We all want the best of both worlds, and we want it all now. We…
This may seem like a daft question, and most of you who have been reading this blog for a while may already know the answer to this question.
But, I was reading an article in a Men’s Health magazine recently which triggered this question. Yes, before you ask, it was purely for entertainment purposes, as the magazine is generally full of shit.
However, lots of guys are concerned about this, especially with summer and sandy beaches just around the corner. So, are you capable? Before I answer, let’s think about how a six-pack is actually achieved.
To get things into perspective, let me ask you a couple of questions:
- Have you ever seen a guy with 20%+ body fat with a six-pack?
- How many skinny guys have you seen with a six-pack?
The answer to the first question is likely no, except in extreme cases of surgical enhancement. The answer to the second question is absolutely LOADS.
Now, does this mean that body fat is the only factor determining your six-pack potential? No.
The amount of muscle you have in your abdominal region will play a part. Only a small part, however, and I would estimate that 70-80% of guys would already have a six-pack if they cut down the excess fat, preferably in a sustainable manner. Read this, this, this, and this to learn how to do it permanently.
The VAST majority of guys will already have a little muscle underneath the layers of fat, even if they’ve never touched a weight in their entire life. This is enough for a visible six-pack.
But, there are two major caveats to this, and Men’s Health touched on this, to be fair to them. Their overall message was stupid, as always, and is consistently something along the lines of:
“Do crunches all day and you’ll have a six-pack in no time.” OR;
“Do ridiculously high volume on isolation movements and you’ll look like Hercules in six weeks.” Or something equally daft – you get the point.
The two caveats are:
- If you have been sedentary your whole life, you will have very little muscle underneath the fat, and if you were to shred down to single digit body fat, it still wouldn’t look very good. It wouldn’t be as impressive a six-pack as someone at the same body fat level, but who also had significant muscle down there.
- It’s likely that if caveat number one is true, then you will also end up looking too skinny overall by the time you are lean enough to reveal a visible six-pack.
Therefore, despite the fact that 70-80% of guys technically have six-pack potential RIGHT NOW, is it in their best interests to reveal it RIGHT NOW? Probably not.
So Men’s Health are correct when they say that in reality, muscle is important. No one wants to have a six-pack if it means they look emaciated elsewhere.
If you think this could be you, I would advise you to build your foundation first. There’s some great articles listed below for guys who currently don’t have a great deal of muscle mass:
However, if you’re dead set on lowering your body fat to reveal your six-pack, then feel free to implement the advice in the first four articles linked towards the top of the page.
How long will it take to build a sufficient base? In this context; building enough muscle to look good (all over) at single digit body fat will depend on your genetics massively. Some guys could do it on one year, others may take 3-4 years.
If you just want a six-pack and don’t mind looking skinny elsewhere, but fear you may not have the abdominal density underneath, it will probably only take about a year of hard training, with a focus on the compound movements and abdominal work.
This is assuming you have been largely sedentary for the majority of your life. Those who have been active and have played sports since they were kids, tend to have six-pack potential without lifting weights at all.
For those who need more abdominal muscle, specifics don’t really matter, as long as you’re hitting the major muscle groups and your abs twice per week, and you’re in a small calorie surplus.