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The Minimalist’s Guide For How to Get a Six-Pack

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how to get a 6-pack without wasting timeSo you want to get a six-pack? I did too, before I had one. In fact, it was somewhat of an obsession of mine, and I wasted a ton of time doing the wrong things at first.

Most guys want to have a six-pack, but few actually have one. The most common excuse is: “I don’t have the time”, but that’s bullshit. Let me tell you why.

If you focus on the few most important things, and stay consistent, you can get a six-pack quite easily, granted that you’re not someone with completely messed up genetics or massively overweight. If that’s the case, it’s going to take a long time, or might not be possible at all. But that’s rare.

Note: Getting a six-pack is very, very simple in theory. It’s just that the most people overcomplicate it — and fail to realize that they’re overcomplicating it.

Why do they do this!?

–Because they’re not consistent enough and because they don’t do enough self-experimentation to know if something is working for them or not. Since they lack knowledge they are uncertain, and so they go from one method to the next without producing real results.

How many times have you not heard people say: “I tried diet XYZ and it didn’t work!”

These are usually the people who will never get a six-pack, because they’re inconsistent dabblers.

These people are brainwashed by instant gratification and think they aren’t getting anywhere with their current strategies (lifting/diet/fasting),  when nothing happens in 1-2 weeks. So they try a new thing, for another 1-2 weeks. They try too many things too quickly. This prevents real gym-confidence from growing, and so they always feel compelled to copy other people — even if it doesn’t make any sense.

They start finding any number of potential reasons why they don’t (or can’t) have a six-pack:

  • Something is wrong with their hormonal levels…
  • They must eat trendier health foods and supplements…
  • They’re not wearing the right gym clothes…

These people completely lose sight of the essentials. Because in all likelihood, the real reason for their lack of results stems from inconsistency in proper dieting and exercise. They aren’t abiding by the major principles behind building muscle and getting ripped.

What You Don’t Need to Do to Get a Six-Pack

Most people go about their workouts in a very haphazard way. They don’t pay enough attention to the essential 80/20 activities, the most important things that will yield the most results per time invested.

Before I tell you about these activities, let me first tell you about some of the things you don’t need to do…

You don’t need to:

  • Do cardio.
  • Do isolation exercises.
  • Eat food that supposedly “spikes metabolism”.
  • Purchase a bunch of overpriced supplements. (Most supplements have no scientific basis for working — except for bogus research funded by the supplement companies selling the products.)
  • Read 30 different books on bodybuilding or nutrition before you start lifting.

Note on fitness books: I’ve done my fair share of reading on exercise, nutrition, and health. 90 % of the information in those books is either speculation or unnecessary knowledge. I do find that stuff interesting — but, most of it is a waste of time. The remaining 10 % is useful and applicable information.

There are a few things that work really well and everything else simply isn’t worth focusing on. The problem is that most people are uneducated and have no idea about what works and what doesn’t. As a result of the very inexact sciences of exercise, nutrition, and health, we have a ton of bogus theories, bullshit products, and pseudo-knowledge. And if you’re not a consistent self-experimenter, you’re likely to buy into that bullshit.

What You Need to Do To Get a Six-Pack

Guess what? You probably already have abs. But you need to get rid of the excess fat in the way.

You do need to reduce body fat.

The easiest and most time-efficient way of doing this is by increasing your daily metabolic rate — the amount of energy (calories) that your body automatically uses each day without any effort on your part. And you do this by:

and,

By having a lot of muscle and fasting you increase your metabolic rate and can:

  1. Eat more food if you’d like without gaining fat.
  2. Eat the same amount of food as before and lose fat.

Lift well:

Compound exercises are the ones that build the most muscle and burn the most calories. Therefore you should do the following ones:

  • Deadlifts and stifflegged deadlifts.
  • Squats, front squats, and lunges.
  • Clean and jerks (or just cleans if you’d like)
  • Pullups and chins – preferrably weighted
  • Dips  – preferrably weighted
  • Variations of benchpress

And when you do these exercises, be sure to always flex your core (stomach & back) as hard as you can.

If you want to be time-efficient you shouldn’t do much more than these few exercises in the gym, but you should do them a lot.

You will do these compound exercises and you will do many sets of them (5-10+).

You will lift heavy and you will not go above 12 repetitions, preferrably less. (I usually go for 3-8).

These numbers are not set in stone, but they are good guidelines. This is based off of GVT (German Volume Training).

You also need to eat well: Stick to eating a lot of protein. Protein is important for two reasons:

  1. It is required to build muscle.
  2. Protein-rich food takes longer to digest and makes you feel full much longer than, for example, eating carbs do.

