The ultimate six-pack guide: How to finally get a washboard stomach

man with sixpack doing an ab workout

The right training for a defined six-pack

Getting a six-pack should be really easy. Simple training logic tells us: if you want more muscular arms, just work out your biceps and triceps. So simple abdominal training should lead to more prominent abs and a six-pack, right? Unfortunately not: you cannot turn a flabby stomach into a washboard stomach by just doing abdominal training.

The six-pack, i.e. the multiple subdivision of the abdominal muscles, is anatomically predetermined. This means that every person, whether male or female, has abdominal muscles that are divided into a six-pack. Whether they are visible depends primarily on the body fat percentage. The exact form of the division of the abdominal muscles can look very different, but the basic structure is the same for everyone. That being said, you will never get a six-pack is not possible with just abdominal muscle training. And those who tirelessly only do sit-ups and crunches actually risk increasing the volume of the abdomen. This is because the muscles under the fat layer grow and cause the belly to bulge forward. In this case, the fat cushion over the muscles does not automatically disappear.

The right six-pack workout does not consist solely of abdominal exercises. Instead, the workout should also include exercises that are generally good for the entire body composition – i.e. the ratio of muscle mass to body fat. Including these exercises ensures that you will not only build your muscles but also reduce your body fat. You cannot determine where on the body you break down fat. As a rule, the process of body fat reduction occurs globally, i.e. distributed over the body and takes place in phases. The more muscle you build, the more energy (i.e. calories) you can burn and the more you will break down fat deposits.

Six-pack - How to achieve your goal

“Forget the sit-ups!” – That’s right, because, too often, sit-ups are not performed correctly and can easily lead to back problems. Also, the auxiliary muscles are often used more than the target muscles – as the hip flexor and the back muscles that turn on after just a few repetitions. When planning your six-pack workout, it is important to make the abdominal exercises as versatile and functional (according to the muscle’s actual function) as possible. In this way, the various abdominal muscles are trained holistically and in combination with one another. Therefore, you should include as much variety into your six-pack workout as possible (e.g. with and without weight, laying down and standing, dynamic and static). If an organism is repeatedly challenged in many different ways, it is less likely to develop any misalignments. Not only is this more effective, but it is also more fun due to exercise variety. And on top of that, it also saves time.

You will meet a few people in your life who can get a six-pack by just doing abdominal exercises or an abs, butt, legs workout plan. If you look around carefully, you will notice that most athletes get a six-pack through intensive strength training with challenging exercises, sprints and jumps or through complex sports such as gymnastics combined with an appropriate diet. The most efficient method is structured strength training. Your six-pack training plan should therefore not consist solely of abdominal exercises. Instead, it should include many basic full-body strength training exercises as well as exercises targeting the back muscles. You should always pay attention to the large muscle groups, such as the buttocks, legs, and upper back muscles. Further information can be found under “Six-pack Workout Boosters”.

Which exercises help you to get a six-pack?

  • Crunches are much better than sit-ups for working out the upper body. So that the exercises do not become too repetitive in the long run, you should incorporate variations (e.g. with and without weight, laying down and standing, and dynamic and static). with crunches, in contrast to sit-ups, you do not lift your entire upper body, but move the chest towards the hip. Your legs should be bent and your hands behind your head.
woman performing a crunch
  • Static abdominal exercises, such as planking, are also suitable: with a straight back and your forearms supporting you, all abdominal muscles are trained statically (i.e. without movement) at the same time. Advanced athletes can add dynamic elements to planking – such as lifting one leg or arm.
woman performing a plank
  • Similar to the straight abdominal muscles, the lateral abdominal muscles can be trained statically and dynamically. With the side plank, you support your body weight statically, and the level of difficulty can be easily increased by adding dynamic elements (e.g. simultaneous lifting of the upper leg and arm).
woman performing a side plank
  • A torso-rotation exercise is suitable for training the oblique muscles and the transverse below the navel. particularly effective is a cable torso rotation (on the cable machine) with arms outstretched and static hip position. Incidentally, this exercise also relieves discomfort in the lower back.
  • Many basic exercises from strength training – such as squats, pull-ups, or bench presses – are not just good for building muscle in the stressed main muscle groups. They also strengthen your core muscles and abdominal muscles efficiently (not to mention they burn a lot of calories). By focusing on these basic exercises, you can reduce your body fat, become stronger, and at the same time get a really good abdominal muscle workout – and without doing any exercises that roll your spine (which can lead to serious injury). In fitness training, one of the best exercises to burn fat is the squat. The squat is ideal for breaking down fat all over the body because it uses a lot more energy compared to most other exercises.
woman performing a squat

Complementary abdominal muscle training at the end of your workout

At the end of a workout, you can always incorporate a few abdominal exercises. These exercises should strain all of your abdominal muscles holistically. Planks, rotation exercises or pelvic lifts are good options here. You should also always train the back extensor muscles to avoid stress, incorrect posture, and misalignment.

