Nothing says fit like a shredded six-pack and major muscles to follow. It’s the defining feature of a body, and it’s one of the major goals that many people strive for.

But get abs, you need to be training them. They’re just like any other muscle in your body, and if you want them to pop, they need to be worked effectively.

If you ask any expert or take a quick search on the Internet about how often you should train abs and what you should do for them, you’ll likely get dozens of different results, all yielding different answers. For most people, you’ll end up more confused than you were before.

Because there’s so much conflicting information about when to train abs and what to do for them, we’re digging into the research and setting the record straight about how often you should train your abs to get ripped.

Core Anatomy: What You Need To Know To Get Shredded

Before we dive into the basics of ab training, you first need to understand basic anatomy of the abdominals. Contrary to what most people think, the “abs” aren’t one muscle. The abdominal region is actually composed of several different muscles that all work synergistically to make up the core.

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The muscles and tissues that make up the core include:

  • External abdominal oblique
  • Internal abdominal oblique
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Tendinous inscriptions

The muscles of the abdominal wall are layered against each other like sheets of paper. Because of this structure, they cannot work individually, but rather contract together as one unit during upright movements.

The deep abdominal muscles work synergistically to control the motion of the spine, rib cage, and pelvis. As such, effective ab training means that you’re doing movements that integrate all the muscles, including those of the hips, trunk, and shoulders.

The functions of each muscle are listed in the table below.

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Having a strong core is critical for more than just looks. It’s essential to:

  • Maintain good posture
  • Stabilize the spine
  • Support the trunk
  • Regulate internal abdominal pressure
  • Support internal visceral organs
  • Assist forceful expiration

So, abs may look pretty, but they actually serve a purpose, too.

How Often Should You Train Abs?

There’s a common misconception that if you want abs, you need to be training them daily. And it’s just that—a misconception. The abs are another muscle in the body that, like every other muscle, needs rest and recovery.

Contrary to what most people think, the rebuilding process and the process of gaining strength doesn’t happen when you’re actually training; it happens during the recovery process.

With that said, you still do have to train your abs pretty intensely to cause damage and allow the repair process to happen, which ultimately results in greater strength.

However, if you damage the muscles and don’t let them fully recover, you’re not doing yourself any favors, and you’re not going to get the results you want.

Like the shoulders, legs, and all other muscles—more is not better.

If you’re going to train at high intensities with heavy weights, you need sufficient recovery time.

With that said, training abs once a week probably isn’t going to get you shredded either, which means that finding a balance between training daily and training minimally is what you need to shoot for. Following that, you need to be training abs about 2-3 times per week.

Because the abdominal muscles do tend to recover a bit faster than other muscles in the body simply because they’re working all day, every day, hitting them several times a week is easier than other muscle groups.

The core muscles are critical for supporting your body and stabilizing the spine, which means they have to be prepared to work consistently when you’re awake and moving. Simply put, these muscles are good for more than just aesthetics.

However, training them every day is still too often.

As with other training programs, how often you train abs to get shredded isn’t going to be consistent across the board because it depends on other factors like age, lifestyle, diet, training style, sleep, and the like, all of which are going to influence recovery.

Generally speaking, though, you should aim for 2-3 days of rest/recovery for your abs. So, that boils down to training them almost every other day. If you feel your abs are still sore from the last session, you may want to fit in another day of rest to prevent interfering with muscle recovery.

Where sets and reps are concerned, you want to follow the same logic as you do when training other muscles—you want the last few reps to be a challenge. Ideally, aim for 10-15 repetitions with correct form and three sets of abdominal exercises, as that provides a sufficient stimulus for muscles.

Keep in mind that if you’re able to perform 20+ reps of a given exercise, you’re likely performing the reps too quickly, which doesn’t provide sufficient stimulus, or performing them with improper form, which isn’t going to target the correct muscles.

The Best Exercises For Building Abs

Many people are under the impression that you can crunch your way to a six-pack, but the truth of the matter is that crunches are far from the most effective exercise to sculpt abs.

When you look at how the abdominal muscles are designed to function during upright movements, it’s clear that most of the traditional exercises we do for abs, including crunches, should not actually be the foundation of core strengthening programs. These muscles control our center of gravity, and crunches do minimal to support that.

