Guide to Having Six Pack Abs for Skinny Guys

Being skinny doesn’t automatically mean you’re gonna have a breeze getting ripped abs — nuh-uh! It ain’t easy for a skinny guy to build a 6 pack, but it also ain’t impossible!

How to get bigger abs, you ask? In this article, we’ll explain why you can be skinny but no abs are showing, and what you can do about it to get bigger abs.

Skinny means having little muscle mass; and since your abs are muscles, they need to be developed.

Technically, everybody already has abs. Whether it is a six, eight, ten, or twelve-pack is all determined by genetics. The issue is that they are not defined

Two factors play into having abs you can show off:

  1. Body fat percentage
  2. Muscle mass

So, to get a chiseled midsection, you have to build and burn

Getting jacked and developing ripped abs may be difficult for skinny guys. Abs are already there, you just have to train and eat a balanced diet to get those abs poppin’! Read further to find out how.

Body Fat

The subcutaneous fat layer is found under the skin. This creates a flabby and soft appearance if body fat is high. More importantly, it is one of the reasons why your washboard abs do not show.

Under that fat layer are your muscles; and the thinner this layer is, the more defined your abs will be.

Thus, for body fat, the goal is to reduce it to bring the percentage down to at least 12%. You need to burn that fat to make it thinner — and, yup, that means having to go into a caloric deficit.

Note that we are all genetically predetermined to store more fat in some areas and little in others. Some gain most of their fat in the belly, while others store fat in their arms or legs.

And, one more thing, you cannot spot-reduce fat. I hate to break it to you, but the idea that you can burn fat in a specific area is a hoax. So, remove that waistband from your cart and better spend your money on something legit — like nutritious food!

Muscle Mass

Your muscles are wrapped in fascia, the membrane that determines the muscles’ shape. Think of it as a balloon. The more air you blow into it, the more defined its shape.

The same thing happens with muscle. You need to fill the fascia with more muscle (thicker fibers) so they have a rounder and more pronounced look.

Another factor that affects ab definition is not knowing how to feel or control your abdominal muscles.

That fitness influencer flaunting their ripped 6 pack on Instagram is most likely flexing as they click on the photo. And, assuming you’re a beginner, you may not know how to feel or flex them yet.

You need to flex your abs to see them, unless you are under 8% body fat. Even then, their appearance can’t compare to a flexed appearance.

Thus, a lack of ab definition means you do not train them, or, at least, not enough. You either have poor development or poor control of your abdominal muscles. Most likely, it is both.

Table of Contents

  • How and What to Eat
    Caloric Deficit
    Nutrition
  • How to Train
    Cardio
    Ab Training
  • Ab Workout Template

1 – How and What to Eat

Go on a caloric deficit

The first thing you need to do is to go on a caloric deficit.

When you burn more calories than you consume, your body resorts to your stored energy (in the form of fat) to fuel its metabolic processes. The goal for this is not just to lose weight, but to lose fat. But, be careful not to cut out too many calories from your daily intake!. I recommend a deficit of 300 calories to start.

We want to retain as much muscle as possible during this period. You are essentially going on a cut as bodybuilders call it — burn fat while retaining or even gaining muscle mass.

Important nutrients to consume

Protein is king

You have to eat more protein to build big abs.

A high protein diet boosts your metabolism, curbs your appetite and unhealthy cravings, and optimizes the production of weight-regulating hormones. [1][2][3]

Shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to put you in the most optimal state to burn fat and build muscle. You’ll be on your way to developing bigger abs in no time!

Omega-3 is essential

High Omega-3 intake has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, accelerate fat loss, decrease muscle breakdown, and reduce unhealthy inflammation. [4]

Focusing on the first two benefits stated above, consuming Omega-3 fatty acids will surely help you build big abs and burn the fat that’s keeping your abs hidden.

Since you’ll have to be in a caloric deficit, Omega-3 fatty acids will also help you retain your hard-earned muscle. Plus, it will help you keep your overall health in check by reducing chronic inflammation that’s been associated with life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Hence, Omega-3s are mega, indeed! They are a powerhouse nutrient that will significantly bolster your ab-building efforts.

Fiber for satiety and fat loss

Fiber is only found in plants. The type that we consume from plants is called dietary fiber. And, it has two forms: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber seems to be the best type to take since they have the most effect on belly fat.

This type binds with water and forms a thick gel-like substance in your gut. Also, soluble fiber encourages bacterial diversity in your GI tract, which has been linked to less belly fat.

Hence, it leaves you feeling satiated for longer, decreases your appetite, and helps you improve your body composition. [5

Carbs should be managed

Table sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. When you consume too much sugar, your liver will get overloaded with fructose. As a result, the liver will be forced to turn this into fat.

Most experts believe that the harmful effects of added sugar or sugar-sweetened drinks are because of this process.

It increases abdominal and liver fat, which not only leads to insulin resistance, but also other health problems.

Also, try to lower your overall carb intake. Aim for a 40/30/30 macro split. 40% of your calories come from protein, 30% from carbs, and 30% from fat.

Why so, you ask?

Assuming that you have a high body fat percentage, you are most likely insulin resistant. Being insulin resistant means that when you over-consume calories –most especially carbs — your body would end up storing them as fat instead of muscle glycogen. [6]

2 – How to Train

Cardio

Nope, resistance training isn’t the first thing to focus on when your abs don’t show!

