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Muscle for life

How Long Does It Take to Get Six-Pack Abs?

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How Long Does It Take to Get Six-Pack Abs?

If you want six pack abs but have no idea how long it’ll take (and if you’re afraid to find out), then you want to read this article.

What is it about six pack abs?

Why are so many people so enamored of a rippling stomach?

Why is it the epitome of being fit and sexy?

Well, I’ll leave those questions to the “fitlosophers” of the world, and instead, answer this one for you:

How long does it take to get six pack abs?

And I mean a real six pack, not some hazy lines that are halfway visible in perfect, “half natty” lighting. 

You know: lean, tight, and defined core muscles, and maybe…just maybe…some vascularity too, gods willing. 😉

Allow me to demonstrate, if I may:

mm six pack

How long does it take to get abs like that?

Well, you’re going to know by the end of this article.

So, if you’ve been cutting for months now and are frustrated with your lack of results, or if you’re just getting started and want to know when you’ll finally see abs in the mirror, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s get to it.

How To Get a Six Pack

I have good news for you:

Getting abs is a lot easier than you’ve been led to believe.

You don’t need to develop orthorexia, choke down handfuls of fat burners every day, or do hours of core workouts every week.

At bottom, there are just three things you have to do to get the abs you really want:

  1. Lose the belly fat.
  2. Do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting.
  3. Do the right ab and core exercises.

Yup, that’s it.

No “weird tricks,” strange diets, or silly supplements.

The long story short is for your abs to really “pop,” you need to have a low body fat percentage and highly developed core muscles.

Most guys need to get down to around 10% body fat to start seeing their six pack come together, and most gals need to hit 20% or so to achieve the same.

(And in case you’re wondering, I’m about 7% body fat in the picture above, so you have to get a couple points below the 10/20% benchmarks to get that hard “super lean” look.)

Now, if that’s news to you, then I recommend that you pause reading this article and head over here, where I break it all down in detail and explain how to do each of those three things correctly.

If we’re already on the same page there, though, then let’s continue…

How Long Does It Take to Get Six Pack Abs?

Alright, the moment of truth.

How long will it take you get a six pack?

If you’re worried that the answer is going to be hopelessly long, take heart.

When you know what you’re doing, getting a shredded stomach doesn’t take nearly as much time or effort as many people think.

The following chart breaks it down.


How Long Does It Take to Get Six Pack Abs?

Click here to download it as a zip file

This chart assumes an average of just one pound of fat loss per week, and it’ll give you an accurate estimate of how long until you can start making your Instagram fam envious. 😉

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Locate the column (vertical division) at the top with your current body fat percentage. (Don’t know your body fat percentage? Check this out.)
  2. If you’re a woman, follow that column down until you hit an orange cell, and if you’re a man, follow it down until you hit a yellow cell.
  3. Trace that row (horizontal division) to the left-hand margin and look at its number, and that’s approximately how many weeks it’ll take you to get six pack abs.

So, for example, let’s say you’re a guy currently sitting at 22% body fat.

First, you find the column for a starting body fat percentage of 22%:

six pack infographic guide 1

Second, you follow that column down until you hit the yellow cell:

six pack infographic guide 2

Third, you follow that row left until you hit the numbers along the margin and see what you get:

six pack infographic guide 3

And voila, you see that it’s going to take you about 25 weeks to get that killer six pack.

Now, the actual amount of time it’s going to take can be slightly more or less depending on how well you stick your diet and training programs, whether you use supplements to speed up the process or not, and how efficiently or inefficiently your body tends to mobilize and burn fat.

You may also find that you don’t quite have the core you envisioned once you reach your target body fat percentage.

For example, you might look something like this guy:

skinny ab guy

Or this gal:

Lindsay Lohan skinny fat.

Not bad looks at all, but just not there yet, either, like these beautiful people:

six pack abs guy

six pack abs girl

Well, genetics aside (which they have in spades), what’s really going on here is the former folk don’t have enough core development to have the whole six pack package that we see in the latter.

Fortunately, that’s easy enough to fix (here’s how).

What About “Stubborn Fat”?

The “big secret” to getting six pack abs is getting lean and developing your core muscles.

And that boils down to proper diet and exercise, not special ab exercises or supplements to “spot reduce” the fat around your belly.

That said, if this is your first six pack rodeo, you’re going to notice something:

If you’re a guy, your belly and lower back fat is going to hang on for dear life, and if you’re a girl, your hips and thighs are going to take their sweet time leaning out.

