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How to Get a Six-Pack Abs When You’re Out of Shape

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Developed six-pack abs are the tell-tale sign of an active gym-goer and are among one of the most coveted physical attributes in the world of fitness. Although everyone has the muscles that make up the six-pack abs, they’re usually cloaked beneath a layer of fat, hibernating with no apparent end in sight.

Being out of shape can make the road to six-pack abs seem unattainable. But hard work, dedication, and understanding the anatomy of the abdominal muscles can help you on your way to the abs you’ve been dreaming about. In this article, you’ll learn how to get a six-pack quicker!

A muscular man knowing how to get a six-pack for long
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Which Muscles Make Up a Six-Pack?

The six-pack muscles are named the rectus abdominis. They actually include eight rather than six protruding muscles positioned horizontally between the ribs and the pubic bone. They’re embedded in tendons that run down the length of the muscle.

You might have occasionally heard the term eight-pack instead of six-pack. It’s the same concept, but those with an eight-pack have revealed those extra two muscles in the rectus abdominis. Most people only reveal six of the eight, which is why the term six-pack is more widely used.

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The abs muscle

How Do You Make Your Six-Pack Visible

Everyone has the muscles that make up six-pack abs, but whether or not you can see them is a whole different story. The main roadblock in obtaining visible six-pack abs is belly fat. Visible six-pack abs usually require even less of a body-fat percentage than what is considered to be in a normal range (around 14-20% for women and 10-12% for men). 

As you can imagine, this is a very difficult goal, and achieving a low body fat percentage requires understanding your body fat.  

About Subcutaneous Belly Fat

Burning subcutaneous belly fat, the soft, squeezable layer of fat that lies just beneath the skin, is the most important component of having visible six-pack abs. Everyone has subcutaneous fat. It’s important for storing energy, regulating body temperature, and padding the muscles and organs from trauma. However, an excess of subcutaneous belly fat increases the risk of metabolic diseases and hides away those six-pack abs.

Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to burn subcutaneous fat because of the important role it plays in the body. High-Intensity, or HIIT workouts help to increase the heart rate and burn calories in a short amount of time. Incorporating HIIT workouts in your weekly exercise routine and dedication to a balanced diet can help you achieve a healthy body fat level–thus prepping the body to be able to showcase strong abdominal muscles.

How Genetics Play a Role in Getting a Six-Pack

As far as getting a six-pack goes, only so much of it is in our control. Of course, we can be dedicated to a body fat-reducing diet and bulk up our abdominals through resistance training, but we’re each born with a set number of tissue bands that interconnect the ab muscles.

Typically, people are born with three bands, making for an even six-pack. But sometimes a person has a “four-pack” or even a “two-pack.” Your genes also determine the length and size of the six-pack muscles.

Additionally, some people are more prone to hanging on to subcutaneous fat than others. Because their genetics make it more difficult for them to lose that fat, it’s harder for them to reveal their six-pack.

Good Habits Are Essential

It will come as no surprise that incorporating healthy habits into your daily life is crucial for gaining six-pack abs. Getting adequate sleep, eating lean proteins and plenty of vegetables, and incorporating a combination of body weights and cardio into your workout routine is beneficial to your overall health. Over time, it will also help you see your six-pack abs.

Two men with different morphology trying to get a more visible six-pack
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Does It Take Longer to Get a Six-Pack When You’re Out of Shape?

There are many different ways of “being out of shape.” If a person has a high body-fat percentage it will take longer to obtain visible six-pack abs, as a person can realistically lose around 1%-3% of body fat per month. If you’re out of shape but starting at a lower body weight, it removes that roadblock, making it so you can achieve six-pack abs more quickly.

5 Tips for Revealing Your Six-Pack Abs

If you are feeling dedicated to getting visible six-pack abs, there are a few crucial steps to take to achieve your goal.

1. Get Enough Sleep

Inadequate sleep can cause higher metabolism, which makes it harder to burn fat. So grab your pillow and turn in early, because getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night is a stepping stone toward that chiseled six-pack. When you’re sleeping, your body releases a growth hormone that stimulates muscle repair and growth.