The most important foods you will eat include: eggs, fish, meat, broccoli, and spinach. Reduce sugar and sweet things as much as you can because sugar raises your insulin levels, and this has two negative effects for you when it comes to getting a six-pack:

  1. It makes you feel hungry.
  2. It makes it very hard for your body to burn fat.

Also, eat less carbs in general unless it’s from vegetables. Fruits can be healthy, but they are not necessary. Remember, fruit contain a bunch of sugar, though in the form of fructose. If you’re really serious about getting a six-pack you should avoid all sugar.

Sleep well:

Avoid stimulants at night, don’t sit in front of the computer right before bed, sleep in a pitch black room, go to bed and rise in the morning at regular times.

Not 80/20 Activities, but Useful to the Overachiever

  • Using stimulants. You can drink coffee in the morning.
  • Taking cold showers. You don’t need that warm shower do you? Warm showers are for weaklings.
  • Flexing your body as much as you can throughout the day. You can do this in front of the computer.

These three things help you spend more energy (burn more calories). They help, but are not essential.

  • Doing various ab exercises.

You don’t need to do ab exercises, because if you do all the compound exercises while flexing your core they are more than enough. But if you have extra time to spare, or really like doing them, then why not?
The most important ab exercises in my opinion are:

  1. Different variations of weighted leg raises.
  2. Oblique exercise. This is challenging to do properly and takes some time learning. It’s very easy to cheat doing it – meaning that you’re not using your obliques and core muscles to pull yourself up.

Not Recommended: Waste of Time

  •  Doing cardio. Cardio is a complete waste of time if your goal is to get a six-pack. You can run, ski, swim, or ride a bike for the sake of enjoying it or because you need to practice aerobically, but doing it to build muscle or to lose fat is a big  time-waster. You don’t need to warm up with cardio either, you can do 1-3 light sets instead.
  • Isolation exercises. It’s simply inferior to compound exercises because it builds less muscle and burns less calories. Therefore it’s a waste of time if you’re interested in getting a six-pack as fast as possible.
  • Stretching. Stretching is a waste of time, an inefficient warm-up, and it doesn’t help you get your six-pack. I haven’t been doing it regularly for years, and I can still touch the ground with my palms on a good day.

Will You Cheat?

I’ve never heard anyone say that they don’t want to have a six-pack. Except people who were lying through their teeth, that is. Everyone wants to have rock-solid abs. And why shouldn’t they? It’s universally attractive.

Are you fat, lazy, and have an ugly haircut? We can fix that. Get YOUR six-pack operation today!

Are you fat, lazy, and have an ugly haircut? We can fix that. Get YOUR six-pack operation today!

But most people do not want to put in the time lifting heavy weights and do the dieting required to get it. Guess what? I have great news to those people… They can eat their cake, and still get a six-pack. All it takes is a bit of surgery:

Seriously though.

No one can lift that the iron for you. You can’t buy your way to getting a six-pack, unless you want to look as stupid as this guy. A six-pack is earned by being consistent and disciplined, which is why it’s rare and valuable.

While it is possible that you are special — and that you need to do things differently to get a six-pack, it’s not very likely.

And don’t forget the deadlifts: it’s impossible to do compound exercises with heavy weight without developing a strong core. Once you can do that, just shed the excess weight by eating less, fasting, and taking stimulants — without messing up your sleep. Then voila, you’ll have yourself a rock-solid six-pack of abs. And you earned it.

I’m curious. What are some of the crazy rumors that you have heard/read about the things you “must do” to get a six-pack?

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Comments

  1. One of the more widespread and persistent claims I’ve seen is that of “targeted” fat loss – the idea being that if you exercise a muscle, you will lose fat preferentially over that muscle. I even read one author (Susan Powter I think) who ridiculed this idea and then went ahead and endorsed it for abs on the very next page.

    Another oddity is the old idea that abs don’t need recovery time, but can and should be worked to failure every single day.

    I think there are valid reasons for doing ab isolations, although they may be a waste of time for some people; you can always get more out of a muscle by doing isolations than compounds. One reason to have exceptionally strong abs is to be able to take a blow to the stomach. Years ago (when I was in much better condition than now) I sometimes amused myself by letting people (ordinary people, not bodybuilders) punch me in the stomach, and laughing when they went away nursing bruised knuckles. I would think it almost necessary for a boxer or martial artist to do ab isolations.

    • Haha. Yeah, I think most women believe that. This weekend when I was at a conference I stayed at an older woman’s house and I noticed a bunch of “mommy-training” DVDs. About half of them listed this as one of the main benefits of watching the DVD. Some even showed some form of super yoga that can burn fat wherever you want. I would imagine this is the perfect selling point to women who don’t know how to work out.

