The length of time it takes to develop six-pack abs depends on your dedication to fitness and diet, as well as your starting point. If you're considerably overweight or have a high body fat percentage, it will take longer than if you're already relatively lean and fit.
The steps required to achieve the low body fat levels necessary to show six-pack abs are significantly stricter than those you'd undertake to drop a few pounds and reach a healthy weight — and, may not even be possible, depending on your genetic makeup.
What It Takes to Have a Six-Pack
A six-pack appears when your body fat level is low enough to reveal the tendonous segments that divide your rectus abdominis, the front sheath of muscle fibers on your torso.
For men, this body fat level is usually 6 to 9 percent and for women, 16 to 19 percent. Women naturally carry more body fat than men to support possible pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Not everyone has the anatomy for a six-pack. Some people have a rectus abdominis that lacks the defined tendinous crease that divides the muscle into six defined segments. Others may have angled or staggered abdominals that don't create a neat six-pack.
Getting to a Low Body Fat Level
If you want to try to get to a low enough body fat level to potentially reveal a six-pack, consider from where you're starting. The average man has a body fat of 28 percent, and average woman has 40 percent.
Even if you're at a healthy 11 to 22 percent body fat for a man or 22 to 33 percent as a woman, it'll take some time to get lean enough for your abs to pop.
The American Council on Exercise says, if you follow a healthy dietary and exercise routine, you can expect to lose body fat at a healthy 1 percent per month. At this rate, most people may achieve six-pack abs in anywhere from three to 20 months, depending on your current body fat level.
Steps Required to Reveal a Six Pack
If you're at an average body fat level, simple steps can help you reduce body fat to achieve a healthier body composition. Skipping sugary soda, limiting processed foods and becoming more physically active helps you get leaner and healthier — but won't reveal a six-pack.
To go from a lean body fat level— say, 12 percent as a man or 21 percent as a woman — to six-pack lean, you'll need to adopt a far more precise eating and exercise regimen. Meals will consist mostly of lean proteins and fresh produce, while refined carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol and restaurant meals must be rare indulgences.
You'll work out almost daily, and sometimes twice daily, with cardio and strength training. Several of these cardio workouts will involve high-intensity intervals, during which you alternate short bursts of all-out effort with recovery.
Strength-training is an absolute must to reach a six-pack worthy body fat level. You'll perform three to five strength-training workouts per week, some days concentrating on only one part of the body, such as your legs.
Core workouts should be part of your strength-training, but not the sole focus. You'll need to train all the major muscle groups with heavy weights regularly. This promotes muscle growth, and the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism burns -- making a leaner body easier to attain and maintain.
Attention to workout rest and recovery, as well as nighttime sleep, is also critical to promote muscle growth and hormone balance. You may find much of your time is spent working out or meal prepping — your social life, hobbies and downtime will likely be compromised. Don't forget, you must also keep up these regimens not just to achieve a six-pack — but to keep one.