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How to Get Abs in 3 Simple Steps That Anyone Can Do

How to Get Abs in 3 Simple Steps That Anyone Can Do

If you’re struggling to get abs and want to know, in simple terms, how to get the lean, muscular core that you really want, then you need to read this article.

I’m not sure any of us can say why, but having abs is cool.

They’re sexy, something to be proud of. To show off, even. They’re the fitness equivalent of “having arrived.”

That’s probably why many people start working out with the sole purpose of getting a six pack.

And then the confusion begins.

Diet after diet, workout after workout, supplement after supplement, all claiming to be the key to getting a ripped core.

Frustration is next.

After months of trying anything and everything, still no abs. Just belly flab.

Well, if you can relate to any of that, you’ve come to the right place, because in just a few minutes, you’re going to know the exact steps to get abs.

And I think you’re going to be happy to see that it’s much easier than you’ve been led to believe by mainstream “gurus.”

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” or strange diets or silly supplements.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

1. Lose the belly fat.


You’ve probably heard that everyone has abs…underneath the belly fat.

Well, it’s true.

Everyone has abdominal muscles, and in some cases, they’re naturally well developed but not visible because because there’s too much fat covering them.

Get rid of the blubber, though, and, voila, a six pack “magically” appears.

Now, this probably isn’t news to you. Most people know or at least suspect that they have to lose their belly fat to see their abs, but just don’t know how to do it.

Well, the first thing you need to know on that front is this:

Despite what you may have heard, you can’t “spot reduce” your belly fat by doing ab exercises.

Research shows that exercising a muscle group increases blood flow and lipolysis (the breakdown of fat cells into usable energy) in the area, but not enough to noticeably reduce surrounding fat stores.

That means that no amount of crunches, leg raises, and planks are going to get you to your goal.



You also can’t burn away belly fat with special diets or supplements. “Clean eating” and pill popping isn’t enough to get the job done.

What you can do, though, is reduce your body fat percentage.

That is, you can reduce the total amount of fat you’re carrying around, and this will inevitably cut into the fat that your abs are hiding behind.

Generally speaking, guys start to see abs around 15% body fat, and girls around 20%.

So that’s your first goal: take your body fat percentage from where it is now to where it needs to be.

And you’re in luck, because that’s really easy to do. A bit of proper dieting and exercising is all it takes.

Want to know the exact steps for losing belly fat for good? Check out this article.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

2. Do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting.

Getting lean is always enough to see some abs, but it’s not always enough to have a great six pack.

Hence, the people out there that are relatively lean, but that have rather unimpressive cores.

The reason for this is there are quite a few muscles in play here.

There’s what most people associate with “abs”–the rectus abdominis–but then there are the smaller, lesser-known muscles of the core like the obliques, transverse abdominus, and serratus.

Here’s a helpful visual:

how to get abs in a week

Most people focus on training just the rectus abdominus, and neglect everything else.

Well, to get a great looking six-pack, you need to fully develop all the core muscles, and one of the best ways to do that is with heavy compound weightlifting.

By “heavy,” I mean using loads that are between 75 and 95% of your one-rep max, and by “compound” I mean exercises that train multiple major muscle groups, like the squat, deadlift, and bench press.

You probably don’t think of these as “ab exercises,” but research shows they actually train the core better than many traditional ab exercises (and especially when heavy loads are used).

That’s one of the reasons that every great muscle- and strength-building program is built on heavy compound lifting.

Want to know how to build an effective weightlifting routine? Check out this article.

3. Do the right ab and core exercises.

Heavy compound lifting is fantastic for improving your overall core development, but most people find they need to do more to get the abs they really want.

And that’s where traditional ab and core exercises come in. When done right, they can make a huge difference in how your six pack develops over time (and the rectus abdominis in particular).

Which ab and core exercises are best, though?

Well, out of the hundreds and hundreds that you could do, all you really need are the following:

  • Kneeling Cable Crunch
  • Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Air Bicycle
  • Plank
  • Ab Wheel Rollout

Each of these exercises allow you to safely train and overload all of your core muscles, and don’t require much in the way of technical skill, flexibility, or athleticism.

Bottom line: they’re simple and they work.

The key isn’t just doing these exercises, though. It’s progressing on them.

The core muscles are like any other in that they respond best to progressive overload, which means that you need to focus on getting stronger over time.

You get stronger by increasing the number of reps you can do with a given weight, and then increasing the weight itself, and repeating the process.

For example, let’s say you’re doing kneeling cable crunches in the 10-to-12 rep range with 50 pounds.

Once you can get 12 reps, you should increase the weight to 60 pounds and work with it until you can get 12 reps, at which point you should increase to 70 pounds, and so forth.

I should note, however, that some ab exercises don’t lend themselves well to this approach.

The captain’s chair leg raise is a good example. You can add weight by snatching a dumbbell between your feet, but this eventually gets awkward (good luck trying to do it with anything over 25 or 30 pounds).

In this case, you’re better off increasing weight as much as you comfortably can, and then just focusing on increasing the reps you can do with the maximum comfortable weight.

For example, if you work your way up to doing 10 to 12 reps of leg raises with a 25-pound dumbbell but can’t comfortably go higher than that, you can then just focus on getting as many reps per set with that weight as possible.

In this case, if, over time, you were able to go from 12 to 30 reps, that’s progress, and your core will continue to develop as a result.

Want to know how to build core workouts that really work? Check out this article.

Want to Know Even More About How to Get Great Abs?