The actual function of the abdominal muscles is stabilization and straightening – not the curling – of the trunk by forming a muscular corset, as well as protecting the internal organs and spine. In addition to the straight abdominal muscles (lat. Rectus abdominis), which essentially form the so-called six-pack, there are a total of 6 other muscles of the front, back and lateral abdominal wall muscles. Together these form our abdominal muscles. In general, these muscles work together in groups and should therefore not be trained in isolation unless it is necessary for medical reasons. Isolated training of only one area of movement leads to imbalances in the abdominal muscles, as with other muscles on the body. This imbalance in strength and tension can lead to posture problems, pain, and injuries.

Positive side effects of a six-pack workout

Weak core muscles, i.e. weak abdominal muscles and back extensor is one of the most common causes of back pain. A lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle lead to tension in the back and hip muscles and a weakening of the abdominal muscles. The consequences are chronic pain in the lumbar region caused by an incorrect posture of the spine. In the worst case, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to intervertebral disc damage so severe that it can result in a herniated disc.

Many try to compensate for their lack of exercise through occasional jogging. However, this only makes a minor contribution to the urgently needed build-up of the core muscles. And jogging without additional strength exercises often worsens pain and posture of the spine. The training of the core muscles, through basic strength training exercises and additional abdominal and back exercises, does not only help you get a nice six-pack. It also strengthens your spine and prevents bad posture.

Six-pack Food - The most important nutritional tips for success

A six-pack training plan only works with the right nutrition. It is important to build muscle and at the same time to melt fat. If nutrition is neglected, the abdominal muscles will remain stubbornly hidden behind the belly fat and the six-pack will never become visible. The right combination of strength training and nutrition is vital to success. Our food diary can provide a helpful basis for tracking your eating habits. In combination with this, meal prep can help save you time and structure your week.

Tip 1: The right combination of foods

For a defined abdomen, the six-pack nutrition plan primarily contains proteins (our BMI calculator will help determine your specific needs), as these are required for building muscle. But fats and carbohydrates are also essential for your success. Below you will learn more about the three macronutrients and their effects and use in the six-pack nutrition plan.


bowl of plain rice

Carbohydrates are allowed in the Upfit six-pack training plan. However, you should only enjoy them in moderation. Your success depends in particular on the right type and amount of carbohydrates and the right timing. Excess carbohydrates that are not burned by the muscles as energy quickly migrate to the hips. In general, the more you exercise and the more muscle or body fat you have, the more carbohydrates you can safely eat. As long as you are not seeing much abdominal muscle definition or build-up, you should only eat carbohydrates after your workout to replenish your energy reserves. Otherwise, you should go without carbohydrates to force your body to use the energy reserves in your body fat stores and thus achieve optimal fat burning. Intermittent fasting can give you another fat reduction boost. With intermittent fasting, you eat only within an eight-hour window and fast the remaining sixteen-hours. Only water, unsweetened tea, and coffee are allowed during the fasting phase (e.g. 12h – 20h normal food intake, 20h – 12h the following day fasting phase with only water, tea, and coffee). In combination with a protein-rich, carbohydrate-reduced diet, this leads to quick six-pack successes.

