Muscle for life

The No-BS (And Only) Way to Get “Six Pack Abs”

The No-BS (And Only) Way to Get “Six Pack Abs”

Six pack abs are on the top of people’s wish lists for their physiques. What does it take to actually get them though?

Everyone wants it…the elusive “six pack.”

The hallmark of the fitness elite, the proof that you know the inside “secrets” of getting ripped.

With the amount of people wanting six pack abs, the amount of bad advice out there on how to actually get them is overwhelming.

  • Some people say you just have to do special types of ab exercises…and they’re wrong.
  • Some people say you just have to get lean…and they’re wrong.
  • Some people say you just have to do a lot of heavy squats and deadlifts…and they’re wrong.
  • Some people say you have to avoid certain types of foods and take weird supplements…and they’re really wrong.

Like most things related to fitness, the real way to get six pack abs–for both guys and gals–is pretty straightforward.

In this article, I’m going to break it all down for you, and we’re going to start with a little physiology (you’ll see why).

The Anatomy of the Perfect “Six Pack”

When people talk about “abs,” what they’re actually referring to is the pair of muscles that make up the rectus abdominis: Rectus abdominis These muscles aren’t the whole story of the full “six pack” look that people want, however.

There are other “core” muscles that must be properly developed as well. Namely the obliques (external mainly), the transversus abdominis (or “TVA” as it’s commonly referred to), and the serratus:

torso muscles

Now, anatomy diagrams are great, but let’s see what this looks like on a real body. First, let’s look at someone whose rectus abdominis is fairly developed, but who lacks the rest of the package:

situation bad abs

Yeah, he’s not very lean, but as you can see, he has no v-taper at the waist, no serratus development, and no sight of a TVA line. I think you’d agree that this isn’t a look to aspire to. Here’s another example:

bad ab development

A little better than the last, but with different problems: way over-developed obliques, under-developed rectus abdominis, and no TVA or serratus.

The result is that odd look of abs “floating” in a sea of flat, formless flesh. Now, let’s look at what a properly developed core can do to change the visuals:

how to get a six pack fast

Yes, Plitt has far better genetics than the other two examples, but note that he’s not much leaner than the second.

He just has a far better developed core to frame his terrifically developed rectus abdominis and give it that tight, “integrated” look.

My own body is a great example of how core development can change your overall look.

Check out the following picture of me, taken about 2 years ago:

how to get a six pack in a month

Not a bad look.

I was lean (around 6-7% body fat), and had decent rectus abdominis development along with some oblique, serratus, and transversus abdominis showing.

(Oh and in case you’re wondering why I don’t have a proper “six pack” but only a “four pack” instead, that’s purely genetic, and can’t be changed. Some people’s rectus abdominis is formed better than others’.)

Here’s another shot from the same period:

how to get a flat stomach

Now, compare those shots to the following pictures taken a few months ago:

how long does it take to get a six pack

how to get a six pack at home

Quite a difference, no?

This came from not only building my “abs,” but actually more so from building the rest of my core–my obliques, TVA (which is what forms the “frame” around the abs), and serratus anterior (the finger-like muscles that cover the ribs).

So, with the goal now clearly in mind–a fully developed core, not just “abs”–let’s look at what it takes to get there.

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.

How to Get Great Six Pack Abs AND a Great Core

how to get a six pack abs fast

First, I want to address some of the WRONG advice out there…

No amount of ab exercises alone will give you a great six pack.

No matter how simple or fancy the exercises, they are not the “shortcut to six pack abs.”

Yes, ab exercises are necessary for developing a solid core (more on that in a second), but it takes more than ab workouts to get the look you desire.

Just being lean isn’t enough.

It’s true that you need to have low levels of body fat for your abs to fully show. For us guys, they start really showing as you get under 10% body fat, and for gals, under 20% body fat.

But the reality is you can get very lean and still not have the “six pack” look you want. 

How so?

The answer is simple: nobody’s core is naturally developed enough to have the deep cuts and pronounced lines that make for a truly outstanding six pack.

Look again to the second example of poor ab development I showed earlier, and to my 2-year-old pictures.

Both he and I were lean when those pictures were taken, but what was wrong with our physiques would have been just as obvious even if we had stripped off another 1-2% body fat.

The full “six pack” look requires low body fat levels and well-developed core muscles.

Just deadlifting and squatting isn’t enough, either.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the following: “I don’t train abs–I squat and deadlift.” And these guys and girls usually have unimpressive cores.

The reality is these two exercises, even when performed with heavy weight (80%+ of 1RM), just don’t involve the “show” muscles of the rectus abdominis, the tranversus abdominis, and the external obliques as much as people think.

Now, don’t get me wrong–heavy squatting and deadlifting do help build an all-around great core, but they aren’t enough on their own.

What does it take to get a killer core, then?

Having an outstanding six pack and core actually only requires two things:

1. Reducing your body fat percentage

For us guys, the rectus abdominis doesn’t really start showing until we reach the 10% range, and the rest of the core muscles don’t pop until we reach the 8% range.

For girls, 20% is where the fun begins, and 18% is where their cores really start to shine.

Just know that no matter how great your core muscles are developed, you will not achieve the look you want if your body fat percentage is too high.

If you’re not sure how to get leaner, check out my article series on how to lose body fat fast.

2. Regularly performing the right ab and core exercises. 

What are the right exercises? Let’s find out…

The Best Ab and Core Exercises

six pack abs workout routine

Building a great six pack requires that you do both ab exercises that train your rectus abdominis, and exercises that train the other core muscles that complete the look we want.

How to Develop Great Abs (Rectus Abdominis)

The biggest mistake most people make with ab training is they don’t perform any weighted ab exercises.

The result is the ability to do a bazillion crunches or leg raises, but with abs that look small and underdeveloped.

The abs are like any other muscle: they require progressive overload to grow, and that can only be accomplished by adding resistance to exercises. 

You don’t have to add weight to all of your ab training, but you must add it to some if you want abs that really pop.

My favorite ab exercises are as follows:

I didn’t just choose these at random–research has actually shown them to be the most effective for training the rectus abdominis and obliques (unfortunately the study disappeared off the Net, but it was led by Peter Francis, Ph.D., at the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University).

I’ve found that abs seem to respond best to a combination of weighted and unweighted work. Here’s how I like to do it:

  • 1 set of a weighted exercise like the Cable Crunch, Captain’s Chair Leg Raise, or Hanging Leg Raise for 10-12 reps (you can add weight to the latter two by snatching a dumbbell in between your feet)
  • Directly into 1 set of an unweighted exercise, to failure
  • Directly into 1 set of an unweighted exercise, to failure
  • Rest 2-3 minutes

For example:

  • 1 set of Cable Crunches, 10-12 rep range
  • Directly into 1 set of Captain’s Chair Leg Raises, to failure
  • Directly into 1 set of Air Bicycles, to failure
  • Rest 2-3 minutes

Do 6 – 9 of these circuits 2 – 3 times per week, and your abs and obliques will develop. Let’s now look at how we can develop the rest of the core muscles.

How to Develop the Other Core Muscles

Heavy compound weightlifting trains your core better than special “core exercises,” and particularly when performed with heavy weight (80%+ your 1RM). 

My three favorite core exercises are the Deadlift, Squat, and Military Press or Overhead Press.

If you perform each of these lifts every week, and perform them with heavy weight, you won’t need to do any other core exercises.

And last but not least, I’ve mentioned the serratus several times, so let’s talk about that.

How to Develop a Great Serratus

 The serratus anterior muscles are the finger-like muscles attached on your rib cage, and they really complete the “shredded” core look.

Here’s another recent picture of me that highlights them (and my super-cute son!):

how to get a six pack in a week

While you can target the serratus anterior with an exercise like the Dumbbell Pullover, I never found this necessary. The exercises that really helped my serratus grow are…

  • Deadlift
  • Barbell Row
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Ab Wheel Rollout

Any good weightlifting routine will include the first three (and heavy weight will train your serratus better than lighter weights), and Ab Wheel Rollouts are one of the great all-around ab and core exercises.

What do you think about my take on how to get six pack 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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Leave a Comment!
  • Josey

    Exactly what I needed to hear! Thanks, Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great YW!

  • Nate

    No lying today I was looking for a core workout routine and I am a regular reader of you site and have BLS and Cardio Sucks. Its just funny that I was looking today and you wrote this article today. Great pic with your son!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha nice, glad I could help! Thanks on the pic! 🙂

  • Rob

    Would you suggest doing any oblique exercises?

    • Michael Matthews

      The only I’ve liked is adding twists to cable crunches.

  • Kevin

    Gold information as always.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kevin!

  • Carlos Arteaga

    I need a tutorial on how to rapisly develop lats like yours showing on your first pic. Seriously, I have zero lats

    • Michael Matthews

      My lats are kind of a weak point on my physique that I’m working on, but deadlifts, barbell rows, and wide-grip pull-ups have really helped.

      • Austin

        For me, im told its my strong point. just to share, i do lots of dips, lat pulldowns, decline cable flies and also feel them well when doing tricep pulldowns too, really squeezing for stability.

        • Michael Matthews

          Nice, thanks for sharing Austin.

  • Cesar Salazar

    Home run article as always Mike. However I have a question… On the Year One Challenge (extension to BLS) for the Phases 1-6 On Day 1 & 5 it says Cable Crunch 3 sets, Captain’s Chair Leg Raise 3 sets (I love this name for an exercise), and Air Tricycles 3 sets.
    Now in this article you recommend doing these as a circuit 6-9 times 2-3 times a week. Can you clarify this? My doubt is if I should do at least 6 circuits on Monday when I do Chest & Abs (as in BLS), and then 6 circuits on Friday, which is my Arms & Abs day (as in BLS).
    Thank you sir… you are a source of inspiration.

    • Osher Barda

      Yes same question here lol

      • Michael Matthews

        See above. 🙂

    • Dylan

      I was wondering the same thing. “6 – 9 of these circuits 2 – 3 times per week” is between 12 and 27 circuits per week. Currently I am following BLS and doing 6 circuits per week.

      • Michael Matthews

        Sorry for the confusion. 6 of these circuits per week is a great start, but you can increase this as your core gets stronger and stronger. If you work up to 6 – 9 circuits 3x per week, you’re a beast!

        I will clarify this in the second edition of BLS, which I will be starting on soon.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Cesar!

      Sorry for the confusion. 6 of these circuits per week is a great start, but you can increase this as your core gets stronger and stronger. If you work up to 6 – 9 circuits 3x per week, you’re a beast!

      I will clarify this in the second edition of BLS, which I will be starting on soon. Thanks for bringing it up!

      • Cesar Salazar

        Thanks for the response

        • Michael Matthews

          YW 🙂

  • Osher Barda

    Great man awesome article !!! It’s never boring lol let me ask you a question I hate doing cc leg raise with no weights I feel like they never end!! Lol so I usually do cable crunch 10-12 reps and then weighted cc legs 10-12 reps and then air bike or ab wheel roll out and I do 3 sets 2 times a week based on your routine is that ok or is it better to do cc leg raise till failure? ( 10-12 reps is till failure just I’m able to focus much better by doing 10-12 then doing 25 lol )

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Osher! Haha that’s totally fine. Keep it up!

  • WIlber

    Whats the guys name in the cover picture?

    • Michael Matthews

      Don’t know I found on a stock image site. 🙂

      • Eric R

        He co-hosts Road to Ripped. I believe you were a guest on one of their episodes?

        • Michael Matthews

          This actually isn’t Chris. It’s just a stock image. Yes I’ve done several eps with him and Greg. Great guys.

    • X

      Christopher walker

  • Donald

    Great article! Although not on this topic I had a question. I bought your book Bigger Leaner Stronger and had a question about “re-feeding” while cutting. It says to double up on your carbs once a week. Does this mean to double the macro percentage of carbs and lower protein percentage, but keep calories the same or to simply double the macro percentage of carbs keeping protein the same with an increase in calories for the one day? Thank you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Donald!

      Good question! I have a note to clarify this in the next update. Anyway, you can just double your carb intake (grams) for the day and leave your other macros the same. You only need to drop fats/protein (calories) when you are under 10% and working to get really lean (6-7%).

  • Christian

    Hi Mike. Thanks for the article.
    You (and other people) often talk about ab visibility in terms of body fat percentages. Do you have any idea’s on this in terms of skinfold measurements on the abs? At my lowest I usually get down to 4.5-5mm abdominal skinfold measurement (1inch to the side of naval), but feel I need to get another mm or two down on this to really get great definition. For reference attached is a pic of me a week or two from the the end of my last cut (5mm abdominal measurement) – one relaxed one tensing.
    Is it an issue of body fat or do I just need bigger abs

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey dude! Love the look. Shredded. You just need bigger abs. In fact this is the perfect example of where getting leaner won’t do anything for you.

      Hit lots of weighted ab training and within 6 months or so, you should see a real improvement.

      • Christian

        Thanks Mike. Just need all my muscles bigger! Will keep on bulking and hammering the abs

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha don’t we all? Keep up the good work. You’re doing great.

    • LifeForMuscle

      Holy shit what’s you body fat percentage? Look at those nerves!

      Looking good man keep it up!

  • Manish Arya

    Nice pic with son, how old is he and wats his name?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! He was about 12 months in this pic and his name is Lenox.

      • Manish Arya

        So, Legion is after Lenox?

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha no, I just thought it fit what I wanted to do with the brand.

