5 Reasons You Can’t See Your Abs (And How To Fix Them!)

You train relentlessly. You watch what you eat.

But when your shirt comes off, something’s not quite right.

Dude, where’s your six pack?

Wondering where your hard work went wrong? Here are 5 of the most common reasons you can’t see your abs and what you can do to change it.

1. Too Much Body Fat

Plain and simple, you have too much fat. Men should aim for body fat percentage below 10% and women need to be in the mid-teens. If you get your body fat measured by a reliable trainer and your body fat percentage is above these numbers, there’s just too much body fat in between the rectus abdominis and the skin.

This is the number one reason why most people will never see their abs.

Don’t waste your time using Bio-electrical impedance instruments to determine what your body fat is. There are too many variables that can throw off your results like hydration, room temperature, whether or not you are measuring pre or post workout, and even the last time that you ate a meal! The most cost effective way to determine your body fat is to find a trainer who is well practiced in performing a seven site skin fold test with calipers.

The Fix: If you have been losing body fat for a couple of months and your progress has stalled, keep a record of everything you eat for a week and look for areas where you can tighten up your nutrition. Are your weekends getting a little too relaxed or are your portion sizes getting bigger and bigger? Look for ways to tighten up the diet and you’ll notice your waist tightening up as well!

2. Your Abdominal Muscles Aren’t Thick Enough

If you have a trim waist and minimal body fat and you still can’t see your abs, then you need to work on getting the Rectus Abdominis (your 6 pack muscle) thicker. You will never be able to see your abs if the muscle bellies there are weak and small. Most people who train their abs are doing thousands of reps a week of bodyweight exercises or do not use sufficient weight to cause any sort of growth in the abdominal muscles.

If you need to increase the muscle size and strength of your abs, you cannot train the same as everybody else. Try training your abs with weights!

The Fix: To cause muscle growth in your abs, you must add weighted abdominal exercises. You should train your abs just like any other body part when you are trying to get the musculature bigger. Start with training them two times a week with weight and ensure proper rest days.

There is no need to get carried away with your ab training. Pick a plank variation, a crunch variation, and a leg/knee raise variation and add weight. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise with a challenging weight and then go home and let your abs grow!

3. Your Abs Don’t Have Enough Tone

No I am not talking about the dumb phrase that is used to describe someone who has muscle mass in the presence of low body fat! There is such a thing as muscle tone that involves the amount of tension that your muscles possess at a resting state.

Without geeking out on you too much, all of your muscles possess a certain amount of tension while at rest, and it is possible to increase the amount of resting tension, or tone, in your muscles. Do your abs show up when you flex them but disappear as soon as you relax? Keep your ab muscles visible by increasing the amount of tension they have while at rest.

The Fix: So how can you increase the amount of resting tension on your abdominal musculature? By using high tension ab training a couple of times a week. Start off with the RKC style plank about three times a week and adjust your training from there.

To perform the RKC plank assume a standard plank position with your elbows directly under your armpits and your body braced in a straight line. From the standard plank position clench your fists, squeeze your glutes and your quads, and begin to try to push your elbows towards your toes and your toes towards your elbows while keeping your spine straight and your body tight.

If you are doing this right you will feel an instant increase in the difficulty of your plank, especially if you are able to hold a regular plank for over a minute. The key here is to create an enormous amount of tension in your abs. Each plank should only last 15-30 seconds.

4. The Six Pack In Your Fridge

I have seen guys that have veins like road maps running up and down their arms and who appear to have low body fat, but, at second glance, have pretty sizable waist lines. Most of these guys have something in common: a love of booze. Not only does alcohol have seven calories per gram (compared to protein and carbs which only have four calories per gram), but alcohol also causes a hormonal shift in your body towards storing stomach fat.

The Fix: If you want a six pack, you need to skip the six pack and stick with water. If you are trying to lean out for a specific occasion like a beach vacation or competition, keep beer, wine, and liquor off the menu until that target date. If you have decided to stay lean year round, limit the number of times that you drink to special occasions, or a planned day each month where you can go out and enjoy a drink with friends.

