EstimatedEst. Read Time: 19 minutes


If you ever tried to get “6 pack abs” but couldn’t quite get to the finish line, it could be because you took on too much at once.

I want to help you focus on the right things.

The ones that will make the biggest impact the fastest.

There are definitely a few things you’re going to want to make sure you get right. I’ll give you both nutrition and workout tips for abs, because you simply cannot get a ripped six pack without paying attention to both sides of the equation!

I’ll give you both nutrition and workout tips for abs, because you simply cannot get a ripped six pack without paying attention to both sides of the equation!

But not only will I give you my 13 best tips…

I’ll also show you a short ab workout that puts into practice all the best science for making that six pack pop.

Plus… an easy technique you can use anywhere for any meal to make sure you get your nutrition right!

Here are the 13 tips I will cover in this guide on how to get abs!

abdominal muscles anatomy


My first tip to launch you on your journey to revealing your abs starts in the bathroom, first thing when you wake up in the morning.

Reach for a bottle of water before you jump in the shower!

Not having any water for at least 6-8 hours leaves you in a dehydrated state, so the best remedy is to drink 16 to 20 ounces of water as soon as you wake up… before you do anything else.

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drink water upon waking

This helps you start every day with a good habit that primes you to continue those good habits throughout the rest of your day.

Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day, too – get one of those reminder bottles if you need to.

Whether you are trying to increase your metabolic rate or improve the quality of your ab workouts, you need to have plenty of water to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of each.


When you train your abs, the sequence of the exercises you perform is actually more important than the exercises themselves!

I know that might surprise you, but I’ll show you how to get it right every single time using my 6 Pack Progression.

When you’re looking at ab exercises, focus on what part of your body is moving.

Here we’re looking at 3 exercises done in a different order on the left vs. the right.

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How to Get Abs

In one of the exercises, the upper body is moving but the legs are stationary, whereas in the other abdominal exercise the legs are moving and the torso is stationary.  Which type of movement should come first?

The best way to work the abs is to start with bottom-up exercises (lower abs) that involve isolated movement of the legs. This is because they require the most energy to be able to handle lifting the additional weight of our legs, and we want to do the toughest exercises at the beginning of our workout.

Then we’d move into our mid-range movements and those that work the obliques. Last, we’d be doing the top-down movements (upper abs), because no matter what state of fatigue you’re in, you would still be able to perform these without compromising the overall effect of the workout.

To learn more about my Six Pack Progression and to try a great at home abs workout that follows it to a tee, keep reading through my 13 tips until the very end of this article!


Always keep this next nutrition tip in mind, and I promise you’ll be ahead of the game in achieving your fat loss goals without ever having to count a single calorie or macro.

It’s an easy way to be sure you’re getting a balanced diet that’s ideal for building the ab muscles.

All you need to do is pretend your plate is a clock. Make an imaginary line for 9:00 and for 9:20. Fill the largest portion of the plate with fibrous carbs (highfiber food like vegetables and fruit).

Fill the second largest portion with lean protein. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, whatever your protein source is, it goes there. Fill the remaining portion with starchy carbs (but preferably not refined carbs) and top it with a small amount of incidental fat (or cook with it).

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How to Get Abs

Keep the portions normal sized without heaping and you will find this simple strategy is something you can use anywhere, and it will help you burn fat and lose belly fat in the process.

When combined with a science-based workout program, eating in this manner will help change your body composition, decrease your body fat percentage, and increase your lean muscle mass without you having to be overly focused on the numbers.


When it comes to your ab workouts, be sure to not focus on counting reps but rather making your reps count.

I always say, it’s better to count meaningful contractions and not reps.

If you speed through a bunch of crunches and situps and don’t really feel it in the muscles you’re trying to work, then it’s not doing much good.

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dont do ab exercise reps too fast

With strength training, when you trade in quality for quantity, your chances of getting a carved out six pack are dramatically increased.

When it comes to your ab workouts, be sure to not focus on counting reps but rather making your reps count.

Your reps should be more like this, slow and deliberate with a quality contraction.

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How to Get Abs

In this example, you’re really going to feel your abdominal muscles working in your core training, and accumulating more of these good repetitions is the fastest way to see abs.


Let’s take this one step further to see how we can apply the philosophy of quality reps specifically to our lower ab exercises.

If you want to get the most out of your lower abs workouts, focus on lifting the pelvis not the legs. If you don’t then you’re not flexing your spine and you’re not working your abdominal muscles to their fullest extent.

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How to Get Abs

There is one more thing we can do to recruit lower ab muscles better.

Wherever your core exercise allows it, try to squeeze your knees together or cross your feet over to activate the adductors. This provides stability to the pelvis from below and gives you a better engagement of the lower abs.

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How to Get Abs

You’ll feel the difference immediately, so give it a try and I promise that quality of every repetition in your core workout routine is going to go through the roof!


Just like with the bottom up movements, we have an opportunity to do two things to dramatically increase the quality of our top down movements.

The first one is to make a mind muscle connection to the part of our body that is moving in the exercise. When we do top down movements like a crunch, we don’t want to just grab our neck and hold on for dear life!

