Six Pack Abs Workout Routine, Diet Plan & Exercises | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Six Pack Abs Workout Routine, Diet Plan & Exercises

Over the past couple months, my fitness routine has included many of my favorite strategies to get six pack abs.  Combining a clean diet with ample strength training and cardio has allowed me to significantly reduce my body fat to a level I have never been before.  As such, I’d like to share my six pack abs workout routine and diet plan.  Additionally, I’d like to review some of my preferred six pack abs exercises.  While I can’t guarantee you’ll see the same results as me, I hope that many of these tips will help you learn how to get six pack abs.

How to Get Six Pack Abs

The fundamental key to getting six pack abs is that your body fat has to be very low.  Everyone is different, but generally for men, you’ll start to see your abs around 10% body fat.  You’ll look completely ripped if you get under 6% body fat.  For women, you’ll start to see a nice six pack when your body fat is around 16%.  Anything under 12% and you’ll have ripped abs.

What’s the best way to reduce your body fat?  I take a multi-pronged approach that combines a proper diet, cardio, and circuit training for fat loss along with a strength training routine for muscle maintenance.  On top of that, I incorporate a modest number of six pack abs exercises to get more defined abs.  Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to focus too much on abs exercises rather than on their diet and workout routine which are the biggest components in getting six pack abs.

Six Pack Abs Diet

In my opinion, the key to fat loss is a strong diet plan.  What works best for me is eliminating as much refined sugar as possible from my diet and eating healthy foods like lean meats, fruits, and vegetables.  I combine this strategy with intermittent fasting, cheat days, and calorie cycling.  For my six pack abs diet, I decided to spread my meals out as well.  Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t do this because of some belief that more frequent meals lead to an increased metabolism.  The main reason is that I like to eat fruit on its own (avoiding other foods for at least 30 minutes before and after) to maximize absorption of nutrients.

For intermittent fasting, I generally prefer the Eat Stop Eat approach of fasting for 24 hours for 1-2 days per week.  However, for the past couple months I’ve been using an “eating window” approach where I fast for 15 hours and eat for 9 hours.  This is perceived as more effective in eliminating stubborn body fat (lower belly fat for men; waist, hips, and thighs for women).

Cheat days are a nice psychological break from a standard calorie restrictive six pack abs diet but also serve a role in accelerating fat loss.  Levels of the hormone lepin, which controls appetite, fall by 50% after a week of a calorie restrictive diet.  This results in a decreased metabolism.  By having a cheat day, leptin levels are replenished and your metabolism is preserved.  Joel Marion covers this in great detail in Cheat Your Way Thin.  During maintenance mode, I allow myself to go all out one day per week and indulge in whatever I want.  However, for my six pack abs routine, I did more of a “clean cheat” where I ate plenty of calories but tried to focus on higher quality food and less junk food.

Finally, for me, calorie cycling involves eating higher calories and more carbs on workout days and lower calories and fewer carbs on non-workout days.  I discuss this strategy in more detail in my article about calorie cycling.

Here’s what a typical day looked like for my six pack abs diet:
9:00 – Fruit
10:30 – Fruit
12:00 – Sandwich with pretzels
2:00 – Fruit
4:00 – Raw vegetables
6:00 – Salad with fat free dressing; lean meat with vegetables; sugar free/fat free Jello/pudding

Six Pack Abs Workout

With a fat burning diet in place, it’s time to shift focus to a six pack abs workout routine.  The main goal of strength training during such a time is to preserve muscle while maximizing fat burning.  I performed weight training and bodyweight exercises to preserve muscle and utilized circuit training and cardio for fat burning.  In total, I exercised 5 hours per week, more than 3-4 hours I usually do but well worth it for the results I got.

For strength training, I did a hybrid approach utilizing principles of Visual Impact Muscle Building for weight training and Convict Conditioning for bodyweight training.  For my six pack abs workout, weight training was done with 3-5 reps with heavy weights.  In the interest of time, I only rested 1 minute between sets.  I followed that up by performing bodyweight exercises, many of which involved EXF rings.

For fat burning, I ended workouts with circuit training and steady state cardio, time permitting.  Circuit training is simply doing multiple exercises one after another with little to no rest in order to increase your heart rate.  After increasing your heart rate and releasing fatty acids into your system, it’s best to use steady state cardio to burn those fatty acids.  I added 30 minutes of these components on the weekends when I had more time to exercise.  I separately performed morning cardio involving 15 minutes of HIIT and 15 minutes of steady state cardio 2 days per week.