Need some exercise inspiration for building stronger and more chiseled abs? Here are our top 10 favorite exercises to build a better core:

  1. Single-leg balance
  2. Medicine ball chops
  3. Rear overhead alternating lunges
  4. Turkish get-ups
  5. Deadlifts
  6. Stability ball dead bugs (core stability)
  7. Supine toe taps (core stability)
  8. Side plank with torso rotation (core strength + shoulder stability)
  9. Bicycles
  10. Reverse crunch

The abdominal muscles are composed of a combination of type I and type II muscle fibers. Low-intensity, long-duration stabilization exercises effectively target the type I fibers, and heavy resistance training or power-based exercises will effectively target the type II fibers.

We tend to think that training abs is all about isolation, but compound movements like conventional barbell deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, and Turkish get-ups are also great for hitting and strengthening all layers of the abdominal muscles.

If you want better abs, you need to be training them from all angles, so put conventional abs wisdom aside and get on board with compound exercises that train both strength and stability.

5 Tips For Building Bigger And Better Abs

Getting shredded isn’t all about what you do in the gym. What you do outside of the gym is just as important, if not more, for losing body fat, building muscle and strength, and getting that overall chiseled appearance you’re striving for.

1. Get Your Diet On Point

Ever heard the expression “abs are made in the kitchen”? It’s true. You can’t out-train a crappy diet, and if you’re eating loads of refined carbs, industrial seed oils, pounds of sugar, and other garbage, there’s going to be a layer of fat that covers your abs.

So, if you want to get shredded, you need to eat like you want to get shredded alongside proper ab exercises 1. That means getting rid of all the garbage and trading it in for lean proteins, complex carbs, healthy fats, and lots of fruit and vegetables.

2. Use Supplements To Your Advantage

Even if you’re putting in the work in the gym and kitchen, supplements can come in handy. Your abs may have hulk strength, but if you want them to pop, you need to get rid of the layer of fat that naturally tends to cover them, and a clean, research-backed fat burner is the best way to do that.

Burn Lab Pro® is one of the most effective fat burners that’s designed to maintain muscle strength while simultaneously cutting fat (something you don’t hear often).

When consumed alongside a healthy diet, BLP works to rev metabolism and ignite fat burning pathways, while preserving lean muscle mass with ingredients like HMB, ForsLean, Capsimax, and more.

3. Get Enough Sleep

One of the most underestimated factors for building a better body is sleep. People chalk up abs and muscles to training and diet, but sleep may just be more important than both. The vast majority of recovery happens during sleep, as the body releases most of its testosterone and growth hormone during slow-wave sleep 2, 3.

So, if you’re not sleeping enough, not only are you boosting cortisol (the stress hormone that triggers fat storage), but you’re also not getting sufficient amounts of the anabolic, muscle-building hormones that shed fat and boost muscle growth.

4. De-stress

Everyone deals with some level of stress, but how you handle it can make all the difference between a six-pack and no six-pack. Cortisol is the major stress hormone that can be disastrous for anyone looking to build muscle and shed fat.

Excess of cortisol not only tanks the muscle-building hormone testosterone, but it also triggers fat storage around the midsection, which is going to make abs disappear faster than you can say goodbye.

A 1999 study found that higher levels of stress and cortisol was associated with increased levels of abdominal fat 4. While it may not be a sure-fire link, it is interesting to note that while research suggests that cortisol spikes induce lipolysis (that’s the benefit of high-intensity exercise on fat burning), it also tends to spare abdominal fat, hence why people with chronically high cortisol are characterized by abdominal obesity 5, 6.

5. Balance Your Hormones

Building muscle and losing fat is going to be virtually impossible if your hormones are whack. Whether it’s estrogen and progesterone for women or testosterone for men, you need a balance between the anabolic sex hormones and cortisol, the catabolic stress hormone.

An excess of storage hormones like insulin, estrogen, and cortisol are all going to work against any efforts to shed fat and achieve a six-pack, so you want to ensure you’re keeping them in check with all the factors we’ve talking about here—nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress.


  1. SS Vispute, JD Smith, JD LeCheminant, KS Hurley. The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat.J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(9):2559-2564.
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