In other words, you’re going to find that some fat stores on your body go quickly while others barely seem to change.

Well, there are simple physiological reasons for this, and equally simple diet and exercise strategies that you can use to lose this “stubborn fat” faster.

Read this article to learn more.

The Bottom Line on How Long it Takes to Get Abs

Getting a six pack takes time. There’s no way around it.

It doesn’t have to take as much time as you might think, though.

As you can see in the chart above, a couple of months of cutting is all most people need to get their body fat percentage into the right range.

Once you’re there, if you have well developed core muscles, voila, you’ll have a six pack.

If getting lean isn’t enough, though, due to inadequate core development (this is the case for most people that haven’t been training seriously for at least a year or two), then you just need to bring up your core development.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

What’s your take on how long it takes to get abs? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Davena Stowers

    Thank you Mike. Great visual. I am at 19.5% body fat now so – can see the outline. Chart is pretty spot on.

    • Thanks Davena! Keep up the good work! More podcasts coming soon!

  • This is honestly one of the coolest articles I’ve read on here! Great visuals

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it! 🙂

    • Rebecca Kelso

      I agree! The chart breakdown is an awesome resource.

      Quick question: Have you noticed that some women seem to carry weight in a more typically male pattern with the concentration of fat at the belly and low back? For these cases should they follow the guidelines for men when using the chart?

      I’m a huge fan. Love TLS!

  • myrealitie

    Great article! Thank you for the inspiration as I get ready to do a cut to look hot for summer! But I mostly stopped by to comment that I find it quite hilarious that you used Lindsey Lohan as your example of a medium fit woman, hehe. I had to do a double-take there.

  • Eamonn Mckeon

    Hi, I’ve been following your work for a few months and the results I’ve got have been awesome! This has got to be the most informative & friendly fitness community I’ve come across.

    One question: would it be a bad idea to be cutting during exams? I really want to get abs for my holiday in July, but I’m just wondering if studying and doing important exams ( in May and June) whilst in a calorie deficit would have a detrimental effect on performance. I’m at around 14% body fat right now.

  • Heath

    If theres a chart….I believe it

  • EDGAR SANDOVAL

    Hi, I’ve been following your work for a few months and the results I’ve got have been awesome! i’m bulking
    One question: i’m going to stay out of the gym for i month because of thyroid surgery would it be a bad idea to be cutting during recovery?
    the first weeks consists of a liquid diet for reasons……

    • That’s great Edgar! I’d recommend eating at maintenance while recovering. It will speed it up.

  • jcgadfly

    Unfortunately, I split my abs when I weighed 350. Trying to stay between 180-190 right now. With the loose skin and the muscle split abs aren’t happening without surgery.

    • Kirk Schlafer

      J, first of all congratulations on losing so much weight, that is truly impressive. Although I can’t say for sure without seeing a picture, it sounds to me like you have diastasis recti. This typically occurs in men when they become overweight, or in smaller women once they become pregnant (especially with twins or oversized child). You would know you have diastasis if you do a “half sit-up” while looking down at your abdomen, and you notice a dome-shaped protrusion pop out. It’s worth seeing a surgeon to make sure you do not have a ventral hernia, but if you don’t we typically do not recommend surgery as it can be a setup for early or even late complications (don’t get me wrong, a plastic surgeon will offer to do it if you offer to pay him/her… but they are not necessarily thinking about your long term health). Just thought I’d share… I’m a surgeon myself, and I see this at least once or twice a month in my clinic. Better part of valor once diastasis has developed is probably to learn to accept the “new normal.”

    • Great job on the weight loss. Have you looked into the exercises that women do for diastasis recti? Might help!

  • Erin

    i’ve been 8 weeks away from my goal weight for a few months now and the scale just won’t budge. it’s killing me! those thighs and calves just won’t lean out!

  • Henry Ang

    Having the table shown is awesome, there is a sense of direction. Of course there will be some other factors to speed or slow down the progress

  • Katy

    I have been following TLS for about 1 1/2 yrs. now. I even had your team work up a meal plan for me. I am female, 54, 5’2″, 107 lbs., probably about 19.5% body fat? (When I started, I weighed 118 lbs., and around 25%?) It’s been a fantastic tool for me, however, I can’t seem to ditch the pudge in the bottom 2/3rds of my belly! I have a defined “V” on the sides, but the middle won’t flatten out, and I know there are hard core muscles in there, when I poke my stomach, they’re rock hard, just under the surface. So…… Any suggestions as to what I can do, and I’m a little concerned with loosing more weight, as I’m already close to being underweight (although, I do have me some guns! – smiley face)

    • Davena

      Hi Katy, great job! I was one of the first commenters on the bottom – I list my stats there and you can see you and I are almost in the exact same boat.