You don’t have to spend your Friday nights bar hopping. Do something active with your buddies like playing a pick-up game of basketball, soccer, or football. Put all the time that you spend getting stronger in the gym to use somewhere outside of the gym!

5. You’re Stressing Your Abs Away

That’s right folks, if you are always stressed out and you can’t see your abs, it’s quite possible that you have chronically elevated cortisol. When cortisol is out of balance in your body, it can make it darn near impossible to attain your goal of having six pack abs!

Prevent stress from sabotaging your efforts for getting a six pack! Remember that stress comes in many forms from psychological and emotional to physical stressors like training and being on an extremely restrictive diet for extended periods of time. Try and manage the stressors in your life so that you can hit your training goals.

The Fix: Some key factors in reducing cortisol in your body are making sure that you get adequate sleep, ensuring you have a post workout shake or meal that has carbohydrates in it, having an occasional cheat meal if you are on a restrictive diet, cutting back on marathon cardio sessions, and delaoding from your intense weight training sessions every four to six weeks. You will feel better and your abs will start to show through.

Remember that to have visible abs you’ll need low body fat, adequate amounts of musculature, and good resting tone/tension. If you’re still having trouble, look for specific areas of your lifestyle that could be sabotaging your goals like diet, alcohol, and stress.

“It is safe to lose around 1-2% of body fat per month so depending on where you start, this should give you a good indication of the kind of timeframe you are looking at to start developing visible abs,” Henry explains.

So if your current body fat is 25%, you can estimate it’ll take around 6 months to get visible abs. If your body fat is nearer to 30%, your journey to getting abs would likely take nearer a year.

jacoblundGetty Images

The first four weeks

In order to reduce body fat to a percentage that would make abs visible, you’ll need to prepare to increase your physical activity and overhaul your diet.

“The saying, ‘Abs are made in the kitchen’ is absolutely true,” explains Henry, who adds that you need to go into calorie deficit in the first four weeks to see any results. “Cut out the big five – sugar, white bread, white rice, white pasta and potatoes – cut out alcohol completely for this first month and cut down to only one coffee per day,” the trainer says.

Exercise-wise, Henry recommends doing full body workouts in the first month, “with a focus on engaging the core in every exercise”.

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“You want to be training 5 to 6 days a week to raise metabolism and working for 30-60 minutes in each session. In other words, aim for higher in frequency, less duration and higher intensity ideally,” says Henry.

Within the full-body workouts, Henry says it’s important to include abdominal exercises in each session that focus on the front abs (leg extensions, elbow to opposite knee crunches, etc.) as well as oblique exercises (wood chops, side planks, etc.)

“Make sure you sweat in each session to flush toxins out from the body to help with fat reduction,” he adds.

From then on

While you don’t need to maintain the intensity of the first four weeks forever on your quest for abs, you do still need to work hard. “You need to be clean eating 6 days a week (85-90% of the time) and training a minimum of 4 times a week for 30 mins at a high intensity,” Henry explains.

Food-wise, the trainer advises keeping ‘the big 5’ aforementioned foods to a minimum (as well as alcohol) while building abs.

Max5799Getty Images

But the main thing Henry urges is that, to develop and maintain abs that are going to last, you have to be willing to change their habits and lifestyle. “Quick fixes aren’t the solution,” he says. “You must be looking at this as a 12-month journey for true, habitual change.”

Still want to give it a go?

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Catriona Harvey-Jenner Digital Features Editor Cat is Cosmopolitan UK’s features editor covering women’s issues, health and current affairs.


The Worst Ab Exercises…

I still see people at the gym doing crunches and sit-ups, pulling on their heads, jacking up their necks and uselessly working the most superficial layer of abdominal muscle we have (rectus abdominus).

We all know that abs are made in the kitchen – what you eat and drink really makes all the difference – but what you do with your WORKOUTS is also a very important part of the equation.