Here’s what my weekly six pack abs workout routine looked like:
Saturday: pushing exercises (30 minutes); circuit training / boxing (15 minutes); steady state cardio (15 minutes)
Sunday: pulling exercises (30 minutes); circuit training / rowing (15 minutes); steady state cardio (15 minutes)
Monday: morning six pack abs exercises (20 minutes)
Tuesday: morning cardio (30 minutes); night time pulling exercises (30 minutes)
Wednesday: morning six pack abs exercises (20 minutes); night time pushing exercises (30 minutes)
Thursday: morning cardio (30 minutes)
Friday: morning six pack abs exercises (20 minutes)

Six Pack Abs Exercises

Everyone loves to train their abs.  However, this is the least critical component of getting six pack abs.  Too many people waste time on crunches when they could get a more effective workout by doing planks.  Start by getting your body fat low enough with diet and exercise and then start incorporating six pack abs exercises to increase definition.

I combined abs exercises with back exercises and forearm/grip strength training.  Back exercises tend to balance out the effect of ab exercises that cause your spine to flex forward.  I do a lot of hanging ab exercises which is why I do forearm/grip strength training simultaneously.  I superset ab, back, and grip exercises together for a faster workout.  Many of these ab exercises are taken from the free Abs Blueprint report.

Warm Up Gripper: 10 reps regular; 10 reps inverted

Feet to the Bar Bent Leg Raises (Advanced): 10 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 10 reps
Stand to Stand Back Bridge (Convict Conditioning): 5 reps
100 Grip Regular (Heavy Hand Grips): 3 reps

Feet to the Bar Bent Leg Raises: 10 reps
Ab Twist: 10 reps each side
Neck Bridge: 1 minute
100 Grip Inverted: 3 reps

Swinging Side to Side Bent Knee Ups: failure
Captain’s Chair Leg Raises: 10 reps
Back Bridge: 1 minute
150 Grip Regular: 1 rep

Stomach Flattener: 10 reps
150 Grip Inverted: 1 rep

Stomach Vacuum: 10 reps
200 Grip Regular: 5 reps

Elevated Plank: 2 minutes
200 Grip Inverted: 5 reps

Side Planks: 1 minute each side
250 Grip Hold: 5 seconds

Lying Leg Raises: 10 reps
Lying Leg Hold: 30 seconds
Hip Bridge: 1 minute
Bar Hang: failure

Cat Vomit (from Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Body; essentially a stomach vacuum on all fours): 10 reps
Front Neck Bridge: 1 minute
Warm Up Gripper: 50 reps regular; 50 reps inverted

Get Six Pack Abs

So there you have it.  Those are the best tips I can offer on how to get six pack abs.  The six pack abs workout routine and diet plan I shared above helped me reduce my body fat from 11-12% to around 8-9% over the past couple months.  Combined with the six pack abs exercises I listed, my abs are as defined as they have ever been.  It’s not going to be easy, but with time and determination, you can get six pack abs.

41 Responses to “Six Pack Abs Workout Routine, Diet Plan & Exercises”

  • smokinZOMBi:

    more clear impossible!!

    i wonder if there a way to know body fat levels without fancy tools or equipment ?

  • No-nonsense approach to getting six pack abs!

    I’m working on a post right now for women to get flat abs (since I think they should shoot for a little different look) but I agree 100%, diet is really where it’s at and where most people fail in getting six pack abs.

    How long did it take for you to go from 12%-8%?

  • Niko:

    I am always a fan of someone who posts what they actually do to achieve their goals, instead of just telling you what you should do. I post about how a combination of Intermitent Fasting, Crossfit, Boxing, Hidden Exercise and Weight Training has helped my get in the best shape of my life. At 34 years of age my bodyfat level now sits at 10%, all without having to live like a monk, still enjoying some of the treats in life.

  • smokinZOMBI,
    Even the fancy tools and equipment aren’t that accurate. If you want a simple method, you could use the Navy body fat calculator which uses your measurements to estimate. Here’s a site with that calculator and others:

    It took 10 weeks to go from 12% to 8%. However, the first 4 weeks were very lax since it was the end of summer. The routine above is what helped break through my usual 10% plateau over the past 6 weeks.

    Sounds like you and I took similar approaches without completely killing ourselves. It’s always good to maintain a balance between fitness and lifestyle.


