A month is a tight deadline for achieving six-pack abs. This enviable midsection shows up at 14 to 20 percent of body fat for women and 6 to 13 percent of body fat for men
And how low you'll have to go to really see your abs depends on genetics — some people have thicker skin and tissue covering the muscles that make up the abs, so they need extremely low body fat levels to be visible. Expect to lose about 1 percent of body fat per month safely, says the American Council on Exercise.
Attaining such low body fat levels requires serious dedication at the gym and a lot of self-discipline when it comes to diet. If you're at an average body fat level of 25 to 31 percent as a woman or 18 to 25 percent as a man, it'll take longer than a month of such discipline.
So be patient! Even if you don't get perfect six-pack abs in a month, you can make strides toward better health and fitness in 30 days.
Reform Your Diet
Steps that bring about weight loss, such as reducing caloric intake and avoiding sugar, certainly help you get closer to 6-pack abs in 30 days or more. However, you'll have to adopt stricter measures to get super lean.
- Eliminate most processed foods, such as canned soups, packaged bread, snack bars and frozen meals, from your eating plan. Skip sweets and refined grains, such as white rice, pasta and breakfast cereals.
- Eliminate beer, wine and spirits from your diet, as well as sugary sodas. These are all sources of empty calories.
- Limit your intake of fruit and dairy too, as their calories can add up and some of the natural sugars in them contribute to bloating, which undermines your six-pack.
- Eat 4 to 6 ounces of lean proteins, such as flank steak, eggs, chicken breast, tuna and white-meat turkey, at each meal. Avoid sugary sauces and high-sodium processed meats, including sausage and hot dogs.
- Load up your plate with watery, fibrous vegetables, such as broccoli, lettuce, kale, spinach, peppers and cauliflower. A salad is a healthy meal choice, as long as you veer away from fried toppings, croutons, cheese and mayonnaise-based dressings. Stick to olive oil, vinegar and citrus juices for seasoning.
- Limit your grain intake to just a half-cup serving of whole-grain options, such as brown rice, oatmeal or quinoa, at one or two meals per day. Nuts, hard-boiled eggs, deli meat and whey protein serve as snacks.
Plan ahead by packing your work lunches, carrying a cooler with six-pack-friendly foods for snacks. Considering saying no to happy hour; eating out isn't impossible but can be a challenge when you have such dietary limitations.
Read more: How to Slim Down Quickly for Your Big Event
Make Physical Activity a Lifestyle
To lose body fat and reveal a six-pack, targeted abdominal exercises help — but they certainly aren't enough on their own. Regular cardio, such as jogging or cycling, promotes heart health and helps you burn calories, so you can lose fat more easily.
To really become lean and cut enough to display a six-pack, do strength training. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn daily during workouts and at rest. The process of building muscle also causes your body to make hormonal shifts that promote fat loss. Add muscle to your whole body to benefit the most.
Move It to Lose It
Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular activity most days of the week. Every two or three workouts do intense intervals, which involve going all-out for a minute or two, then taking it easy for a minute or so, and repeating that cycle for the duration of the session.
Get Stronger to Get Lean
Strength-train four to six times per week, targeting different body parts each time. For example, train the upper body on Monday with moves such as rows, pullups, pushups, chest presses, curls and triceps dips; legs on Tuesday with squats, deadlifts and lunge variations; and core on Wednesdays.
Take Thursday off and then repeat the workouts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. At each strength workout, do eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise with a weight that makes it challenging to finish all the repetitions with good form.
All-Around Core Exercises
Train all the muscles of your core, not just the superficial rectus abdominis. Crunches, cobra, front plank and side plank are good beginner exercises. Once you've mastered these — after about two weeks — add moves such as:
- Bird dog for the stabilizing muscles of the back
- Bicycle crunches for the obliques
- Paloff presses for the deep transverse abdominis
- Hanging leg raises and incline crunches for the rectus abdominis.
Read more: How to Tone Up Quickly for Your Big Event
Rest and De-stress
Adequate rest between workouts and at night are other important steps toward encouraging fat loss that reveals six-pack abs. Allow at least 48 hours between sessions working a given muscle group with weights. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.
If you've got a month full of work deadlines, family emergencies or moving, your six-pack ab goal may take longer to achieve. Stress encourages the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that actually encourages your body to hold on to fat, especially around your middle. Separate yourself from as much life drama as you can over the month to keep your mind and body calm.
- ACE Fitness: What Are the Guidelines for Percentage of Body Fat Loss?
- ACE Fitness: High-Intensity Interval Training
- National Sleep Foundation: How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
- Harvard Health Publishing: The Real-World Benefits of Strengthening Your Core
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: National Institutes of Health: Gas in the Digestive Tract
- ExRx.net: Incline Crunch