For quick and particularly effective results in body fat reduction, simple carbohydrates (sugary foods, white flour products, sweets, lemonades, fruit juices, etc.) should be avoided completely. Carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, potatoes, rice or other foods with a low glycemic index (this is a measurement to determine the effect of carbohydrate-containing foods on the blood sugar level) are permitted. As described above, you should only eat these after working out. Vegetables should be eaten throughout the whole day, i.e. in large quantities, since the micronutrients contained are not only important for weight loss success but also your body to function properly. Ideally, eat five servings of vegetables or more daily. Fruit is also allowed as it contains many vitamins and quenches the desire for sweets. However, due to the high fruit sugar content, you should only consume fruit in smaller quantities i.e. two pieces per day – preferably also after working out.


herbs and oils as a healthy fat source

In the nineties, it was believed that fats were responsible for the obesity epidemic. Today we know that this is a myth. Healthy fats are necessary to keep you healthy and in no way make you fat. When choosing fats, the most important thing is to eat the correct ratio of saturated, mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for your health. Omega 3 not only has a positive impact on your cardiovascular system, but is also involved in hormone production, protein synthesis, cell metabolism, and protects against inflammation. The right ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is crucial for your health. This ratio is 2: 1 and should not be larger than 5: 1. Oils such as rapeseed, linseed, and olive oil have a high omega-3 fatty acid content and are more suitable than, for example, sunflower oil.

We obtain the most essential fatty acids from oils, seeds, and nuts, but also animal products. Therefore, it is worth paying attention to quality and origin. Venison, for example, has an excellent fatty acid ratio, cattle raised on factory farms and feed poor quality feed, on the other hand, do not. You should avoid all trans fats. These are often hidden in greasy baked goods, fast foods, and snacks. Trans fats are not only bad for your health but they also promote unwanted fat storage. You also shouldn’t overdo it with saturated fatty acids from fatty meats, butter, and cream.


a mix of different nuts as a healthy source of fats

Proteins form the basis of the six-pack training plan. In contrast to carbohydrates, protein-based snacks are desirable. Adequate protein intake is not only necessary for building muscle, but it also boosts the metabolism and thus energy consumption. Lean meats such as chicken, fish or sirloin, as well as eggs and low-fat dairy products such as cottage cheese, yogurt, and kefir are particularly high in protein. But vegetarians and vegans have nothing to worry about: plant-based products can also adequately meet protein requirements. Nuts, seeds, legumes, soy products and algae such as spirulina are particularly high in protein. Spirulina, in particular, is a real protein miracle. With nuts, on the other hand, you should be a bit more economical because they contain a lot of fat and can quickly turn into a calorie bomb. You shouldn’t eat more than two handfuls of nuts a day. Our calorie and nutrient calculator will calculate your ideal micro and macronutrient ratio and calorie needs.

Animal Protein Suppliers - Top 10:
Food per 100g Protein in g Carbohydrates in g Fats in g Kcal
Beef Jerky 48 2,7 5,5 240
Harz cheese 30 0 0.7 126
Rump steak 28 0,3 12,6 229
Tuna 25 0 0,8 107
Turkey breast 24,6 0 1 107
Salmon fillet 23 0 7 159
Crab 18,6 0,7 1,4 91
Cottage cheese 13,3 3,3 1,4 81
Low fat yogurt 13 4 0,2 75
Eggs 12 1 12 158
Plant-based protein sources - Top 10:
Food per 100g Protein in g Carbohydrates in g Fats in g Kcal
Spirulina dried 59,8 20,2 4,1 367
Sweet lupine 33 6,3 5,9 292
Soybeans 36 30 20 446
Sunflower seeds 26,1 34,7 26,3 590
Hemp seeds 33 12 44 587
Almonds 24 5,7 53 611
Chia seeds 17 42 31 486
Natto 17,7 1,8 11 176
Quinoa 14,7 62 4 355
Tofu 8,1 1,9 4,8 81

Tip 2: the right timing

The right timing is particularly important for carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are primary energy sources for our body and are consumed by active muscles and organs. If you eat a lot of carbohydrates in the morning and at noon and then sit in the office all day, your body has no use for this energy and stores it as body fat. However, if there are no carbohydrates in the body, it mainly uses fats to cover its energy consumption and begins to mobilize the corresponding reserves. When you train hard, your body uses the carbohydrates that are stored in the muscles and liver during training. If these stores are empty, your body immediately uses incoming carbohydrates to replenish these stores. After training, on the other hand, you should eat some complex carbs. They put your body into building mode so that more muscle mass is built up faster.

Especially at the beginning of your six-pack workout plan, when the abdominal muscles are not yet visible, you should keep the number of carbohydrates low after the training. As a result, your body gets as much energy as possible from its fat reserves. Do not completely go without carbohydrates, because without them you will feel weak after a few days. Proteins and healthy fats, on the other hand, can be eaten at any time of the day. For your digestive system, however, it is recommended to take breaks of at least three hours between meals, since these two food groups take longer for your body to digest.

