The Actual “Six-pack Shortcut” (How to Get Abs)

The six-pack abs aesthetic is at the very peak of the fitness industry marketplace. Everywhere you look someone is trying to sell their “six-pack shortcuts“, the latest and greatest core training program, or any of the laundry list of core related fitness gadgets out there. It’s all bullsh*t.

Abs are Simple.

What’s good to understand is just because something is simple does not mean automatically mean it’s easy. For example, “run 100 miles” is an extremely simple workout. One exercise. One training variable. Simple. There’s obviously nothing easy about it. 

The six-pack ab goal falls right into this category. Simple…but maybe not so easy.

Unfortunately fitness influencers have warped many individuals perceptions of what actually goes into achieving the coveted six-pack ab goal, resulting in things looking way more complicated than they actually are. Do you need a specific program? A new fad diet? The latest and greatest overpriced ab equipment? Maybe all three? No.

Here’s the actual process you should follow if you are truly chasing those sixpack abs (Spoiler warning: It’s not a long list).

1. Establish a Calorie Deficit (Manipulating Bodyfat %)

Abs are so simple it can be explained in two words. Calorie. Deficit.

That’s it. That’s the coveted six-pack “shortcut“. If you maintain a calorie deficit for long enough, you will eventually be able to drive yourself to a low enough bodyfat percentage that you will reveal your underlying rectus abdominus (your abs).

That’s truly all a six-pack is, acquiring a low enough bodyfat % that the underlying muscle is visible. I told you this was simple.

Now, here’s the not so easy part. Depending on where your current bodyfat % is at, this could take a considerable amount of time to achieve. (Yeah that video that was promising you a 6 pack in 6 weeks, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this but…they lied to you…*cue dramatic betrayal music*.)

How long a six-pack ab goal will take can only ever be judged on a case by case basis. The higher your current bodyfat %, the longer you can expect things to take and that’s okay.

Additionally, all of us have variability in where our body chooses to store fat. For some this means six pack abs come easier because their body will mainly store fat in other areas like the legs or chests as opposed to their stomach. For others, abs may be frustrating in that their body mainly stores fat around their stomach or waist.

Again, this is OKAY. Just gotta play the hand you were dealt.

2. No, You Cannot “Spot Reduce” Fat

So we’ve established that getting a six-pack is simply a weight loss game until you hit a target bodyfat %.

Almost immediately people will ask if they can speed up this process by doing core exercises to specifically “target” the fat around their stomach.

Unfortunately this won’t work. You cannot, what is referred to as “spot reduce” fat. Meaning, you cannot target any area of your body specifically so fat loss occurs in that region. You have to loss overall bodyweight and in turn reduce your overall bodyfat % as a whole.

There is no getting around this.

I specifically say this because it’s still a common thing for morally bankrupt “trainers” to try and sell you programs to “target bellyfat“. You just can’t. Your body will choose where the fat that is burned is coming from and you cannot influence this to any considerable degree.

Stay the course, and focus on reducing overall bodyfat % as a whole to reveal those abs through a consistent calorie deficit.

3. What About Direct Core Training!?

Wait, I thought I needed to do 1000 sit-ups to get abs?

Eh…Maybe.

If you participate in regular physical activity of any kind, truth is you probably have enough muscle mass to be able to reveal a six-pack solely by lowering your bodyfat percentage.

In fact, lots of people have six-packs without ever having to directly train them (Infuriating I know).

However, if you are just now getting into physical activity, or maybe lacking in the muscle mass department, then yes some direct core training could help alongside a dedicated habit to your calorie deficit. You could also choose to add the direct core work in to make your abs potentially bigger/ more aesthetically shaped even if you already have enough muscle mass.

So yes, direct core work could help your goal…but in some cases might not be needed. 

What’s good to note here is direct core training is not what “reveals” your abs. Like we talked about above you can thank the calorie deficit and reducing your bodyfat % for that. Think of it more as “bonus points” then the actual “meat and potatoes” of a six-pack goal.

What core training could do for you however is give you that bigger, stronger, more “firm” core. Keep in mind if you are targeting your abs with direct core work you will be making the muscles bigger in the same way you’d make your biceps bigger with curls. For some people they don’t like the “big blocky ab” appearance so it’s good to note before you decide to full send your ab routine.

4. CONCLUSION

Yes. That really is all there is to abs. 

If anyone tells you otherwise I promise they are selling you something.

Hopefully, this leaves you feeling at least a tiny bit less stressed if this is a goal you really want. You’re still going to have to put in the work yourself, but at least you know exactly what you should focus in on.

(Are abs overrated?)

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.