How Often You Have To Do Ab Workouts To See Results

It’s a question we’ve all wondered at some point or another: Why is it so hard to get visible abs? Despite our best efforts and hours spent at the gym, a six-pack seems like an elusive, impossible-to-reach goal. 

"The most challenging part of getting visual abs is reducing your body fat enough to be able to see them. Everyone has ab muscles but the problem is that they are often covered by body fat," Matt Claes, personal fitness coach and founder of Weight Loss Made Practical, explains. "Once you are at a body fat percentage that is low enough, doing ab exercises to grow these muscles can really show visual results."

Related: 20 Women Reveal Exactly How They Got 6-Pack Abs (Spoiler Alert: It's Not All About Exercise)

Regardless of how strong you are, you have to achieve a low body fat percentage to see abs. For men, this is usually around 10% body fat and around 15% for women—although each person is different, explains Emily Higgins, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist. This is far below the national average which is 40% for women and 28% for men," she says. "Even healthy body fat percentages are beyond this threshold, meaning that for someone to see abs they need to eliminate most all but essential fat from their body composition."

Karina Inkster, MA, PTS, agrees. “A low body fat percentage is required for abdominal muscles to become visible, and that’s the challenge for most folks,” she says. 

The exact body fat percentage will vary from person to person, but for most people to have visible abs, they need to do strength training and cardio most days of the week and track their nutrition—including calories and macros.

It’s also important to note not everyone has the genetics for visible abs. Visible abs are not an indicator of fitness level, and achieving visible abs is not always health-promoting for all individuals, Inkster adds.

How Often You Should Work Out Your Abs

If you really want to focus on getting visible ab definition, you should start by working them out four days a week, improving your diet and getting good sleep. 

Since the abs are relatively small muscles, they recover relatively quickly—especially if you implement training habits like not going to complete failure in each set, Claes states. At the same time, even two good ab workouts a week could offer great results, especially for anyone who's new to resistance training. 

Building abdominal core strength can help improve lipolysis (fat breakdown) in these areas and thus, aid in the reduction of body fat but you still must eliminate excess fat in order to see them, Higgins explains.

However, once you reduce body fat, you can accentuate ab appearance by inducing hypertrophy through localized resistance training and adequate protein and carbohydrate intake.

Ideally, you should exercise your abs whenever you exercise, and start with three to four core exercises at the beginning of the workout to activate them for the exercises to follow. You can also include a handful of stability and complex exercises in the resistance training portion of the workout that naturally engage the core, Higgins adds.

The Best Ab Exercises to Try

Want to get started? Here are some workouts to consider: 

Classic crunch

“The classic crunch, potentially while holding weights against your chest, is one of the most effective ways to work the muscle fibers in your upper abs,” says Claes.

How to do it:

  • Lie down on the floor, put your feet flat on the ground, and then raise your shoulders as far as comfortable while keeping your lower back on the ground.

  • After that, you slowly lower your shoulders again and repeat the movement.

This exercise is effective because it really allows you to focus on engaging only your ab muscles. You don't have to pay attention to anything else, Claes adds. Besides just the pressure, the extra mind-muscle connection can improve your ab muscle growth results.

Reverse crunch

How to do it:

  • lie down on the ground

  • keep your knees and upper legs-hips at 90-degree angles

  • move your hips toward your chest as far as comfortable and back.

Make sure you only move your hips during the actual exercise. Your legs should stay at the 90-degree angles mentioned.

By keeping your upper body on the ground, you engage a different part of your ab muscles. This makes the movement effective for working the muscle fibers in your lower abs, Claes explains.

Experienced lifters can make reverse crunches even more effective by clamping something like a dumbbell between their legs.

Related: How to Do the Daisy Keech Ab Workout That's All Over TikTok—and Why Trainers Say It's So Effective

Stability ball plank

How to do it:

  • Keep your forearms at a 90-degree angle from your biceps on a stability ball with your feet on the ground, about hip-width apart.

  • Brace your core and maintain a neutral spine for 30 to 60 seconds.

“This is a progression (more challenging variation) from the traditional plank and requires the engagement from more stabilizers to prevent unwanted movement caused by the ball,” says Higgins.

V Up

This is a great exercise for working the entire core and also forcing stabilization technique, again leveraging some of that lesser-used-musculature of the core, Higgins states.

How to do it:

  • Lie in a supine position on the floor facing the ceiling.

  • Keep your legs as straight as possible, draw your navel to your spine and lift legs up until you come to a balance on your tailbone, forming a “V” shape.

Hollow hold

How to do it:

  • Lie on the floor.

  • Reach your arms overhead, and lift your head and upper back off the floor.

  • Press your low back as hard as you can into the floor, and lift your feet off the floor, keeping your legs straight. Hold for time.

Make sure you keep your entire low back in contact with the floor throughout your set! If your low back comes off the floor, raise your legs slightly toward the ceiling, Inkster explains.

Hanging side leg raise

How to do it:

  • Hang from a bar with an overhand (pull-up) grip. Pack your shoulders by squeezing your shoulder blades toward each other.

  • Minimizing any swinging, raise your legs up toward your chest, angled to one side.

  • Lower them back to the start position (straight legs).

You can perform all reps on one side and then switch, or alternate sides with each rep, says Inkster.

Plank weight transfer

How to do it:

  • Get into a plank position on your elbows, with a dumbbell placed to the left of your left arm.

  • Maintaining your plank position without shifting your hips, grab the dumbbell with your right arm and place it on the ground to your right.

  • Return to the plank position.

  • Now grab the weight with your left arm, and place it to your left. Return to the plank position. That's one rep.

Next up: What Actually Goes Into Getting Six Pack Abs? According to Jillian Michaels, This Is the Most Realistic Way to Make It Happen