  • Gregory

    Thank you very much. By the way, can I do weighted leg raise and weighted crunches to develop my abs?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes, definitely. I prefer cable crunches over traditional crunches though. Much more effective.

  • Fernando

    Great job as always. Your articles really make things so easy to understand.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Fernando!

  • Pingback: Six Pack Abs Information | Get Six Pack Abs Quickly()

  • jose castro

    Wow Mike now you just clear my mind to understand my abs fisiology..thank you so much!!

    • Michael Matthews


  • Austin

    Great info. Not a fan though of the captains chair. I am still following the mfl training for this and found better feeling and visual on abs from hanging leg raises. Can do less at the start but really can squeeze at the top now and feel my grip improving too!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hanging raises are great, and are a bit tougher than cap’s chair, so keep it up!

  • Austin

    Coupled that with decline crunches with rotations for obliques and its doing wonders!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, it works!

  • Travis

    I can actually have decent abs even when bulking if I eat cleaner foods and not just junk all the time. Cleaner foods cause less gastro intestinal bloating!

    • Michael Matthews

      Very true! Less water retention too.

  • Kevin

    Mike – great freakin article. i’ve already sent links to all my fitness buds/ladies. really sums up everything about abs from BLS and your blog posts.

    one question about the ab rolling. is it supposed to hurt your lower back? i feel like i’m maintaining neutral spinal alignment but on the way up (after my stomach touches the floor), i feel it straining. today i think i barely strained my right lower lat when rolling. maybe my technique is off? (i should note i deadlift and squat once a week respectively in my current routine. my last deadlift day was thursday though, so i think a few days is long enough for recovery…) what do you think?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kevin! I really appreciate it!

      It does put some stress on your back, yes, but this is likely due to not using your shoulders to start the motion back up, or inadequate core strength.

      How many reps are you able to do?

      • Kevin

        i usually start off with 8 reps my first set, cleanly, each time going all the way down, then immediately after do 35-45 air bikes, and then plank until failure. after resting I do it all again, but i can’t go all the way down when rolling my second set, and usually about 6-8 reps.

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay cool that sounds pretty good. Two options: reduce the ROM a bit to allow you to strengthen the involved muscles, or just swap it for another exercise like Cable Crunches…

          • Kevin

            Many thanks!

          • Michael Matthews


  • Felix

    Great , excellent article , picture with the baby priceless !!!!!!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Felix!

  • J-Satt

    Off subject, but something I was struggling with today. I’m at the point with my barbell shrugs to where I can easily get 6 reps at the weight I’m at, but if I move up in weight I struggle with my grip. Would it work with shrugs tp do a reverse grip like with deadlifts? Or would that be bad form?

    • Michael Matthews

      I wouldn’t stagger my grip.

      Grip weakness is a common problem. Fortunately it kind of fixes itself over time, but there are a couple things you can do.

      First is get one of these, and just pound it all day:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /recommendations/equipment/gripmaster/

      Second is start all exercises without straps, and after a few sets when your grip finally fatigues, THEN start strapping. Don’t strap from set 1. Here are the straps I use and like:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /recommendations/equipment/harbinger-big-grip-no-slip-pro-lifting-straps/

      A third option are these:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /recommendations/equipment/iron-bull-tgrips/

      I use them for my barbell presses (bench and military) and have noticed an improvement in my grip strength (you just squeeze the shit out of them every rep).

      That’s pretty much it. It takes time but if you do the above, your grip strength WILL improve and eventually the GripMaster will be easy and you won’t need the straps.

  • mj

    can you give me a diet for my 11 year old son who is 160 cm and 90 lbs, he looks thin and loves to have a six pack, appreciate it (no machines please)

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm at his age I would recommend that he eat 3 – 4 solid meals per day, with a serving of protein in each, and start with bodyweight training:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

  • mj

    can you give me a workout for my eleven year old son abs

  • ali

    absolutely by far the most comprehensive online article I’ve seen on 6 packs

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Ali!

  • Ricardo

    Hello Mike, I have some questions for me cable crunches are easy to do I’ve “maxed out” all the gym machines and I’m adding to them some dumbbells its now to the point I have to add 2 15kg dumbbells and one 10kg, totalling 115kg so I can feel something…

    The same goes for air bike my “burnout point” is around 100 reps.

    That said, if I want to train my abs effectively 2 times a week and still do all the other exercises it takes forever and I’ve started to neglect the abs exercises :|…

    is there a more effective way to overload those exercises…
    its easy to add height to “captain legs raise” but I cannot do that for the other 2 exercises.

    Can I increase the reps of cable crunches to lets say… 20? and the air bike…
    thank you

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow, that’s really strong. Are you sure your form is correct on the cable crunches? Are you really curling in, touching your elbows to your knees/just above?

      If so, then you can start doing hanging leg raises and add weight by snatching a DB in between your feet. You can do the same for captain’s leg raises.

      And yes you can increase reps to 20. So if you do weighted exercise, 20 reps; weighted exercise, 20 reps; unweighted exercise, to failure, that should work well.

      • Ricardo

        Thank you for the amazing tips. I will try them for a couple of weeks…
        I though the same as you “I’m doing this form wrong somehow…” and I made sure that I was not before asking the question” 🙂

        thank you again

        • Michael Matthews

          Great, let me know how it goes! You can even shoot a video and send it to me if you want…

  • Ash

    I’ve learned a lot I didn’t know, especially about the other core muscles I would need to build to get that “shredded” look like the serratus ( which I had assumed would show if I got lean enough. I just tried some ab rollouts to begin to amend the situation, obviously everyone is different but what’s a good starting set of reps for it in your opinion.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked the article. Let me know how it goes.

      Hmm if you can do at least 5-6 rollouts, they’re worth doing. If you can’t, build up strength with other exercises first.

  • Faizan

    Thanx Mike , thank you so much this is what i actually wanted 🙂 ..

    • Michael Matthews


  • moss

    hi mike,
    my favourite “core” (midsection) exercises are…1) paused ATG Zercher squats, 2) one-arm DB farmer’s walk; and 3) hanging knees raises (either with adjustable ankle weights or a DB between feet).
    for the serratus, I do weighted-vest feet-elevated push-ups (this is much better than the DB bench press because it permits for scapular protraction, which is a function of the serratus).

    • Michael Matthews

      I never really bothered with Zerchers because I prefer traditional squats.

      Farmer’s walk is good for training the core like the deadlift is.

      Hanging knee or leg raises are great.

      I haven’t tried elevated push-ups for the serratus so I’m not sure there, but I could see it being effective (for the serratus at least).

      • moss

        thanks for the reply mike!
        I only do the zerchers for “core” training; like you, I prefer Back Squats for overall muscle-building.
        The value of the zerchers is that you can really overload the six-pack and obliques, not something possible with weighted crunches. And since your spine is in neutral, zerchers are safer than weighted crunches (=not a good idea)

        • Michael Matthews


          Cool on the Zerchers. That works!

          I’ve never had issues on the weighted crunches as I don’t go too heavy–10-12 or even 15 reps.

  • moss

    and “over-developed obliques” make a man look, well…manly.
    this is what I mean:

    • Michael Matthews

      I wouldn’t say those are overdeveloped obliques…

  • Robert M

    Hey Mike,

    I do cable crunches at my gym, but I’m at the max weight and so I’ve started doing them slower and pausing when my muscles are contracted to keep giving me a good workout. My question is what do I do when I don’t feel the effect anymore and can’t go up in weight? Is there an alternative free weight exercise that will allow me to increase the weight and work my abs in the same manner as cable crunches? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm I would check form. Are you sure you’re really curling in and touching your elbows to your knees? You don’t want to just raise and lower your straight torso.

      If so, then you can move on to weighted hanging raises!

      • Robert M

        I am fairly certain. I try to make sure I’m not bending at the hips, but instead just crunching my abdomen. My elbows do touch my knees. I do, actually, have a question about form. Do you want to be sitting back, like almost resting on your heels or keep your legs up a bit and perpendicular with the floor?

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay that’s good. I keep my thighs up, not exactly perpendicular but close…

  • Sergio Avalos

    Great article! But I want to double check the exercises: 6 – 9 circuits sounds like a lot. In your book Bigger, Leaner, Stronger you recommended 3 sets for abs


    • Michael Matthews


      Yeah 3 sets in a row, which is one circuit. You then do that 6 – 9 times per workout. You can start with 3 circuits but you should work up…

  • William Lim Jr

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been doing the ab exercises as prescribed in BLS – that is, in conjunction with chest day and arms day. However, it take me forever to get done in the gym that I can’t wait to get out. Do you think it’s fine to do abs on my cardio day instead? If so, do you think it’s better to do abs before or after doing HIIT, or does it not matter at all?

    Thanks so much!


    • Michael Matthews

      Yes that’s totally fine, no problem at all. Before or after is fine.

      • William Lim Jr

        Thanks Mike! Just did it today, was finally able to do 6 circuits, and didn’t feel so wiped out after. 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha nice!

  • António

    Hey Mike,
    if the cable crunch is an upper-abs exercise, than by overloading it and not the other ones(with heavy weigths) won’t it be bigger than your lower abs?
    I really like your 3rd picture from bottom to top!
    Should you do cable crunches weighted, leg lifts and air bikes in that order always in the same workout, or are you supposed to alternate the exercise that is weighted? Also, my gym does not have a “captain’s chair” and doing leg lifts hanging kind of hurts my shoulders and I swing a lot. Are lying leg lifts fine also?
    Finally, what is the best replacement for the air bike( my form is horrible and I can’t fix it)?

    • Michael Matthews

      The cable crunch does work your entire rectus abdominis, but the leg raises and air bikes also help ensure the lower abs develop nicely.

      I wouldn’t weight all 3–you will burn out VERY quickly.

      Hanging leg raises are fine but you have to control the swing. Lying are fine too yes.

      Hmm what problem are you running into on the air bike?

      • António

        Whenever I do it I kind of start rotating on the floor, and soon enough after completing a set I’ve spun close to 90 degrees. It is hilarious, but messes with my gains. Last time I did Russian twists which seemed like the best substitute. My form was good, I just don’t know whether it is an effective exercise.

        • Michael Matthews

          Hahah I see. I would just do crossing cable crunches or leg raises then…

          • António

            With what weight?

          • Michael Matthews

            About 200 on a double-pulley.

  • Jonas

    you say 6-9 circuits for 2-3 times a week… does that mean 6-9 circuits every session or 3 circuits every session? (so 6-9 circuits a week)

    • Michael Matthews

      Shoot for 6-9 circuits per workout and do the workouts 2-3 x per week.

  • Jonas

    I like hanging leg raises and would do them as my weighted 10-12 rep exercise….
    However the other eercise are quite shitty on my opinion…

    What do you think about jack knifes (toe touches) , russian twists , planks, side planks, l sits ?

    • Michael Matthews

      The other exercises have been scientifically proven to be some of the most effective you can do.

      Jack knifes are okay, the rest suck.

      • Louis

        Gasp! Those are the exercises I’ve been doing except for I sits. I don’t know that one. Most of the exercises require gym equipments. Are there any possible alternatives? Especially the cable crunch and ab wheel?

        • Michael Matthews

          Hmm yeah lying leg raises are good as well as hanging leg raises (you can do these with a pullup bar).

  • halevi

    I’m not really interested in having “6-pack abs”, but thank you for the instructions.

  • William Lim Jr

    Hey Mike,

    Here’s a rather naïve question. Anyway, do your abs show even if your not contracting them? Like, are they defined enough to count them clearly even when you’re relaxed and not flexing. That always has been something I’ve been wondering about really ripped guys but was just too shy to ask. Lol


    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, once you get to 8% and below you can see them all the time if they’re developed.

  • Brian Andl

    How you add weight to air bicycle or ab wheel roll?

    • Michael Matthews

      I wouldn’t add weight to these–go until failure.

      Looking good brother!

      • Jason

        I know these comments are abit old but if ab roll outs gets easy you can always get a small resistance band. Doin band resisted ab rolls is a great advance movement. Gregg Robins has a great tutorial on youtube.

  • Brian Andl

    First picture was before I started your program. This is what I look like on the week 4.

    • Michael Matthews

      Oh great! Hard to compare though cuz of the hoodie. 🙂

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  • CommonSense

    Hi Mike,

    When I read lots of articles on ‘how to get a six pack’ on the leading men’s magazines websites such as men’s health and men’s fitness, they never go as far as giving you a specific formula to calculate a calorie deficit for your weight in order to strip away fat. They always stay very vague saying things like ‘reign in the sugar, alcohol and simple carbs.’ I know you suggest a guide-line formula in bigger, leaner, stronger for correct calorie intake when cutting, but why do you think these magazines never usually venture there? You would think that they would have the best fitness experts in the world writing for them who would not be comfortable in just saying ‘reign it in guys’!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, most magazines are shit. Not really sure why they’re SO shitty though. I guess they just want to rehash the same one-liner blurbs over and over? Most of the writers don’t know shit? It’s kind of confusing.

  • Martymuzz

    Hey Mike, say your away with work and have no equipment at all, but still want to do a bit of ab work what would you recommend that would hit core and obliques? Planks any good in your opinion?

    • Michael Matthews

      Planks are kinda shitty. Personally I would bring a pull-up bar with me, install it in the room and do hanging leg raises and air bikes to failure, haha.

  • Audrey

    Hi Mike! I’m currently doing ab wheel rollouts, air bikes, and hanging knee raises. I workout at home, and I have a bench, bar, dumbbells, pull-up bar, etc. but not really any equipment in order to do weighted ab exercises. I have some resistance bands and I tried doing cable crunches with them (by putting the band in a door frame), but it didn’t really feel terribly effective. Are there any weighted exercises I can do with my standard home gym equipment??

