I get asked this question A LOT. In fact, it has to be one of the questions I get asked the most on a day-to-day basis and my answer always varies. I’m going to start off by saying that it’s almost impossible to give an accurate answer to this question for a number of different reasons. Sure, you can take into account things like your body fat percentage, height, weight, metabolism etc, but truthfully, it will vary somewhat from person-to-person as no-one’s genetics are the same.
Perhaps the number one reason it can be so hard to judge is due to the fact that no-one besides yourself knows how dedicated you are in regards to your six pack mission. No-one besides you knows exactly how hard you are going to train, how healthy you are going to eat or how committed you are. An expert might tell you that it’s going to take 12 months to get the six pack abs you want but you might manage it in less than half of that time if you are truly dedicated, so you need to take anything you are told with ‘a pinch of salt’.
Despite all of this, there are a number of factors you can take into account to give a rough estimate of how long it is likely to take before your abs start showing, which is what we are going to explore in this article.
The Six Pack Abs Calculator
Ok, let’s get to the point, how long does it take to get abs? Truthfully, this depends hugely on the shape you’re currently in. It’s not rocket science really; if you are 100lbs overweight, it is going to take you longer to get six pack abs than if you were only 20lbs overweight. The thing you have to remember is that it usually doesn’t matter how overweight or out-of-shape you are, it can still be done if you put your mind to it!
So, how do we calculate how long it takes to get a six pack? Well, there are a few things we need to know to do the calculation which are:
- Your current body fat percentage
- How much body fat you are going to be able to lose per week
- The body fat percentage your abs are likely to start showing at
Luckily, estimating all of these things isn’t as hard as you might expect, and we’re here to walk you through the entire process.
#1 – Calulating Your Body Fat Percentage
The first thing we need to do in order to figure out how long it’s going to take you to get six pack abs is your current body fat percentage. Luckily, there are a tonne of online calculators out there that allow you to quickly estimate your current body fat percentage but if you are really looking to get an accurate reading, you can opt to have a body composition test.
Personally, I wouldn’t bother with a body composition test unless you are super serious about the whole thing, as the online calculators are usually pretty accurate. We recommend using this calculator to get your estimate.
#2 – Determining How Quickly You Can Burn Fat
For men, most of their body fat is usually stored around the abdominal area. Obviously, this is not good if you’re hoping to get a six pack so you’re going to need to shed that excess fat if there’s any hope of seeing those abs.
Again, the exact rate at which you are likely to be able to burn this fat depends on a number of factors including how healthily you are eating, how hard you are training and how high/low your body fat percentage is in the first place. Usually, people that are heavily overweight will lose fat slightly faster than those who are only a little overweight as their bodies are having to work harder and thus, burning more calories.
You probably already have an idea of whether you lose weight quickly or slowly but usually on average, it is anywhere from 0.5% – 0.7% body fat per week. You’ve probably heard stories of people shedding 1% body fat per week which is possible for some people, but it is unlikely you will experience this level of weight loss unless you are super dedicated and have some pretty great genetics. Sorry to disappoint.
Basically, I’d estimate that most people lose body fat at around 0.5% – 0.7% per week, so depending on whether you are a pessimist or an optimist, you can opt for 0.5%, 0.6% or 0.7%.
#3 – When Will Your Abs Start Showing?
Again, this is going to vary from person-to-person but usually, you are going to start being able to see your abs at around 7 – 8% body fat for men. For women, it’s going to be around 16 – 20% body fat as females carry a higher body fat percentage than men.
There are two factors that are going to determine exactly when your abs start to show up. One is body fat percentage and the other is how developed your abs are. The more developed they are, the easier they are going to show, even if you do have a slightly higher body fat percentage. Of course, for a defined six pack, you are going to need a combination of both which is why it is important to train hard to build muscle and lose fat.
For our estimates, we will use 7 – 8% as the average.
Now we’ve figured out the numbers, we can plug these into the six pack abs calculator. This is a pretty simple formula that should be able to give a rough estimate of how long it is going to take you to get those six pack abs. All you have to do is plug your own numbers into the equation.
(Current Body Fat % – 7 / (Amount of Body Fat Lost Per Week ) = Number of weeks to get six pack abs.
(Current Body Fat % – 18 / (Amount of Body Fat Lost Per Week ) = Number of weeks to get six pack abs.
Ok, let’s see the formula in action. For our example, we’re going to use a man (let’s call him Tim) with the following figures:
- Current Body Fat Percentage: 16%
- Body Fat Percentage Lost Per Week: 0.5% (he’s a pessimist)
- Abs Start Showing At: 7% Body Fat
So, the formula for our example Tim will be as follows:
(16 – 7) / 0.5 = Number of weeks to get six pack abs
9/0.5 = 18 Weeks (approx.)
It’s important to remember that even with the estimates given by this formula, you are still going to have to be pretty damn committed to pull it off. You’re going to have to have a good diet and train pretty hard during this time. It’s also important to realise that this is still just an estimate, it could take longer or it could be quicker. If your abs are already pretty developed but are hiding under a layer of fat, it’s going to be easier for you.
Even those that want to be hugely committed to a six pack abs workout programme usually find it difficult as people are just so damn busy these days. Eating healthily and working out regularly can be difficult when real life gets in the way. We all have to go to work and things will often pop-up that need doing too, so if this is likely to happen to you, it might be wise to add a few weeks onto the estimate, especially if you regularly go to McDonald’s for dinner (well, you might want to add a few months on to the estimate in that case).
Remember, although it might seem like a good idea to starve yourself and lose fat even more quickly, this is just about the worst thing you can do. You will lose fat and muscle by doing this and will actually cause a number of health problems that could also prevent you from getting a six pack too, so don’t do it!
I also think it’s important to point out that you shouldn’t be too focussed on exact lengths of time it takes to get a six pack. If you have a good training programme and have a healthy diet, the six pack will come eventually. I find that a lot of the time, when people are in a huge rush to get their six pack abs, they will often give up on their workout programme once they achieve their goal. If you do this, you will soon lose your abs so it’s important that your workout programme and diet are both sustainable and fit in with your everyday life.
You also need to make sure that you are getting enough protein in your regular diet to aid muscle building (protein shakes are a good way to supplement this) and that you know what you’re eating/drinking.