Tip 3: drink plenty of water

Even the best six-pack training plan will not work without adequate hydration. It is essential to avoid drinks containing calories such as juices, spritzers, lemonades and, above all, alcohol. Alcohol, like the trans fats already mentioned (in baked goods, snack foods, prepackaged meals, and sweets) not only ensures that the energy intake is too high, they also promote the accumulation of visceral fat in the abdomen and are therefore a flat stomach killer – You must go without the six-pack of beer to get the six-pack abs.

Ideally, depending on your activity level, you should drink 2.5 to 3.5 liters of water a day. If you prefer a little more taste in your glass, unsweetened teas or water with a dash of lemon or lime juice is suitable. Cucumber or mint-infused water can also be very refreshing. Black coffee (i.e. no sugar or cream) is allowed in moderation.

Find out more about the right and healthy drink-choices in this article.

Abdominal muscles and abdominal fat: Genetic differences and everyday influences

Unfortunately, there are always cases where – despite proper nutrition and intensive training – a person’s six-pack will simply not become visible. It’s usually because many of us are genetically predisposed to having more fat deposits. Women often have these fat deposits on the buttocks and thighs, while men have them primarily in the abdominal region. Unfortunately, we cannot determine where the fat in the body melts the fastest. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a person’s belly to stubbornly hold on to the fat layer covering their six-pack. Two other major contributors to this problem are poor sleep and a high level of stress. Especially people who travel a lot for work or work shifts often find it difficult to get rid of their belly fat.

To expose his or her six-pack, some people would have to lose so much weight that the rest of the body would become malnourished or risk getting other health problems. A much more sensible approach in such cases is to develop better strategies for sleep, nutrition, exercise planning, and time management to enable the body to reduce its belly fat. Many people are also magnesium and vitamin D3 deficient, and both of these micronutrients are responsible for important tasks in the body’s signal system regarding stress. Our calorie and nutrient calculator will calculate your optimal nutrient ratio.

How much should you eat to lose weight?

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Training Motivation tips to get you that six-pack

  • Define a clear, realistic goal!
  • Formulate intermediate goals! You shouldn’t use your weight as the most important success signal, as you can never predict exactly how muscle mass and body fat will develop. Instead, it is advisable to use body measurements. Your chest and abdominal circumference (at the navel) are a much better indicator of how you are doing than your weight.a
  • While some can motivate themselves well, others reach their goal faster with external motivation. A friend, family member, or personal trainer can play a major role here. Share your goal with these people!
  • If you love competition, find a training partner with the same objective and start a battle together.
  • Take weekly photos of yourself. It is tough to see body development because you see yourself every day and change happens slowly. Weekly photos give a better sense of how you are progressing.
  • Hang a picture that matches your goal on your fridge. This reminds you of your goal several times a day (and prevents you from raiding the fridge).

Six-pack Booster: How you can get to your destination even faster

man and woman in sportswear on top of a mountain giving a high five

To help you get the coveted six-pack even faster, we have put together some six-pack boosters. With the help of these tips, the six-pack training plan will be even more effective with even faster results.

Booster # 1: endurance training

Ideally, you should do intensive endurance workouts (e.g. interval runs, ball games or repeated sprints) on the days between your muscle-building workouts. Endurance training should be carried out in an alternation of high intensity and low-intensity breaks of around 30 minutes.

If you do not have time on the days between the six-pack training sessions, you can also do your cardio workouts after the strength training. It is unfavorable to do endurance training before strength training, as this harms your strength training performance thus reduces its effects. This is because the glycogen stores in your muscles are already used up and maximum exercise performance is then no longer possible.

Booster # 2: proteins after the workout

It is advisable to consume protein-rich snacks or shakes both after your muscle building and endurance workouts. Proteins are necessary after workouts to prevent your body from attacking its own muscle mass and provide your body the building blocks to build new muscles. Proteins also stimulate the metabolism and promote increased calorie consumption.

Booster No. 3: Building muscle in large muscle groups

It may sound unusual, but to get a six-pack, as already mentioned, the large muscle groups, in particular, have to be trained intensively. Intensive means 1 – 15 repetitions per set, so at the beginning, for example, it should be in the range of 12 – 15 repetitions. Chose a weight so that the last three repetitions are in the maximum force range and push you close to your limit. As you get stronger, you must continue adjusting the weight to your current level of performance.