    • Michael Matthews

      I like what you’re doing. Those are good exercises. You can add weight to the hanging raises by snatching a DB in between your legs.

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  • Patrick

    Hit here Mike,

    I like your site and your articles, very nice!

    I”ve been training for a while now and made some improvements, but not as much as I was hoping for.

    I’ve got a few questions for you I hope you can help me:

    1. You suggest to do 4-6 reps, but with abs you suggested 10-12 reps (weighted) and 2 excersises to failure. Why is this?

    2. I train 4 times a week (1 is boxing class)

    Boxing is on tuesday I ussualy train on monday,tuesday(boxing),thursday and Saturday.

    Is this a overkill for my muscles? for example if i train Shoulders/Back on Monday then they will be used again on thursday with boxing.

    Sorry for the bad English and cheers from Holland.

    • Michael Matthews


      I’ve found that abs respond well to a bit higher weights and remember we’re not as concerned with maximizing size and strength in our abs like we are our back or legs.

      That doesn’t sound too bad. How is your body doing with it?

      • Patrick

        nice, great to hear that it is not a overkill for my muscles.

        My body is responding well and I am seeing some gains. Although not the result I was hoping for. Now I am going too switch to 4-6 reps and 9-12 sets for one muscle. Used to do all the (worthless) excersises you describe like fly’s and all.

        Anyways thanks for the response and keep up the good work!

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay haha well let me know how it goes!

  • Gunner

    Hi Mike.What’s your take on the Ladmine 180’s?

    • Michael Matthews

      Don’t know what that is and Google isn’t loading at the moment so I can’t even check, hahah.

  • ClubWolf

    Hi Mike,

    I downloaded this popular app off of App Store called ’30 day ab challenge’. I’m on day 9 and it wanted me to do ’45 sit ups, 30 crunches, 30 leg raises and 35 sec plank.’ Well after 12 sit ups my back was torched. Do you recommend higher weight, lower volume in order to save one’s back?!

  • Nick

    Hi Mike,
    First of all thank you for posting this amazing article.
    I’m from the Netherlands and we don’t have a big gym in my town so there’s not a lot of equipment, this means I can’t do the captain’s chair exercise. Can I replace this exercise with knee raises and do the leg raises on the ground?
    And another thing, what exercise in your list trains the oblique? Do you get an “ab-v-taper” by following just these exercises? (and ofcourse a good diet)

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m glad you liked it!

      No worries you can do hanging leg raises instead. Simple enough.

      I never did anything for obliques beyond what I talk about here.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Jesse

    Hey Mike, Here is a pic of me before and after flexing.. Can you give me any tips or recommendations on how to improve my six pack? I’m 18 and have just been doing my own thing when it comes to core workouts. Just wondering if you had any advice?

    • Jesse


    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man! I don’t see any pics.

  • Jesse

    Hey Mike, I’m 18 and have been doing my own core routines for about 4 years. Here are a couple of pics; I was wondering if you have any tips or suggestions on how to improve my abs? I still workout almost daily but can’t seem to get that completely “shredded” look that you have in the pic of you and your baby. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re looking great man! I think you just need to get leaner. Get to 6-7% and I think you’ll have the look you want…

  • Carlos Arteaga

    Hey Mike. Great info. So 6 circuits per workout takes some time. I finish my chest/arms workout in 50-60 min (these are the day I do abs). Then comes ab training and my total workout time is longer than one hour (sometimes even one and a half). Now, should I stick with it since I’m working out 2 muscle groups or is there something I can do to fix this?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Wow that’s a lot longer than I would want to be in the gym training abs for. That’s why I like to work them in between my sets on my major muscle group…

      • Carlos Arteaga

        Would you recommend that I do 1 set of biceps-1 set of triceps-1 set of abs with some rest in between?

        • Michael Matthews

          I do it this way:

          Bis set, rest 60 seconds, tris, abs, rest 60-90, bis, etc.

          • Carlos Arteaga

            Thanks Mike. I’ll be trying it today. BTW, BBLS is awesome. I’m not in the Advance level (yet) but it gives me something to look up in the future. Also the diet chapters and the overtraining one were helpful to me.

          • Michael Matthews

            Great, thank you! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

            Would you mind taking a minute to write a blurb about the book where you bought it (Amazon, Apple, etc.)? You don’t have to write much if you don’t want to and I’d really appreciate it. 🙂

  • Ng Jing Kang

    Hey mike how do you train your obliques other than air bicycles?

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t because I don’t want them bigger but hanging leg raises are good for them as are twisting cable crunches.

      • Ng Jing Kang

        Ok Thanks a lot!

        • Michael Matthews


  • Derrek

    How do you know how much to cut? I lost a bunch of weight and muscle and still had troubles seeing my abs. I guess I don’t know how much weight is too much before losing too much muscle.

  • Yusuf

    Nice article . i don’t understand why this website is not popular

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! It is. 🙂 It receives over 800,000 visits per month.

  • Dee

    Hi Mike,
    I am a newbie to all this and I have to say this is the best advice I have come across. I have one question though. I am relatively small around 10 st 7 and 5 ft 6. I don’t carry a lot of fat but do have a little around the mid section that I would like to shed. My problem is that I really need to gain weight or muscle. Can I shed fat from my mid as well as gain weight elsewhere.


  • HectorP

    Hey Mike,
    So to incorporate this ab routine can we do it after we completed a full workout for example, its chest day and i finished all my sets for chest, can i do abs right after? or do i make them fit between the chest workout sets. And can we just do abs separately like at home or something with cardio ? or just by themselves. sorry a lot to write but I am curious for the best results. BTW Great Website man!

    • Michael Matthews

      Either or. I prefer working it in between sets to save time. Thanks man!

  • Morgen

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the article! 🙂 I’m looking forward to trying your suggested ab routine this week. Quick question, can you overtrain your abs? I’ve heard over and over again that your abs are a “quick recovery muscle” (whatever that really means) therefore you can/should train them everyday. Thanks!!! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! LMK how it goes.

      Yeah you can. They’re resilient little bastards but you can definitely overdo it.

      Every day just isn’t necessary if you’re also doing heavy compound lifts every week.

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  • Justine

    Are there any exercises that can actually make your waist smaller? I currently have a 26″-27″ waist at about 22% body fat (I used to be really fat so for me this is really good!). I have quite developed abs muscles under a small layer of fat, but I find that putting more time on abs exercises actually makes my waist bigger when it comes to inches. I dream of a 24″ or even 23″ inch waist. Is it only a question of lowering my body fat %? Are developing my abs muscles going to help or hinder my goal of a tiny waist? Or is a small waist simply a question of genetics? I’m quite confused and some guidance from you would be very appreciated! Thank you very much for your time.

    • Michael Matthews

      Unfortunately there aren’t. You can reduce your body fat percentage and, if necessary, stop directly training muscles like the obliques (which can make your waist look fatter unless you’re quite lean), but you can’t shrink your waist with exercises.

      Training your abs shouldn’t negatively impact your waistline if you also stay lean. I would avoid obliques exercises though if you’re concerned with your waist size.

      • Leiha

        Hi Mike, I’m in this boat as well… which exercises directly train obliques (and thus should be avoided) and what would you sub them with?

        Also, you mentioned that planks are “okay”… Obviously your faves are captains chair, hanging leg raises and air bicycles, but in the absence of a captains chair, cables or a place to hang for leg raises, would weighted flat bench lying leg raise, air bicycles and planking be sufficient for an ab circuit?


        • Don’t do any side bends or twisting movements for the abs.

          Yup that would be fine.

    • Ivo Naves

      Try “ab-vacuum”.

  • phoenix

    Ok so my gym does not have a captain chair leg raise machine and I can not do Cable Crunches with our lat tower because of the way its set up. I believe we do have an ab roller though but just in case. What exercises would you recommend to replace the first two I mentioned and possibly the ab roller as well just in case we don’t have one?

    • Michael Matthews

      You can do hanging leg raises. They are a good alternative and you can weight them by snatching a DB in between your feet.

      I would go weighted, unweighted to failure, air bikes, rest, repeat.

      • phoenix

        I figure that is what I’ll do, one of the perks about a smith machine is that you can move the bench underneath it away and then raise the bar high and to chin-ups, pull-ups or leg raises.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah, that works.

          • phoenix

            Ok so apparently the decline we have at our gym is not really well suited for decline crunches there is a space between its end and the floor, were there is no support for my shoulders, neck or head and it gets really painful if I go down to far. What would you suggest as a alternative? while the decline may not be suited for decline crunches it is really good for decline situps so, I could do those unless you have a exercises that would be better to replace the decline crunches.

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah. Hanging leg raises with a DB snatched in between your feet.

          • phoenix


  • Kevin Ross

    Mike, I’m on BLS phase 2 week 5. My home gym doesn’t have cables, so I’ve been substituting. I have hanging leg raise straps on my rack.

    Initially through about 2/3rds of phase 1, I was doing:
    – Ab Wheel rollout (failure)
    – Hanging leg raise (failure)
    – Air Bicycles (burn)

    Once I was felt that the ab wheel rollout was no longer heavy (I was doing 20 reps not to failure), I switched it up with the Ab Mat 2 (http://www.roguefitness.com/ab2-firm-abmat) so I could get full extension and add progressive weight.

    So, I’ve made a couple mistakes at this point because I have not been going to failure with air bicycles, but I have achieved progressive overload and am up to 30lbs on the ab mat. So 2x a week I’m doing:
    – Ab Mat weighted to failure (~12/8/6 reps over each cycle)
    – Leg lifts to failure (~10/8/6)
    – Air Bicycles 10 reps (not to failure which now I know is a mistake)

    I’m hitting everything really hard and heavy with great gains, but I don’t feel the same about abs. I’ve gained, but I don’t get the same ache/repair feeling from abs that I do everywhere else.
    1. Do you think the ab mat w/weight is an effective alternate for cable crunch?
    2. Once a week should I perhaps swap weighted leg lift vs weighted ab mat?
    3. Given air bicycle reps could be very high (way above 12), should I try the ab mat version for more resistance?
    4. If the ab mat is not preferred, what do you suggest for progressive overload? weighted leg lift/rollout/air bicycles?

    Thank you

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! Cool on the subs.

      Hmm I would probably start with weighted hanging leg raises as you can use a DB to make it as heavy as you need, and it’s a great replacement for cable crunches.

      THEN go into the roll-outs and bikes.

      If you do it this way, I think you’ll be gassed earlier.


      Yeah you can increase the number of circuits too. Makes it harder.

      • Kevin Ross

        I think that will be good. I loved the ab wheel rollouts but eventually they weren’t heavy enough. I think putting them after weighted leg lifts will definitely be quite difficult again. I’ll give that a shot.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah let me know how it goes.

  • Nick Armijo

    Ok well I’m in the bulking phase right now so I’m taking in a lot of calories, I don’t expect to have that six pack until I get into the cutting phase

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s how it goes. 🙂

      • Nick Armijo

        So still do it whether I’m bulking or cutting?

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah definitely.

  • Liam

    Do you recommend adding the ab roller to the circuit or doing it separate? Also how many reps and sets should be done? Many thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      I would do it in place of exercise #2 and would do it to failure.

  • LifeForMuscle

    6-9 circuit? Too harsh man! 😀

    I died at circuit 3 XD. I just couldn’t do anymore! It’s actually really intense. It’s so intense that it became a problem for me.

    I do my weighted set then when I go to body weight I can’t do 1 rep… Also how,do you know you reached failure in air bicycle? My form just keeps getting sloppier but I continue…

    Thanks for the great workout mike I will keep doing it. Can’t wait to see my abs 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha yeah I understand. As you do it more, you’ll be abel to work up to 6 circuits.

      Good question on the air bikes. I do them until my stomach is on fire haha.

  • Kori

    Hi Mike! First useful article about abs for me! Finally someone mentions weights for ab workouts too. Now I know I got it right. 🙂
    One question: What shall I do to make the upper ones more visible? I workout two times a day, once running (30 min) and the other one using weights (only 5 kg-s now) for abs. (Of course I train my arms and legs also). I eat very low carb, lots of protein.
    What do you think, do I need more weights or this is enough and I just still have too much fat, so be patient?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kori! You look great.

      Most women have to work hard on developing their cores and get very lean to really bring out the ab separation. 17-18% is where it really starts to pop, it seems.

      It’s hard to tell but my guess is you’re 19-20% so you’re close. Do keep in mind, however, that some women’s bodies just don’t do well below 20%. Hormones can get thrown out of whack. Most will notice it in irregular/missed periods. Maintaining this isn’t healthy.

  • Francis

    I just read this, I have a six pack but I have to tense so it can be seen.
    This really helps to what I can do to make it show more
    Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! Let me know how it goes!

  • Michael Matthews

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

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

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  • Daniel

    Great article man.
    I have a question. Can you train abs everyday? for example 2-3 times a week do weighted abs exercise and the other days do for example wheel roll-out at home? or what can you recommend.

    • Every day might be a bit much unless you only did 3-4 sets. You could do that though.

  • armando

    Ok ive been doing ab workouts for more than a month, i look in a mirror and i see my abs but when i turn off the light my abs are gone 🙁

  • armando

    Ok ive been doing ab workouts for more than a month, i look in a mirror and i see my abs but when i turn off the light my abs are gone 🙁

  • Ruben L. Dante

    Your son is the cutest! I’ve built and leaned out a lot sense following you! Thanks Mike!

