Want Six-Pack Abs? 20 Women Share How They Made It Happen

When it comes to losing weight and toning up, the core can be one of the most stubborn areas. This is especially true for women since their bodies are constantly changing. Plus, we're all so busy—and keeping up with a hardcore gym routine isn’t always practical.

While the dream of having a six-pack may feel out of reach, it can be done. In fact, there are many women who have accomplished this seemingly impossible feat. We spoke to 20 real women to find out exactly what they did to get abs. Here's everything you need to know so you, too, can achieve abs of steel.

Secrets for getting six-pack abs

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

“Abs are made in the kitchen! A clean diet, consisting of lean proteins, complex carbs, an assortment of veggies and healthy fats along with resistance training and cardio mixed in will reveal a beautiful layer of stomach muscles! It’s also imperative to stay away from processed foods and sugar at the same time. To get the best results! At 64, I still compete as an award-winning IFBB Bodybuilding Pro and Masters Track and Field Athlete.” - Helen Fritsch

Related: Which One of These 100 Diets Could Help You Lose Weight? 

Go for variety

“Vary the ab workouts that you do. Crunches are great, but muscles are smart and quickly get 'bored' of the same routine. It also becomes easy to not be as regimented or careful with your form if you’re doing workouts or routines on your own, so what I have found very helpful, is to look up 10-minute ab classes on YouTube. There are a TON and all different levels, with abs without equipment needs. Pamela Reif is a favorite of mine.” - Morgan Oliveira

Always stay aware of your abs

“What is most often overlooked are secondary ab muscle movements and keeping your abs/core engaged throughout the day. For example, during squats and overhead presses, you should squeeze your ab muscles in, especially as you push upward, which helps build a strong core foundation. Even if you don't have visible ab muscles right now, you can still engage them and visualize them working as you do all of your other movements. If you only pay attention to your ab muscles during a two-minute burnout or a 15-minute ab session, you will not achieve a strong core or six-pack abs. Along those same lines, throughout your day you should be aware of your abs, when sitting at your desk, cooking, cleaning, etc. The more you can keep your abs engaged, the stronger they will become.” - Sydney Golden

Increase your activity for a period of time

“I achieved six-pack abs during the height of COVID-19 (the spring/early summer of 2020). I shifted my 20-30 minute workouts to 45-minute to one-hour workouts, as I was working from home, which allowed for more time. I began working out twice a day, five days a week. I would do one 30-minute workout in the morning, and another on my lunch break. The workouts consisted of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and Pure Barre online classes. A lot of people and gyms were posting free workouts during this time, so the content was endless. I'm now part of a Facebook group that continues to post weekly. I've maintained my abs since this time, and have done so by working out five days a week, usually one hour each day, but I'm not working out twice a day like I was before.” - Natalie Bickel

Cut out processed foods

“The first thing I did was lose weight. I achieved this by drinking a lot of smoothies with protein that helped to cut my appetite.  I also cut all processed foods and reduced the amount of carbohydrates that I consumed. If I consumed carbohydrates they were complex carbohydrates. I also had a cut-off time for dinner which was 6:00 pm. The second part of my plan involved signing up for an exercise program that concentrated on my abdomen (PowerAbs). This program was 10 minutes a day, five days a week. The program involved planks, plank walks, burpees, mountain climbers, hollow body hold, v-up abdomen exercises, and flutter kicks.” - Charmaine Allen

Related: 3 Smoothie Recipes That Are Certified Pick-Me-Ups for Hectic Mornings

Remember that your abs are already there

“In order to get six-pack abs, you should first realize that abs are already there, you just have to unveil them. Body fat composition is what can cause your abs to stay hidden. From experience, doing ab workouts eight to 10 minutes a day in addition to watching your diet, will allow you to see amazing results. First, try to work on various areas of your stomach, start off easy, with five to 10 minutes workouts and continue to work your way up. While exercising is very important, food adjustment also plays a big role. Adjusting your caloric intake, in addition to doing ab workouts, will help you see your desired results a lot faster.” - Joetta Clark Diggs

Condition, strengthen, get in the kitchen

“To remain lean year-round, I only follow three rules:

Get conditioned. I partake in some aerobic activity several times a week to keep my body conditioned. Despite HIIT-style training being far more popular, aerobic exercise is the best way to burn fat. Nonetheless, it's not all I do.

Get strong. Strength training is the secret sauce a lot of people are missing. Lifting weights a few times a week will strengthen those six-pack abs and give them a fuller look once they're revealed.

Get in the kitchen. The more I can cook at home, the better! I prioritize whole foods most of the time (foods with one ingredient) and indulge socially every now and then. My advice for anyone on the pursuit of six-pack abs is to keep things simple and develop a sustainable strategy.” - Briana Williams 

Keep challenging your body

"Performing a wide variety of effective, ab-focused exercises is just one component for building six-pack abs. It's important to continually challenge your body as you gain more core strength, with more advanced moves like sit-ups on a stability ball (with a full range of motion) or leg lifts while hanging from a bar. Without a healthy diet, however, your ab muscles will be hidden by body fat! I recommend a whole food, plant-exclusive diet with tons of veggies and legumes, along with fresh fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds." - Ella Magers

Keep it consistent

“First of all, realize it will take longer than you might expect. It will take consistency and dedication, so if you expect quick results, you will be disappointed! More than anything, you will need to strengthen your core muscles. You can do this easily at home with planks (see if you can work up to 90 seconds!), crunches and reverse crunches.” - Linda Smith

"Abs are 80% diet"