Let me tell you the FACTS about getting a tight, flat stomach:


Plain and simple, we can’t spot reduce fat. When you start burning fat, sadly it’s not guaranteed to come right off your abs just because you’re exercising your stomach.

LOL!! We ALL have nice layers of muscle on our stomach, even if there’s a little fluff on top!

No matter how many crazy core moves you do, you will lose your body fat in the same order you put it on.

That order is mostly governed by genetics, and while I know we all secretly cling to the hope that doing 100 sit ups a day is going to finally reveal a slim waistline it’s simply not true.

One awesome solution is to do HIIT and Ab Finishers (more on this in #3).

Nothing burns fat faster than high intensity interval training (like my challenge programs) and moves that work your entire core.

You can add 15-20 minutes of explosive movement to the beginning or end of your workout, or do a conditioning circuit that includes it.

The second way I target body fat is by adding in resistance or strength training. Remember that the more lean muscle you have on your body, the more calories you can burn at rest. So be sure to balance your HIIT with some strength training to see amazing results.

I generally cycle through periods of weight training (8-12 weeks) and then bodyweight training (4-6 weeks) depending on my goals, schedule and available time. But both are just awesome and effective ways to get a great physique, burn fat and show your abs.


If you really want hot abs, you need to get away from just training your stomach 10 different ways.

This is actually a little known fact. You actually need to focus on strengthening the ENTIRE core in order to see your ab definition.

That means doing moves that activate your lower back muscles, your deep core stabilizers (psoas – pronounced SO-az), and the layers of abdominal muscle that protect your organs and keep you standing tall.

The body is super smart and when you are building muscle on only one side of your body for example, you actually will hit a wall in the amount you’re able to develop.

This is your body protecting you, as too much muscle on one side will put undue stress on your underlying bones and pull you out of alignment.

So be sure you’re adding moves that target your lower back as well as the different layers of abdominal muscle too!

And remember – maximizing that lean muscle growth helps you burn fat off faster too!


Being consistent is key. If you’re training smart, you’ll be activating your core in almost all the activities you do.

A super effective way to really get faster results is to use those ab finishers I mentioned in #1.

I’ve been adding these 7 specific routines to the end of my workouts, and I put them together with video tutorials for you to follow along with.

  • It’s all on this page, to get the best Ab Moves.
  • You can also access more of my HIIT circuits here
  • Get some of my back strengthening exercises here.

So let’s Recap:

Getting hot abs is easy when you follow these 3 steps:

  1. In addition to your clean eating, do HIIT to melt off the padding that’s hiding your abdominal muscle.
  2. Train your entire core – your lower back and deep core muscles to speed up your results.
  3. Add Ab finishers to your workout, and be consistent!

Your NEXT 30-day CHALLENGE is on deck! It’s ABS and BOOTY!

⭐ The Booty and Abs 30-day Challenge will work your body head to toe, with a special emphasis on sculpting and defining your abs, booty and legs! ⭐


I hear these questions all of the time:

I do crunches everyday! Where are my abs?

If I do a crunch everyday, will I have abs?

If I do crunches everyday, will I have a six pack?

Is a crunch a good ab exercise?

What exercises should I do to have abs or a six pack?

Without question, the single most important factor in the appearance of your mid-section is the amount of fat and fluid between your abdominal muscles and your skin.

You have a 6-pack right now its the natural shape of your muscles. But for most of us the layer of fat over our abs is so thick that you cannot see them.

Trying to burn fat with a crunch or sit-up is like trying to dig to China with a spoon its a complete waste of time.

There is no such thing as spot reduction. You will need to do more than just crunches and sit-ups.

Just because you work on your ab muscles doesn’t mean that you will affect the speed at which you lose fat in that area. Fat loss is a lot like scooping water from a bath tub.

If you take a cup of water out of the middle of the tub, it doesn’t leave you with a one cup dent in the middle of the tub.