Trying to focus on lifting your shoulder blades off the ground will drive proper top down movements.

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get shoulder blades off the ground in crunches

There’s one more technique I like to use to enhance the contraction and quality of those top down movements.  I call it the ‘folding ribcage’.

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folding ribcage

For the upper abs, pretend there is a line just at the bottom of your ribcage. From here, try and fold your body upon that line. If you do this, you should feel a much better contraction in the rectus abdominis muscle.

No matter which crunch variation you’re performing, if you focus on folding right there the quality will increase dramatically in the long run.


When it comes to fat loss, there are a couple of common household spices and ingredients that have a marginal impact on their own, but together can make a real difference.

Each day I reach for three things that are easy to add into my healthy diet:

  • Green tea extract as a supplement (or if you like to drink it, great!)
  • Pepper flakes (providing capsaicin to assist in fat loss efforts)
  • Cinnamon (I like to include the Ceylon version in my oatmeal every morning)
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How to Get Abs

Whether it be through increased insulin sensitivity, decreasing your appetite or just by increasing your metabolism, each of these acts in its own way, but they’re very simple additions to your nutrition plan with little effort required.


Another thing I’ve recently adopted into my own nutrition plan is the addition of ginger every single day.

Ginger helps our fat loss efforts by decreasing insulin sensitivity. It also has an effect on our training because it decreases muscle soreness.

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How to Get Abs

If you’re embarking on your journey to sixpack abs, but each core workout leaves you too sore to do the next one the following day, ginger can have an impact.

It’s being consistent with the small things that will have the greatest overall impact on our nutrition, and it’s nutrition that has the greatest impact to ultimately seeing those six pack abs.

I just reach for a pinch of pickled ginger every single morning. It’s being consistent with the small things that will have the greatest overall impact on our nutrition, and it’s nutrition that has the greatest impact to ultimately seeing those six pack abs


Breathing is another thing you want to make sure to get right when doing your ab training.

If you don’t do it right, you could wind up with 6 pack abs that look distended and bloated.

The key is not to push your abdomen out as you exhale on your exercises. As you do a typical crunch, yes you want to exhale, but don’t push your stomach out as you do it.

Instead, do the exact opposite. Blow air out while pulling your stomach down. This is called cinching and it will activate the transverse abdominis.

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exhale when crunching

Remember, it’s the little things that can make the biggest impact over time!


So, here’s the real secret tip to getting ripped core muscles! You’ve got to eat whipped cream with frozen yogurt every single night.

Okay, maybe not exactly whipped cream and frozen yogurt.

The point is, this is something that I do every day, because I need something to make the process enjoyable.  We all do.

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How to Get Abs

Because if you hate the process, you’re not going to be successful in getting to where you want to be. It will not be sustainable over time.

If getting a six pack is torture, you’re going to stop before you ever do!

Now, am I saying having a hot fudge sundae with Double Stuff Oreos on top? No, I’m saying choose something a little more responsible… a healthier option that still satisfies that cheat seeking impulse we all have that’s going to keep you on track, but at the same time keep you sane.


One of the most frustrating things is to have a set of six pack abs, but not like the way they look because something’s missing. 

More often than not, what’s missing is those muscles that run diagonally that you’ve been ignoring, the obliques and serratus.

Much like with a picture, a nice frame is going to focus your eye on the masterpiece that you created. If you don’t have a frame it just doesn’t look right.

While there are many different exercises you can do to train your obliques and serratus for muscle definition, there is one exercise that gets it done in a single move, and that’s the Corkscrew.

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corkscrew exercise for serratus and obliques

The goal is to twist as you come up and press down through your hands, getting that protraction for the serratus and the twisting for the internal and external obliques.


The Six Pack Pyramid contains all the elements of what it takes to get those ripped abs.

But if you’re putting all of your focus up toward the top of this pyramid, that could be keeping you from getting them!

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How to Get Abs

Cardio workouts and ab training are not foundation of getting six pack abs, but a lot of people think they are!

To get abs, nutrition must be the foundation of everything you do.  While increasing your heart rate through cardio exercises does help your metabolism, as the saying goes, you can’t out train a bad diet.

Nothing you do in the gym can undo what you are doing wrong in your nutrition. So keep that in mind!


Extreme nutrition tactics are not necessary and never will be when it comes to getting abs!

Avoiding apples, grapes and carrots because you think that’s what’s standing between you and a six pack is sort of like thinking that throwing a deck chair off of the Titanic was going to save it from sinking.

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How to Get Abs

Typically, it’s the big picture items that we might not be ready to face or perhaps can’t even see that are standing in the way of a six pack.

For example, if you feel like your nutrition is in check but your fat loss has stalled, evaluate your diet. Is there one thing you might be doing every day that could be the culprit? Try changing it for at least two weeks and see if you notice a difference.


My Six Pack Progression is a science-based, proven sequence that will make all of your ab workouts as effective as possible.

It also allows you to train abs quickly (as fast as a 6 minute ab workout) and get awesome results.

Below is the order of the movement types I recommend for all of your ab workouts to build a strong core.