After every 6 – 8 training sessions you vary the exercises and the number repetition (e.g. 12 – 15 -> 6 – 8 -> 10 – 12 -> 4 – 6) so that you continue to create a new training stimulus to build up muscles. The more muscle mass is built up, the higher the permanent calorie consumption and thus the fat burning. This applies 24 hours a day because muscles (being metabolically active tissue) burn fat even when you are sleeping. So, for example, if you already have well-developed leg and buttock muscles, you significantly increase the chance of getting a visible six-pack.

Booster # 4: circuit training

woman laying down and training abs

Circuit training not only saves time, but it also leads to a constantly increased heart rate during your workout and an increase in energy consumption. Between the abdominal muscle sets, you can, for example, train your buttocks and leg muscles or do back exercises. A very efficient circuit variant for six-pack training is working with several small circuits consisting of three to four exercises. This means that the time between working out different muscle groups is just right and not too long.

Alternatively, you can do a 6 exercise circuit, for example, 2 exercises for the leg muscles, 2 for the abdominal muscles, 2 for the back muscles and change the muscle group after each exercise. Do not take breaks between exercises. The previously strained muscle group recovers while another is being trained. You can do circuit training on a time basis (e.g. starting at 20 seconds per exercise and gradually increasing) or on a repetition basis (e.g. 12 – 15 repetitions per exercise) – but either way it should be exhausting.

Booster No. 5: Vary the training form and exercises

The following applies to every workout plan: the more varied the better. If your body gets used to a form of training, it no longer has to adapt and consequently, muscle growth stagnates. It is best to change your workout every 6 to 8 weeks. Start with circuit training in the strength-endurance area and then change the form of training into a more intensive version single-set training or supersets. Also, be careful not to do the same exercises all the time. Exercises that the body does not know force it to adapt again and to train the affected muscles better. You can often feel this in the form of sore muscles.


  • Breitenstein, B. (2014). Definierte Bauchmuskeln: Training. Ernährung. Psychologie.
  • Lauren, M. & Clark, J. (2017). Fit ohne Geräte: Trainieren mit dem eigenen Körpergewicht.

Frequently Asked Questions

On average, for a man, 12% body fat is generally the threshold below which the six-pack is visible. For a woman, this can be anything under 20%. For women, the total proportion of body fat is strongly influenced by bust size and the hip bone width, both of which influence the body fat value, but have no direct influence on the belly fat, under which the six-pack is hidden. As a general rule: the more in shape you are (whether through strength training or other forms of fitness exercise), the sooner the contours of your abdominal muscles will be visible. For a very fit man, it is possible to have visible abdominal muscles with 15% body fat. On the other hand, someone who is out of shape’s abdominal muscles may not be visible even with 10% body fat (i.e. “skinny fat”). Since there are more factors influencing body fat in women (which do not affect the six-pack), it is more difficult to state average values for women (for women, the workout form also has an even greater influence on results than for men). Using the right tool to reach your goal is important: do you need a diet and workout to lose weight (body fat reduction), to build muscle, or to define (a little bit of both)?

It depends on where you start. If you are already very slim, but do not have strong abdominal muscles, then you will have to invest a few months in intensive strength training and stay away from long cardio sessions during this time. If you are already muscular and fit, but have too high a percentage of body fat, you will have to lose weight for a few weeks with a strict diet (bodybuilders in the last weeks before the competition are a prime example of this). If you are both out of shape and have a lot of body fat, you should start strength training first and then add an adapted diet to lose weight without losing muscle. The further you are from your goal, the longer it will take, so better to start today than tomorrow. (by the way, you can calculate the optimal calorie requirement for reaching your goal in a few seconds here).

Theoretically yes, practically no. Since women have a larger reservoir of necessary fat deposits, it is somewhat more difficult for them to achieve a correspondingly low body fat percentage in a healthy way. And unfortunately, access to suitable forms of strength training is often more difficult. Men also have the advantage of being able to build muscle faster due to hormones. However, this does not mean that women cannot get a six-pack! Most of the time, this project fails due to incorrect training: shapely and solid abdominal muscles are the result of weight training with weights or heavy strength exercises with your own weight. Neither sit-ups nor endurance runs bring you closer to this goal, but rather squats, pull-ups, and bench presses. If you have appropriately developed, trained abdominal muscles and a low body fat percentage through diet and training, gender ultimately doesn’t matter.

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