Anyone who lived through the 90s will probably remember “Six Second Abs”, the abdominal training machine (and video supplement) that could help you build an incredible six pack in just six seconds.
If you’re thinking that this is too good to be true, then you are completely correct. In fact the six seconds referred to the amount of time it took to perform each stomach crunch, and you were expected to perform hundreds of those crunches combined with a proper low-calorie diet.
But the product was mostly bought by people who were seduced by the idea of an amazing six pack with just 6 seconds of work in total.
But it’s not just 6 Second Abs that was marketed to people who wanted a six pack, it seems that all training programs focus on how quickly you can see results, or promote the idea of getting results with minimal work.
If you’ve seen “There’s something about Mary” then you’ll probably remember the hitchhiker seen.
This is where a hitchhiker discusses his brand new business plan with the main character.
He points out how successful “8 minute abs” was, and outlines his new business idea … “7 minute abs”.
It’s a great scene, but it also demonstrates the insanity of creating a program based around exercising for as little as possible.
Soon enough, someone is going to come along and bring out an even more extreme program.
So why is this article titled “How to get a six pack in three minutes”? Well the point of this article is to demonstrate why fat-loss programs (because any six pack program is essentially a fat-loss program) are poorly thought out, and do not represent reality.
Why You Won’t Get a Six Pack in 3 Minutes?
You’ve already got a six pack of abdominal muscles, everyone does. They are often completely invisible though due to being covered in body fat.
For a male to have a visible six pack they would need to have a body fat percentage of less than 10 while women require a body fat percentage of less than 20.
To get your body fat percentage down to these levels requires a lot of dedication, time, and some hardships.
This is not going to be achieved in 3 minutes. Even if you take the definition of three minutes for a six pack and stretch it to mean 3 minutes per day you would still fail in this task.
The most intense exercise that you could perform in three minutes would probably be a series of sprints, which would burn some calories, but not enough to drop body fat levels low enough.
Mostly, getting a six pack comes down to diet – creating a calorie surplus that leads to reduced body fat levels over time. But you can’t just diet because you need that definition from exercise.
A combination of dieting, exercise, time, and patience is truly what is required if you want a visible six pack, none of this can be achieved in three minutes.
So how can you get a six pack? Let’s find out.
Step One: Assessment
What do you currently look like? Can you see your abs? If not then you probably need to lose some body fat. If you can see them, but they don’t look defined then you probably need to build some muscle by bulking up.
The first thing that you need to do is take a progress photo of your physique, commonly known as a “before photo”.
Stand in front of a mirror and take a photo, or get someone to do it for you. Don’t pose for this photo, don’t push your chest out and hold your breath while tensing every muscle.
Equally don’t slump your shoulders forward and exaggerate your lack of physique. Just stand upright and relaxed. Next take a side on photo.
After this you need to weigh yourself and use a tape measure to get circumference measurements around your waist and abdomen.
This will give you a lot of the information that you require to assess your current physique. It will also help you gauge progress as the program goes on.
Step Two: Creating a Calorie Deficit
To reveal your abs you are almost certainly going to have to lower your body fat percentage.
Dropping body fat is only possible when you are in a calorie deficit, in other words you are consuming less calories than you are burning. You need to stay in this deficit for quite a while if you want to drop a significant amount of fat.
To create a deficit you first need to find out how many calories you should be consuming to maintain weight. This can be done using a weight loss calculator such as this .
Once you have found your maintenance level you can work out how many calories you need to drop so that you can lose weight.
A deficit of 100 calories per day will get you slow and steady results, while a deficit of 500 calories should get you much quicker results (but can cause its own issues).
Remember there are three ways to create a calorie deficit. You can reduce your food intake, you can maintain your food intake but increase your calories burned (by adding exercise), or you can combine both. Reduce food intake and increase exercise.
Remember that you need quite a lot of calories to fuel your workouts, so if you take the third option, don’t massively reduce calories and plan on exercising at a high intensity.
Don't forget that there are supplements available designed to help make cutting fat easier.
Step Three: Exercising For Fat Loss
You might think that the perfect six pack building workout would exclusively involve abdominal exercises such as the crunch or hanging leg raise. But on the contrary, a proper six pack building workout will mostly concentrate on full body exercises, cardio, and then a small amount of ab exercises.
To lose that abdominal fat you need to burn as many calories as you can within each workout, spending an hour doing crunches will not help you in that aim.