My ‘Six Pack Progression’ works the ab muscles in this sequence to get optimal results:

  1. Lower abs
  2. Bottom up
  3. Obliques
  4. Mid-range
  5. Top down rotation
  6. Top down

The 6-Pack Shuffle tool that is included in your portal with every ATHLEAN-X program generates 6 minute ab workouts on demand that follow this exact sequence.  You can even choose difficulty level and select the equipment you want to use. If you need a 100% bodyweight workout for abs, or a home workout that you can do with limited equipment that’s totally possible with 6-Pack Shuffle.

How often should you work the abs?  I get asked this question a lot, and the answer might surprise you.

Unlike other muscle groups which need more of a break between workouts, the core muscles are used in almost every movement we make in our daily lives. For this reason, they’re used to a lot of work, and it’s ok to train them up to 5-6 times per week.


Here is an example of the type of 6 minute workout that the 6-Pack Shuffle serves up, that would follow my Six Pack Progression sequencing.

This is a highly effective workout that can help you build core strength and muscle in just a couple minutes per day.

As you perform these muscle building exercises try to keep in mind the important ab workout tips I’ve given you on how to improve the quality of bottom up and top down movements, as well as correct breathing .

1.) Figure 8’s for 30 seconds

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Figure 8 ab exercise

Exercise Notes: This abs exercise is similar to doing leg raises but in a more dynamic figure 8 motion to work the lower abs from all angles. Be sure to lift the pelvis as your legs come up to the top.

Seated Ab Circles (Clockwise) for 30 seconds

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Seate Ab Circle Exercise

Exercise Notes: Starting position is with legs out in a straight line in front of you and arms behind you supporting you in a v-up position.  Circle the legs clockwise.

Seated Ab Circles (Counter-clockwise) for 30 seconds

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Seated Ab Circles

Exercise Notes: Now perform the same movement in counter clockwise fashion.

Dueling Clocks for 60 seconds

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Dueling Clocks Ab Exercise

Exercise Notes: Starting position is in v-up position with legs in front of you, knees bent slightly. Move both legs away from each other in a circular motion and return to the start.

 Recliner Elbow to Knee Ab Tucks for 60 seconds

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Recliner Elbow to Knee Tucks Ab Exercise

Exercise Notes: This effective exercise is similar to a bicycle crunch but in v-up position.  Touch elbows to opposite knees.


Jackknives for 60 seconds

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Jackknives Ab Exercise

Exercise Notes: Perform sit ups toward each leg as the leg lifts slightly toward you.


Russian V Tuck Twists for 30 seconds

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Russian V Tuck Twists Ab Exercise

Exercise Notes: Sit up, perform a body weight Russian twist toward each side, lie back down and repeat.

I guarantee you if you start employing these 13 tips now and start training your abs the right way, you’re going to see results. But don’t try to make all the changes at one time.  Implement them one or two at a time, and watch your abs get stronger and more visible… fast!

Remember, the key to getting your abs to show is the correct Meal Plan and the right types of exercises done consistently and done well. My programs give you the workouts and Meal Plan you need to reach your goals!


  1. Many people never reach their goal of getting visible abs and building a strong core because they focus on too many things at once, and don’t focus on the RIGHT things. I’m going to help you focus on the things that will make the biggest impact the fastest.
  2. First, make sure you stay hydrated. One of the best ways to start this habit is to drink a bottle of water first thing after waking up before you do anything else. Hydration is an important to the success of any fitness goal.
  3. Next, you want to be sure to perform your ab workouts in the right sequence. I’ve developed the Six Pack Progression and the 6-Pack Shuffle feature inside our online portal and included with any ATHLEAN-X program to help you get it right every time.
  4. Nutrition is the most important element to getting that six pack, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think. Use my example for how to divide your plate to make it easy. Another tip is to regularly include supplements of cinnamon, red pepper (capsaicin), green tea and ginger (pickled works great) which help with insulin sensitivity, speeding up metabolism, recovery and more.
  5. When it comes to your ab exercises, make sure you are counting meaningful contractions rather than reps. A fast set of crunches won’t do you as much good as a slow, quality reps.
  6. Use my tips for improving the quality of bottom up (lower abs) and top down (upper abs) exercises to get the best results out of your ab workouts.
  7. Make sure to perform a cinching movement on every rep of your ab exercises by pulling the stomach inward when you exhale, so that you don’t end up with a distended six pack!
  8. Be sure to choose a healthy treat you can enjoy once a day to make the process tolerable and enjoyable. My go to is frozen yogurt with whipped cream!
  9. Follow the Six Pack Pyramid and make nutrition the biggest part of your efforts when it comes to trying to get that six pack, because all the cardio and ab training in the world can’t undo poor nutrition choices.
  10. Avoid extreme nutrition tactics like cutting out fruit and carrots. It’s not necessary for getting lean. Instead, if you find yourself at a plateau in your fat loss, look to your diet to see if there’s one thing you are doing every day that could be the culprit.  Make a change for two weeks and see if you notice a difference.


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Jeff Cavaliere Headshot

Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS

Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.

Read more about Jeff Cavaliere by clicking here

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