      I’m 48 and has always worked out in some form so this is my experience. Fasted cardio/weightlifting works! I was legitimately nauseous the first time trying it. After 4 days (took Forge, Phoenix and Pulse stacked before working out) it was like nothing I had ever experienced. The nausea went away, the energy and drive I now have fasted with this stack is kind of scary.

      The fat started dropping from my abs and then I noticed a decrease in the thigh fat.
      Now, I was 21% BF when I started fasted weightlifting/cardio as once you get that low as a woman the fat starts holding on hard so I needed to up my game.

      TRY it. You’ll soon be down 2% without really a change in calories just have faith
      in the PROCESS.

    • Davena

      @Katy – I posted a pretty lengthy response to you but it is flagged as spam – assure you it it not. Hopefully the mod can fix it. 🙂

    • Davena

      Hi Katy, great job! I was one of the first commenters on the bottom – I list my stats there and you can see you and I are almost in the exact same boat. It is IMPOSSIBLE to find an article that shows week by week with photos the abs being revealed. First timers get frustrated since the abs are so tricky they don’t know if they are close or not. (Hint to Mike for an article that will blow up the internet)
      If you can see a V – you are so close. The waist gets much smaller than we expect before true abs show. Our frame of reference makes us THINK we are getting too thin but we’re not. Trust me if you have guns, you are doing it right- trust Mike’s process. I’m 48 and have always worked out in some form so this is my experience. Fasted cardio/weightlifting works! I was legitimately nauseous the first time trying it. After 4 days (took Forge, Phoenix and Pulse stacked before working out) it was like nothing I had ever experienced. The nausea went away, the energy and drive I now have fasted with this stack is kind of scary. The fat started dropping from my abs and then I noticed a decrease in the thigh fat and on the back of the legs. I wear a size 4 but still have some there.
      I was 21% BF when I started fasted weightlifting/cardio as once you get that low as a woman the fat starts holding on hard so I needed to up my game. TRY it. You’ll soon be down 2% without a change in calories just have faith
      in the PROCESS.

      • Davena

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/665cf3827da94f742a25568a41a51995ec3b5680848a07579a50638f09c3f4f0.jpg

        It takes a bit of time for the skin to tighten up on my belly– usually about a week or so. I’ve lost over 20 pounds since Jan 4. Pretty fluffy in this pic from this morning as my body loves the “woosh” effect. LOL One day I can be down 2 pounds from water being released.

      • Davena

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8d505d4806563d754b7297848c4b5eeb1e6cb6262985d9e7b0f17710d54c673b.jpg

        One thing that will drive you crazy is it takes a bit for the skin to tighten up when weight is lost. I have dropped over 20 pounds since Jan 4th following the Thinner Leaner Stronger program. My tummy is a bit soft looking but it’s getting there.

        • Looking great!

        • Katy

          Davena, you look fantastic! Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed comments, it sounds as if you have a great routine down. I may have mis spoke about a “defined” V. I see definition on my stomach area, and see the indents down by my pelvic bones, but I am still fighting flab in the middle. It may be partially due to lack of producing collagen! You look great, congratulations girl 🏋🏻

    • Great job on everything you’ve done so far!

      Hmm can you post a picture? The reason I ask is you shouldn’t have “pudge” at ~19% body fat, which makes me think you might be a bit higher than you realize or could it possibly be loose skin?

      • Katy
        • Davena

          @disqus_LZHD0QD8mu:disqus – Photos always help when you want feedback. Thank you for posting them. I can tell a big difference – especially how lean your forearms have become! Hopefully Mike will hop in here and give his great advice.

          • Katy

            I think you are right, I’m just going to have to “up my game” to take it to the next level. Thanks for the advice!

        • Wow, great job! You killed it! Honestly I’d love to put you up on the website as a success story. I think a lot of women would find you inspiring! What do you think?

          Now, regarding where to go from here, it looks like you’d just have to get a bit leaner to have the REALLY tight look that you’re envisioning. It doesn’t look like you’re dealing with loose skin.

