How Long Does It Take To Get A Six Pack?
As a Personal Trainer, there is one conversation I have all the time. A client tells me they are enjoying the training, they like their results, but they just have one question: how long does it take to get a six pack ?
I get it. It’s the reason many people start going to the gym in the first place. It’s what everyone wants to show off on the beach in the summer. In a lot of ways, it’s the gold standard for looking like you take your fitness seriously.
I know that for people of all levels the question of how long it’s going to take to get a six pack comes up every time you look in a mirror. So I’m going to try to give you not only a timeline, but a way to actively work towards your six pack and know how close you are getting.
Step 1: Finding Out Where You Are
First of all, everyone has a six-pack. It’s built into human anatomy. And while exactly how good your six-pack looks depends on how much muscle you have, whether you can see it comes down to one thing: your body fat percentage.
There is no one length of time for you to see your six-pack. But the most important piece of information for us to get a rough timeframe is to find out your current level of body fat.
First, measure your body fat. You can use a scale or handheld electrical device but these are very inaccurate. Instead, I recommend using calipers. These will include instructions, but here’s a great video that shows you exactly how to measure body fat accurately using the calipers.
So now that you know your body fat percentage, what do you have to lose to get your six-pack? For men, you’ll usually need to be around 6-9% body fat, while for women it’s around 16-19%. See more.
To find the body weight change you need to achieve this, The American Council for Exercise has developed this formula:
Desired Body Weight = Current lean body weight / (1 - desired body fat percentage (in decimal form))
So if you are a 140lb woman at 24% body fat and you need to be 19% body fat to see your abs, here is how you enter that:
Desired Body Weight = 106.4 (140-24% fat) / (1-0.19)= 131.4lbs
You can make this easier by estimating your lean body weight using this calculator.
Now that you know how much you need to lose, how long does it take to make that change and get the six-pack?
Step 2: Figuring Out Your Plan
The lower you want your fat percentage to go, the more work there is involved. Precision Nutrition has an excellent infographic explaining the relative costs involved with lowering your body fat percentage.
It’s worth noting that their costs for moving from ‘lean’ to ‘very lean’ (the elusive six-pack threshold) include exercising at least 5 hours per week 90% of the time and tracking your meals very thoroughly. In fact they estimate that in a given month you’ll need to execute 95% of your meals in accordance with a strict diet plan.
As for the time required to make this transition, obviously it varies from person to person. Protocols incorporating both diet and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) have been shown to decrease body fat by half a pound per week.
However, the study showing some of the most significant fat loss results used a combination of aerobic and strength training, plus a strict diet plan and showed participants losing 0.83lbs per week, 97% of which was body fat.
This means that at ‘full speed’ you can lose almost one pound per week in your quest for that six-pack. So once you know how many pounds of fat you need to lose, you also know how many weeks to operate at 95% of your perfect meal and exercise plan to achieve your goal.
You can refer to the exercise plan below, with just 8 minutes workout. Make sure you're crunching with your abs and not jerking forward with your neck muscles.
It’s That Simple?
Nothing is ever that simple. At full tilt, with the perfect plan, you may just hit that pound of fat loss per week and have your six pack in the amount of time you calculate. In the real world there are obstacles. There are kids, work, unforeseen emergencies and many more.
The good news is that now you know the upper limit of what is possible. You know how long it takes to get a six-pack if you are all the way in and all the way focused. And if you don’t get there, you’ll know that getting over that hump is a matter of dialing in that last few notches up to 95% perfect.
So what do you do now? Buy your calipers, figure out what you have to lose and then pin that to your wall and track it week by week. And if you get stuck or need help, hit us up in the comment section.