Ah, the elusive abs. Of all the milestones of my fitness and weight loss journey, achieving abs was both the most difficult and the most rewarding.
After I posted this picture, I got flooded with messages asking, “How do I get abs?!?”
So here it is! Exactly how I toned my stomach and how you can do it too.
The thing about getting abs is that the process is actually SUPER simple.
So why do so few people have them?
Because it takes a LOT of consistency and dedication and frankly, most people will give up.
But not you.
You have the secret sauce now.
Below is everything you need to know to get a lean and flat belly.
3 Step Process to Getting Abs
The process for getting abs is extremely simple and can be broken down into 3 easy steps:
Step 1: Lose Belly Fat
First things first, you could have the most ridiculously strong and defined abdominal muscles out there, but they will go completely unseen if you have a layer of stomach fat over them.
All too often I see people in the gym who are significantly overweight doing tons and tons of crunches and ab exercises.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to strengthen your core no matter what, but if your goal is to have visible, defined abs and you have a significant layer of fat on your belly, then your first priority should be to reduce your body fat.
In order to be able to see your abs, you have to get your body fat percentage to an extremely low amount.
For women, you will need to be roughly between 15%-18% body fat.
For men to have visible abs, they need to be around 11%-13% body fat.
Body fat percentages this low, especially for women, are often regarded as being too low to maintain for long periods of time due to health concerns.
They are often sought after for specific events and competitions and then the body fat percentage is brought back up to healthier levels again afterwards.
Scroll to the Body Fat Calculator section on this post to see images of what different body fat percentages look like on men and women to get a better idea of where you are currently.
There are two different kinds of fat: visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.
Visceral fat is what grows around our organs and is dangerous to our health.
Subcutaneous fat is the fat we’re really concerned with for the purposes of getting abs.
It is the fat that grows just below our skin.
The good news is the work we put in for getting rid of the subcutaneous fat to reveal our abs will also be effective for reducing visceral fat as all.
Okay, so how do you lose your stomach fat?
One of the BIGGEST myths surrounding weight loss and fitness is that you can spot reduce fat.
You cannot spot reduce fat.
“But I just want to lose fat on my stomach, I don’t want to lose my butt!!”
Sorry. I 100% promise that anyone who tells you that you can spot reduce fat is lying to you.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I’m only going to give you the facts.
Some people naturally hold on to more fat in different areas of their body and lose fat in areas of their body faster, but there is nothing you can do to control this.
When you start losing body fat, it will come off where it pleases.
Here’s how to lower your body fat enough to make your abs visible:
Tips on How to Burn Fat
1. Eat in a caloric deficit.
The rules of weight loss (withholding special circumstances) are simple:
Eat less calories than the amount of calories you burn.
How do you know how many calories you burn in a day? A calories burned calculator.
How do you know how much of a deficit and how many calories you should be eating? A calorie calculator.
2. It’s not just about calories..
Have you ever heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”?
If you haven’t, there you go, you have now.
It’s a very popular saying and for good reason.
More than anything else, if you want abs, your diet has to be completely on point.
If you want abs, I highly recommend following the IIFYM style of eating.
Following IIFYM will help you to reduce your processed foods intake and increase the amount of whole foods you eat while still allowing you flexibility.
IIFYM is also known as macro tracking.
From a high level, this means you can eat whatever you want, as long as you hit your macro goals.
Of all the “diets” I’ve tried, I always come back to IIFYM.
I see the best results with it, and more importantly, I feel the best on it.. I’m more energized, I sleep better, I feel stronger.
It’s all about hitting optimal levels of macro nutritients personalized for your body.
3. Take advantage of supplements.
Let me be clear by first saying that supplements are never required or necessary.
However, I do take them when I am cutting body fat and need a little extra help.
I never, ever recommend weight loss pills as they have significant side effects that can affect your health negatively.
That being said, as always, consult your doctor before making any changes at all to your diet or exercise routine.
4. Drink enough water.
Drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day will help you burn fat faster.
For example, if you weigh 150lbs, you want to get at least 75oz of water per day.