  • geos1991:

    excellent post! u and martin are the priests of real healthy life.i just wanna ask u if eating every 2-3 hours will increase the absorption rate of the ingredients u consume and if this tactic also applies in supplements cause i take them with meals but when it comes maximizing their benefits i can take them in every possible way.including pls enlighten me meal frequency affects the absorption? thx a lot

  • Dave,

    Congrats on your results! The biggest thing that stood out for me in this post was your eating plan. Pretty much raw fruit and veggies all day and then a salad at dinner requires a ton of discipline. But this is the kind of diet that will really get you into low body fat territory. While training is important, I’ve found that when it comes to really looking lean, a low-calorie diet is the most vital thing. I’ve noticed I’ve looked extremely lean when I’m really restricting calories, even if I’m not working out as much.


  • Geos,
    As far as I can tell, there’s conflicting evidence on whether eating every 2-3 hours increase absorption rate. I don’t believe it’s a big difference. I look at fruit as a unique example. For supplements, it’s really going to depend what supplement you’re taking, but I don’t think there will be much, if any, incremental benefit from nutrient timing. Most people will say your body is most ready for nutrient absorption after a workout but even that’s somewhat debatable. I’d probably continue taking supplements with food just to avoid any stomach problems.

    I actually didn’t go as low calorie during this approach as I’ve done in the past. I eat a good amount of fruit and combined with my lunch get about 800-1,000 calories before dinner. I like a nice 800 calorie dinner and then have additional calories later at night when I lift during the week. So overall 1,800-2,200 per day…definitely not high, but for a person my size, still pretty reasonable. Now I have the flexibility to cut more calories if I wanted to lean out more…I’m going the opposite approach though and restarting Phase 1 of Visual Impact.


  • Good job Dave. It takes an incredible amount of dedication to be able to diet down to insanely low bodyfat levels. Glad that you sharing this information with us. What is your meat of choice?

    I personally work well with carbohydrates, and I find that revving up my workout intensity and HIIT will do the trick. 10% is acceptable for me, but if I ever decide to get in shape for a show (or the beach),I will definitely give intermittent fasting a try.

  • Toni:

    I started seeing some ab definition around 19 percent and I’m currently at 17 percent body fat so maybe I’m not the norm; you stated 16 percent for women.

    Also, I do almost no direct core work per say and my abs look sharp as ever. I just do a ton of compound body exercises along with planks and that’s it. Of course, diet is on point. I know you’re not a fan of steady state cardio but initially, running really helped me to define my abs.

    Also, I heard that if women get around 12 percent they risk getting anomorrhea (loss of menses) and lose most of their womanly curves. I think I’ll stay at the body fat percentage I’m currently at.

    Congrats on the all-time low. It’s nice when all the hard work pays off.

  • Tim,
    I’m a big fan of chicken and pork tenderloin with some steak tips and lean ground beef thrown in from time to time. I love salmon too when my wife allows me to make it. Revving up the workout definitely helped me break through a plateau. I’m going to gravitate back up to 10% as I go through Visual Impact again to put on some muscle.

    There’s no hard and fast rule for body fat percentages, just general guidelines. Planks are definitely the way to go, especially for women who want the toned, defined abs. I added in some other exercises to improve the deepness of my abs. Keeping body fat too low for too long does have its consequences so I think you’re healthy where you are.


  • Toni:

    Just out of curiosity, what would your body fat percentage of 8-9 percent be the equivalent for a woman? I’d heard that men should have about ten percent less than women but I’m skeptical as to whether my 17 percent body fat is like 7 percent for a guy.

  • Mike:

    I really like doing a variety a planks for developing my abs. I think challenging the neutral position of the spine from every possible angle is one of the safest way to develop your abs.

    Best – Mike

  • Toni,
    I can only guess based on essential fat guidelines. For men, essential fat is 2-5%; for women it’s 10-13%. So I’d say the equivalent is 8% different.

    Planks have been one of my favorite exercises for a while. They should be a part of any abs workout routine.


  • Alot of these exercises you do, I also perform, all great for rock solid visually appealing abs.

  • Toni:

    Just curious if you exactly timed the meals out as such or if that was strictly for purposes of the post? I’m back on a similar schedule and I only estimate. I hate eating so many times daily too but I can’t see eating 800 calories spread out over 3 meals; too much food. In fact, I’ve started drinking a few glasses of milk (i.e. liquid calories) as “snacks” b/c I’m sick of eating all the food. And are you still eating like that? Seems like an ultra-strict diet to maintain long-term, although judging from your great results totally necessary to achieve a lower body fat percentage.

  • Michael,
    Sounds like we’re on the same page.