2. Mix Weights and Cardio in a Regular Workout Routine

About 45-60 minutes of cardio at least three days a week is vital for obtaining a six-pack as it is an important component to burning fat. Along with cardio workouts, you should also be incorporating weight training to strengthen the abdominals.

3. Abs Are Made in the Kitchen

Working out the abs alone will strengthen your core, but ridding your midsection of excess fat is the only way to reveal the six-pack. If weight loss is your goal, you want to keep track of the calories you consume to be in a calorie deficit, meaning you burn more calories than you ingest. However, calories are not the enemy and it’s important to eat enough to have a healthy metabolism and energy to exercise.

Because body fat is an obstacle to visible six-pack abs, incorporating a body fat-reducing diet can help you stay in a lower body fat percentage range. Some examples of foods that are protein-rich and have healthy fats are lean meats, like beef and lamb; poultry, like turkey and chicken; fish, and nuts, non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale; starchy vegetables, like sweet potatoes and corn; fruits; and grains like brown rice and oats.

4. Drink More Water

Replacing sugary drinks and upping your water intake can boost your metabolism, helping you to burn fat more efficiently. Hydrating effectively can also decrease the amount of snacking we do and help us to have more energy.

A good rule of thumb for water intake is to drink half an ounce for every pound you weigh, for example, a 200lb adult would drink 100oz of water a day. Keep in mind that on days when you work out, you should add another 12oz of water for every half an hour that you exercise.

5. Strength Train and Rest

You may be surprised to learn that you only need to train the abdominals 2-3 times a week to sculpt the abdominal muscles into the coveted six-pack abs. It may feel counterintuitive, but resting the abdominals for a full 24 hours after an ab-targeting workout gives the muscles time to heal after a strenuous training session.

Remember, muscles don’t grow during a workout, but in the recovery time afterward. Adding variety to your abdominal workouts is a great way to keep you motivated and avoid burnout.

A man doing crunches outside in order to get a six-pack
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How Long Does It Take to Get a Six-Pack?

You’ve probably guessed by now that six-pack abs are not easy to achieve, and the length of time it takes to get them depends on the starting body composition of the individual. The more body fat that a person has to lose, the longer it takes to unveil the abdominals.

A person can healthily lose about 2% of body fat per month, or 1-2 pounds a week. It can take anywhere from three months to two years! If it’s important to you, stick with it, and you’ll get your results. 

The Best Exercises for Getting Your Six-Pack

You’re eating a balanced diet, you’re drinking plenty of water, and you’re ready to hit the gym. Knowing which exercises to do that target the abs appropriately can feel overwhelming, but adding these moves to your exercise routine help burn fat, strengthen the core, and can aid you in developing a six-pack.


Press-ups, also referred to as push-ups, are a great exercise to add to your workout routine if you want to develop a six-pack as the movement forces you to stabilize your core.

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© Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

To begin a press-up, start by lying on your stomach with your hands on either side of you, flat on the floor. Your arms should be making a 90-degree angle, and then, as you push up, keep your core tight and your body straight—making a straight line. Come all the way down before pushing up again.

Overhead Squats

Overhead squats are a compound movement that targets the entire body, so they are a great strength exercise that increases core strength and develops six-pack abs.

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© Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

To begin an overhead squat, grab a barbell. Your feet will be shoulder-width apart, toes angled forward, and the barbell across your back, resting on your shoulders. Hold the bar in a wide- grip. Bend the knees while keeping the spine straight, taking extra care not to tip forward. In a powerful motion, extend the knees and lift the barbell overhead as you come back to a standing position.

Prone Knee to Opposite Elbow

Similar to mountain climbers, this is another variation of a plank. This exercise engages the abdominals by keeping them flexed.

Begin with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart, lying on the ground. Extend your arms up until you are in an extended plank. While in the raised position, bring your left knee to your right elbow before returning to plank position. Repeat on the opposite side.

Split Lunge/Overhead press

The split lunge/overhead press is another compound movement that engages the core along with your legs and glutes.