So the first thing that you should do is look at compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses (bench press, shoulder press etc), pulling movements, and whole body exercises such as the burpee.
This is because compound exercises burn the most calories, and are also efficient – working multiple muscles at the same time.
You should aim for medium to high rep sets, and keep rest periods between sets to around 45-60 seconds max. This will keep intensity high and help you to burn as many calories as possible.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an excellent fat burning exercise, particularly Tabata workouts.
A Tabata workout involves training at maximum intensity for 20 seconds, resting for 10 seconds, and then repeating this 8 times for a period of 4 minutes. You can use any exercise, but bodyweight movements work best.
You can either use Tabata as a cardio finisher to your workout (after a session of weight training) or you can use it for the entire session.
An example of a Tabata workout would look like this:
Six Pack Tabata Workout (60 minutes)
- Set #1: Push Ups (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #2: Bodyweight Squats (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #3: Mountain Climbers (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #4: Dumbbell Bent Over Row (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #5: Dumbbell Goblet Squats (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #6: Dumbbell Push Press (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #7: Bodyweight Lunges (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #8: Plank Get Ups (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #9: Long Arm Crunches (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
- Set #10: Bent Knee Raises (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) x 8
2 Minutes rest in between each tabata set will give you a 60 minute workout.
If you are a beginner then you should remove exercises, increase rest between exercises, and perhaps find slightly easier exercises to make the program less intense.
This is just an example and you can pick and choose whichever exercises suit your needs and capabilities best.
One word of caution though, pick exercises which are easy to stop. Remember you only have 10 seconds of rest between sets, so a barbell squat would be impossible, due to the time required to un-rack and then re-rack the barbell after each 20 second set.
Alternatively you could perform a typical full body training program with weights, and add a Tabata session (or similar HIIT equivalent) at the end.
An example of this type of workout would look similar to this:
Fat Loss Weight Training Workout (45-60 minutes)
- Goblet Squats 3 x 15-20
- Walking Lunges 4 x 10
- Bench Press 3 x 12-15
- Lat Pulldown 3 x 12-15
- Seated Shoulder Press 3 x 12-15
- Tabata Mountain Climbers
- Tabata Bicycle Crunches
- Plank x 1
Step Four: Targeting The Abdominal Muscles
While it is vital to keep your calories within a deficit, and your workout needs to be an intense, fat-burning session.
It is still important to strengthen the abdominal muscles and help them develop, without the diet and the full body workout you can have the strongest abdominals in the world but you won’t be able to see them.
However, without strengthening and building a bigger six pack, your fat loss will leave you with a flat – but under-developed abdominal region.
You don’t need to spend 5 hours per week performing endless crunches, but you should dedicate a bit of time each week to these muscles.
Direct vs Indirect Abdominal Training
One often repeated myth, usually espoused by personal trainers is that you don’t need to train abs directly because big compound movements such as the deadlift, barbell squat, and pull ups all strengthen the abdominals indirectly. This is partly true, if your aim is a strong core then you can get that through strength & conditioning.
But if you want a decent six pack, you’ll need to target the muscles directly. In the same way that back exercises can strengthen the biceps, but for big arms you’ll also need to perform a lot of bicep curls.
By all means, fill your training plan with deadlifts and squats etc … it will make a massive difference. But add in some crunches, planks, and ab wheel rollouts.
As we are training for hypertrophy you will want to work your abs with a variety of rep ranges. Some low rep weighted crunches or cable crunches will be great, and some high rep bent knee raises will complement them well.
Isometric ab exercises such as the plank are also great for improving strength.
The idea that you can get an incredible six pack in just three minutes is a surprisingly common belief. You’ll see articles in fitness magazines, fitness DVDs, and online that promise this or similar.
Sadly this is not the case, and never has been. If it was, the percentage of people with six packs would be closer to 80 than 10.
Fat loss can be a difficult process, and a six pack is the ultimate reward.
That doesn’t mean that getting a six pack is impossible for you to achieve, it just means that when you eventually get one you’ll know that you earned it.
Invest time in going to the gym, spend a little bit longer preparing healthy meals, track your calories and soon enough you’ll be well on your way. Whatever you do, don’t give up on the idea.
Having a six pack and being able to maintain it, is one of the most satisfying achievements that you can have. It will also help improve your overall strength, health, and vitality. It can also do wonders for your confidence.