It leaves you with a cup less water all over.

If you lose a pound of fat, you lose it from your entire body, regardless of how many crunches you do.

This didn’t happen with crunches.


Get on a program of functional total body exercise and supportive nutrition. (Enter: The Orange County Fitness Playground)

This will help you burn as much fat as you can each day.

If you get your body fat percentage low enough, you will see your beautiful abs even if you don’t do a single crunch.

A very nice looking midsection, for a man, start showing up at around 12% body fat.

For women, it starts at about 18-20% because men store all of their fat on their belly, and women put it on their hips and thighs.

Not a crunch or sit-up here, just weight lifting and diet.

One Extra Point

Excessive toxins from conventional plant and animal foods (and alcohol) overload your liver and encourage extra fat to form around your midsection, whether you are a man or a woman.

The more toxic and/or dehydrated you are, the thicker the layer of fluid becomes, making you appear more chubby.

So, eating organic, grass fed, and free range foods will greatly affect the results of your program.

This body shaped by hard work, discipline, and nutrition.

So here are some guidelines that have worked wonders for our clients!!

1. Eat every 2-3 hours or 5-7 meals/snacks a day.

2. Yes, you will probably need to eat more often to lose fat for life!

3. Serving size: listen to your body. If you are hungry 30 min. later, you didn’t eat enough. If you feel sleepy, you ate too much. If you feel great, you got it right!

Pretty simple, right?

If you’re looking for more nutrition details, then you should read this article:

How to Eat Right: A Short Tutorial on Healthy Eating

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Abs: What they are? How to build them? When will you be able to see them?

Is there already a 6-pack, waiting to be revealed? And why do we all want one in the first place?

May 27, 2018 · 9 min read Can’t look..are they there yet?

So you want abs?

That chiseled, hard, 2 by 3 matrix of not-so-limp-biscuits that will make you look oh-so-sexy. Which you shall then duly flaunt at a beach vacation which was planned for that specific purpose.

And you’ve been working towards it too!

You’ve been crunching and planking and leg-raising and ab-rolling your guts off. And you can feel it coming. You can feel you’re getting stronger down there. But you got nothing to show for it.

That tee, alas, will need to remain on this year too. Sigh.

Sound familiar? Well it does to me.

Having been obese for most of my life, getting that 6-pack was my ultimate fantasy. And the gateway to all my other fantasies.

I’m on the beach, topless, and a hot girl runs past. I’m in the gym, topless, and a hot girl needs help. I’m in the club, drunk, and eventually topless, and that hot girl wants to dance. You get the drift.

But here’s the problem. 13+ years into my fitness journey, and I still don’t have abs!

I caught a few glimpses once, when I was training for a full-marathon. Today, under the right kind of studio lights, if I stand at a particular angle, I can show you a pale silhouette of how they will be once they come. But I don’t have them. And that’s frustrating.

What I do have, after all these years of struggle, is a roadmap to getting abs. And a lot more perspective on why I want them in the first place.

As you’d guess, it’s got a lot to do with the image of a ‘fit’ man/women that the fitness industry has fed us. But as I’m discovering, it goes far beyond just that.

What are Abs?

Abs are muscles.

So anything that applies to growing Muscles , applies to Abs.

To get more specific, Abs are a Set of Muscles. The picture below shows you the 5big parts that make up your abdominal area.

In a later post, I will get into specifics of exercises you need to target each.

For now, all you need to know is that just like your chest and biceps and legs — if you want your abs to grow and look good, you need to work on all 4 separately.

And just like those muscles, you need to hit your abs hard (harder than last time), cause micro-tears in the muscle fibres, and then rest them (2–3 days) to let them grow.

So if you tend to do abs ‘everyday’, that’s not a good idea. It might make you feel good, but it’ll give you very sub-optimal results.

What does ‘Having Abs’ mean?

I bet you’ve heard someone around you say this …

Oh we all have abs, we just need to remove the layer of fat on top and reveal them

Is that true?