Although it is common to go beyond that to try and get in at least a gallon a day.
Do not skip this step. Getting enough water will play a huge role.
5. Reduce water retention.
Once you’ve gotten your body fat percentage down, you may still be holding to extra water in your abdomen that could be diminishing the visibility of your abs.
Keeping your sodium intake moderate can help avoid this effect. You can monitor your sodium levels by tracking it in food tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal.
If you already feel some bloating and extra water weight, sweating it out can help reduce the effect.
Sweet Sweat is a gel that you can rub over your abdomen along with a waist trimmer that is worn over it to help you sweat out the extra water you may be holding onto.
The gel also helps your circulation and muscle fatigue, so I also put it on my arms and legs depending on the workout, but I always put it on my stomach during cardio.
Step 2: Strengthen Your Core
While this is a 3 step method, these are not meant to be sequential steps.
You do not need to wait until you’ve gotten your body fat percentage down to begin working on your core and ab muscles.
Ideally, we want to be working on our abs so that when we do get our body fat percentage down it will reveal our awesome abs that were hiding underneath.
It should go without saying that you should also be working out during this time.
What workouts should you be doing?
Obviously we want to get some ab work in.
But we need to be doing other workouts as well to again help us get our body fat percentage down.
When it comes to which workout you should do..
I go over the best workouts for fat loss here, but..
It’s more important to pick something that gets your body moving that you’ll enjoy so that you’ll remain consistent with it.
Personally, I do a mix of cardio and weight lifting.
You don’t need to do full days of abs every single day.
5-10 minutes at the end of your workout is plenty.
We’ll go over some ab workouts below.
What Kind of Abs Do You Want?
People have different definitions of what abs are.
Some people are thinking of the full on ripped six pack.
Other times you may be just picturing a very lean, toned stomach.
How to Get Lean Abs
If you just want a lean, toned stomach, you don’t need to get your body fat quite as low as if you wanted a full on six pack – as you might have noticed from the pictures in the body fat percentage post.
The other difference is that you want to stick to body weight ab exercises.
How to Get a Six Pack
If you want a six pack, you’ll need to get your body fat percentage on the lower end of the visible abs spectrum
You can absolutely get a six pack by still doing just body weight ab exercises, however, if you want to speed up the process and get even more defined abs, you can add in weight.
Weighted ab exercises are essentially the same as the body weight version, except that you add in some additional weight one way or another.
For example, while doing sit ups, you can hold a weight out in front of you.
You alter many ab exercises this way. You can get creative in how you add in the weight, the goal is to make the exercise more difficult than before and make your ab muscles have to “lift” the extra weight.
Step 3: Stay Consistent
As I mentioned in the very beginning, the hardest part, and where most people fail is in consistency.
Depending on your starting point, it could take a lot of time before you start actually seeing your abs show through.
Don’t let that discourage you. You’ll still be seeing progress along the way.
I always recommend taking progress pictures so that you can see your progress as you go. You’ll be surprised how motivating this can be!
Abs Workout for Women
8 Week Total Body Transformation Challenge
If you really want to transform your body and get a landed tone belly, as of this writing, I have a few open spots left in my 8 week challenge and I would love to have you join.
It includes 8 full weeks worth of workouts laid out for you day by day (including abs of course!!), a nutrition plan based on the IIFYM approach we discussed, weekly checkins to help you feel accountable and give you a chance to ask me any questions you may have!
You will be amazed at what an incredible difference in your body in just 56 days with the right plan and dedication.
Here’s a recent picture of my ab results from following this plan..
Getting started with a challenge is a great way to build up the habit of working out and making better food choices too!
30 Day Challenge Abs
If your body fat is already relatively low, here is a good 30 day challenge for you to build up your core strength and get more defined abs.
Keep in mind following these workouts will only help you to reveal your abs if your body fat is already to a low enough percentage.
If you need help reducing the fat first, I recommend the plan above.
Add each days ab workout to the end of your normal workout.
Don’t forget to follow the other tips and your diet during this time!