six-pack even begins to show. That's why we'd recommend most people content themselves with healthy dieting and regular, fun workouts to obtain flatter abs rather than going all-out for a six pack.

We'd never advise to work solely on your stomach in search of 'popping' abs, as this would be a waste of time, so weaving this workout into a more rounded fitness regime will not only reap dividends in the gut department, it will also make you a generally fitter, healthier and happier person.

"To gain abs of steel requires a lot of work," warns Jermaine Johnson, head personal trainer at trendy London gym chain BLOK – an abs expert who's also kindly told us his top tip for getting a six pack.

"You need to target and work your abs in a variety of ways but you should also aim to build your internal core strength, as well as the external muscles for maximum results," he says.

Follow the workout below and heed the following advice on nutrition to begin the journey towards a ridiculously cut stomach. 

Abs are, perhaps more than any other muscle group, at the mercy of a strict nutritional plan and achieving visible results will inevitably mean cutting out lots of the fun stuff in a regular diet.

"We all have abs but it is our body fat that hides them away," explains Jermaine. "To reduce body fat, you'll need to eat plenty of protein, reduce the number of carbs in the diet - but don't eliminate them, as you need fuel for workouts - and introduce healthy fats, lots of fibre and vegetables rich in the nutrients needed to promote muscle growth.

"Most importantly, you will also need to keep away from sugar, so reducing or completely cutting out sweets, processed foods and alcohol will definitely help lose the belly fat and reveal your abs," he adds.

There are plenty of good resources online that can assist in mapping out a good low fat diet, while offering some recipes to help in the kitchen.

We've also got a great selection of top supplements, protein powders and training snacks that make it a little easier to get more of the right stuff inside your body.

How to perform to the killer abs 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 killer abs workout

Get ripped quick

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. 

A solid crunch is key to visible abs

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.  

Perform a bicycle crunch any time, anywhere

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. 

Use machinery in the gym for assistance 

The plank is a killer but gets a bunch of muscle groups firing

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 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 top of the head to lower spine. 

Building big forearms completes the look

5. High Plank or Straight Arm Plank

60 seconds

This is essentially the same exercise as above but the bodyweight should be placed on the hands, rather than forearms.

Jumping directly into this from the previous plank will keep the core activated and essentially works 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 strong posture and alignment of your spine. 

This is sure to get the pulse racing and have that stomach feeling nice and tight afterwards. All you need to do now is have a short rest and repeat the entire session. 

It's going to hurt, but nobody says it was going to be easy.

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. When he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing. He's also a man who knows his tools, and he's provided much of T3's drills coverage, all without injuring himself. He's now the editor of The Gear Loop, where he gets to try even more rugged and adventurous kit.