Well, in a way, yes.

Remember, abs are like other muscles. So it’s like saying that we all have biceps and triceps, and they’d show up all cut and chiseled if we removed the fat.

True, but then this is how you’d look…

There. Abs. Happy?

Add a bigger frame and some extremely loose skin (due to extreme fat loss) to this, and that’d be a pretty accurate picture of how I looked when I was training for my 42-km marathon. Let’s just say that wasn’t ideal.

So then, if this isn’t what ‘having abs’ is, then what is it.

Three Parts

Abs, or the fitness-magazine-cover-kinds we all desire, are actually built by working on 3 parts. Visibility, Strength & Aesthetics.


Abs are made in the kitchen

I’m sure you’ve heard this too. And it’s true, but only if they change the statement to:

Abs are made visible in the kitchen

You might’ve spent years strengthening your core and defining each micro-sub-part of your ab-system, but if you want to flaunt it, you got to eat right and reduce fat. There just is no other way those abs are going to see the light of (a sunny, beach-y) day.

But how much fat should I lose?

Good question. Here’s a quantitative answer:

Get to <10% body fat (16%-17% for the ladies).

The lower you go, the more cut and defined your abs will appear. But anything over 10%, and you won’t get to see abs.

To give you a visual idea of where you are and where you need to go, here is visual reference of how people with decreasing body-fat percentages look:

Also, here is a list of ways in which you can measure your body fat. I’ll write about this in detail later.

Here’s the kicker though, you can’t have <10% body fat just around your tummy and be fatter everywhere else. Which is another way of saying, there is no way to spot reduce.

Spot Reduction

Is not a thing.

So don’t go on doing hundreds of crunches and then feel disappointed that abs aren’t showing up. Infact, crunches aren’t very good at burning calories You might be better off running or doing HIIT, if fat loss is the aim.

Because when you lose fat, you lose it in a similar percentage from all over.

Let’s say you have 5kg of fat on your tummy and just 1kg on your chest and shoulders. When you lose fat, and say lose 10% of it, you’ll lose it equally from everywhere. That’s 500gm off your tummy, and 100gm off your upper body. No way around it. Sad but true.


I tackled Visibility first, because that’s where the ‘imagery’ of abs starts. We all want abs, not to keep them to ourselves, but to show them off. And for that, they need to be visible.

But if you want your abs not just to show, but to ‘pop’, to jut out of your frame, like packs of biscuits and not single serves, then you got to work on strength. And that has benefits that far, far outweigh the vanity-induced, fitness industry-fed craving for a perfect surfboard.

And guess what! You can’t spot-reduce, but you CAN Spot-Strengthen!

Abs are muscles, remember. So if you want to make them big and strong, you’ve got to grow them. Through Progressive Loading. And rest.

So next time you’re planking, and getting bored extending that 1-minute to 2 and then 3, add some weight! Keep a 10kg plate on your back and plank.

Weighted Planks

Or if you’re doing crunches, hold a 5-kg plate and then crunch. Or if you’re doing leg raises, tie some weight to your ankles and raise.

If you want your core to get stronger, you’ve got to demand more work from it. Heavier work.

And you definitely must want a stronger core. Because it feeds everything else you do.

Want to do heavier deadlifts? Build your core. Want to run longer distances without fatigue? Build your core. Want to sit upright for long hours? Enjoy long bike rides? Not have backaches after long flights? Build your core.

Do it for the ‘popping-out’ look or for strength. But build a solid core, and you’ll be a happier person.


Finally, with visible, strong, big abs in the bag, we come to sculpting the ‘look’.

And as with any kind of sculpting, it’s as much about the sculpture, as it is about the detailing around it. Abs, are not different.

There are 3 other parts around your rectus abdominals, that never get due recognition, but are really key players in getting that sculpted look.


Let’s enlist Arnold’s help to see what these are:

World’s most famous Serratus

I wouldn’t blame you if you thought these were, well, just Ribs.

