How Many Repetitions are Best for 6 Pack Abs Workouts?


question-icon-newI want to develop 6 pack abs but I’m not sure how many reps per exercise I should be doing for the best results. Also, how many overall exercises should I be doing for each ab workout?

answer-icon-newWho doesn’t want to flaunt six pack abs of steel and a rock hard core? Good for you, now go for it! Before we get into the specific exercises I recommended for you to try, let’s review several basic rules of any smart exercise program.

It is important to remember that abs are like any other muscle group, you need to let them recover to repair and grow properly. Many gym goers seem to forget this. I have seen so many people do the exact same workout everyday and finish it with a “set of sit-ups”! Of course these are usually the same folks who will say, “I just can’t get flat and sculpted abs”.

No kidding there aren’t any results when you’re doing the same old boring routine! The definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s the same thing with exercise. We all exercise for different reasons. For some that might mean walking daily to keep their blood pressure under control. These people do this because they have different goals and that’s okay. But for other folks whose goals are just like yours and really want to see a difference in how their body looks and performs, the daily routine cannot stay the same!

Give your abdominal muscles at least 24 hours in between workouts and if you train them very intensely, make sure to give them 48 hours to fully recover. In order for a chiseled six pack to be visible, defined abdominals simply comes down to decreasing your body fat levels to the point where the top layer of fat over your stomach is decreased and your abdominal muscles show through. You can do AB workouts all day long but as long as you have that extra layer of fat on top of the muscle, you simply will not have defined and ripped abs. It’s just that simple.

Having said that, it is imperative that you maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) through cardiovascular exercise along with a well-balanced nutrition plan. In other words, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial if you really want that six pack to be well-defined. Targeting AB muscles with many different exercises will really challenge them from all angles and is great to hit the muscles but your overall diet and cardio plan needs to be a major focus on your quest to a washboard stomach.

So let’s review several principles of basic weight training that are important to remember.

  1. Progressive Overload
    ripped-shredded-six-pack-absThe basis for increasing any parameter of fitness (strength, size, endurance, etc.) is making the muscles work harder than they’re accustomed to. You must progressively overload your muscles to advance. To gain strength, increase the weight used in your workouts. To increase muscle size, handle heavier weights and increase the number of sets you do. To increase muscle endurance, decrease your rest time between sets or increase the number of repetitions or overall sets. Everything is progressive. This concept underlies all physical training.
  2. Isolation
    Muscles can work together or separately. If you want to maximally shape or build a muscle independently, you must isolate it from the other muscles as best you can through anatomical position changes.
  3. Adaptation
    Part of constant growth is never allowing your body to adapt to one specific training protocol. If you constantly vary your exercises, sets, reps, weights, rest times and angles of push/pull upon your muscles, they can never adapt to the stress. Confuse your muscles to keep them growing and changing. If you’re not getting sore after your workouts, it means you need to mix up your training.
  4. Muscle Priority
    Train your weakest body part first when your energy is highest. Great intensity builds muscle, and your intensity can only be great when your energy is high. If your shoulders are weak relative to your chest, do your overhead presses, upright rows and lateral raises before benching. Giving priority to your shoulders allows you to put maximum intensity into your workout. If all body parts are equal and you have great symmetry, train the largest body part first when your energy is highest.
  5. Flushing
    You must get blood into a muscle and keep it there to produce growth. When you train your chest by doing three or four exercises for this body part alone, without exercising another body part until you complete all your chest exercises, you’re using the flushing principle. You’re spending all your time on one area and consequently, flushing this area with blood.
  6. Consistent Tension
    Momentum can be the worst enemy to your muscles. If you train so fast that you swing the weight through most of the body part’s full range of motion, you decrease the work of the muscle. It’s better to train slowly and deliberately, maintaining constant tension on your muscles.

Try These Exercises To Develop Six Pack Abs:

I have selected 2 exercises for the middle and upper abs, lower abs and obliques (I suggest 3 sets of 12-15 reps for each exercise):

Finally, I would like to suggest that you include several different Pilates exercises, if you are not already incorporating a Pilates workout into your routine.

Pilates is a body conditioning practice that seeks to build flexibility, strength, endurance, and coordination without adding muscle bulk. In addition, pilates exercises strengthen the body’s “core” or torso. Every movement we make comes from the core so ideally the core really is the powerhouse of the body. For example, someone who suffers from a sore lower back is usually the result of a weak core. Remember, the core is not just your abs but includes the full torso and that is why it is so important to have a well-rounded core strengthening routine.

I am excited for you to begin using these exercises and would love to hear and see how you have added them into your workouts!

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About Author

Lisa Ronco

I am a Registered Dietitian, and accredited through the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, a certified Personal Trainer and Spinning Coach with over ten years experience in the fitness and wellness industry. See my profile page for more information!

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    JJ Liam Archangelo on

    Best article I’ve come across so far! Simple and easy to understand with principles that have multiple applications. Great work and many thanks!

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