If you follow the 3 simple steps in this article, you’ll get abs. Really nice ones, too. 🙂

I guarantee it.

If you’d like to know more about how to get great abs, though, and how to get them faster with proper diet and supplementation, then you should check out this longer, more in-depth article:

Beyond the “Best Ab Exercises” (How to Actually Get Abs)

What’s your take on how to get abs? Have anything else 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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  • Steven Scott

    I’m going to need a lot of ab work in a month or so, as I just had hernia surgery and am not allowed to do anything strenuous for a while. Any advice on returning to the gym after recovering from surgery?

    • Once you’re cleared for activity, I’d start with bodyweight exercises for your abs, and working in the 8-10 rep range on your lifts.

  • Marvin

    Hey Mike!

    I’ve already had wonderful success using what you teach in “Bigger Leaner Stronger”.

    I very much enjoy lifting really heavy, but every now and then I wonder whether I could lift even heavier (which would mean I reduce the reps I do to below 4).

    What’s your take on that? Should I change (perhaps just for a while, considering I’ve been working in the 4-6 rep range for about 4-5 months now) to a 3-5 rep range? Or even change to a more traditional strength workout, such as Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength”? Thanks for your time and effort, I hugely appreciate it 🙂

    • Marvin

      Oh, I accidentally sent this prematurely – I meant to add a few more questions:

      To me, the ab-circuit you described in Bigger Leaner Stronger to be… For lack of a better word: Sort of dull. I enjoy lifting heavy, going really hard, but only doing 4 reps is SO much fun. Can this basic principle (going heavy – do few reps) be applied to abs training (for instance weighted leg raises)? I very recently thought I’d try it, snatched a 55 pound dumbbell between my legs and went 5 reps max and found it to be far more enjoyable. Is that something you’d recommend?

  • Adam Rozen

    Mike, what are you thoughts on the weighed crunch machine at the gym? I find it much easier on my back than kneeling cable crunches (have had some low back issues I’m always worried about), and it still gives me a solid ab burn at heavy weights.

    Also, sometimes I’ll do my ab sets with heavy weighted machine crunches, very very light machine crunches to failure, and something else (leg raises, bicycles, etc.). Thoughts? I get bored of these pretty quickly, though. What other ab exercises do you think work well both for weighted and unweighted?

    I’m somewhere around 11% body fat and am trying to get that last 1% gone so I can end a year-or-two long cut, reverse diet to stable, and then decide if I want to bulk. It’s been slow going the last couple months (going from ~12/13% to try and get to 10% BF). Should I be revere dieting now into another cut, or just keep at it now that I’ve started fasted training with Forge?

    • Hey Adam,

      The machine is fine if you feel it working your core (I’ve used ones that were really awkward with any amount of weight on the stack).

      I like to keep ab training simple, which is why I recommend a bit of heavy-ish (10 to 12 or 12 to 15 rep) weighted work and then a lot of unweighted reps to failure. The core muscles are very resilient and can take quite a bit of low-weight volume.

      Regarding exercises, I’m sure you’re aware of the exercises I recommend and do but if you want to venture out and try other things, go for it. You may find that you like others more in terms of muscle activation and comfort.

      Hmm if you only have a couple pounds left, I would start by seeing if you’re making any of these mistakes:


  • Julie

    I bought you book. Lots of good information. Do you know if the 4 not negotiable exercises are okay to do for someone with spondylolesthesis (slipped disc in lower back, L5, S1 right above the sacrum)? I got it during pregnancy from a super heavy belly from baby…

    • It depends. It’s possible you can, but you may need to use some variations. That’s something you should check with the doc on to make sure, though.

  • Franz Schmied

    Hi Mike, i do all my training at home (Bar- and Dumbbells, Bar for Pullups and Dip Station). Regarding abs I perform knee raises on my dip bar with an attached (carabiner hooks) dumbbell (currently: 12 reps with 45pds). I considered this approach very flexible with regards to the progressive overload. It also gives me much room for concentrating me on form/Performance due to the fact the dumbbell is fixed on my ankles.

    Do you think I have to add or change something?

    Btw: thanks for your books! They already made some great changes in my physique:)

    Best regards from Vienna

  • Patrick

    Hey Team, I have just recently broke a two year lifting hiatus after purchasing the One Year Challenge. I just finished up week two and I’m glad to be back at it. However, I have hit a bit of bump in the road when it comes to my core training, 90% of ab workouts I am unable to complete because of what I beleive to be a muscle imbalance.

    I will begin a set of ab-work and before my abs even come close to being fatigued, my lower to mid back will very suddenly become fatigued. When my back flares up like this it can be almost painful at times but fades within 2 or 3 seconds after I stop the exercise.

    This is obviously something should to be addressed in my training but I’m not sure where to begin and I cannot afford to see a PT.

    Any advice?

  • Justine

    Apart from reducing our total body fat, is there a way to get a smaller waist via exercises or is the circumference of our waists dictated by our genetics?

    • Bit of both. Reducing body fat will make the biggest difference, however.

  • Yusuf Karakaya

    Hi Mike, i have done heavy lifting for three years and now I do not want to continue both lifting and gaining muscle. I just want to maintain my muscle mass and lose some fat. Can I do this with bodyweight training? If so, how much protein should I consume daily?

  • Leo W.

    Any experience with the dragon flag as am Ab exercise? Curious if it’s worth spending time with as a progression from for example the captain’s chair and hanging leg lift

    • If those are getting too easy for you, you can consider using a light weight held by your feet. Otherwise, the dragon flag would be a fun (and total-body) abs exercise to do.

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