But they aren’t. They’re a small, incredibly hard to target, set of muscles on both sides of your abs that contribute massively to that ripped look. They provide, if I may call it that, a certain sideways relief, to the boring, straight line abs.

The thing is, when performing dedicated abs work, most women focus on that first motion, bringing the ribs closer to their pelvis with crunch and sit-up variations. In crunches, the lower attachments of the rectus abdominus is fixed and not working, McCall says. Meanwhile, most women spend far less time (if any) drawing their pelvis up to their ribs with exercises such as reverse crunches, which increases recruitment of the lower ends of the rectus abdominis, he says.

But wait. Didn’t we just decide there’s no such thing as upper and lower abs? Yes. But to make things extra complicated, muscle cells (aka fibers) are unique from other cells in the body in that they are multinucleated—meaning they have multiple nuclei, or cellular command centers, that run along the length of each muscle fiber. Each microscopic command center tells its little section of the muscle fiber what to do and when to contract. So even though the rectus abdominis’ muscle fibers run from the sternum to the pelvis, the northern sections can be working hard while the lower ones are just chilling out, and vice versa, McCall says.

The best way to work your abs overall is by doing exercises that engage both the top and bottom sections.

McCall recommends performing exercises that hit both ends of the muscle on a daily basis. The majority of its fibers are aerobic-based (often called “endurance muscles”), meaning you can work them out frequently without overtraining them.

For the upper abs, try crunch variations, wood choppers, and medicine ball slams. For the lower abs, reverse crunches, mountain climbers, and leg lifts (both lying and hanging). Meanwhile, deadbugs, jackknives, ab-wheel rollouts, and boat pose variations will hit both portions.

When performing these moves, it’s vital that you prioritize quality over quantity, Vancouver-based strength coach Meghan Callaway, C.P.T., tells SELF. That’s especially true when it comes to tapping the hard-to-reach lower portion. When you let your back arch and ribs flare during exercises such as leg raises and deadbugs, you reduce the tension throughout the rectus abdominis, and especially in the lower portion of the abdomen near the pelvic attachment, she says.

“When you really pay attention to keeping the back, especially the low back, flat and stable during ab exercises, you can really feel the entire length of the rectus abdominis activate,” Callaway says. She also recommends focusing on inhaling during the “easy” part of the exercise and forcefully exhaling through the “effort” phase to further engage the lower abs.

In addition, you really need to put your mind into it. Think about the part of the abs that you’re trying to hit, and focus on engaging and initiating movement from that part of the muscle.

Finally, don’t feel bad if you follow all of this advice and still don’t have visible lower ab muscles. As we discussed above, because of genetics, some people just carry extra fat below the belly button even when they’re at a relatively low body fat percentage. It’s absolutely fine if you want to achieve a certain aesthetic, but focus on being the best ~ you ~ you can be (yes, as corny as that sounds). There are still plenty of fitness benefits to exercising every area of your core, like improved stability and strength.

You may also like: A Beginner Abs Workout You Can Do In Your Living Room

Can’t Get a Six Pack? A Celeb Trainer Explains Why

Most of you have a six pack. This is the truth. If you exercise occasionally and do resistance training even just once a week, chances are that you do have a six pack. The problem is that it is hidden under a layer of fat.

“But I’m doing everything I can!” you say. “Why is that layer still there?” you ask. “How do I get rid of that layer?” you wonder. Luckily for you, I have answers—and I guarantee that if you really are eating right, exercising, and not making the mistakes below, you will see your six-pack appear. And fast! Here are the top six reasons you aren’t getting the cut, flat abs you’ve always wanted. Take my advice and you may be pleasantly surprised the next time you lift up your shirt in front of the ol’ bathroom mirror! Plus: Get the weight-loss plan proven to work—for men and women! Test panelists scored six-pack abs in six weeks with Eat This, Not That! For Abs…on sale now!


