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How To Get Six Pack Abs With Training (The Science Explained)

Abs are made in the kitchen, but if you want them to pop, you also need to develop them.

Building visible abs is a big goal for many people every year, but many embark on a training journey without really knowing how to get six pack abs.

A couple of elements are at play when working towards building six-pack abs: diet and exercise.

“You build your abs with training, and then you reveal them with diet,” explains pro bodybuilder Jeff Nippard.

Assuming you have a solid diet in place which supports lean body composition, these training principles can help you get six pack abs.

Whether you’re aiming for visible abs for your health, aesthetic preference, or physical performance, learn how to get six pack abs below:

Basic abs anatomy

Your abs are comprised of the following muscles:

  • External oblique: flexes the spine, flexes laterally, helps rotate trunk, and compresses abdominal wall.
  • Internal oblique: helps rotate the trunk, and aids with lateral flexing.
  • Transverse abdominis (TVA): aids in core stability, compresses abdominal contents.
  • Rectus abdominus: these are the six-pack muscles themselves; they flex the lumbar spine and contribute to trunk rotations.

Training the abs for growth – how to train the rectus abdominus?

Once you’re lean enough, you can think about growing your abs to really make them pop.

The rectus abdominus is the muscle that contributes the most towards six-pack abs. To grow this muscle you have got to target it, and the best way to do so is through isolation exercises, research found.

resistance band ab exercisesSource: Photo Courtesy of CrossFit Inc

Best isolation exercises to get six pack abs

Electromyography (EMG) is the gold standard for determining muscle action, and the following isolation exercises have been found to elicit the most muscle activity and thus be efficient in growing the rectus abdominus.

  • Crunch and sit-up variations: these exercises have been shown to elicit high levels of abdominal activity.
  • Ab slide: compared to other ab exercises such as the double leg thrust and side bridge, the ab slide produced the greatest (EMG) activation of the rectus abdominus.
  • Hanging leg raise: while the muscle activation with this exercise is great, it also requires strong hip flexors, which might give out before your abs muscles come close to failure. If you don’t have a bar, the lying leg raise/vertical hip flex is a great replacement.

It’s possible to target upper and lower regions of the abs separately.

How often to train abs?

If you keep the intensity and volume of your abs training down, for most people, training abs can be done 3-6 sessions per week, with 2 different exercises per session, and 3-4 sets per exercise.

It’s important to also train the spinal erectors of the lower back.

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