  • jhon

    The secret behind successful story is that one have to exercise everyday in a particular time.six pack is on of the most attractive body figure for men and women so they can achieve it by taking balance food in properly and exercising.and who have ability to spend they can follow it http://tinyurl.com/ncu4e9q

  • Ivo Naves

    What if my core is too damn strong?? I put the maximum weight there`s in my cable crunch, do 12 reps or more with good form, feel nothing. Do it all again in less than one minute and little is felt… What am I doing wrong?

    I`m in the second week of the Y1C (btw, loving it) and I just did 100 reps in a single set of air bike. I ended up adding weight to my legs ( 10 kg anklets in each leg), still using good form and performed 50 reps.

    Ab-training seems to be somewhat personal – cable crunch and captains chair dont do put my abs on fire, but the abwheel and bike certainly do.

    Also, what do you think of the plank? Is it a good exercise?

    ( Sniff… My chest is nowhere that strong…)

    • Wow that is pretty damn impressive. It sounds like you don’t need to do much more core training then? Your heavy compound exercises will maintain the muscle you’ve developed there…

  • Ollie

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve just bought your “The Year One Challenge” workout log, having read your Bigger Leaner Stronger book. I’m slightly frustrated at how each “phase x/week x” has a “Calf Workout A/Abs Circuit/Calf Workout B” etc, without those exercises being in the book anywhere. There is no appendix to show what those exercises actually are. Rather than impulsively returning the book, though, I’ve searched online and found your Calf Workouts on your website. It’s annoying that I’ll have to either write those in manually in the book on a blank page, or carry around my phone and refer to that in the gym, too.

    My question though, is what is the “Abs Circuit” that is referred to in the book? I’m looking for exercises / reps, as per the format of the rest of the exercises detailed.

    Please advise,


    • Hey hey!

      It sounds like you’ve got the first edition of the book but the second edition’s bonus report.

      Can you verify?

      The abs circuit is what’s in this article.

      • Ollie

        Thats likely to be the case. I bought the book over a year ago, and the log about 3 days ago.

        • Oh yup. Second edition of the book is out. 🙂

          • Ollie

            Are you suggesting that I need to buy the second edition of your book in order to have the relevant resources to complete the Year workout log? Or, that I should return the workout log and buy the 1st edition of it?

            The principle issue here is that the workout log refers to activities which are not listed in the book itself.

          • Nope you can follow the workouts and do just fine with the 1.0 book.

            You may really like the 2.0 book though. 🙂

            Here are the abs and calves workouts:



  • Scott

    Mike, I got your book Bigger, Leaner, Stronger and am loving being reminded of what I already knew (but ignore) and what I didn’t know. It’s getting me back on track. (I’d been floundering for the past year and put on about 10 lbs of belly fat–and I’m 62, so it’s not coming off easily!)

    I am doing your 5 day workout plan. I like concentrating on one body part each day, and being serious about it. I notice you don’t have an ab day. You mention doing abs 3 days a week. Do you do them before or after the other body part? Does it matter which days? How do you fit abs into YOUR workout?


    • Thanks Scott!

      I like the work my abs in between my sets for my bigger muscle groups. Saves time. 🙂 So I’ll do my chest set, abs, rest 60-90 sec, chest, abs, rest, etc.

      Also FYI I’ve emailed with hundreds of guys in their 50s and 60s and many were surprised at how well they could do the program as laid out in the book. We did make a few tweaks, however:

      1. No heavy deadlifting or squatting unless the person was an experienced weightlifter. If you have any lower back issues, don’t deadlift at all unless instructed to do so by a PT. If you have any knee issues, no squatting unless instructed to do so by a PT. If you have no such issues, start your deadlifting and squatting in the 8 – 10 rep range and stay there until the exercises feel very comfortable. You can then move into 6 – 8 rep range and work with that until it feels completely stable and comfortable. You can then move into the 4 – 6 rep range, but it’s not mandatory. You have to see how your body feels.

      2. No heavy bench pressing or military pressing if you have shoulder issues. If you don’t have any, start these exercises in the 6 – 8 rep range and work there until they feel very comfortable and stable. You can then move into the 4 – 6 rep range.

      That’s it. Some guys had very particular circumstances that required further tweaks, but that was it for most.

      Nothing needs to be changed on the diet. The metabolism doesn’t slow down due to age nearly as much as most people think. My metabolism is, at best, only a few hundred calories per day more efficient than yours. (Ultimately your progress will dictate if anything needs changing, and I can help you tweak things if necessary.)

      • Thanks Mike. That’s very helpful. I am following the program to cut (I need to drop 10 lbs of belly fat) and I’m working out 5 mornings a week. I’m doing the 5 day plan I found in one of your articles, modifying only on leg day. I have an artificial hip and am easing into heavy squats and lunges. My eating has changed drastically, I expect to lose 5 lbs this first week and if I can lose a pound each week after that, I’ll be pretty happy. It’s changed my energy level, my work attitude, and how I live my life. I’ve been seriously lacking in discipline for the past 6 months. I feel back on track now. Thank you.
        I’ll send some “after pictures” as soon as “after” gets here! 🙂

        • Cool on all this. Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Zanin

    You can even see on there faces that they have a plan.

  • 誠至 黃

    Hi, Mike, thanks for your article, i wish i can workout my abs much bigger

  • OKD

    I have a big curve in the middle section of my obliques how can I make this bigger without making my lower oblique larger ?

  • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

    Hi Michael. In your article you have written “Do 6 – 9 of these circuits 2 – 3 times per week”, after writing some routines to do. Are you saying that I should do what you listed for 6 whole rounds (6 times over again)?

    • Yup! It’s tough!

      • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

        I don’t mind it, as you have a 2-3 minute break. But my problem is the amount of time it takes, and I don’t know how to fit it in with my back and chest workouts. If I do this after those, I’ll still be stuck 30 minutes with this, and then I’m doing cardio afterwards (I run home about 2,5 kilometers, which takes me about 10-15 min). I’m just afraid that it will be too late for me to eat food and get the benefit of my chest/back workout, when it has gone such a long time.

        • I like to do my abs work while I’m resting in between my major muscle group sets. Saves time.

          Yes that’s fine.

          • Lisa Naarseth Myklebust

            Oh so you mean doing 1 ab set in-between sets for for example a chest workout? That works too? Nice, never thought of it that way. If I do this it not only saves me times but makes it much easier to do.

          • Well, chest set, ab circuit (3 exercises), rest, chest, abs, etc.

  • Wally

    Hey Mike! Ive been hearing a lot of debate in whether drinking milk affects your abs. People say drinking milk makes it a lot harder to get a six pack, but others says its fine to drink milk. What do you think?

    • Bullshit. I’ve been baking and thus have some milk almost every day.

  • Adrian Pollard

    Guess it’s time to man up and start doing more than 2 rounds. Up my Hiit. So I can get my abs right.

  • Kyle

    Hey Mike is it true that the lower you get your body fat percentage the better you can hit your abs?

    • If you’re really overweight I suppose (range of motion). Otherwise no.

  • Ida Camilla Christensen

    Hi Mike! I am recovering from serious anorexia nevrosa, and are not allowed to have a body fat prosent lower than 25 (I’m a girl), so do you have any tips on how I can get abs, because I really want to!!
    I also wonder if I do something wrong by working my abs every day for approximately 15 minutes?
    I really liked your article!

    • Glad you liked the article! You can train your core but you won’t really “have abs” until at/under 20%.

      So for now let’s focus on building your core muscles and being healthy and then maybe go for the abs in the future?

      • Ida Camilla

        Thanks, I will continue, and hopefully I will reach a point where I can be allowed to have abs!
        Do I get more muscle by working the muscle every day or every other day?

        • YW!

          Sounds good. 🙂

          Regarding the training frequency, I recommend doing the ab routine 3 times a week.

          LMK what you think!

          • Ida Camilla

            I think that is good! Now I do a pretty intense workout for 20 min each morning… I just wondered if that in any way could be overtraining the abs and result in less abs?

  • Austin

    Hey Mike I have 2 questions. 1.) What body fat do you need before you can tell how you’re abs will look, like so I know if I have good looking abs or those weird floaty abs? 2.) What body fat do you stop “Shrinking” cause I am around 11% bf 150 pounds, so will I get any skinnier or from this point will I just get leaner and sharper looking? (I never knew how much glycogen was in the arms and shoulders they have shrunk while the obliques have stayed the same, its infuriating haha)

    • Hey man!

      1. 10-11% you get an idea. 7-8% you see everything you’ve got. 🙂

      2. You keep shrinking yeah but you do look more and more defined of course. That’s why the look most guys want is a bit too big looking/feeling at 10% and then “perfect” at 7-8%.

  • Josie

    Hi Mike, I’m recovering from a hip injury, and my physio has banned all ab workouts that involve leg lifting. Do you have any suggestions for alternative ab exercises? She didn’t quite know what an ab roll out was, but from my description she seemed to think this was OK, and suggested plank and bridge ab exercises too. Many Thanks, Josie.

  • Malvin

    Hi, can u explain to me what do you mean by “3 to 6 abs circuits” , i found that in your “BIGGER LEANER STRONGER” book’s. day 2 routine sec (3 days per weeks). Thanks

    • Yeah one circuit is each of the exercises done (1 round). I like to do them in between my major muscle group sets.

      For example:

      Chest set 1
      Abs circuit 1
      Rest 60 to 90 seconds
      Chest set 2
      Abs circuit 2
      Rest 60 to 90 seconds


  • Jackson

    Hey mike. I really enjoyed your article. I was wondering if you have any advice for me. I just started doing upper body exercises to try to bulk up my skinny body but do you have any advice for my abs. I have recently started doing lower ab workouts more often and have seen a little bit of results. Thanls

  • Rouge Surreah

    Hey Mike. Q 4 U… (heh see what i did there? mhm) – for women to have that defined, sharp oblique cut (vertical), would the circuit exercises work or do we have to do oblique work? I just have heard that its not good to do as it can make us bulk out in the waist when we want to be keeping that ‘hourglass figure’.

    • Haha yes I did! 🙂

      Additional oblique and core work isn’t necessary apart from the ab routine when you’re doing the heavy compound lifts like deadlift, squat, etc.

      Hope that helps!

  • Simon

    Hey Mike. I recently found your youtube channel and was kind of blown away with all the knowledge you are spreading, keep it up! I’m having major issues with getting my abs to show, I’m 177cm tall and 74kg, age 38 and I’m around 11% bf in the pictures. Do I need to lose more bf or change my ab workout?

  • mdringler

    What are you thoughts regarding advice that any movements which result in curving of the spine (e.g. crunches, air bikes) are bad for the the lower back and should therefore be avoided? I don’t want to do damage to my lower back, but I also can’t imagine adequate progressive stimulation using planks…

    • If you were adding a ton of weight sure but they’re unweighted or lightly weighted. You’ll be totally fine.

  • Austin

    Hey Mike I just saw Ben’s 2 year transformation on your Facebook page and I am curious are abs like that genetic or can you train your abs to have that “Dry” looking Brad Pitt in fight club style abs like Ben has?

    • The shape and alignment of the muscle is genetic. If you build up the ab and core muscles enough and then are lean enough, you’ll have the look you want. 🙂

  • Sang

    you are great Mike i just found this website,i really want to lost weight but it’s too hard for me and i wanna know can i only do chest and abs workout very hard than the other muscle?if it possible could you give me a routine for only chest and abs workout?thank!

  • Toni

    I never thought of the first couple of examples you showed as not great ab development but I see what you mean now. I remember awhile back I was frustrated, in general with my ab development, and a friend suggested that I try to develop my obliques more. Once I did, I saw a big difference in how my core looked. People are somewhat surprised when they find out my body fat percentage because they assume it’s a little lower due to my obliques being more developed. Interesting article.

    • Yeah it makes a big difference! And yeah having all the right muscles developed will give you more definition at a higher BF%.

      • Toni

        I’m assuming that even though you only gave examples of men that women could fall into this category too of not having the greatest ab development. Although most women (from what I’ve personally seen) don’t have fully-developed six packs. Am I right?

  • Toni

    I’m enclosing a recent photo of my abs because I’m curious as to what you think my body fat could be? I really don’t think I’m lower than 20% based on the photos you provided in your blog, and estimates I’ve gotten from some online calculators. I realize it’s an educated guess on your part too. Thanks. P.S. I darkened the photo slightly because my bathroom lighting wasn’t cooperating but other than that the photo has not been edited.

    • Yeah I’d guess 25% give or take. Have you seen this?


      • Toni

        Yes, I read that article. Is it possible to have faint vertical cuts on your abdomen (in the right light), and pretty defined v-ab lines at 25% though? Anyway, thanks, I do appreciate the quick response.

