How to Get Six-Pack Abs

We all want them, but few of us manage it. Here’s what it really takes to get those action-hero abs.

Oh, the beautiful, elusive six-pack. You make us hate the girl who always flaunts her flat stomach in a fancy new sports bra. Not to mention the guy who slyly shows off his perfectly chiseled abs in a way-too-tight T-shirt every chance he gets.

But no matter how many situps and crunches we do, you still won’t appear. What’s the deal?

It’s a question every single personal trainer gets from his or her clients, local trainer Errick McAdams included. Here he shares exactly what it takes to get a David Beckham-esque midsection. It won’t be easy, he admits, but the good news is that by following these guidelines, everyone can get a six-pack just in time for summer.

Eat clean.

The number one thing you need to do to get a six-pack is eat healthy foods, McAdams says. “Abs are made in the kitchen—not the gym.”

It’s all about having a clean diet, he says. That means cutting out processed foods—anything that doesn’t spoil until 2019 should be avoided. “If it’s not going to go bad in a week or so, it’s not on the clean-eating list.” Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, and lean meats in your diet, and make sure you’re burning more calories than you’re putting in your body.

Don’t rely on ab exercises.

“You won’t get anywhere just doing crunches,” McAdams says. In fact, he continues, “The number one way to get abs is to work everything except the abs.”

Abdominal exercises will make your six-pack look better once you actually have it. Until then, weave them into the rest of your workout, but forget thinking crunches will give you abs. Instead, start doing pushups. You might think they work only your arms, but it’s actually your core that does much of the work.

Drink water.

We always hear what a miracle worker water is, and McAdams agrees: “Water is the best fat burner.”

Drinking cold water will cause your body to burn extra calories, he explains. The body expends energy heating up cold water to body temperature, and since water contains no calories, your body will burn more calories than you’re consuming.

Do big-movement exercises.

The best exercises that lead to a six-pack involve big movements that work more than one muscle group, unlike isolation exercises. “When I first started as a trainer, I used to go to the gym and work the chest and triceps one day and my back and biceps another day,” McAdams recalls. “Those days are over.”

It’s best to do movements like the burpee, which is a full-body exercise. Or try doing lunges and bicep curls at the same time, or squats and presses. Just like with abdominal exercises, “You can’t just do bicep curls and expect to burn calories,” says McAdams.

That being said, combining isolation exercises into a circuit is a great way to work out, he notes. Do 15 bicep curls, 100 jump ropes, and ten squats, and repeat. Don’t do what you’ll see lots of men do at the gym, which is one set of bicep curls, rest, “sit there and read the paper,” and repeat.

“You’ve got to sweat, and you’ve got to breathe hard” during every workout, McAdams say.

Stop jogging and start running.

Our bodies work just like a car, McAdams says: The faster it goes, the more gas it burns. So if a lean sprinter’s body is your goal, a 30-minute treadmill run at a constant pace won’t get you there, he says. Try running a quarter of a mile at a sprint pace, then jogging for another quarter mile. Repeat for 30 minutes, increasing your speed with every interval.