“Abs are 80% diet and 20% workout. Apart from the crunches, bench sit up and leg raises, look into your daily nutrient intake, and switch up the proportion of carbs, protein, and fats. Drink plenty of water and take in lots of fiber.” - Sally Stevens

Get enough sleep

“There are several things to keep in mind: Avoid junk food and processed foods, which are full of sugar and low in nutrients; Stay hydrated with plenty of water; this will help prevent dehydration that might lead to fatigue, lethargy, or muscle cramps make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep each day. This is important because it leaves time for our bodies to repair themselves naturally while we sleep; the deep REM (rapid eye movement) state allows our neurons (cells in the brain) to communicate with each other more effectively than during any other part of the day.” - Sarah Walker

Eat real food

“First and foremost, I eat real food, rarely eat out and I never eat fast food or processed foods. Also, abs are one area of your body that you can work often, so I do a short 5-minute ab workout daily that works every section but I mix up the exercises every few days.” - Lynn Montoya

Take advantage of workouts on social media

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I tried to stay fit and healthy by exercising like a banshee every day. I found that it became so fruitful for both my physical and mental health during such a difficult time. Pre-COVID, I’d hit the gym religiously every day but when I found myself isolated, I lost my rhythm. I started following every NYC gym, fitness and wellness brand on Instagram and while working from home, whenever a free live IG class started, I’d pop up and workout for a bit. Most of these classes were recorded so can be done at a later time but there was something nice about the energy and knowing you’re in this with someone else in real-time … It was also a nice break from my entrepreneurial grind and I got in several workouts throughout the entire day. After a few months, I found myself in better shape than I’d been in my life and there I discovered my newly crafted six-pack.” - Lori Cheek

Prioritize HIIT, especially if you're busy

“I contribute my success on getting a six-pack, especially after babies, to the combination of High-Intensity Interval Training (like sprints), weight training and nutrition. I rarely do any long-duration cardio.  I also incorporate some intermittent fasting into my diet which helps me maintain my calorie needs. It is also important that women who have had kids to strengthen their core properly after pregnancy or achieving a flat stomach or six-pack could be very challenging. As a busy mom, my time to work out is super limited so focusing on exercise quality over-exercise quantity (how much I exercise) has been the biggest game-changer in reaching my fitness goals, including a six-pack after babies!” - Brooke Cavalla

Related: How Did Kate Hudson Shed Her Baby Weight?

Think of it as a lifestyle change

“If you want to get abs you need to change your diet. Personally, I follow a gluten-free plant-based diet but everyone is different and their bodies have different needs so you need to find a diet and lifestyle that works for you. Having said that everyone needs lots of leafy greens in their diet as well as protein and fiber. High fiber foods are important as they help you to feel fuller for longer meaning you are less inclined to snack between meals. If your ultimate aim is to get a 6 pack you need a combination of a healthy diet and ab exercises. Consistency is the key. Ab exercises that involve weights will speed up your efforts but remember in general it takes 6 weeks before you notice a difference in your body, eight weeks for your close friends and relatives to notice and 12 weeks for the rest of the world to notice. Don't give up if you don't get results instantly. Changing your diet and exercising more is a lifestyle change and it takes time to get to where you want to be. Tracking your progress is incredibly helpful as you can see how far you've come.” - Marie Salbuvik

Lift weights and try kickboxing

“I have been doing weightlifting at the gym and kickboxing for more than five years now. What I like to call ‘my secret” of getting and maintaining 6 pack abs for me has been the combination of weightlifting and kickboxing. Both workout types impact the core in different fronts. As weightlifting contributes to muscle growth, kickboxing helps reduce the fat layers of the abdominals. Complementary to this, I believe that whey-protein is a crucial ingredient needed for getting the six-pack abs in the first place, but also maintaining them.” - Anna Nielsen

Try a calorie deficit

“The secret to my success is genetics and years of consistency with strength training and diet. A lot of people don't talk about how much genetics determine at which body fat percentage you see your six-pack. As a taller woman with a long torso, it's a little easier for me to get a six-pack. I also strength train five times a week focusing on heavy, compound movements. For diet, I aim for a high protein diet and spend most of my time at calorie maintenance so that I don't lose muscle mass. To make my abs extra ‘defined’ I'll spend a few weeks at a 10-15% calorie deficit to decrease body fat a little.” - Katelyn Barrons

Take a yoga class

“I got my six-pack through consistent yoga practice. For anyone who thinks that yoga is just stretching, they’ve never taken a heated power class. There is a ton of core strength that is required in yoga and with regular practice, it builds over time. I got my six-pack through yoga as well as eating a balanced, healthy diet that focuses on the proper macros (carb-protein-fat ratios). I did a 200-hour yoga-teacher training over the summer and that further contributed to my 6-pack.” - Robin Diamond

Pay attention to macronutrients

“I got six-pack abs by eating according to my macronutrients for my body and prioritizing my workouts and being active. Whether it's lifting weights, HIIT workouts or walking, movement of the body plus eating 80% clean does the trick for me.” - Kim Abbage Hart

Get a dog

“I adopted two Dalmatians, who generally require no less than a few hours of exercise every day. I have incorporated their needs into my daily routine and as a result, I log about eight to ten miles every 24 hours. They get their regular morning and evening strolls, but when I need to go to the grocery store, the bank, or post office, or run a similar errand, I walk there with the dogs instead of driving. Those steps add up—giving me happier and better-behaved dogs, a defined tummy, reducing my carbon footprint.” - Amy Roberts

Next, read the 17 best trainer-approved ab exercises for women because we all want a strong, toned core.