If we’re honest with ourselves, the majority of us want six-pack abs without having to lift a finger.
Yet if it were that easy, everyone would have rock-hard abs – so you’re going to need to put the work in if you want to look like Michelangelo’s David with your kit off.
But just how hard do you need to work to get the sculpted abs of your dreams?
Most fitness experts will tell you that if you want to work towards defined abs and a strong core, you’ll need to hit them 3-5 times a week. Consistently fall anywhere in this range, and within a few weeks, you’ll start to notice a difference in your abdominal muscles.
Training abs is both similar and different to training other parts of the body.
On the one hand, the abdominals are muscles just like the biceps or lats, and so they should be treated as such.
This means adequate rest in between targeted workout sessions, which can be a problem for some who want six-pack abs in six days.
Just like with any muscle, it takes time to build strong abs, so you need to exercise patience.
On the other hand, abs require a different approach to other parts of the body, because they are a group of muscles and each individual one needs to be worked for the best results.
Plus, unlike the biceps, for example, a lot of people dislike training abs and can even prioritize them less than hitting legs – which is really saying something!
It’s possible to work out your abs simply by doing compound moves and heavy lifts, but if you really want your abs to shine through, you need to commit to an ab-only workout routine.
Just like cardio, you’ll want to set aside some time during the week in which you commit to something that isn’t biceps, chest, or shoulders.
The amount of time you’ll need to set aside will depend on what your goals are, how hard you’re willing to work for six-pack abs, and your availability.
How often you decide to hit abs in a week should depend in large part on what your fitness goals are.
If you’re new to working out, then you’re going to want to take it easy in the beginning.
It’s exceptionally easy to overtrain when you first start training, so we recommend that you don’t exceed three ab-centric workouts in a week.
Three ab workouts in a week is the sweet spot if you want to make sure you train them, but also guarantee recovery time.
If you’re more experienced, aim for anywhere up to five or six ab workouts a week.
Start with five, and see how you feel at the end of the week – if your abs feel like they’re going to explode at the start of the next week, you might want to refrain from adding more ab workouts for now.
Adapt your Approach
If you want to keep training your core muscles, the key is to mix it up and adapt your approach.
If the first ab workout of the week you focused on training your rectus abdominus muscles – what most people consider to be your core muscles – then the next one should target the obliques, which are the muscles to the sides.
You should also mix it up just for the sake of keeping the workouts enjoyable, since committing to a routine of just planks every time might get old and you might find your motivation start to wane after a few sessions.
Some of the best exercises for hitting your abs include the following, though it’s by no means an exhaustive list:
- Bicycle Kicks
- Russian Twists
- Hanging Leg Raises
Again, while you don’t have to perform every different ab exercise out there to see great results, variety is something you should seek to incorporate in every workout.
Find out which exercises hit the lower, mid, and upper abs, as well as the obliques, and that will allow you to construct a well-rounded routine.
Importance of Rest
The one thing that’s more frustrating than sitting around doing nothing and realizing you’re moving further from the six-pack abs you daydream about is hitting your midsection hard after every workout and feeling like you aren’t making progress.
It can be extremely disheartening to feel like you’re crushing it with regards to abs, hitting all kinds of plank variations, situps, and V-sits, only to notice that you aren’t getting any more definition or toning around your midsection.
The Role of Recovery
However, there could be a very simple explanation for this: overtraining.
Yes, it is indeed possible to work too hard towards creating the abs of your dreams that you actually hinder your own progress.
As counterintuitive as this may sound, if you consider the importance of rest for developing any other muscle in the body, then it might start to make more sense.
After all, you wouldn’t go into the gym and crank out several sets of bicep and hammer curls for three days in a row, so why would you hit abs after every single workout?
If your ab muscles constantly feel sore and in pain, you might think this is a good sign, but it could be an indicator that you just aren’t giving them enough rest in between workouts.
How Often Should you Rest?
If you stick to doing 3 targeted ab workouts a week at first, you’ll be able to schedule in rest sessions in between to ensure you stay on track to hit your goals.
When you feel like you’ve developed muscle in your midsection, then you can start to throw in an extra one or two ab workouts for the week with slightly less rest in between.
The most important thing to do is to listen to your body, and train accordingly.
Don’t fight through the pain – if it feels like a facehugger is about to burst forth from your stomach, you might need to rest some more before that next set of bicycle kicks.
Frequently Asked Questions About Abs
How many days a week should I do abs?
The amount of days you should hit your abs will depend on how strong they are right now, and how quickly you want to see results.
If you’ve never trained abs before, you don’t want to hit them more than three times a week, since you’ll want to ensure the muscles have ample time to recover in between workouts.
If you already have good core strength, you can push yourself and do five or perhaps even six ab workouts a week to see solid progress.
Can you work your abs everyday?
You can work your abs everyday, but it isn’t recommended.
There’s a reason why most people stagger upper and lower body workouts so they don’t hit the same body parts two days in a row: recovery.
The same goes for your abdominal muscles, if you don’t give them enough time to recover after a grueling workout, you’re at risk of overtraining them.
Do abs need a rest day?
Yes, just like every other muscle in the body, abs need a rest day.
If you’ve been consistently hitting abs after every single workout and are wondering why you are yet to see the results you were expecting, overtraining could be the answer.
Treat your abs as if they were your biceps, of course you want to train them as often as possible, but take care to ensure they have enough time to rest in between workouts.
A Final Word From Energetic Lifestyle
One of the biggest reasons for falling short of six-pack goals (aside from skipping ab workouts) is overtraining.
If you want to see results, scale back the amount of time you hit abs until you can give your body the rest it needs in between workouts.
Ideally you want to hit your midsection no fewer than three times a week, and no more than five or six times.