You can do low to medium-intensity cardio sessions for 30-60 minutes every other day.

This helps you burn 400-500 calories, which, in a week, gives you a total of 1600-2000 calories burned.

Combined with your 300/day or 2100/week caloric deficit, you’ll be able to lose a pound of fat per week.

You need to burn 3500 calories to shed a pound of fat. But, we don’t want this to happen abruptly because the faster you lose weight, the less likely it will all come from fat. So, you have to be patient and trust the process.

If you tend to get bored with long cardio sessions, I recommend doing high-intensity interval sessions. Think sprints, rows, rope-skipping, indoor cycling, and even boxing.

They help you burn as many calories within a significantly smaller time frame. Plus, they are superior when it comes to improving overall health and, hence, quality of life. [7]

Ab Training

Muscles are stimulated to grow when they are trained in their shortened and lengthened position in one movement. This causes myofibrillar growth, or growth of the actual muscle fibers.

So, what exercises are great for this?

Crunches and leg raises are some of the best exercises for your abs. The former works the upper abdominals, and the leg raises work the lower. Start incorporating them into your workouts.

I recommend using an ab pad when you do crunches. It’s a simple pad that sits at the bottom of your back and supports the spine with a cushion. This helps you get a full range of motion and removes the hip flexor from the movement as well.

Also, I like using the term crunch over “sit-up” because most people botch the sit-up. With the crunch, think about crushing an ostrich egg between your chest and upper thighs.

Leg raises can be done using a bench or padded dip/leg-raise equipment.

When you raise your legs, make sure you lift your femurs above parallel (to the ground). The end part of the movement is where maximal flexion of the lower abs occurs.

You can also do this on a pull-up bar. This allows a bigger stretch on the abdominals at the start position, which primes it for better muscle activation.

For both movements, the most important thing is to contract your abs. You should feel tension in the abdomen, not the lower back.

To do this, exhale while tensing your abdominals on the concentric or lifting portion of the movement.

Bigger abs may mean an IG-worthy body, but it’s more than just looking good.

The abs are a key to stabilizing your body for heavy lifts like squats and deadlifts. So, think of building abs as getting stronger than looking hotter.

A simple yet highly effective exercise for core strength is planks.

It is an isometric movement, so all you have to do is support your body with your feet and your elbows. Hold it as long as you can. And, strive to hold the plank position longer for every ab session you do.

You can also opt for a more difficult version of core training, such as ab-rollouts. You’ll need an ab wheel for this one. 

No matter how you want to go about your ab training, I have one reminder for you: Do not complicate it.

That usually is the pitfall for most gym buffs that quit working towards a chiseled midsection. 

They turn simple exercises into a mish-mash of whatever they see fitness influencers do and then tell themselves that “getting abs is too difficult.” 

Stick to the basics. Learn how to properly do them. Then, you can get maximum stimulus which equates to a better feel.

Great things take time, as they say. So, be patient and don’t be discouraged when you don’t see results immediately. Just keep going!

Lastly, you should not train abs every day.

They are the same as every body part you train. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that muscles need time to recover and, hence, grow.

3Ab Workout for Skinny Guys

ExerciseSetsReps
Crunches410-20
Leg Raises510-20
*Planks5As long as possible
*Roll-Outs48-12

Final Thoughts

It takes three simple things to get a coveted six-pack: Eat protein, do cardio, train your abs.

The combination of these three keeps your metabolism revving, burns the excess fat covering your muscles, and makes sure you have muscles to show (when you’ve finally reached low body fat, of course).

As a reminder, your abs are just one part of your body. You should approach nutrition and training holistically. Focusing on abs alone won’t get you abs, ever.

So, what’s the first step you’re taking to get bigger abs?

FAQ

1 – Why do some skinny guys not have abs?

A skinny person typically carries little muscle mass. And, they also tend to store fat around their abdomen. This is especially true for ectomorphs.

A lack of muscular development plus a high body-fat percentage means no a lack of abdominal definition.

2 – How lean do you need to be to have abs?

Ideally, you have to be at 12% body fat to start to see the definition in your abs. The lower the percentage of your body fat, the better that definition will be.

3 – How do you get a six-pack fast?

There are no shortcuts to building a six-pack. It requires discipline, patience, and diligence. Take note and follow the info I shared above, and you’ll accelerate your ab-building progress and get a six-pack in no time.

4 – How do you maintain six-pack abs?

To maintain your ab definition, make sure you stay below 12% body fat. Count your calories, do cardio, and train your abs regularly to keep them looking sharp and defined.

5 – How long does it take to get abs if you’re skinny?

How long it takes will depend on your current body fat levels and how sound your nutrition and training are. Realistically, give yourself at least 2 months of consistency in the kitchen and the gym to get those abs popping.

6 – How to get big ab muscles?

You have to train them to make them grow, bud! Just like any other muscle group.

Instead of bodyweight ab exercises, you can use dumbbells or weight plates to add more resistance and, hence, force bigger adaptations aka bigger muscle growth.

7 – Why do I have love handles if I’m skinny?

Being skinny doesn’t mean you are not fat. Skinny people can still have a high body fat percentage. And, some people tend to store their fat around their waist, hence, the love handles.

Imad Deryan

My name is Imad, and I struggled to gain mass in the past due to my metabolism and being very skinny. In this blog, I share the best reviews and advice when it comes to gaining weight and mass, for all the people that are struggling like I was.

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