How Long Will It Be Until Ab Workouts Turn Into Abs? 2 Experts Gave Us This Helpful Timeline
The more core workouts you do, the more you start to ask: how long is it actually going to take for me to "get" abs? The answer: it depends, but — good news — there are a few concrete things you can do to speed up the process, no matter where you're starting from. One important thing to remember: "Everyone has ab muscles!" Jackie Vick, NSCF, a personal trainer for GOLD'S AMP app, told POPSUGAR. The amount of time it will take you to build ab muscle, specifically, depends on how strong your abs are to begin with. To see your abs, it's going to depend on how much fat you need to lose, Vick said. We'll go over both of those ahead.
How Long Does It Take to Build Abs?
When we're talking specifically about strengthening and building your ab muscles — not necessarily seeing them – "it can take anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on what exercises you're doing and your eating habits," said fitness coach Nick Leyden, MS, CSCS. (More on those aspects later.)
When Will I See My Abs?
Here's where it gets a little trickier. To get visible abs, the amount of time you'll need to put in "really depends on your body type," Vick told POPSUGAR. The specific deciding factors are how much body fat you have and where you store it. "Some people tend to hold their weight in their thighs, glutes, and hips, where as others tend to hold it more in their midsection," Leyden explained. That, in turn, depends on factors like genetics and hormones — things that can't always be solved through simple diet and exercise. (If you think hormonal belly fat might be a factor, it's especially important to see a doctor and discuss underlying conditions, such as PCOS, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.)
With that being said, the amount of time it takes for you to see the results of your ab workouts can range widely. Leyden recommended thinking of it as a spectrum rather than one set timeframe. If you have 30 percent or more body fat, "it may take you six months or more depending on your diet and exercise." If you're closer to 20 percent, it may be closer to 10 to 14 weeks; 10 percent, around six to 10 weeks. You can get your body fat percentage tested and talk to a trainer to get a closer gauge for your body. A good estimate: at about 24 percent body fat, most women will see some ab definition. For men, it's closer to 17 percent. In general, the math is simple: the more belly fat you have, the longer it'll take to see your abs, even if you're building the actual muscles along the way.
And if you want to see your abs faster, it will likely require changes to your fitness, diet, and overall lifestyle.
Exercises to Get Visible Abs
On the fitness side of things, you want to focus on building muscle and burning calories, Leyden told POPSUGAR. Large, compound movements can help with the muscle-building, which will boost your metabolism to help you burn calories and fat after your workout is over. He recommended multi-muscle group moves like:
For ab training in particular, Leyden recommended utilizing a variety of intensities and exercises to make sure you're targeting every part of your core. Try a mix of heavy ab training, rotational moves, and stabilizing exercises, including:
To target this area and burn fat more quickly, Leyden recommended working out fasted and pairing a difficult ab workout with low-intensity, steady-state cardio or upper-body HIIT. (Fasted cardio in particular can burn more calories from fat, but it's important to note that some experts don't recommend fasted workouts for weight loss.) Vick also recommended committing to a consistent workout routine; five days is a good goal for burning belly fat, with a mix of two or three days of strength training and the rest cardio. You should also be focusing on your core during every workout and exercise you do. "The more you engage your core, the more you will tone it," Vick said.
How to Eat to Get Visible Abs
Nutrition-wise, it's about eating in a slight calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume) and focusing on eating whole foods because processed food has been shown to lead to weight gain. Make vegetables a big portion of your diet; "they are high in volume and weight and fill up our stomachs, which helps us register the feeling of fullness," said registered dietitian and cocreator of Beachbody's 2B Mindset nutrition program Ilana Muhlstein, MS, RDN, in a previous interview.
Working to overcome any overeating habits will help you target belly fat as well. Foods like nuts, lean protein (chicken, eggs, dairy), and whole grains are great choices if you're looking to reduce belly fat. Here are more foods to try, and 14 tips on burning belly fat through diet.
Stay Consistent and Committed
Vick's biggest advice: "Get into a routine!" Not only will working out help you build muscle and see results, but "the more consistent you are in the gym, the more healthy you will want to eat," Vick explained. To keep yourself from getting bored and plateauing, she recommended switching up your fitness routine every four weeks. Try switching to a new kind of cardio (like running or swimming) or incorporating new strength workouts; this 45-minute gym workout is a great one, and we have plenty of others you can choose from, too. Consistency, though, is the biggest key. "With strict diet, weight training, and cardio, a lot can happen in eight to 12 weeks," she told POPSUGAR.