You Are Doing Too Much Cardio

True story: I do a total of 20-30 minutes of cardio per week. Yes, you heard me correctly, per week! I do this for two reasons: 1) I simply don’t have the time. I perform about 40-45 client sessions per week, not to mention running the entire company. 2) Cardio causes me to have more cravings for bad food! When I am training for a race or when I run a little in the summer (more simply because I like being outdoors), I am ravenous the entire day.

I recommend to my clients that they do cardio three times a week of no more than 30 minutes at a time. These 30 minutes are done in interval fashion and will get your body into a burning fat state without keeping you on the treadmill for an hour or more like most people. I have the interval plans outlined in my book if you need more information.


You Aren’t Doing Enough Strength Training

Okay, so let’s say that you are lean and still don’t have a six-pack, or that you are 20 pounds overweight and feel you have no core muscles. Well, they just don’t appear there by you willing them to grow! As Britney Spears once said, “You want a hot body? You better work!” Make sure you are doing 2-3 days a week of resistance training (like the resistance training workouts in the book).

These types of workouts will cover all of your core muscles while also targeting your entire body. By building lean muscle tissue, you will actually be burning more calories at a resting state. Each pound of fat that you replace with muscle burns an extra 40 calories per day simply by being there in your body.


You Eat Way Too Much Dairy

I grew up in Wisconsin—the land of dairy!—so I know a thing or two about cheese. The first thing I know is that it is delicious and packed with calcium. We need that for strong, healthy bones! But do we need to have it with every meal? No way! If you have some milk in the morning, you are all set for the day. But most people have dairy for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even with their snacks. This can cause inflammation and bloating in the body and will surely be one of the culprits covering your midsection. Limit yourself to 1 serving per day.


You Have Too Much Gluten in Your Diet

Gluten is a protein found in wheat products that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. This is found in breads, pasta, cereals and cookies. It’s not bad for many people—but it does cause inflammation in the body, which is something we want to avoid as much as possible. Just try cutting out gluten for two weeks and see how much better you feel and look. I guarantee that if you cut down your gluten intake for a two-week period, you will drop a few pounds!


You Are Doing the Wrong Type of Core Training!

Are you still doing situps? STOP! You are doing more harm than good! A sit-up places an extreme amount of pressure on the lower discs of the spine and only works a small section of your abdominals in exchange. As outlined in my book, try doing front planks, side planks, and the other core blaster combinations that I explain throughout the workout section. These work more muscles in the core while also keeping your spine healthy. WATCH: 15-Minute Aerobic Abs Workout


You Don’t Sleep Enough

That’s right, not enough sleep can be an ab killer. Not only is sleep important for muscle repair, but it is also the #1 cause of stress in the body. When the body is stressed, it releases cortisol, a stress hormone. This hormone tells the body, “Let’s store fat!” (If you aren’t drinking everything in sight, this is why some people lose weight on vacation!) Bottom line: Make sure you get 7-9 hours of quality slumber each night.

Get the New Book!

Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!

After spending countless days and weeks downloading and learning to love (and hate) ab challenge, daily workout, and “water intake” apps, the frustration just doesn’t seem to simmer. Where in the world are those damn abs that I’ve been working on? I’ll let you in on a secret: the ab challenge and daily workout don’t do much when you’re eating pizza for lunch every day.

Gif courtesy of giphy.com

The idea that we get abs through working out is essentially untrue – we already have our abs. Doing exercises for our core only makes them stronger and bigger, prime for reducing our chance of back injury and for improving sports performance. But if your abs aren’t visible, it’s not for this reason.

Getting actual visible abs is instead a result of cardio and a wholesome, healthy diet. If there is a layer of fat covering your abdominal muscles, you could basically do leg raises and crunches every day for months and you’d never see a difference. A healthy meal plan will lower your body fat and uncover your abs, so replace your pizza with a healthier option to make your time at the gym really count.