    I am still sticking with the same eating schedule for now. I’ve actually upped my portion sizes because I’m doing Phase 1 of Visual Impact Muscle Building and trying to add size. It’s working really well so far. It doesn’t feel that strict because I’m eating plenty of calories. At some point I’ll probably get tired of it, but I’m going to stick with what’s working for now.


  • William A. Shoffner:

    I can go well with a strong diet plan but I don’t think I can survive fasting. Eating a lot pf protein rich foods is I think one of the best way to get a six pack abs. And I agree with you, to lessen sugar rich foods.

    William from Miami diet food delivery

  • William,
    Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. I wish more people would at least give it a try though. It amazes me that many are willing to do a fad diet but not willing to skip a few meals 1-2 days per week. However, a healthy diet low in sugar goes a long way toward getting six pack abs.

  • Holly:

    Hi Dave, I’m a 17 year old female and I’m trying intermittent fasting for the first time today.
    I have an unrelated question: I’m already very muscular in the thighs and calves from doing aerobics gymnastics but I am still struggling with a pudgy stomach and fat. Do you recommend avoiding bodyweight exercises that target the thighs like squats etc?

  • Holly,
    I hope the intermittent fasting goes well. If you are unable to complete the fast, just give it a few tries and before you know it, you won’t even think about food.

    As for muscular legs, you have a couple options. First, just perform HIIT and don’t do any leg exercises like squats. Definitely avoid weight training with legs. It will take time, but eventually your legs will slim down. The other option is to lose muscle on purpose. I don’t usually recommend that approach, but if you really want slim legs, you should perform marathon cardio. It will still take time, but will thin out your legs faster than HIIT. Either way, avoid direct leg training.

    Let me know if you have other questions.

  • Nicole:

    Hey Dave, just wondering what marathon cardio is in the above comment? I’m 18, 5″6 and 45kg and I’m interested in shaping up and toning my body, especially my legs and my core. But I lack alot of energy and find it almost impossible to exert myself for long amounts of time or even get into an exercise regime because there’s alot of mornings that I just can’t get up.

    Is there options I can do for 20 minutes each day that isn’t too taxing, but will produce results in the long term?

    Also, I find that I have really muscular arms that I really want to get rid of! Any advice?

    PS you have a fantastic website and I’m really impressed by how much detail you reply to everyones questions with!
    PPS I’m not interested in gaining weight or bulking up and would prefer to lose a few more pounds

  • Nicole,
    Thanks for the compliments on the site. It sounds like you’re pretty lean already. If you’re interesting in toning your legs, then I would recommend a HIIT routine:

    This is different than marathon cardio. Marathon cardio involves running for long distances at a medium to fast pace. Ultimately this burns muscle whereas HIIT will help tighten and tone muscle.

    For muscular arms, what have you been doing for training? If you’ve been using light weights and training to failure, that tends to increase muscle size. It’s counter intuitive to most people, but if you use heavier weights and avoid training to failure, you’ll create tighter, more dense muscles. If you’re looking for a really radical change, then you could consider not training your arms at all. Muscle tends to go away if you don’t make use of it.

    Hope that helps.

  • Chris:

    So if one was to lean out first, would you recommend following rusty moore’s phase 3 first then start with phase 1 when leaner???


  • Chris,
    I’d do exactly what you say…get really lean first and then your body will be primed to add muscle mass. I’m seeing even better results from VI this time through because I started from a lower level of body fat.

  • Chris:

    Thanks Dave. Love the website.
    I will take out leg training to slim down my legs and do some HIIT (10min at ratio of 1:1) with low level steady state at 75% (150bpm) for another 25minutes?
    Thoughts? Paleo is the way to go?

    Thanks for such an informing site man!!!


  • Chris,
    Thanks for the compliments. I generally like to do 10 min of HIIT at 15 sec sprint, 45 sec walk and then 25 min steady state. I cap it off with 1 min fast walk, 1 min slow jog for 10 min. More about that here:

    On diet, I don’t classify my approach as Paleo but it’s a good way to go. Just try to eat clean and avoid processed foods. The less processed foods, the better the results. That being said, have some fun every once in a while too or incorporate a weekly cheat day. Helps keep you sane!


  • Toni:

    1. Are ab wheels any good for targeting the lower abs?
    2. Are renegade rows supposed to be performed with a heavy weight to get the most benefit? I’m a little confused as to whether they target the abs or back specifically?
    3. What body fat percentage and weight were you in the pic on the ‘about me’ page with no shirt on? I’m trying to get a mental picture in my mind’s eye of how far you’ve come since then.
    4. Are you still around 8% body fat now?

