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How Long Does it Actually Take to Get a Six-Pack

Matthew

Written by fitness expert Matthew. Last updated:

A visible set of abs is the ultimate goal of almost every new gym member or anyone who has ever picked up a diet book. But how long does it take to get abs?

To find out how long it takes to get abs, it depends on the individual’s current physique, and how far they are prepared to go to get results. For someone with an average amount of body fat, 12 weeks would be a realistic timeframe.

In this article, we will take you through exactly what you need to do to get visible abs, and why we say 12 weeks is a decent estimate for many people. If you have ever asked yourself “How fast can I get abs?” then this is the article for you.

How Long Does It Take to Get Abs?

asian man doing sit-ups near a window

One of the problems in predicting the time it takes for abs to show is that everyone is different. A 40-year-old man who has not exercised in years and a skinny teenager who plays football every day will have different timescales.

The time it takes for women to get abs is different from men. This is due to different ratios of testosterone and estrogen and how they affect where fat is stored.

But it is not just your gender that makes a difference. Age also plays a huge factor, as does social life. Think about it, how long does it take to get abs if you work out every day compared to just once a week?

How long it takes to get abs will depend on your motivation, time available, genetic factors, and your starting position. So why are we saying 12 weeks?

The Formula for 12 Week Abs

As we have previously said, it is difficult to predict how long it takes to get abs. You can set yourself a time-based goal, and if you set it well you can reach your goals within that time.

First off, if you are very overweight you are not going to get visible abs in the near future. That should not even be your goal right now. You should be looking at burning calories, building muscle, and creating a calorie deficit. Fat loss will occur, and in the future, you can turn your attention to finding those abs!

If you happen to be a little overweight, then 12 weeks is a reasonable estimate of the time it takes for abs to show. It is possible to lose weight at around 2lbs per week, for a total of 24lbs within 12 weeks.

If you are currently 24lbs away from ripped abs, then the 12-week target is spot on. In practice, aiming for a rate of 2lbs per week for 12 weeks is a bit unrealistic. If you are 12-15lbs away, then 12 weeks is a good goal. If you weigh more, add additional weeks at a rate of 1.5lbs per week.

How Long Does It Take to Get Abdominal Muscles?

The time it takes to get abs if you work out every day depends on other factors. One of the biggest misconceptions about abdominals is that you have to attain them. You already have them, but they can be hidden behind abdominal fat and therefore diet is just as important as working out every day.

Strengthening your abdominal muscles is incredibly beneficial, helping to prevent numerous health conditions and reducing the risk of injury. But there is a difference between strengthening your abs and making them visible.

What Exercises Should You Do?

a woman doing sit-ups

How long it takes to get abs depends on both your diet and the exercises you choose to perform. Building stronger abs requires a combination of ab-specific exercises and compound lifts that work multiple muscles, such as deadlifts, squats, and bench presses.

If you are interested in ab-specific workouts, then check out this article on the best ab workouts.

You want to add compound movements in as they can work your ab muscles indirectly, while also burning calories and helping with fat loss. A barbell deadlift will strengthen your abs and core muscles, while also burning a load of calories.

Ab-specific exercises such as planks, crunches, and twists can help to work your abs directly. Check out our articles on upper ab exercises and lower ab exercises to learn more.

A good workout will combine both direct and indirect abdominal training, helping you to burn body fat while building a strong core.

Best Equipment for Your Abs

Another way to strengthen your abs is to use an ab crunch machine. These are effective when combined with a good diet and frequent exercise. They help to create resistance and will work your abs through the entire range of motion. Check out this article to learn how to use ab crunch machines properly.

You can also try using an electrical ab stimulator. This machine works by sending electrical impulses to your abdominal muscles, making them contract. The contractions can help to build up the muscles and increase their size and strength.

You can also use a top-rated ab toning belt which is similar to an electrical ab stimulator but more comfortable to wear.

Body Fat Percentage for Visible Abs

If you really want to get abs fast, then you need to combine exercise with a calorie-controlled diet. The first thing that you need to do is determine your body fat percentage. It is difficult to get an exact measurement, but you can use a set of body fat scales to get a rough idea.

If you have a personal trainer, then they can use skinfold callipers to estimate body fat, but this requires training and is virtually impossible to do on your own. Your best bet is to look at images of body fat percentages for your gender online and decide which one best reflects your current physique by comparing it to a photo of your torso.

a woman doing sit-ups with a personal trainer

Yes, that sounds horribly unscientific, but we are only looking for an estimate and this method tends to work better than scales or callipers.

Once you have your number, weigh yourself and measure your height. You can use this information to ascertain where you are currently at in terms of visible abs.

Men require a lower body fat percentage for visible abs than women. This will not affect the time it takes for women to get abs, but it is important to know.

According to this article:

  • Men require a body fat percentage between 6 and 17%
  • Women require a body fat percentage of between 14 and 24%

If you are a man and your body fat percentage is currently around 27%, then you will have a way to go. If you are a woman and your body fat percentage is around 27%, then you could have visible abs in a few weeks.

If you are a 220lb male and 27% body fat, then you are very unlikely to get abs within 12 weeks. A 24-week program would be a better choice, as you need to lose about 30lbs. At 1.5lbs per week it will take 20 weeks.

Working Out How Much Weight to Lose

Let’s say you have worked out your body fat percentage and it is not too far off your goal. You weigh 180lbs and you currently have 20% body fat. That means that your body fat weighs 36lbs.

This means that you are currently 18lbs of body fat off your goal. If you follow a program where you build muscle and burn fat, then a 12-week program is ideal. You would easily lose the fat (1.5lbs per week), while building muscle which will mean that your body fat percentage drops down even as your weight drops.

Checklist for Visible Abs

  • Find out how much you weigh and what your body fat percentage is
  • Use that to work out how much body fat you have (your body fat percentage as part of your weight)
  • Work out how far off your goal you are (I am 24% body fat; I need to be 15%)
  • Set a realistic goal of 1.5lbs per week
  • Create a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day by increasing activity and lowering calorie intake
  • Adjust this if you only need to lose a little bit of weight
  • Stay consistent until you have reached your goal
  • Increase calorie intake slowly once you have reached your goal

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