      • Toni

        Yes, I’ve read that very informative article. Now…I’m really confused. My trainer calipered me at 22-23% very recently. Some of the online calculators had me at 21% based on my waist measurement. I honestly don’t know what my body fat is. But it’s just a number like your weight, and doesn’t mean much to others. Some people might think those percentages are too high. Yet considering I spent most of my adult life at ~39-40% body fat, complete with a couple of belly rolls, mind you, I’ll gladly take 25%. Not sure I’d want to go lower than 20% ultimately because I seriously doubt my well-endowed chest or nice wide hips would survive trying to get beyond that point, to be totally honest. I need to be able to maintain a certain body fat percentage too…not sure I could at a much leaner level. Also, I’m not convinced getting a lot leaner would be make me happier with my outer appearance as I’m pretty happy with how I look now (at almost 44). Maybe I’m an outlier in my thinking, who knows? Thanks for the prompt reply. 🙂

        • Sounds like a plan! What matters is being healthy looking how you want to look. 🙂

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Dom

    Hey, Mike! Quick question: When I do this new ab routine at the end of my workout (I try to keep all my energy up for my main lifts), it takes around 30 extra minutes. Since my gym is around 30 minutes away, this means I don’t get a post-workout meal after my main body part for around an hour and a half afterwards. Does adding the long ab session mandate that I don’t get as fast of a recovery meal for IE chest? I know meal-timing doesn’t make too much of a difference, but you’ve mentioned how crucial the post-workout meal is. Should I bring something like a shake with me to take immediately after my main workout?

  • Toni

    Is it possible to see yourself getting a little leaner in about a week’s time once you commit to losing some body fat? Last week, I made the decision to lose at least 2-3% body fat by the end of this summer. I’m not seeing changes in my weight this early but rather in the mirror. I noticed earlier when wearing shorts that my quads looked a little slimmer. They even felt more muscular and not as “squishy”.

    • For sure. You can see immediate changes when you start cutting, but they’re from shedding water and glycogen. Not so much from a large amount of fat being lost in a few days.

      • Toni

        Makes sense. But it is encouraging nonetheless, thanks.

  • Dimes

    Hey mike wouldn’t building up your obliques make your body v taper less like a v? That’s a bad thing right…

    If you neglected only the obliques couldn’t you have a more dramatic v taper and a better shoulder to hip ratio?

    • You do want developed obliques but if they get too big then yes it becomes a problem. Too little looks odd too though.

  • Austin

    Hey Mike what ab exercises would you recommend for someone with hypo-lordosis? I have it and so a lot of ab movements like ab wheel roll outs, anything that involves curving the back like with ab pull downs I can’t really do. Right now all I really do for abs are 2-4 sets of 6-8 leg raises (Depending on how my back feels) 1 set of 10-15 leg raise splits, 3 sets of 3 renegade rows (If I am feeling stable) and then usually roughly 5 minutes of planks doing something like 2 minutes, then 1 min 30 sec, then 2 1 minute planks. Is there anything else I can do that’s useful?

    • Hmm planks are okay. Leg raises are good of course. Bicycles are good. Reverse crunches are alright.

  • Konnori

    Hey Mike! When I do cardio, I run sprints 3 days a week. I sprint for at least 30 seconds and rest for 90, then repeat for 15-20 minutes. How do you feel about sprints? I also do Russian twists as part of my workout. How do you feel about Russian twists?

  • Al Ferns

    Hii..m alex..i started workin out 4 days ago specially to get great abs like yours…so i did about 30 decline crunches (me being upside down) as the trainer instructed…but after that i havent been able to do a single rep….ive tried putting all ma strength in it but nthn works..ma stomach has bloated up too….plz help as am afraid ill have to live wid this belly all life long if i wont be able to work on my abs

    • Hmm sorry but I’m not sure what’s going on. Are you in pain or?

  • Gemma Smith

    in my gym there is no captains chair and (as im just starting out) i am struggling to get to grips with the cable crunch would it be ok to do a flat bench lying leg raise with a dumbell/ ankle weights as my weighted ab exercise and then go into my two non weighted exercises?


  • Kevin Bejar

    Don’t know if you mentioned this but by doing This could you safely say I won’t over develop my core and have that thick look? I wanna make sure I don’t thicken and get that v taper.

    • Nope you won’t. You just have to resist the urge to do a bunch of oblique work. That’s what causes the big waist.

  • Kevin Bejar

    Mike I need your help man. God bless.

    • I’ll message you back there. Or, if you prefer, shoot me an email at [email protected]. I’d be happy to help you out.

      • Kevin Bejar

        Instagram is fine mike thank you man means a lot.

  • Kingtutz

    Hey guys anyone who’s interested in getting abs getting lean visit my page https://www.fiverr.com/kingtutz2015

  • Toni

    Wanted to give you a quick update as to how it’s going. In the past few weeks, I’ve lost a 1/2 inch off my waist and 1.2 lbs! I’m eating at a 15% deficit from my TDEE as well as drinking mostly water and herbal/black teas. Also, increased the frequency of my cardio sessions, and making them more intense. I haven’t checked my body fat yet but am using 24% as a starting percentage based on all the feedback I’ve received. My goal is 21%. It’s definitely taking much more of a focused effort to lose some body fat being (somewhat) fitter this time around compared to when it was a lot higher. Noticing small visual changes but mainly feeling (slightly) leaner overall. Hoping by the early Fall to hit my goal. Thanks for your help too. 🙂

    • Thanks for the update!

      Good job on the weight you lost.

      I recommend going in a bit steeper of a deficit (20-25%) so you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week. You’ll reach your goal sooner and you won’t have to cut as long.

      What do you think?

      • Toni

        Normally, I’d agree with you but for the past 10 months I’ve worked really hard at building my glutes…which were practically non-existent. My hips have increased by two whole inches, and that is a lot for me. I’m okay with losing body fat a little slower so I don’t seriously backslide with my glute gains. Plus, I’m eating 1550 calories now, and can’t imagine going much lower, to be honest. For now, I’ll keep a 15% deficit going.

        • YW!

          I see. If you’re new to this style of lifting, you’re going to build muscle while losing fat so don’t be too worried about losing gains!

          Either way, as long as you’re getting results, keep it up!

          • TD

            Do you recommend reverse dieting once I get to my goal, and want to maintain my weight/fat loss?

          • Yep. Reverse diet to maintenance cals and then chill there!

          • TD

            As far as cardio goes, once I start maintaining, I’m unsure as to how many cardio sessions I should be doing weekly. I’m doing three now but I’m still wanting to lose a bit more fat. Is once a week enough? (By cardio I don’t mean steady state either.)

          • TD

            How many cardio (not steady state) sessions should I be doing weekly once I start maintaining? I’m doing three now but I’m still hoping to lose a bit more fat. Is once a week enough? Also, earlier this morning I took a progress picture, and included it so you could see. First one is before, second one is current. By my estimates/calculations, I’ve lost about 2% body fat in six weeks. Weight lost is 4 lbs. The overall inches lost is 2 which came off from my waist, hips and thighs. Thanks again for your help.

          • For the cardio, 3-5 times a week is fine when cutting. 2-3 times a week while maintaining is good. Check this out:


            Great job on the progress. That’s a very visible difference.

          • TD

            I read the article, and I’m definitely on the right track then. Currently doing 90 minutes of cardio while cutting (much like you when you mentioned what you did to get to 7% BF), and having great success with it. So, two sessions (totaling 45-60 minutes) should be enough for me to maintain this lower body fat. It sounds very doable.

            Thanks, I’m quite pleased with how the cut has been going.

          • Perfect. I like it. Keep it up and keep me posted.

          • TD

            I thought you’d like to see the final result of my cut so I included a photo. In the last 8 weeks, I lost 5 pounds, 3% body fat, and 3 inches overall. It doesn’t seem like much but it did somewhat make a difference in how I look now. I notice it the most in my torso, and quads. While I was happy with how I looked before, I’ll admit there were times where I felt almost too big overall for my small frame. So, I’m definitely happier after cutting. Yet I don’t wish to lose anymore as I think I’d be too lean for my personal taste.

            I’m going to start reverse dieting today, and it will probably take me 3-4 weeks to get back to my maintenance calories. Looking forward to eating more. Thanks again for your help.

          • Awesome job! You look great.

            Glad you’re happy with where you’re at.

            Yep, let’s reverse diet and then maintain. Maintenance is a lot easier than cutting so I think you’ll enjoy it.

            Until next time!

          • TD

            So, I added 100 calories back in, and I lost another pound. I know I correctly figured out my TDEE. You stated in the article this could happen, I’m just double-checking.

          • Yep. That’s expected. If you’re increasing cals 100 per week as you’re supposed to, it’ll be a few weeks until you reach TDEE so you’ll continue losing some weight till then.

  • Toni

    Here is a comparison shot of me before the cut, and me now. About 5-6 weeks difference in photos. First pic is before, second is me currently. Thought you’d like to see. Still don’t know how much body fat I’ve lost so far but I can see a very slight difference so I’m encouraged to continue at it.

  • Aisha

    Hi Mike

    I’ve bought your book and it’s really informative (never seen so many research studies referenced in diet and exercise books, which is good!).

    My only issue is that I want to achieve an hourglass figure and really don’t want to bulk up my waist or get too thick thighs. I know that people say that women can’t build mass but even your book suggests we can. I do want to build up my glutes (I have slim hips and a fairly flat bum) but I don’t want thick thighs. In fact, they look fairly shapely already despite my lack of hips – I would only want to add to the outside mass if possible, to create a more shapely look. I also really don’t want a thick waist.

    I read an article a while back about the “Britney Spears Syndome” which says that women can actually bulk up and especially in the stomach area. I wonder what your views are on this? I know there are people out there that say that Britney looks better in the second but I don’t agree and wouldn’t want to train and become like that.


    I’ve read elsewhere that to not overdo the stomach area you really just want to focus on core work. I don’t want “six pack” abs. I have got to the stage where my stomach has a dip at either side and would like it looking slightly more toned, but not the “ripped” look, where women seem to have built up their obliques too much too.

    I have seen that over-developed look on some women, ones who appear not to be on steroids or anything, just regular gym-goers.

    I hope you can help.


    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it. Anything you could do to spread the word would rock too! 🙂

      Women CAN build mass but it’s HARD and takes quite some time.

      What you don’t want is large obliques and high body fat percentages, that’s all.

      Minimal oblique development with low body fat = slim waist.

      Have you seen this butt training routine?


  • Fahad Al Mutlaq

    Thank you Michael for the awesome article that sure helped clear a lot of things to me.
    I have been working out (regularly) for about 4 months now. it is now a routine that I enjoy doing. working out is not a problem as I now work out semi daily and started feel good and fit.
    I am frustrated by a large belly from years of diet abuse, and want to get rid of it.
    the rest of my body however is not bad, specially with workout it looks fit.
    I realize that I need to reduce my body fat but I don’t know what to do to reduce it specially fat concentrated in that area. I quit junk food and sodas and such also any sugary food. sometimes I just drink 2-3 cups of juice for my dinner, I also avoid sleeping right after a meal. my sleep times were a mess and for almost a year now I have regulated my sleep. I don’t like protein shakes and such products as I believe they do more harm than good. I live in a hot dry area so I always have a bottle of water in my hand.
    the rest of my body looks ok, but it’s just that belly that is sticking out is haunting me.
    I know there are no shortcuts to a healthy abs but what is the right path that will show me results after sticking to it for months?
    ps. I did an online body fat test (didn’t seem 100% accurate) and it estimated my body fat at 23%
    I am male, 5’8, 163lb

    Thank you for your help.

    • Welcome!

      I hear you on the belly! This will help:


      For the abs, it comes down to building the core and getting lean, that’s it. Check this out:


      On the BF%, those aren’t very accurate… Check this out:


      LMK what you think.

      • Fahad Al Mutlaq

        Thanks Mike! I started BLS routine on week 3 now. But since I was working out 5-6 months prior. BLS routine feels weird lol most of the time I just waiting between sets. As you mentioned in the book , the goal is progressive weight resistance. But sometimes when I try an exercise with added weight (add a little) it gets uncomfortable and I see myself off balance sometimes. Should I go back to previous weight? Or should I keep this added weight and let my body deal with it? As always thank you for all your help!

        • YW! Cool you’re rolling on BLS.

          It can feel funny resting that much at first, but you’ll get used it, and it’s important to get that rest so you can be as strong as possible each set.

          As to going up in weight, it should be difficult, but your form should never go out. So, if you can’t do the increased weight with proper form, go back to previous weight.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Matt

    Hey Mike….awesome article and it’s been a month since I’ve starting working on those ab routines 2-3 times a week.. I wanted to know specifically that if adding white sugar (1-2 tea spoons) a day ( with in the set carb limit) a bad thing, particularly for abs? does it make fat loss around abs more difficult? Could you clarify

    Thank You,

    • Glad the ab routine is going well!

      No problem on the white sugar. 🙂 It won’t cause any issues for you.

      • Matt

        Thank You so much Mike. Appreciate your patience in taking time and answering every question. Whatever little I could achieve till date is all because of your book and articles…I donno whether you understand the level of public service you’re doing by educating lot of folks about science behind fitness & nutrition. But it made a great difference to me n my confidence, coz I know I can achieve the sort of fitness I desire, Ever grateful to you for that …Great job 🙂

        • My pleasure!

          I’m happy to be helping Matt.

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • hi

    What if we cant do circuits? since my gym is really full sometimes.

    • That’s totally fine. That’s what I do.

      Look towards the end of this article and you’ll see.

  • Kevin Bejar

    Yo Mike man i Messaged you on Instagram and even left some pics here for your advice. I understand youre busy and all but it would mean the world if you got back to me. Would you like me to post them here again?

    • I don’t see any DMs from you on Insta brother! Not sure what’s happening.

      Feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected]. I’ll answer you there. 🙂

  • Warlox

    Hi Mike, I read your book Maximum Muscle and I am following your given workout of 5 days. It do helping me to increase my strength with high weight workout.
    The day 5 consists of Leg and shoulder exercie.My question is however, in your BLS book you noted we should not train two major muscle at a time i.e., Legs and shoulder etc. So could you please clarify which workout plan to follow?

