6 Tips To Develop Athletic Six Pack Abs and Lean Abdominals


Everybody wants to have a great physique, and whether male or female the number one area of the body most people want to improve the most is their midsection. Whether you’re a female who simply wants to flatten and tighten your tummy, or you’re a male who wants to lose the beer belly and carve out some awesome abs, we all want our midsections to be slimmer, tighter and more attractive.

Most people go about developing lean abdominals and sculpting an athletic six-pack the wrong way. I get frustrated when I see males and females in the gym working hard but not working correctly to achieve their goals.

Here are my 6 tips for developing an athletic six-pack which will provide a lean and sculpted midsection:

  1. Develop The RIGHT Attitude First.
  2. Nutrition ‘You MUST Eat CLEAN If You Want To Develop LEAN ABS!
  3. Increase Your Fish Oil Supplementation.
  4. DON’T Drink Your Calories.
  5. Train Metabolically, Not Aerobically.
  6. Use Athletic Abdominal Exercises and Routines For Better ABS.

#1 – Develop The RIGHT Attitude First!
You must accept the fact that fat loss is difficult. Remember, fat loss (removing the fat from your midsection) is the most important element in achieving your six-pack or tightly sculpted midsection. So, you must accept that fat loss is hard, because when you do you will approach your fat loss training and abdominal development much more seriously and begin to focus on what you need to do in order to achieve your goals.

Too many people assume that they should be able to develop great abs because they go to the gym 3-4 times per week and work hard, doing lots of direct ab work, yet the rest of the week they don’t address other areas of their life that will impact on their physiques, such as nutrition, adequate sleep, stress, etc. These are people who haven’t developed the right mindset and people who aren’t taking their fat loss and abdominal development goals seriously enough. Nothing comes easy, and going to the gym and training hard 3-4 times a week, doing lots of crunches just isn’t going to cut it.

Here’s the formula I like to use for achieving serious results:

Serious Attitude + Serious Application = Serious Results

#2 – Nutrition ‘You MUST Eat CLEAN If You Want To Develop LEAN ABS!
Now this one might hurt many people. I’m afraid you can’t EAT WHAT YOU WANT and achieve the BODY YOU WANT! I wish it wasn’t this way, but it is, so again this is another fact we all have to accept and once you do you can move forward and get serious about developing that six-pack.

Your nutritional plan should be simple to implement and follow. Please note I deliberately avoided using the word ‘DIET’ as most people associate the word DIET with restriction or starvation, and you do not need to starve yourself in order to achieve a six-pack. You simply need to follow smart nutritional strategies and repeat them over and over again. Here are a few nutrition basics for eating clean:

  • Eat lean proteins such as skinless chicken breast, turkey breast and lean cuts of beef.
  • Eat omega 3 eggs and if eating cheese do so in very small amounts, choosing low-fat options.
  • Eliminate or significantly reduce your intake of dairy.
  • Eat your GREENS and lots of them. Go raw or lightly steam!!!
  • Eat your fruits, but don’t overdo them. 1-2 servings a day MAX! It’s still SUGAR, so be careful!
  • Don’t fear the FAT. Choose healthy fats, such as nuts, natural peanut butter and oily fish like salmon.
  • Time your higher content carbohydrate meals around your workouts (pre or post workout)
  • Use a quality fish oil supplementation and increase dosage over time.
  • Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time.
  • DO NOT DIET or Try STARVING Yourself!!!

People, who have a list of foods that they eat over and over, again and again make most successful body transformations. They may combine some of the foods differently to create different dishes, but the foods they consume are pretty much the same on a daily and weekly basis.

For example, I personally will eat pretty much the same thing each day for my breakfast, then my lunch each day will be the same and my snacks each day are usually nuts or nuts mixed with berries.

The only meal I generally mix up from day-to-day is my dinner. Different source of protein and a different mixture of green veggies. TIP FOR VEGGIES. Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice over your greens. It makes a HUGE difference to the taste and makes easy to consume for those who haven’t got much of a taste for green veggies!

#3 – Increase Your Fish Oil Supplementation!
If you aren’t already taking a high quality fish oil supplement, I strongly recommend you start taking one, provided you are going to combine it with intense training. Don’t expect to swallow some fish oil capsules and then your abdominal fat will start to vanish. I’m afraid this is not going to happen!

You need to combine fish oil supplementation with training in order to get more fat loss than training alone. This is about as close as you can get to non-surgical spot reduction.

Use of fish oil supplementation will help with increased insulin resistance. A sign of insulin resistance and development of type 2 diabetes is central adiposity (belly fat) and the fact that this fat goes first only proves that omega-3s can increase insulin sensitivity, which leads to less fat storage and more fat release.

Just recently I had 10.42% body fat and my abdominal skinfold measured at 16mm during a body fat assessment using calipers. Along with proper training and nutrition I increased my fish oil supplementation over the next 2 weeks and managed to get my body fat down to 9.22% and my abdominal skinfold dropped to 12mm. I started to increase my fish oil supplementation dosage and a further two weeks later and I came in at 8.31% body fat and had an abdominal skinfold reading of 10mm.

