| May 17, 2021
Read time: 3 min.
As a personal trainer, I’m often asked how to get chiseled abs. To begin, we all have abs, they’re just underneath our body fat. Further, your genetics will determine what your abs look like. Some will have a four pack, others 6. Some will have visible abs sitting at 20% body fat, others have to get down to 10% body fat. While there are some genetically gifted folks out there, most of us have to get really lean. It sounds simple in theory, but the reality is much more complicated than that. Other things to consider are your digestion, training routine, and stress.
The most obvious solution to getting abs is to lose body fat. Eat in a caloric deficit, but be warned, you might not have visible abs until you’re really lean. Low energy, no libido, poor recovery, poor sleep, and loss of muscle mass can all be very real side effects of achieving low body fat percentages. In addition, you’ll have to maintain this new low body fat percentage to keep your abs. This likely means you’ll be on a pretty strict diet indefinitely. Tread lightly.
If you have poor digestion, it’ll be harder to have visible abs. Bloating, gas, malabsorption, and other sources of inflammation draw water to the area, making it much more difficult to have visible abs. I’ve had clients drop as much as 10lbs alone from addressing their digestion, no changes to calories or exercise. This is especially true for those with Crohn’s Disease, IBS, and Ulcerative Colitis, but it can also be a problem for those who are frequently bloated.
I know, I know. Your favourite influencer told you that you don’t need to train your abs to get abs. While this is technically true, they’re missing an important piece of the puzzle. Abs grow just like any other muscle. The more you train them, the more they grow. If your abs are bigger in size, it’s easier to have visible abs at higher body fat percentages than was previously possible. In addition, your core is really important for living a healthy life. A strong core protects your back, pelvis, and complements your heavy compound lifts. Most people would benefit from training their core more often. I aim for clients to train their abs 3-4 times a week, 10 minute circuits, at the beginning or end of their workouts. My favourite exercises include plank, deadbugs, palof press, farmer’s carries, hollow back rocks, and reverse crunches.
This one often gets missed. When you’re stressed, it doesn’t matter how well you’re eating, digestion will be impacted. Prolonged, this can lead to water retention in the abdominal region, in addition to chronic elevated cortisol levels. Long term, this will cause more body fat to become stored in the abdominal region, making it more difficult to have visible abs.
In short, having visible abs come down to genetics, body fat percentage, digestion, training routine, and stress management. This is why most people aren’t walking around with magazine worthy abs, it can be really difficult to achieve. At the end of the day, having abs is cool, but it isn’t worth sacrificing your ability to concentrate at work, perform in the gym, or eat out with your family.
& remember, your weight is the least interesting thing about you.
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