  • Paul

    Hi Mike.
    What do you think of the Russian Twist? I find it gives my obliques a good work out.

    • It’s pretty meh and I’m generally not a fan of doing a lot of oblique work because if they get too big, you have to be REALLY lean to avoid looking “thick” in the waist.

  • TD

    Hi. I wanted to go back to trying to build my glutes up like I did for several months before the summer started. But I don’t want my body fat to get too high like it did last time. I ate at a 300 calorie surplus last time, and DID get good results but I’m a bit confused as to how much of a surplus to eat at this time around. I plan on bulking for no more than 3-4 months. I would start in mid-September and go through the holiday season. Any advice you could offer would be appreciated. 🙂

  • TD

    Hi. I wanted to go back to trying to build up my glutes like I did for several months before the summer started. But I don’t want my body fat to get too high like it did last time. I ate at a 300 calorie surplus last time, and DID get good results but I’m a bit confused as to how much of a surplus to eat at this time around. I plan on bulking for no more than 3-4 months. I would start in mid-September and go through the holiday season. Any advice you could offer would be appreciated. 🙂

    • If you’re trying to build muscle while staying lean, your best bet would be this:


      What do you think?

      • TD

        Definitely could work. I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

        • NP! LMK how it goes.

          • TD

            I have a question about macros. I’d heard that your carb and fat macros shouldn’t be the same percentages. Currently, my macros are 35/30/35 (c/p/f). So far, it has been working for me, and is fairly easy to hit them daily. But contrary to what I’ve heard, my carb and fat percentages are the same. What’s your take on those two macros being similar, or doesn’t it matter? Thanks.

          • I recommend high carb, high protein and low fat for dieting. To see how your macros should breakdown, check this out:


            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Anthony

    Hi mike. I’m trying to get rid of what you could call man tits and trying to get them to change to pecks what do you think I should be doing?

  • Alex Wunder

    Hey Mike!

    I hope youre having a great day.

    I have rounded lower abs (my lower stomach and pelvic region) that curves outward instead of being completely flat. I’ve always wanted that completely flat look thats highly defined.

    Do you think this rounding is genetic or do you think its from overtraining my lower abs? I know for a fact that its not fat i can see veins running all the way theoughout them without flexing. Bf% is probably 7-8.


    • All is good my man!

      Sounds genetic. Post a pic though and I’ll let you know what I think.

      • Alex Wunder

        You can kind of see the upward slope on the two where I am not flexing. When I flex, like in the 3rd picture the slope goes away, but resting It curves upward.

        Think thats unchangeable?

        It’s not necessarily a bad thing but when you can’t see below my pants it makes it look like I have a stomach there when I literally have next to no fat which to me feels unfortunate.

        • Ah yeah I see what you mean. It looks like you stand with quite a bit of arch?

          • Alex Wunder

            I was kind of just doing that to make it more clear in the picture i wanted it to be visible because sometimes its tough to see things in pictures the way they appear in person.

          • Oh okay. IMO you’re nit picking. We all have our “imperfections.” 😉

  • Borna Houman

    Hey mike, what do you think of decline crunches? And also, don’t air bicycles work out the obliques?

    • Decline crunches are good and yup they do work the obliques in addition to the rectus abd.

  • Andrew Powell

    Im someone that finds it easier to stick with something that i have a planned day by day work out so i can go to the gym and know what i have to do. Is there any plan or anywhere i can get a workout routine that involves this information?

    • I know what you mean. Check out my workout journal:


      What do you think?

      • Andrew Powell

        Does it cover how many reps to do with everything? Like i said i just need a straight forward, this is what to do and how many times to do it workout

        • Yep! The rep range for all working sets are 4-6 reps unless otherwise specified. You’ll see I recommend different rep ranges for warm ups and higher rep ranges for certain exercises.

  • Dominick Thompson

    Ok, mike, I’m confused. Do I do 3 sets after my workout 3x a week, or 6 sets 3x a week? The wording confused me slightly, I’ve been doing 6-9 circuits 3X per week (AKA 18-27 sets per week)but in your recent podcast you mentioned this as overkill so I wanted to double check

    • Start with 3 circuits 3 x per week. That’s plenty. You can bump up to 6 circuits 3 x per week but there’s really no need to do more than that.

  • Evan

    Hey Mike, just wondering, why is it that with abs that we do so many reps to failure as opposed to how we train weighted in the 4-6 rep range for all our other muscles? I understand that your ab workout does include a weighted exercise but I was curious as to why the next two exercises are trained unweighted and to failure? Most ab workouts that I’ve observed tend to involve unweighted, train to failure, high-rep patterns.
    I do love this workout though, cable crunches are the shit!

    • Because abs recover very quickly and seem to respond well to higher rep. The reality is building a good core takes a lot less work than a great back or set of legs etc.

      • Evan

        Thanks alot! Really appreciate how you take the time to answer all of our questions.

  • Harith

    Hi mike, I was just wodering what would my workout look like for the week? You outlined many great workouts for different parts of the abs but if you were to create a list involing all of the workouts i need to do, what would it look like and how many reps, rests and sets would each have?

  • Yugal Baliyan

    Sir …is this true that if we have six pack then we can not make biceps or body size bigger..?

  • CMB

    Hey Mike!

    I work out from home so I don’t have the right equipment for cable crunch, captain’s chair leg raise, hanging leg raise, or the ab circle. I only have barbells, dumbbells, and a simple bench.

    Is it still possible for me to get a decent looking pack? Thanks!

    • Hmm sure you can do stuff like ab rollouts, dragon flags, air bikes, and so forth. That said, get a pullup bar and you can do hanging leg raises too…

  • Renier

    you can perform these circuits on either your lower body or upper body training right?, another nice article btw.

    • I don’t recommend circuit training except for on the ab routine. For the other main lifts for lower and upper body, I recommend focusing on heavy, compound lifts with a good amount of rest between sets.

      • Renier

        I’m sorry I feel I didn’t explain myself properly, what I meant to ask is, let’s say I’m doing this abs workout on Monday, Can I do it along with the ultimate chest workout?

  • Yugal Baliyan

    Lower abs are not devloping in the way as i want? Help out…

  • Harris

    I’ve been going off of your articles for about a month now and I’m feeling fairly confident in my upper body progress. I’ve also been doing ab work outs for a while but i haven’t seen any improvement on that front, i used to just do 1000’s of situps/crunches but i know that is wrong so i switched to different exercises (bicycle crunches, inclined sit-ups with medicine balls) but i feel like my definition hasn’t improved at all, if anything its gotten worse. I don’t know my BF%, my dad (who used to lift a lot) tells me that I just need to eat more to build the muscle for definition, and i have increased my caloric intake but that hasn’t helped. I realize the lighting in the picture below is pretty bad, it was my phone camera, but do you think my BF% is low enough for definition or should i cut a bit? I’ve been trying for a solid year with various work outs but nothing I do improves my definition, what should i do to rectify this?

  • Mr. Anonymous


    If somebody is brand new to weight lifting and is suffering from the skinny fat look and wants to lower their body fat and get leaner, how concerned should somebody be with developing a good set of abs like you described here?

    Is that something that should be done AFTER you’ve already achieved a certain bodyfat percentage THEN you can start working on developing your ab core or does it really matter either way?


    • It depends on whether they should cut or bulk first. Check this out:


      Whether you’re cutting or not you should be working your core to develop the muscles though. That way when it is time to cut and make them visible, they’re well developed.

      Hope that helps!

  • Hushred

    Hey Mike,

    Which of the recommended exercises (cable crunch, captain’s chair leg raise, hanging leg raise, air bicycles, ab wheel rollout) workout obliques?


    • Air bikes the most. Hanging leg raises quite a bit as well.

      • Hushred

        Forgot to ask, what about decline crunch and flat bench lying raise (both recommended in BLS)?

        Thanks again, Mike.

        • They do involve the obliques but not as much as air bikes and cap’s leg raises and hanging leg raises.

  • Mohd Alaiti

    Hi Mike
    I have been working on the above ab program in the article for 4 months. My abs started to show however they are like cubes. Small squares but not rectangular. Is that genetics as well or will they develop into a more rectangular shape as i work them out more?

    • No, there’s no way to influence the actual shape or symmetry, but if you keep building them, you should get to a point where you’re happy.

  • Phillip

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve trying to incorporate my ab workout into my exercise routine(from BLS). I am very pleased with the size and shape of my calves but I am working them 3 times a week(after day 1, 3, and 5….calf workout A,B,andC). Would it be detrimental if I were to do ab circuits on days 1,3, and 5 so I can do three per week as opposed to 2? I’d rather develop my abs more than my calves because I am already pleased with my calves.

    Also in BLS you said to do 3-6 circuits, but in this article you said do 6-9. Which should I do?

    You advice has been so great so far!


    • Great question. This is actually a small change I’m making to the program (a mini-update to the book is coming).

      So yes, calves 2 x per week and abs 3 x. Totally fine.

      Let’s also do 3 circuits per ab session (9 total for the week).

      • Phillip

        What is the difference between 3 and 6 per session if I work 3 times/week? I’m really trying to overload my core.

        • You just don’t need to do 6 per session if 3 x per week IMO. I mean if you REALLY want to and have the time I guess you can.

      • Harun Kahraman

        Hi Mike,
        I have been really searching for this information and I rather ask you here so everyone who is searching the same thing can see the information.
        I want to work out calfx2 and absx3 in a 5 day split.
        What should be my calfworkout a and b?
        Thanks and I just started my program.

        BTW this is an optional question. I had hernia surgery almost 10 years ago, I am 31 now. My back is fine but I rather not force it too much, so doing deadlifts might not be safe. What exercises I should definitely avoid to prevent injury?
        Also to help with the back issue and overall benefits I am thinking of starting to swim as cardio 3 times a week. I am at %26 bf right now so cutting. Any general tips for swimming workout (HIIT obviously)?
        Thanks for the great job you are doing.
        Best wishes to you and your family.

        • If you’re only going to be doing calves twice a week, just stick with calf workouts A and B (the 4-6 rep sets and the 8-10 rep sets).

          For the exercises you should avoid due to the past hernia surgery, I recommend checking with your doc. I don’t recommend any exercises unless he/she approves them and of course don’t do any that cause pain or discomfort.

          Cool on the swimming! Just follow the HIIT protocol. Otherwise, whatever you want is fine!

          YW! Thanks for the kind words and support. 🙂

  • Brian Okwaisie

    hi I am 13 ( in year 9 ) and some of my friends have great four packs and six packs and I don’t. As you said I’m lean but I don’t have the body I want. What exercises should i do to get my body ready. Also how do I increase my stamina

  • Filippo Bonadonna

    Hi Mike, in the one year challenge, you change the workouts every 8 weeks, does the same apply to abs or can I do the same abs workout throughout the whole year???

    • Either or, really. If you’re seeing good results with the circuit as is, there’s no reason to change it really.

  • LifeForMuscle

    hi mike!

    i have a problem when i do leg raises is that i experience pain between the quads and the lower abs… the pain doesnt allow me to push my abs to the limit with leg raises.

    i think its my hip flexors?

    what do you think causes that pain?

    thank you!

  • Tarub

    Hi mike!

    I saw your post about the 8 weeks workout (3 day workout) Day 1: Chest, triceps Day 2: Back, biceps Day 3: Legs, Shoulders. When should i put the ab workout in those 3 days? And the calf workout?

    Lastly, how much time should i spent on weightlifting? Im newbie to your workout i just started this week. And im havingg a little hard time in doing dips 🙁

    • I’d do ab circuits at the end of 1-2 of the workouts and calf workouts at the end of 1-2 workouts. I’d do 2 of whichever you want to focus more on. Check these out:



      In the 3-day split, you should be able to do the workouts in 60-75 minutes.

      What’s happening with the dips? Pain? Not strong enough? LMK.

      • Tarub

        I see. Thanks! Uhm 1 more thing, for example in day 1. Can i workout Chest, tricep, abs, calf in just 1 day? Is it safe? I mean i can do it i know my body can take it. Im used to do more before. I started weightlifting like almost 2 years ago and im doing ALOT almost spending 3 hours in gym. But time comes i need to focus on studying so now im going to start working out again. And i am suprised to your advice that it needs few workouts.

        About the dips, not strong enough. Im not used to it anymore maybe il just go with the negatives until failure. Im going to start next week with Day 1 again, i got a serious fever this week and stopped me from working out. Btw, thanks a lot!

        • Tarub

          Last question please.. I have this mystery in my body. When i started working out (2 years ago) for just 1 month, the results showed up already. Others said i was lucky it was fast to make my body look good. I mean its not that real good yet like yours mike but compare to mu body before i starts working out (i was thin..) then like i have told you, i need to study before so i needed to quit weightlifting in order to focus more. Then i realized my body shrink, until it looked like im thin again and didnt even wokout. Now i started working out again and in just 2 weeks my friends already told me im getting gains already until i got sick this week, others said my body became thin again. I wish you could understand what im sayong.. My point is, i like the eat my body grew fast when i workout, but when i stop working out for just a week, another drastic change is happening. The worse is, its making the efforts you have done the other day useless. I mean im thin so its a big grace to me even to have fat.. (I think there is no problem in my eating habit.. They said im a quite machine in eating) Is that normal?? Thank you again. I wish you could help me..

          • Tarub

            I like the WAY**


          • That’s common. It takes a few years of muscle growth to build a foundation that doesn’t “deflate” to nothing after a couple of weeks of no lifting, haha.