Finally I increased my daily intake to 10 fish oil capsules per day and two weeks later I had dropped down to 7.29% body fat and my abdominal skinfold registered at 8.3mm.

So over the course of 6 weeks I was able to drop 3.13% body fat and cut my abdominal skinfold by almost ½, from 16mm to 8.3mm. I should also mention that my training during this time was not geared towards fat loss. My scale weight went from 166 pounds on day one to 168 pounds on day 42, which shows I gained approximately 2 pounds of muscle during this period.

Another FACT that might shock you is that I wasn’t restricting calories. In fact, as my body fat continued to drop, I increased my calories (again I was focused on muscle gain) every 2 weeks and I ended up on approximately 3,000 calories per day, and over 1,000 of those calories came from fat (healthy fats, of course).

I think that’s enough on fish oil supplementation. For more information on the benefits of fish oil supplementation do some research on the web or have a look at the articles here on ShapeFit.

#4 – DON’T Drink Your Calories!
This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Liquid calories are so easy to consume, but they do not please you, nor your waistline. ALSO, many people don’t even figure in the calories from liquids when tallying up their kcals. They almost always forget about the 2 glasses of OJ (SUGAR) and the 1 can of soda they have each day.

Along with saying “no” to fruit juices and sodas, you should also try to eliminate all other liquid calories, such as milk, smoothies and alcohol. If you’re SERIOUS about attaining that six-pack, you’ll be able to say no to these items, at least for a few weeks or months. You don’t have to never drink beer again, but if you want to jump-start your six-pack development kiss it good-bye for now.

The only liquids you should be consuming is water, water and more water, as well as green tea and some other herbal teas are also OK to consume.

Just make sure you are getting the vast majority of your calories from actual foods that you need to place in your mouth and chew on.

#5 – Train Metabolically, Not Aerobically!
As I mentioned earlier, the objective is to remove the layer of fat covering your abdominals. In order to do that you need to create a metabolic disturbance and you will achieve this via higher intensity anaerobic exercise, such as moderate-heavy resistance training, circuit training, sprinting, interval training and some other useful training methods and protocols.

Staying on a treadmill for one hour, just because you’re staying in the fat burning zone, isn’t going to create enough of a metabolic disturbance to impact your metabolism once you leave the gym. So the exercise routines you implement must positively impact your metabolism both during your training session (the 45-60 minutes you train) and after the session has ended (the other 23 hours in the day).

This is what we refer to as ABE. The ‘After Burn Effect’. Your training must create the desired after burn effect and traditional old school low intensity anaerobic training will not cut it here.

Now if you are training 5-6 days per week, please feel free to do 1-2 sessions of low intensity type work as a means of recovery, but if you are only training 3 days per week, I suggest you stick to 3 days of high intensity metabolic type work.

#6 – Use Athletic Abdominal Exercises and Routines For Better ABS!
I’ll admit it, I am just like everybody else and I love to train my abs. However, I fully understand that direct AB training IS NOT the key to developing great abs and I ALWAYS make sure I address the key components when looking to get my abs to show, which is nutrition and the metabolic type work I just discussed in tip number 5.

When I do train my abs, you won’t see me doing traditional abdominal exercises such as knee raises, side bends and numerous crunch variations.

NOTE: The only abdominal crunch exercise I like to perform and recommend is the SERRATUS CRUNCH. I prefer this crunch variation to all other variations as it only allows minimal lumbar flexion and is therefore much safer on your lower back.


The exercises I perform when doing AB work or AB circuits are exercises that require me to stabilize my lumbar spine and utilize the mobility of my thoracic spine, as well as anti-rotational exercises and overhead exercises, such as Y-Squats or Barbell Overhead Squats.

For more information on these athletic abdominal exercises and movements, see my article called Top 6 Athletic Abdominal Training Exercises To Develop Six Pack Abs.

Okay, it’s now time, for those of you who are serious about developing a six-pack, to go and put these 6 tips into practice. Once you do so and you adopt a serious attitude and seriously apply yourself, the results you get will be very pleasing to you and that six-pack might be yours sooner than you thought possible.

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About Author

Ian Graham

My training philosophy is to always train individuals like they are athletes. Even if they are not competing in any sport, they can gain from this athletic approach. We are all designed to perform like athletes. The athletic approach can help anyone achieve their health and fitness, fat loss and muscle building goals! See my profile page for more information!


  1. Avatar
    Lawrence Swartz on

    This is such a great article. I currently weigh 150 pounds and I go to the gym 5-6 days a week and I train hard. My goal is to gain mass but my abs aren’t as visible as I want them to be. What’s your advice? Should I cut or what? Thanks for your time and effort.

    • shapefit

      It’s a very fine balancing act between adding mass and attaining lean abs, so you really have to be detailed in tracking your diet, cardio and training to dial everything in. Small adjustments in your calories each week should be implemented to monitor your lean muscle mass vs fat. If you go too extreme on eating, that will most likely lead to fat gain. Your cardio should also be adjusted in small increments and you should focus on low intensity steady-state cardio like walking on the treadmill or riding the stationary bike to make sure you don’t burn any hard earned lean muscle tissue. It will take dedication and hard work but you will get there 🙂

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