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© Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

To perform the split lunge, begin with dumbbells in each hand, standing with your body in a staggered stance with your right foot forward and your left foot back. Bend the right knee down until it grazes the floor while keeping a straight spine. Straighten the leg to come back to a standing position. Push both of the arms straight up, palms facing each other. Bring the arms back down to your sides and repeat.

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls

As with any exercise that requires stability, this exercise using a Swiss ball drives engagement in the abdominals as your body balances to complete the reps.

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© Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

Begin your hamstring curls by lying flat on the floor and placing the heels shoulder-width apart on the Swiss ball with your knees bent at 90 degrees. With your hands at your side, lift the hips and while squeezing the glutes, extend the legs out in front of you. Keep the hips raised and focus on keeping the ball stable as you curl your legs back close to your body. Squeeze the abs as you extend your legs back to the starting position.


Form is crucial when executing the plank, one of the most well-known core-strengthening exercises. It may be wise to begin with the most regressed version of the plank, the forearm plank, before proceeding to one of the more difficult variations.

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© Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

Begin by lying in a pushup position, putting your forearms flat in front of you and allowing your weight to rest on your forearms. Keep a straight line from your toes to the top of your head. Squeeze the ab muscles and hold this position for 30 seconds at a time.

Lots of Crunches

Crunches are many people’s go-to exercise for developing six-pack abs. This popular abdominal exercise is convenient, as you can add it to your daily routine even on days when you skip the gym, and they are great at isolating the abs. Doing between 30-50 crunches on core-training days could help you get the six-pack you’ve been dreaming about.

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© Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

To do a proper crunch, lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Engage your abs by lifting your shoulders and head off of the floor, leaving enough space between the chin and chest for an apple to rest there. Hold this position for two seconds before lowering back down.


Because cardio increases the heart rate, there’s nothing quite like it when it comes to burning calories and getting rid of additional body fat, which we all know is a crucial component in revealing the six-pack abs.

Sprinting, Burpees, and a variation of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT workouts, will elevate the heart rate and increase your metabolic rate—helping you to burn more calories when you’re at rest.

A man doing crunches at the gym in order to get a six-pack
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FAQs About How to Get a Six-Pack

Still have a few questions? Keep reading as we delve into the most frequently asked questions we get about six-pack abs.

Can You Get a Six-Pack in a Month?

Despite many marketing ploys that say otherwise, it’s very unlikely to get six-pack abs in a short month. Of course, much of this depends on a person’s starting body weight, level of activity, and diet. If a person is already lean and quite active, they are more likely to develop a six-pack in a shorter amount of time.
More likely, it will take you 2-12 months to get a six-pack. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you longer than others. Just keep going! Once you have them, nobody will care how long it took you to get there.

Can You Get a Six-Pack by Doing Crunches Alone?

Crunches are a wonderful way to strengthen the core but crunches alone won’t get you to the goal of six-pack abs. Cardio is crucial in burning calories and reducing excess body fat. Adding a combination of body weight training along with cardio is the best way to achieve six-pack abs.

How Many Crunches Per Day Does It Take to Get a Six-Pack?

If you have a healthy diet, are implementing cardio into your exercise routine, and are adding a combination of body weight training to your workouts, doing between 30-50 crunches a day should be sufficient in revealing the six-pack abs. It’s important to prevent yourself from burnout by overdoing it and remember that rest days are also important so that muscles have time to grow and repair.

Can You Eat Sugar and Still Get a Six-Pack?

The road to six-pack abs gets a lot shorter when you limit or omit sugary foods and drinks. While it isn’t impossible to get six-pack abs if you eat sugar in moderation, the bulk of your diet should be lean meats, fruits, and veggies.

Can Anyone Get a Six-Pack?

Even when applying the techniques mentioned here, some people may find it difficult to get their ab muscles to pop. While everyone has the muscles that are required for six-pack abs, they may be harder to obtain if they carry more weight in their belly. Genetics can also play a part in the size and length of the muscle bellies that make up the rectus abdominis,

making them more visible for some and less visible for others.
It’s important to keep in mind that while six-pack abs look aesthetically pleasing and can certainly boost our body image, the absence of a visible six-pack doesn’t mean we don’t have a strong core.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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