        • Welcome! I’d do abs or calves, each day–not both.

          There’s no need to be in the gym that long, and I don’t recommend it.

          Understood on the studying you need to do. With the 3-day split, you should have plenty of time to study and make great gains.

          For the dips, is there an assisted pull-up/dip machine at your gym? You could use that.

          Sorry to hear about the fever. Get well soon, and then let’s get back on track. 🙂

          My pleasure!

  • Yngve Nordahl

    What’s an ab circuit, and how do I perform 3-6 of them? How many reps is there in one ab circuit?

    • Did you read the article? There are examples at the end of it. Check them out. 🙂

      • Yngve Nordahl

        Lol, my mind wanders a lot, so I must have missed it 😀
        So, one ab circuit is one weighted ab exercise, followed by 2 unique unweighted ones to failure? Am I understanding this correctly?

  • Ashley Baber

    Hello. I am a mother of four boys so as you can imagine my stomach has been stretched to the limit over and over again. With that being said I have diastasis recti or ab separation two fingers wide. I know you have work your TVA to help close it but what exercises would you recommend. Thank you.

    • If you do the routine laid out here plus your basic heavy compound lifting, you’ll be doing everything you can for your TVA…

  • Dawud

    Hi. I train at home, so I don’t have anything but a bench, dumbells and a pull up bar. How can I do this workout without the cable crunch? Can I change it to “normal crunch” with weights?

  • Sean

    Hey Mike! Just wanted to let you know you are shredded and have inspired me through your GREAT article to try out your ab routine for 3-4 weeks. Ill re-post then and let you know how it goes! I just recently have been diving all in on fitness and leading a healthier life style 1. to try and motivate my father who recently has been diagnosed with diabetes and is a threat to his health. and 2. a better heath conscience me, can only be a better me !
    Anyway all in all, great article! I really appreciate you taking the science of things and explaining it clearly and step by step! Thanks again

    • Thanks man! Glad you enjoyed the article. 🙂

      Sounds good! I look forward to seeing your results.

      Awesome you decided to get into fitness to help your pops. Let’s get him on track as well.

      My pleasure for everything, Sean! Talk soon.

  • Robert

    Hello Mike. Great job man.
    – Are there any other exercises for the abs that you’d recommend?
    – About the Deadlift exercise. first I want to tell you that in the gym that I go, nobody does that and everyone is scared of this exercise and they think that I’m crazy that I’m doing it! I’ve never done this exercise before and I haven’t worked on my back very much. Shouldn’t I use lighter weight and do more sets? and not add wight to it more quickly?

  • Mohammed Hamed

    What do you think of these Serratus exercises?

  • Dan Harris

    Hi Mike,

    I have had discectomy surgery on my lumbar spine so I am unable to deadlift, squat, overhead press or barbell row due to the compression forces they place on the spine.

    What do you recommend I do to develop my the TVA and serrated anterior if I can’t do these lifts?

    Also, are there any exercises I can include in my workout to replace the big lifts?



    • Hey Dan!

      The other core exercises given here should be enough to get it done. Adding vacuums could help as well.

  • Adam Aldana

    Hi mike, can you Workout six days a week, will that be Better or is that overtraining ?

  • Taylor Y.r

    Hey Mike, question about the fat percentage. I used to have anorexia so I’m trying not to get into that again. I want to be able to do this right. I’ve made my own workout things and experimented the longest time. I’m in pretty good shape. I don’t have access to do deadlifts or military. I’m a big time distance runner. Lift weights as well I’m a girl. How can I balance both of those? I love to run but I also want some muscle on myself. As soon as I get back into running I know my muscle will be eaten away. It is also hard for me to get the calories I need throughout the day. I’m a vegetarian but I’ll admit once in a while I have to eat fish because of iron. Eating enough and worrying about over eating for what I’m doing has been a struggle. When I am in my running I typically run around 6 miles or more on my long days. Regular 5k sprints on other days that aren’t associated with heavy weight days. Last thing I have is I’ve always had my obliques stick out. Especially when Im not running ( chronically sick). How do you mix up food so you’re not tired of it? Is there cheaper ways of getting a abundance of food. Sorry this is long.

  • Harry Ashton-Potter

    Hi Mike, does it matter what days these 6-9 circuits are carried out on? At the moment I’m doing a 3 day split (Mon, Wed & Fri). Should these circuits be spaced out over the 3 days or done all on a certain day?

    • Nope! I wouldn’t do them all in one day, though. I recommend doing 6-9 circuits 2-3 days a week.

  • Nathan

    Hi Mike, I’m just starting BLS, and the only trouble I’ve run into so far is with the ab exercises. With almost any ab exercise I’ve ever tried (crunches, captains chair leg raise, air bike, etc.) I start to experience pain in my mid and lower back, and so I have to stop my sets before my abs are really tired. The cable crunch is the only one that doesn’t cause this problem. Am I engaging the wrong muscles or something? Any advice on how to overcome this? Thanks!

    • Interesting. Stick with what doesn’t cause you pain and add some hyperextensions to your back day (3 sets of 15 reps, low weight) and let’s see how things are in a month or so.

  • Dani

    Hi Mike. I do all of these diverse exercises, have a BF of 17% (I’m a fit female) with a good amount of lean muscle mass from strength training, do cardio 3-4 times a week, weightlift 3 days a week, and do ab work every other day. Raises, obliques, bicycle… I don’t think there is an ab exercise I haven’t done or can’t do. I also box and my coach is always impressed by my abdominal strength, but I have no abs that show. I know I am probably genetically disadvantaged, but it sucks. My diet is also nailed down to the macro and I eat a ton of lean protein and vegetables and never drink. Any ideas? I’ve sort of just given up on the idea of having abs but wanted to reach out anyway. You seem to have a good handle on how to achieve a good looking core.

    • Hey hey! Thanks for all the info. Glad you have a strong core and are eating clean!

      Hmmm. Do you have heavy/weighted ab work in your ab routine and are you progressively overloading in it?

      Also, let’s make sure you’re measuring your BF% correctly:


      LMK on those, and we’ll take it from there.

      • Dani

        Hey Mike. Thanks very much for your reply. I think I just need to do higher volume ab work to make them pop out more. I’m lean, but don’t have that ripple effect that I’m looking for. I think for women, this super defined look is hard to achieve unless you hit 6-8% BF—and even then… I haven’t caliber tested in a while (don’t own one) but have been using an upright Tanita scale at my gym to measure my fat%. I’ve been using the same one for years and it’s fairly accurate (compared to calliper testing which I also used when I started body building). As well from the photo method, I would say that the 17-18% range is accurate for me. Perhaps I just need to build them more by increasing load as you say and more sets.

        • Welcome! I see what you’re saying.

          How many times a week are you training abs and how many circuits are you doing each time?

          If your BF% estimate is correct, you definitely are lean enough! We just need to develop your core.

          LMK on the amount of days and circuits!

          • Dani

            I train my abdominals roughly 3–4 days a week and aim for 3 exercises of 6 circuits or 5–6 exercises of 3 circuits. This is with my other weight training as well as cardio. I went out and bought a caliper last week just to see if my scale was off—but it’s pretty close. Caliper measures less than my scale actually at 15% (5mm) measured as shown in your video. My abs just won’t bulk up, no matter what I do. I also have good muscularity everywhere else so I don’t think it’s lack of protein, or inability to gain muscle mass. I’ve always found it weird, which is why I think it’s genetic and maybe a lost cause? Let me know your thoughts if you have any ideas. Also, I have lines on the sides, it’s just the actual 6-pack (lines in between) that I can’t seem to achieve. My coach says women shouldn’t ever aim for this, but I disagree because I’ve seen a lot of women with much more defined abs than I have (but maybe this comes down to genes).

          • Hmm alright. Sounds like you’re doing everything right.

            Have you tried following that ab routine while on a proper bulk? To most effectively build muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus.

            You definitely can develop your core and get lean enough to have abs. Genetically, you may have a less developed core than some, but it’s still possible.

            Sounds like you just need a proper bulk to really develop the core muscles. Then you can try getting lean and see where you’re at.


          • Dani

            I think you’re probably right. When I do my bulk cycles, I’ve never really focused as much on my abs as I do on heavy, high volume compound movements. I guess this is because I’ve been told repeatedly by professionals not to focus on ab isolation…”They will develop with high volume compound movements”. It’s magic. Maybe for the genetically superior, but not for me. So I’ll definitely keep this in mind on my next build phase, which is in 2 weeks. I definitely have some definition there, so I know they exist. Just the building part —I can’t seem to engage them enough to build them up and make them look more jacked. Here’s a more recent swelfie as reference (https://instagram.com/p/BFuacz2NYoH/). They’re just soft outlines and I’d like them to be more cut. Anyway, I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for all your insight and help!

          • Yep, let’s start including some direct ab training during this bulk and see how it goes.

            Wasn’t able to view the link!

            My pleasure for the help! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

          • Dani

            Thanks very much Mike. I think you’re right. This is one thing I haven’t tried so specifically. My training program usually doesn’t target isolation abs in the burn phase for whatever reason. Makes so much sense now that you explain it like that. Definitely will try this in the next couple of weeks.

            I’ve just purchased your women’s book and cookbook and am looking forward reading them both and trying some new recipes. Discus doesn’t let you include links in the feed (cuts them off) and I don’t like posting pics of myself in feeds for people to comment on. My insta handle is dani_elle_belle. There’s some recent pics there if you did want reference, but I think if I just do as you’ve suggested, it will help. Thanks again!

          • YW! Glad it makes sense now.

            That’s awesome 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Ahmed

    I have a flat stomach but it is soft and jiggly. People say if there is fat stomach will bulge. But since my stomach is flat they say it can’t be fat, just weak stomach muscles. I am confused.

  • Francisco Velasquez

    Hello michael. I am faced with a dilemma- i acknowledge the value of core training, however i feel that when i work out my core i am genetically predisposed to build alot of muscle quickly around my waist. While this may not sound initially bad, I do not like a blocky waist look. I would rather have a slender tight lean look to my waist, I am male, however rather short at 5’4 and 125lbs at about 12-14% bf. I also know the illusion of a smaller waist can be created through shaping a V taper with shoulders and back- but given that i have a natural short torso even with that if i train my core too much i may look “blocky”. Take your look for example, while I think it’s great, it’s not what i would want. i would prefer a smaller core. Should I ditch most ab training and just focus on the TVA? or am i crazy? Hope to hear from you soon

    • Hey man,

      Understood. You probably also tend to hold a fair amount of fat around your obliques, which makes them look bigger.

      You can still train your abs but you’ll want to avoid exercises for the obliques like side bends and air bikes. Crunches and leg raises should be fine though.

      Ultimately I think you’ll also want to maintain 10% or less body fat. That’s when the core really starts looking tight.

  • Daniel Vroman Rusteen

    So 6-9 circuits of 3 ab exercises? If each set took 5 minutes with a 2 minute break (undoubtedly an underestimate), this would be 30-45 minutes. I thought we were supposed to work these into the end of our workout? This would make my workout well over an hour.

    • I do them in between my big sets for my major muscle groups. Saves time.

      • Antoine Catt

        Hi Mike,

        So do those 3 ab exercises 6-9 times in one day?

        Doing 3 ab exercises 3 times one day then 3 again another and 3 more totaling of 9 times in the span of 3 days?

        I’m confused with this “Do 6 – 9 of these circuits 2 – 3 times per week”


        • 3 abs exercises, 3 sets of each exercise. 9 total sets.

          • Antoine Catt

            3 sets of an ab circuit(3 ab exercise) then? Got it.

          • Correct!

  • Jay

    But can anyone (even someone with poor ab development) have visible abs if they get in that 10% range? I’m not talking about having a great-looking midsection, just clear ab visibility.

    I’m skinnyfat and, on your advice, am lifting weights and following your program while in a calorie deficit, which is going fine. I was planning to stop cutting once I have visible abs but I’m not sure if my rectus abdominis will be developed enough to show at ~10% bodyfat within a month or two.

    • If your ab muscles are not developed, they won’t really be making an appearance.

      • Jay


        I’ve lost another 1-2 pounds since my original comment and I’m starting to see a bit of abs come through. Looks like I was underestimating my ab development and the amount of fat I have on my gut!

  • Brian Fernandes

    Hey Mike! Just wanted to know if there was a possibility that doing weighted ab work would cause me to get a blocky waist rather than the V shaped one? Also is there a limit on the weight you use while doing weighted abs so as to avoid them from getting too big?

  • Brian Fernandes

    Hey Mike, just wanted to know your thoughts on the argument that weighted ab exercise gives you a blocky waist as opposed to the V-shaped one… As abs are like any other muscle wont an increase in weight cause them to grow and make your waist too big?

    • Weighted ab exercises are needed to develop your abs the same way other muscles need overload to grow. If you scroll up, you’ll see that the examples with poor proportions are due to imbalances of the different muscles that comprise of your Core.

  • Grant

    Is it better to not rest at all in between sets and do set by set without rest ?

    • Circuits with breaks in between are very effective. You do a series of exercises without rest, rest, then repeat them all again. That’s a circuit.

  • Joe

    Hey Mike, due to a shoulder injury, I can only do weighted captain’s chair leg raises and air bicycles out of your list of recommended exercises. What should be my third exercise? Like maybe unweighted leg raises or something like crunches?

    • Sorry to hear about the shoulder. You can implement crunches or weighted crunches (if the shoulders can take it). Wish you a speedy recovery!