      You were like a Houdini!

  2. Pavel Tsatsouline’s books were pivotal for me in getting a six-pack. He has a really no-bullshit style and often emphasises core stability above almost anything else (he’s a martial artist). One thing that stood out in Pavel’s writings was his description of Sherrington’s law of irradiation which basically says that you cannot work muscles in isolation. If you tense your whole body, and especially your core during compound movements, the excitation from the antagonists will spill over into the fibers of the antagonists which actually increases the force of the working muscles. (Not just more muscles activated = more movement force, but the force within the fibers of the major muscles actually increases!) Simply put, just tense your core as hard as possible when doing anything, curls, bench press, whatever. You’ll be stronger and its the fastest way to increase the resting tension in your rectus abdominus (which is secondary only to losing gut weight in the quest for a nice visible six-pack).
    Good luck :)

  3. sebastian says:

    “Are you fat, lazy, and have an ugly haircut? We can fix that. Get YOUR six-pack operation today!”

    Haha, great article.

    I only disagree with stretching as being useless. It’s a great way to fix your posture, compensate sitting all day long in front of your computer, and great for energizing in the morning.

    • I will agree with that.

      I stretch for:

      – boxing
      – singing
      – squats
      – when I meditate
      – sprinting

      I wouldn’t be able to do neither of the above without stretching.

      And I have hurt myself because I didn’t stretch.

    • Hey Sebastian(s).

      The problem with stretching is when people do it out of ignorance and believe they have HAVE TO do it, which I know isn’t the case for either of you. But these people think they must do it, and waste a lot of time. I always see people stretching for a long time before and after their workouts, it probably takes them 15 minutes. That’s time they could lift heavy. And then they complain that they don’t have the time…

      • Great point. I also injured myself as I neglected stretching. I don’t really like it but every doctor keeps telling me that I should do it.

        Stretching improves blood circulation and flow into muscles. It helps muscles get more oxygen and nutrients in general. It also helps relax the nervous system which is extremely essential for body building. Maybe some people don’t need it. That was the case for me five years ago!

  4. Hey Ludvig. I just wanted to say i appreciate you simplyfying this shit. I am a beginner at bodybuilding and started to seriously study and do it a few months ago and like you say there is WAY too much (mis)infornation out there. This article made me realize that I have, like you did at first, wasted my time reading too much and not lifting heavily enough.

    My key takeaway from your article is this: just lift heavy compound exercises and skip sugar (my diet is already great). Im going to start doing deadlifts, I rationalized it as boring before, but ill start doing it with proper form and dedicate one of my workouts specially to it now.

  5. I don’t want to have a six-pack. I don’t lie through my teeth. I just know how much it takes to get them and I don’t think the vanity is worth this price.
    I’m OK with that: http://s1287.photobucket.com/user/Mike768/media/not_tensed_zps1b3fbec5.jpg.html?sort=3&o=2
    I treat exercises as a low priority activity, so I don’t invest much time into it (no weight lifting at all).

  6. This makes me smile. It’s true, losing weight and getting fit is not hard. People just over-complicate it. They want results and they want it fast, only to blame something didn’t work after 1-2 weeks. You’ve got everything here, Ludvig. One more thing I might add? Be patient. Not only with the process, but with yourself. I think that truly important in any fitness goals. Period.

    • Absolutely, Aqilah. I think this is especially true for people with certain genetics. I got “ripped” quite fast in the gym, with the exception of getting my six-pack. That took me around 6 months longer to get, after the rest of my body already looked ripped. I guess I had very stubborn stomach fat.

  7. Alpha-beta says:

    I was wondering, whats your opinion on the 5×5 stronglifts program?

    • Michael says:

      I am doing this program consistently since November last year and I can really recommend it.

      This program helped me (emongst others) to get my backsquat (5×5) from 85kg to 110kg and my deadlift (1×5) from 135kg to 155kg. My body weight is 70-73kg.

      The thing is: you must really be consistent (you can take a week off when you’re on vacation or during Christmas etc.) and you must continually add weight to the bar even if you are scared and do not feel well. I recommend to lift inside a power cage or have some support when squatting so you do not get stuck under the bar especially when you squat. I paid 500 € for home gym equipment because in my commercial gym they do not have the necessary equipment. That was one of the best investments I ever made.

      The program gives you immense strength. Recently I tried some push-ups after some months or so. I did 60+ very fast without pausing…

      My plan is to stick to the program until I am squatting 130kg (5×5). You will not make progress forever with this program and you need to do advanced stuff after you have achieved some strength level.

      Contact me if you need some more information.

