Updated: Aug 3
One of the more common goals for gym goers is a defined six-pack.
Even though developed abs are a very common goal, it’s something many people don’t achieve.
Most people make numerous mistakes when trying to develop their abs.
Mistake One - Not getting lean enough to see definition
For any muscle, if you’re not lean, you won’t see maximal definition. This is especially true for your abs. Since your abdominal muscles are relatively small, and packed close together, you’ll need to be very lean in order to see separation between them. Many people have developed abdominal muscles, but can’t see them well since they have too much body fat.
Abs are like any muscle, you can grow and develop them through resistance training. However, you will need to get quite lean in order to see them.
Mistake Two - Training your abs too frequently
Abs are for some reason a muscle that everyone assumes they can train daily. People think if they do 5 minutes of abs every day, they’ll develop a defined six-pack. This isn’t how we approach any other muscle though…
Abs grow just like every other muscle in your body. Training abs 2-3 times a week close to failure is perfect for growing them. If you are able to train your abs every day, you’re absolutely not training them with enough intensity to grow.
Mistake Three - Not training them directly
Developing your abs is a lot like developing your forearms, they get stimulus from all of the compound lifts you do in your program. For most people, if you’re doing squats, RDLs, rows and overhead pressing, you may never need to train your abs directly.
However, some people still have small abdominal muscles even while doing their compound lifts. If this is the case, you should train abs directly. Doing 2-3 sets of hard ab training, 2 times a week is a great starting point. If you recover well from that and your abs aren’t developing fast enough, add more sets.
Mistake Four - Not loading them / doing too many reps
Abs are also for some reason the only muscle individuals train for time intervals, or excessively high reps. Although abs will respond better to high rep training, that doesn’t mean we should never load them, and do endless amounts of reps.
Try and find exercises you can load, or challenge you enough that you approach failure in the 10-30 rep range. Doing 50+ reps or 3 minute rounds of abs will only build endurance, and not be stimulative enough to grow muscle.
Mistake Five - Not training through full range of motion
The function of your abs is essentially to pull your hips and ribcage together. Abs develop best through full range of motion training, not 1 inch crunches and hip flexor dominant leg lifts. Performing fast, short reps with little mind-muscle connection isn’t the way to develop your abs.
Use exercises where you can use full range of motion, and get a deep stretch and contraction.
Train abs like the other muscles in your body:
Train them with sets of 10-30 reps, and take your sets close to failure.
Train them 2-3 times a week.
Find exercises you can load and progress.
Train through full range of motion.
Once you want to show off your abs, get to a low body fat percentage.
Kurtis Proksch, CSCS, CNC, PTS
Head Strength Coach