  • Imran Faruk

    When you say ‘Do 6 – 9 of these circuits 2 – 3 times per week’, do you mean a total of 12-27 circuits total per week? Or do you mean spread out a total of 6-9 circuits 2-3 times a week? (As in 3 circuits 3x/week)

    Also in your calves article you recommend 18 sets per week (6 sets 3x/week). Is this right or am I understanding things wrong?

    Thanks for all the helpful information though and keep doing what you do best!

    • 3 circuits, 3 times a week. Same goes for the calves. Sorry for the confusion. Glad you’re getting a lot out of the content!

  • U.K.bro

    Hi Mike, having dropped considerable weight this year…205lbs to 167lbs and now being just under 10% body fat I now have people telling me that my face looks very skinny, regularly. I will be maintaining for the next 2 weeks and following your book to do a ‘clean’ bulk afterwards to around 15% as you suggest. Is my face always destined to look a little emaciated when at lower level body fat or are certain hormones exaggerating the look as I have been cutting for so long etc? Thanks

    • Nice work with the cut. As you bulk, which inevitably comes with fat, your face will fill out a bit more over time.

  • Miz Eloise

    whats a good alternative to hanging leg raise? i cant hang i can only stay on for 2 reps then i lose grip. we dont have a captins chair either at d gym. i can do canble crunch just not d hanging leg raise that will make me feel the burn. i feel it in my arms not abs

    • You can do leg raises by lying on a mat, bringing your legs up so that they are 90 degrees to your body, and pushing them straight into the air. It can be pretty challenging at first!

  • User283

    On the weighted crunches,do you recommend using the same weight for each set or lovering it every time so you can still stay in the same rep range

    • Stay in the same rep range if you can. That doesn’t necessarily mean dropping weight every time, however.

  • Bart Creamers

    Could you name another (good) weighted ab exercise that I could do besides the cable crunch?

    • You can try weighted crunches or weighted leg raises to start.

  • Matt M

    what would you recommend for someone with overdeveloped obliques?

    • No exercises directly for the obliques and get lean. If you stay around 10% body fat, you should be happy with your obliques.

  • Ben

    Hey Mike, would substituting the cable crunch with a weighted myotatic crunch potentially work?

    • Hmm. It could. It may be tough to go heavy enough on to work in the 10-12 rep range though.

  • Маша Тихонова

    training program that will help bring your body in shape. This is an incredible program that I am very grateful to the author. Thank you. I and my wife used this program. I advise you to read more in detail here.

  • Lucas

    Hey Mike I really like your channel you seem to know a lot and I appreciate your advice and have learnt a lot from you.I have recently started doing abs and I came across a video about a washboard abs workout on YouTube(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LebPal5gKrc) i would like you opinion on the workout, the only thing I do different in the video is change the first excersie bent over leg lifts for normal lying leg lifts and also i do 2 sets of 20 reps.


    • Not bad! Bodyweight will only take you so far, though. Doing weighted exercises like the ones in this article will stimulate more growth.

  • sean

    Hi mike, i’m 16, a bit chubby and tbh the lighting in this picture makes my abdominal area a lot more toned than it actually is. I was wondering what exercises would be the most effective way for me to get 6 pack at my age and body type. Many thanks, sean.

    • Hey Sean, I wouln’t be too concerned about a ripped adult body at this stage of your development. A healthy diet and lots of exercise is a far better idea. Start lifting weights and packing in all the exercise and activity you can.

  • Jay

    Quick Question. My shoulders don’t like hanging leg raises, ab wheel or the cable crunch and I don’t have a captains chair Depressing I know! So what do I do for weighted? I have some strange ab machine at the gym thats like the cable crunch that I could do. Atm I have just been doing bicycles and reverse crunches but I find they don’t do much so I need some weighted stuff.

  • Matt

    Great article!

    Quoting this article: “I’ve found that abs seem to respond best to a combination of weighted and unweighted work.” This is followed by recommending a circuit.

    I feel that there should be more explanation around these points, because to be honest, it’s starting to sound a lot like Crossfit. lol Why don’t we do the same for other muscle groups then? (For example, Chest: Circuit from bench to dips, to tricep extension)


    • Thanks!

      Well, all muscle groups respond well to periodized training. This is just a “wussy” way to periodize in the case of bigger muscle groups, haha (your back, for example, isn’t going to respond all that well to a set of rows in the 10 to 12 rep range followed by bodyweight pullups to failure).

  • Miz Eloise

    may be a stupid question. but until i hear the answer from you i wont get anybdefinitive resolution.

    question is: do ab belts or bands that compress stomach area while working out work?they said to promote more sweat hence fat loss? pls help ty

  • Paul

    Hi there ! I’ve really enjoyed your article, and now achieving my dream body seems achievable ! But I still have a few big questions

    1. I am somewhat confused with recommended excersies frequency. I will write my own interpretation.
    So bacially there are 3 “groups” of excersies :
    – Abdominals-centered
    5 excersies recommended by you, of which 3 are weighted. You recommend doing 6-9 circuits total, during the week. Each cricuit consists of doing 10-12 reps of weighted excersises (from those 3 recommended), then immedietally one set of unweighted excersies, to another set of different unweighted excersies. So if I’m training 3 times per week I should do 2-3 circuits every training day.
    – Weighted excersises for core development
    Once per week squat, deadlift and military press. So if I’m training 3 days a week, I can do squat at first day, deadlift at second, and military press at third. Or should I do each of these excersies every day of training ?
    – Serratus excersies
    You recommend 4 excersies, of which deadlift is included in weighted group, and ab wheel rollout included in abdominal centered, so essentially should I only do two remaining excersises ? I’m also lost in Serratus excersises frequency. Should I do them every training day ? Or just once per week ? Also should I do them by your recommend 80-85% + 1 RM ?

    2. Is this combination of excersises general purpose ? I mean will it train other muscles of my body so they don’t look out of place with developed abs ?

    3. I checked recommended excersies by types of muscles they train and :
    -Main muscles trained
    Middle Back
    -Secondary muscles trained (excersises not centered around them)
    Lower Back
    -Muscles which aren’t trained
    Will those groups of muscles trained be enough for me to start doing sports (strength/endurance wise not technique wise) ? Like climbing, swimming, rowing, bike riding, running, mountain hiking ?

  • Defected Salvations

    So low fat – high protein – lower carbs – high intensity ab workouts = 6 pack. All i want to hit is 200 pounds for life and I am 178. is it really that much to ask lol.

    My doctor told me I must do cardio to release low serotonin levels. So I battle the fact that I want weight, but I need cardio.

    If you can give me a simple eat this all day and I will!

    I’m 5.9
    178 pounds

    Goal 200 pounds.

    Even you said eat the same thing I would do it!

  • Pacific

    Hey Mike, would doing ab circuits on back to back days work or would it be ideal to leave a day or more in between for recovery?

  • Kimberly Cruz

    Hi Mike, are these ok for the ladies too? 🙂

  • Rafael

    Hey Mike love your articles and well I want to know which abs exercises you recommend for me since I do not have access to the gym right now. I have weights just not those ab machines, how and which exercises should I
    do that have the same effect/results without them?

  • Charlo Cartin

    Nice to see that body transformation. It is a useful post. This will help me in making my abs fast. Here, my friend recommended me an another website http://www.thegorillapit.com from where the people share their abs gaining experience.

  • Adam

    Hey Mike, 2 questions on this article:

    1) if I’m in a cut but I’m doing an ab workout on its own, am I still better off doing it fasted, or will it not make much difference for abs?

    2) I have some low back issues, so a bunch of non-weighted ab exercises can hurt (leg raises either from lying down or hanging, for example)…I’ll do bicycles, mountain climbers, or an ab wheel, but what else can you recommend?


    • Hey Adam,

      1. No, not much difference

      2. Those are pretty great. You can also incorporate planks.

  • Emily

    Hi, Mike. I just started the YOC with my basic home gym. Can you please recommend some weighted core exercises that don’t require equipment like the Cable Crunch and Captain’s Chair exercises do? Thanks!

  • Kate

    What about stomach vacuums? Are they a worthwhile an excercise?

  • Richard

    I workout at home and don’t have access to cables. However I am doing plate situps, plate twists and plate cocoons in my 1 year challenge. I just started a week ago and I am wondering if my replacements can do the same job. As an example: Ab Circuit 1, 2, 3 goes like this for me.
    All done this week with a 15 lb. dumbbell:
    Circuit 1:
    30 plate sit-ups
    30 plate twists
    30 plate sit-ups
    30 plate cocoons
    Right into Circuit 2:
    20 plate sit-ups
    20 plate twists
    20 plate sit-ups
    20 plate cocoons
    Right into Circuit 3:
    10 plate sit-ups
    10 plate twists
    10 plate sit-ups
    10 plate cocoons
    If there is any rest in between – it’s not more then 3 seconds.
    I got this idea from another program only because it doesn’t require the use of cables.

  • Trevor Goodchild

    Fantastic article Mike, I bought an ab roller after reading. I’m too busy for a gym membership so I work out at home – I’m about to buy a set of dumbbells for compound exercises How heavy should each be to keep with your article’s advice for heavy lifting lower reps?

    I’m about 70 lbs over weight, used to run 10 miles every week on a treadmill but it didn’t do anything for me because I wasn’t in a calorie deficiency. I’m going to follow your advice to a T and do every exercise recommended -and eat 5 small meals a day, protein shakes, salad, fruit, nonfat yogurt (I’m vegetarian). I look forward to giving you credit when I get ripped

    • Hey Trevor, there’s no specific weight for the dumbbells, as everyone starts at a different level, and you’ll be getting stronger over time. You should get adjustable dumbbells. Check this out:


      Definitely keep me updated on your progress!

      • Trevor Goodchild

        I appreciate the reply Mike, I can lift 30 lbs about 3-4 times with my standalone dumbbell. I peeps your link and plan on getting a bench, and barbell. I bought adjustable dumbbells up to 40 lbs for set of 2. Can’t weight to get started on my compound exercises ! Once I transform my huge belly into washboard abs I’ll be happy to post before and after pics you are free to use

        • Sounds good! Let me know how it goes and keep me updated 🙂

  • Jeremy

    Hi Mike!
    This article is quite enlightening, but I had a question concerning weighted back flexion exercises. You see, I am a physiotherapy student and we have been told, studies supporting that, that lower back flexion exercises impose tremendous amount of pressure to the anterior part of the lumbar disk. Something like 3350 N, very close to the 3400 N the NIOSH recommend avoiding for repeated movements, and that is without adding any charge, as you would with, say, a weighted situp or cable crunch. Now, it doesn’t mean that if you do situps, your disk will spontaneously herniate just like that, but like many other things, it is a risk factor. Now it seems I have to do a choice : Either stay risk-free as possible of lumbar problems and avoid such exercises (but never getting a 6-pack I crave) or do them and let’s see what happens. I wonder what are your thoughts about that? Or if you have any way that you know can help minimize the risk for the lumbar column? (Usually we would recommend patients to brace their core so that the spines doesn’t move, but obviously you can’t do that with isotonic exercises).

    Thank you very much!

    Jeremy, PT student

    • Hey Jeremy! From what I’ve read, there isn’t much evidence that mild flexion, which is what we’re talking about with crunches and the like, poses a major threat to your back. Obviously hunching over as far as you can with 400 pounds on your back isn’t a great plan, but small amounts are fine from what I’ve read. If you find something to the contrary though, I’m all ears. And if you’re worried about it, you can do ab exercises that don’t flex your back like planks, leg raises, etc.

  • glenna

    Hey Mike,
    I have a question about progressive overload. Isn’t there only so much one can progress? I don’t know if this makes sense but won’t I eventually get to a point where the weight is too heavy or a plateau at a certain point? Where will I go from here? Say I get to 300 pound squat and stay at the 6 rep range. Then what? I hope you understand what I mean. Lol

  • Ana

    Hey Mike…i have been new to your website and I feel very grateful to find it ( only two days earlier I accidentally came to know about this website)
    The way you have explained things is amazing
    I have a question…I am a female (16 yrs old) who weighed about 145 lbs ( height 5″5′)
    I was able to reduce my self to 121 lbs by doing a lot of cardio ( skipping for 45-60 min everyday)
    But the problem is that now i am skinny fat…I am now opting for weightlifting… But I don’t know from how much kilos of weight I should start from…should I start from lighter weights or start from heavier only?
    And when should I increase the weights I am using? And how many reps and sets I should perform with the aim of loosing fat and gaining muscles?
    Pleaseeee answer my questions as the delivery for your book is not available in my location

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Ana!

      Finding your starting weights is just trial and error. I’d start witht he compound lifts and work on your form/technique with an empty bar. Don’t rush anything, and add weight as you feel more confident and get the movement down. I’d give this article a read:


      In terms of a routine, check this out:


      For progressing on your lifts, the idea is that you increase the weight once you reach the top of the rep range. Then you work with that weight until you can reach the top of the rep range again.

      Let me know how it goes!

  • Ray Abraham

    Quick question: what do you mean exactly by “to failure”? Is it that we do the rep until we can’t do it any more?

  • ayush

    Hey Quick question,
    can you build muscle strength and looks on your arms and stuff while burning fat around the abs?
    i’ve got a low body fat content, everywhere but my abs. So some advice would be great

  • Enoch

    Hey Mike! Quick question for you. I weigh about 186. 6’2″ with about 20% in body fat. Would it be a realistic goal to shoot for a six pack by the 30th of June?

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