          Have you seen this?

          https://legionathletics.com/how-to-calculate-body-fat/

          • Katy

            Thanks for the link, Mike. Yes, I believe I was mixing the two up, and I obviously have more work to do. I’d rather not have my pictures posted, as of now, but maybe in the future? I think I just need to up my game a lot, work harder, to take it to the next level. There are some things in my life I haven’t given up and, probably holding back my progress. When I started this process, I wasn’t even sure I’d stick with it, but your book makes it easy, and its kinda addictive! I’m thinking a new meal plan might help, as I am down by about 12lbs. from where I started and the last one I ordered……

          • Sounds good! Keep up the awesome work 🙂 Glad to hear the book makes it easy and enjoyable.

      • Katy

        Idk why my pictures are posting sideways, sorry! I took these about a month ago. Any advice is totally welcome!

      • Katy

        Against my better judgement…… here’s a picture when I started lifting weights, (back then it was little dumbbells 💩) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/68bd50fbdad427743632be10346f14d3345632994ed44df2b7ba7c8527f3ee39.jpg

  • Alex Hodgkiss

    Hi-great article; very timely for me. Recently been on a cut for 14 weeks. My supraliac measurement has gone from 12 to 3mm approx, dropped about 17 pounds, lean everywhere and have top two abs. My starting bf was approx 15%-16%. However, I don’t have definition below the upper two abs. I was thinking perhaps it might be because of lack of core development, but I can definitely feel a layer of fat. Really frustrating because I’m lean everywhere else and feel like I’ve been cutting for a long time now (quite sick of it).. Would you recommend maybe a few more weeks, with some fasted cardio to shake things up? Thanks

    • Thanks Alex! Great job on the fat aloss.

      Can you post a picture? I can advise from there.

  • JR

    Hi Mike, great post as always! If I may offer a suggestion, I think it would be helpful to advise folks to get a decent caliper to measure their body fat on a fortnightly or monthly basis to check their progression. Also, there’s a psychological element of making a goal (e.g., 9%) and placing a date against this goal to reinforce it. Strangely, one can imagine themselves at their desired goal and attempt to feel the success of being there. I know it’s all that positive psychological fluff but it can really work! For anyone preparing for 10 or below BF%, expect to buy new pants often depending on where you start. Chunk the old pants to charity and promise yourself to never return! That’s fun.

  • Steven Bombardieri

    Hi Mike, great article. I’m currently working on the 3 day split with 3 day HIIT sessions and I’m at 28% bf. Will this be enough effort or should I move to the 4 or 5 days split. I cannot do cardio session in the morning as I leave early to commute to work. So I either do my cardio every other day or will need to spend 1.5+hrs to do a double weight/cardio session. Is your chart based on cardio / weights and diet? Is Cardio necessary? Thanks Steven

    • Thanks Steven!

      You can definitely lose 1 to 2 pounds per week with your setup, which is exactly what you want.

      Cardio isn’t necessary, but it does help speed up the process.

      How have you been progressing so far?

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Sarai Baker

    Hi Mike! I’m also in the same boat as a few others that commented (hodgkiss and Katy): low bf everywhere EXCEPT over my abs. I do 1.5hrs of cardio every day in addition to split 6 days a week. I eat typical body builder meal plan – 5 meals a day, protein each meal. I have veins bulging out of my arms, legs, and obliques but yet I have FAT on my middle section. So frustrating!! I’ve been going strong on the plan for 120 days now and I know that I can get the abs if I dry out (like I did for a competition in the fall) but I want the flat stomach all the time and I know if others can get it then I can get it too. Any suggestions? Here are my pics https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6f2c180041161fd4de47152f2e1202b88b7730d45fe31859a0694bc431da465f.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/94769ccf92692e37d9cdba9c22ab69b795ce831dbd07514ae1402a7dfe773c5a.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e71bab63d62a7aff1ac2bdab442effa4e795c6b03432699165092acdec1c101c.jpg

  • TD

    I found to get the abdominal definition I currently have didn’t involve loads of effort. But I would imagine getting a real defined six pack would require my diet to be absolutely on point, and much more focused than it is now. Depends on what your goal is though. I really liked the user friendly chart you included here. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ea96c0be6403becc7bfceb2a6e398bd1025660b7f77edc18d8f141ba0c6a1c49.jpg

    • Nice work! Yes, you would have to adhere to cutting targets to make steady progress. Keep up the great work. Glad you liked the chart 🙂

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