Gif courtesy of giphy.com

Another reason your abs might not be visible is because you’re focusing more on the number of reps you do as opposed to how much you’re putting into each rep. While doing 500 crunches might seem insane and ridiculous, you’re actually better off doing reps of 15-30 with a heavier weight. You’re also better off having variation in your workouts. Doing the same exercises every time you do your ab workout won’t be as effective as changing it up every time.

#Spoontip: There are tons of free apps with varied abdominal workouts (and more) if you need some inspiration such as Daily Workouts Free, Runtastic Six Pack, and Belly Fat Workout Free.

So, you ask, what can you actually do to get those abs?

1. Cardio

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Cardio is essential to body fat loss. You still won’t see your abs immediately (sorry) but it’ll put you on the right path. Cardio doesn’t only mean going for a five-mile run, because who can do that anyway? There are tons of different ways to go about getting your cardio in such as HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State).

2. Keep Your Reps Low

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The key to your ab workouts is resistance. Try exercises like Russian twists, hanging leg raises, and side bends for a more effective workout. Try three sets of 15 reps. Do this 2-4 times a week alongside your cardio.

3. Steer Away From the “College Diet”

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It’s really no secret that college is full of pizza, beer, and late night popcorn binge eating. While this is great when you’re studying for a final exam every once in a while, it isn’t great in terms of your visible ab development. Eating in the caf can be hard, but nutrition is key in this process. It’s important to get well-balanced meals with protein, carbs, fruits, veggies and more.

Next time you’re eating dinner, shoot for a piece of grilled chicken with some brown rice and a side salad. Sounds boring, but it’ll have a way more effective response on your abs than that BBQ chicken slice you had the other weekend. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices to attain our goals.

You’re not targeting the rectus abdominis

One of the more damaging tenets of modern locker room lore is that you don’t need to dedicate time to exercises that isolate your abs. It’s true that squats, deadlifts and innumerable other compound moves do work your core, but research shows they elicit very little activation in the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscle). To hone the beach body ready midriff you’re after, do each of the below three 15-minute workouts once a week. You can tack them on to the end of a weights session or combine them with some high intensity interval training.

15-minute complete core circuit

15-minute compound move abs workout

15-minute no-crunch six-pack session

Your body fat is too high

You can hit your abs with laser-like precision and build a core that would put Olympians to shame, but unless you’ve scythed away all the flab from your stomach no one’s going to know. “If your body fat isn’t around the 10% mark your abs simply won’t show,” says sports scientist Ross Edgley. For a simple fat hack, accompany every meal with a mug of green tea. A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found thanks to their metabolism-boosting polyphenols a single mug accelerates your body’s break down of fat by a third. Here’s 35 more ways to lose your love handles.

You need to mix up your moves

Your body is smarter than you. Unless you regularly change the methods you use to assault your core the muscles will adapt to the training and stop growing. There are just three different types of body movement that effectively work your abs: flexion and extension moves like crunches; rotation exercises like medicine ball twists; and static contraction moves like the plank or hanging leg lifts. The best abs workouts will incorporate exercises from every movement type. If your routine is getting tired, mix things up with these five innovative abs moves.

You haven’t honed your diet

That abs are built in the kitchen and not the gym may be a hackneyed phrase, but that doesn’t make it any less true. In the quest to build a hardcore core, perfecting your diet is crucial. Follow these nutritional principles from personal trainer Ray Klerck and you won’t go far wrong. To help you along, here’s your six-pack shopping list and 12 quick-prep muscle-building meals. You’re welcome.

You’re not getting enough rest

The oft-ignored third element in the six-pack equation is sleep. It’s when you’re wrestling with the sandman that most muscle is built: your growth hormone levels are elevated throughout the night. What’s more, fail to get enough shuteye and the stress hormone cortisol floods your system, encouraging your body to store fat around your midriff and putting the brakes on your gains. If you’re struggling to log your eight hours first perfect your sleep environment, then use these five steps to better sleep.

Ed Vanstone Ed Vanstone is Digital Director of Men’s Health.

Where are my ABS?

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