The time it takes to get six-pack abs depends on a person’s body fat percentage, diet, and exercise habits.

Everyone has abdominal muscles, known as abs. These muscles may not be visible because of the fat around them.

Some fat, called subcutaneous fat, is close to the skin’s surface, but fat also exists deep within the abdominal cavity. This is called visceral fat. The more fat a person has, the less defined their abdominal muscles are.

In this article, we describe how long it takes to get visible abs. We also explore changes to diet and exercise habits that can help.

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The time it takes to get visible abs, also known as a six-pack, depends on several factors, including:

  • body fat percentage
  • diet
  • exercise habits

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week and muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days of the week.

Getting this much exercise and having a healthy diet may help a person reach a body fat percentage that results in defined abs. But the amount of time that this takes depends on the person’s current body fat percentage.

The abdomen is the area between the ribs and the pelvis that contains skin, connective tissue, and muscle. The muscles of the abdominal wall:

  • protect the abdominal organs
  • keep them in place
  • support exhalation by pushing these organs toward the diaphragm
  • help with coughing and vomiting by raising intra-abdominal pressure

There are several abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis. This has several segments. A line divides the muscle in half, and three or four tendons divide the muscle horizontally.

These divisions can make it seem as though the rectus abdominis has six parts, which is how it got the name “six-pack.”

Target body fat percentages differ for males and females, who need to have a certain amount of fat to menstruate.

A person may think that they need to eat significantly less to get a six-pack. However, people who lose around 1–2 pounds per week are more likely to maintain weight loss than people who lose more than 2 lbs per week.

A healthy diet is essential, especially for people who are trying to lose body fat.

A diet rich in protein helps a person gain strength and muscle mass, particularly through resistance training. And having a higher intake of protein may help prevent the loss of muscle mass when a person is not working out.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 recommends that males consume 56 grams (g) of protein a day and that females consume 46 g a day.

In 2005, the Institute of Medicine established the current dietary reference intake for protein: 0.8 g of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. However, a recent study suggests that people may actually need to consume around 1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight.

Some healthy sources of protein include:

  • beans, peas, and lentils
  • cheese, yogurt, and milk
  • fish, such as mackerel
  • eggs
  • tofu and some other meat alternatives
  • lean meats and mince
  • chicken and other types of poultry

It is possible to eat the recommended amount of protein while reducing the intake of calories. Having a high protein diet and a 500–750 calorie daily deficit may also help prevent the loss of muscle mass.

While physical activity is essential for health, exercise alone will not result in a six-pack.

As an older study, from 2011, reports, exercises targeting the abdominal muscles improve muscular endurance and strength but do not lead to significant changes in body weight, body fat percentage, or other measurements of weight loss.

This means that a person needs to have a body fat percentage at which muscles begin to have definition before they can have a six-pack.

At this point, exercises that build abdominal muscle endurance and strength can help. Some examples include:

Stomach crunches

First, lie on the back with the knees bent and the feet on the floor.

Next, place the hands on the thighs, chest, or behind the ears, and slowly bring the upper body toward the knees until the shoulders are a few inches off the floor.

Hold this position for a few moments, then slowly return to the starting position. Try for a set of 12–15 crunches.

Oblique crunches

Lie on the back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Next, roll the knees to one side so that they touch the floor.

Place the hands across the chest or behind the ears and gradually curl the upper body toward the hip that is off the floor until the shoulders are several inches off the floor.

Hold this position for a few moments before returning the upper body slowly to the floor. Perform this 12–15 times, then repeat on the other side.


Start by lying so that only the toes and forearms are touching the floor. The legs should be straight and the hips raised. Imagine that there is a straight line from head to toe.

While holding this position, for at least several seconds, keep the abs tight. Repeat 10 times.

Side planks

Instead of supporting the body with the forearms and toes, lie on one side, propped up on one one elbow. Keep the legs straight and raise the hips so that there is a straight line from head to toe.

Keep the abs tight, and hold this position for several seconds. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Reverse crunch

This is similar to a stomach crunch, but instead of raising the shoulders, a person lifts their buttocks and tailbone.

Start by lying on the back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Place the hands across the chest.

Slowly raise the legs to a 90-degree angle, pulling the knees to the chest until the buttocks and tailbone are off the floor. Hold this position for a few moments before slowly lowering the legs and buttocks.

Perform this exercise 12–15 times.

Having a six-pack depends on a person’s body fat percentage, exercise habits, and diet.

To gain definition in their abs, a person should get plenty of physical activity and have a healthy, balanced diet.