    • Hey Alpha-beta,
      I haven’t tried it, so I can’t talk. But I’ve heard good things of it. I see no reason to change my current regime, it’s working as good as can be. I am making new records every week.

  8. Heathenwinds says:

    Hey Ludvig, the program that you linked to only has 3 days of lifting in it? If I want to can I keep up 5/6 days a week on GVT?

  9. This is a good post and i like your site, but I aint down with starving myself. I dont believe in that. A man’s gotta eat.

    • There’s a vast difference between “starving yourself” and experiencing hormonal hunger. You can easily go 24h+ of not eating without any issues. Your stomach and your body fat will thank you. It’s actually good for you, unless you suffer from some rare disorder I know nothing about.

  10. Getting a six-pack IS a waste of time in itself. There is no objective proof that having a six-pack is more attractive to either men or women. That is just media brainwashing to sell products, and you seem to be fooled by it.

    • Dean,
      It’s a matter of preferences. I didn’t get a six-pack to show off to women. I got it for myself because I wanted it, badly. It might sound corny, but I want my outside to reflect my inside. Outer excellence is a direct result of inner excellence.

  11. Hey Ludvig. Great article! But I didnt get any email update on it…

    Dean: I sure prefer a six-pack over a beer gut.

  12. mr. SNAKE says:

    Having a six-pack depends on the lighting of the room/photo ;)

    Jokes aside, I don’t have it yet, but I will in a year if I keep lifting heavy and reduce carbs that aren’t post gym.

  13. Hey Ludvig,
    Great post there. A lot of myths still prevail regarding a six pack , especially like eating 8 times a day protein. A teacher at my school was a staunch supporter , although he was himself skinny fat.
    As for fat people , the process will be slower. Though I don’t have a six pack yet , losing the extra weight was a tougher task , since I was gross overweight earlier.

    • Hey B.B,
      Yeah, we’ve all believed that at some point. Though I think it’s pretty different from person to person how much protein one can digest. Some people, like true bodybuilders, can assimilate a lot more protein than normal people can. If a normal person tries to eat that much protein, it just goes to waste and gives him a stomach ache and gas.

  14. Cardio isn’t a must in getting 6 pack abs? Seriously?!! Cardio is one of the things I’m increasing now given that I want to flatten my abs. And this is because I have too much fat on my belly. You’ve got an interesting proposition on compound exercises and I just realized I never paid attention to this term in my entire weight-lifting life. I gotta check this out in detail.

    • Rob,
      Cardio is NOT a must. It’s one of those myths. While you CAN do cardio, it’s not an optimal use of time. So don’t do it if you’re short on time and interested in losing fat.

  15. Wery helpful guide for beginners thanks. Keep it up

  16. Dan Erickson says:

    I won’t be getting a six-pack in the near future. I agree that building muscle and fasting are key. But I currently have a long-term shoulder issue that does not allow me to do much heavy lifting. I also have a small hernia I don’t want to provoke. So I do cardio and light lifting and sit-ups and reduce food intake. Just taking a few pounds off suits me for now.

  17. Nice post!

    Luckily, not something I’ve ever had a problem with. I’ve had a 6 pack since I was sixteen, never rly needed to do much to maintain it for some reason.

    Keep em coming Ludvig!

  18. Excellent guide to getting ripped you really could not have broke it down better. I’ve never had a six pack yet but when I was 16, I did P90x (maybe you have heard of it) but doesn’t matter. It got me to about 10% but not ripped, but looked pretty good lol. Anyways, I’m following pretty much everything you explained except I’m just wondering how the fasting works ? Like how many times a week and which way do you prefer to do it?

  19. Hey Ludvig,

    No offense, but you didn´t mention the most important step in losing bodyfat and eventually getting a six-pack. A caloric deficit. IMO, fasting intermittently is only so popular, because it makes getting into a caloric defict (consistently) very easy. At least, this is the reason I follow it. But to be honest I´ve dropped to 8-9% Bodyfat with 3 meals a day (including breakfast).
    I´ve even gotten leaner eating at McDonalds three times a week, for a bet with a firend (which I won). This confirmed to me, what every ward based study on nutrition since 1936 found. Calories are the essential factor for losing bodyfat and getting a six-pack. Eating at McDonalds habitually is very unhealthy though and made losing bodyfat hard during my bet, because McD´s food is not satiating at all. That´s why the food recommendations you give in this article are very solid and should be part of a good diet, especially if wanting to get a six-pack.
    Anyway, I don´t want to troll or discredit you with this comment. I just know what it´s like to wade through the sea of bullshit that is the fitness industry.

    Regrads

    Mattis

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