  • Toni,
    Lots of good questions as always…

    1. The ab wheel is great for targeting both upper and lower abs. Along with hanging leg raises, it’s one of the more effective total ab exercises.

    2. Renegade rows function as both an abdominal and back exercise. I perform them on the same day I do pulling exercises. I do like to use heavy weights but don’t go too heavy otherwise you risk sacrificing good form.

    3. I was around 10-11% at that point in time. When I wrote this article, I weighed about the same I did back then but had 2-3% less body fat.

    4. I’m back around 10% body fat after a rough holiday season that included eating out or a holiday party or leftover junk food in 20 of the past 40 days. The good news is that I’m also 10lbs heavier, most of which has been muscle gain due to Visual Impact. I’ll start Phase 3 of Visual Impact in 2 weeks and will likely cut 2% body fat which should put me right back around 8%…except I’ll have an extra 5lbs of muscle since I wrote this article.


  • Toni:

    I’m seriously thinking of implementing your ‘typical day diet’ (modified a little) that you posted above when I start the KB’s in another month. I really, really want to see if I can reduce my body fat back to 16%. I seem stuck at 17-18%, it’s difficult to trim the fat and not lose scale weight. Anyway, I also went and bought a Tanita scale. My whole family’s been using it too. Much better than the caliper IMO.

  • Toni,
    Give the diet a shot. The one bit of caution would be on how much fruit to eat. I could probably could have gotten even leaner if I had limited my fruit intake and had a protein source instead. However, I love fruit and wasn’t willing to let it go. That’s why I’ve never been good at low carb diets.

  • Toni:

    Forgot to ask about the fruit. Was it a lower sugar fruit like berries? Did you eat fruit like bananas only on training days? Does it matter as long as you limit it? With regards to the protein, does it have to be animal as in meat? I’m not a big red meat eater and I really love eggs and cottage cheese, would that work?

  • Toni,
    I generally eat apples, berries, grapes, pineapple, and cantaloupe in some combination. Not a big banana fan. Fruit generally has a low glycemic load so it’s not the worst thing…just means you might end up having too many carbs which can result in fat storage. For protein, get it from wherever you’d like. Natural sources like eggs and cottage cheese would be best but you could supplement if you want. Don’t forget about fish, chicken or pork.

  • Toni:

    I wanted to write a post on my blog about this six-pack abs diet. Can I reproduce the portion of your post where you list the exact diet you used to drop body fat? I just wanted to show the original diet and my modified version of it.

  • Toni,
    Feel free to reproduce whatever information you’d like. Thanks for asking!

  • Toni:

    Can you clarify something? You state in the above post that the 15-hour fast with the 9-hour window to eat has more of a fat loss effective on problem areas depending on your gender. I am still engaging in a 18-hour twice a week so I’m confused. I don’t really have problem areas anymore; just want to reduce my body fat by a mere 2%. Will the 15-hour fast hurt or help my progress? Hope I explained that thoroughly enough.

  • Toni,
    Since you’re body fat is pretty low, a 15 hour fast 5-6 days per week might help you eliminate some stubborn fat, especially if you timed your workouts around the end of the fast. You could just stick with your current ESE style fasting and see if the more intense kettlebell circuit helps you achieve your goals. If it doesn’t look like that’s enough on its own, try the 15 hour daily fast.

  • Toni:

    I’ll try to stick with what I’m doing and put faith in the intense kettlebell circuit(s) you constructed for me. Besides, the times at which you ate are ones that I don’t *necessarily* know if I could stick with given my daily schedule. If not, I’ll try the daily fasting. Although I have a feeling the kettlebells are going to work…

  • Toni:

    Can I substitute V8 low-sodium juice for the raw vegetables? Sometimes I’m pressed for time…

  • Toni,
    That sounds like a good substitute…vegetable juice good, fruit juice bad!

  • Toni:

    Been doing the six-pack abs diet (modified) for three weeks now and according to my body fat scale, have lost 1/2% of body fat and gained a little muscle. Is that possible in such a short amount of time? Also, the diet while strict is totally doable, moreso than I originally thought. And I’ve been doing the 15-hour fasts as it just seems to suit my schedule more at this point – that’s been effortless too. Thought you might find this somewhat funny: a reader of my blog commented that your original diet looked “terrible”. I, of course, *politely* set her straight. ;)

  • Toni,
    Glad to hear you’ve done well following a similar approach. Sounds like you’ve made some good progress too! As you’ll find with the blog, everyone has their own thoughts on what the best diet or workout routine is…the truth is you have to try everything for yourself and decide what fits for you. Hope the next month goes as well as this one!

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