One of the most common things I will hear from clients or potential clients is that they want to lean out in their midsection.
You want to see your abs.
But no matter what they do your abs never show.
And you end up getting yourself in this endless cycle of trying to lean out…but with no change and minimal to no abs.
So in this blog post, I want to go over how to get your abs to show and make your midsection look leaner.
Ok, this is obvious I know. But a lot of times you just aren’t as lean as you think you are and need to lose some more body fat.
Getting lean isn’t easy, and getting lean enough to really see your abs is going to take hard work and sacrifice.
You see pictures of people with abs every day so you think it can’t be too hard. But most people dont walk around with abs.
Read this post HERE going over why someone is leaner than you.
If you also want to learn more about how to lose body fat read this blog post HERE.
Chances are you need to lose more overall body fat if your abs aren’t showing.
In order to see your abs it will require sacrifice and discipline, saying no to drinks and food from time to time. You might also not feel great on your way down to that level of leanness, potentially lower energy levels, higher hunger, lower libido, etc.
If it was easy everyone would walk around with abs.
How low do you have to go to see your abs? It depends. Probably sub 10-12% for men, and sub 15-17% for women.
Lastly, one other thing to keep in mind. You dont want to be dieting for fat loss for forever. You must take breaks. Read HERE about nutrition phases all clients go through.
Build your abs
Maybe you are pretty lean, or you have dieted for fat loss for some time and you dont have the abs you want.
Then at this point, you need to build your abs.
The problem is that the abs are just like any other muscle group and because of that they need to be trained the same way.
They will grow best from rep ranges of 8-15 reps, 3-10 sets per week, and progressive overload.
Not by doing endless ab circuits that have you doing 30 plus reps per set.
For some reason, people train their abs differently than any other muscle group.
The other thing on this is that building your abs isn’t going to lean out your midsection.
It’s just going to make your abs “pop” more and you will be able to notice them more at any given body weight.
The other note is that always dieting for fat loss is going to reduce your body’s ability to build muscle. So yes you will have to take time away from fat loss dieting for this to happen.
Build other muscles
A big reason why your midsection doesnt look lean is that your other muscles arent as built up as they could be.
Think muscles like your shoulders, chest, arms, legs etc.
If these are bigger/more defined, they are going to make your midsection appear leaner.
You are going to appear to have a smaller waist.
This is a classic mistake people make with everything, paying so close attention to one small thing that you put all of your time towards that, and then you forget to focus on other things that will actually help just as much if not more.
You “lose the forest through the trees” as they would say.
However, spending time building these other muscles is going to require you to not always be in a fat loss diet.
Read HERE to see how what needs to be in your upper and lower body training to develop an aesthetic-looking physique.
Sleep and stress management
Poor sleep is going to hurt muscle growth.
Poor sleep has also been shown to increase energy intake the following day and it will lower energy levels.
Both of these will make the first 3 points less likely to happen.
You won’t be able to build muscle as effectively as you could.
You won’t be able to lose body fat like you want.
In terms of stress management chronically high levels of stress are going to hurt muscle growth, and it also could make cortisol chronically high as well, which is going to have an effect on where your body prefers to store body fat (in the midsection).
We want and need some cortisol, but you dont want it to be too high for too long.
Make sure you are recovering from stress and training.
With stress its ok and totally normal to have some stress, but you want to be able to get back to normal before too long and not let it linger.
Some ways we have clients manage stress:
- Listen to music
- Breathwork (meditation)
- Time with loved ones
- Journaling, writing, painting.
- TV (just be careful to not watch stressful things, and not to over do this one).
The biggest thing is you find ways to get out of your head and do things that relax you from time to time.
Rethink expectations and goals.
Your abs are only really going to “pop” around 8-12% for guys and 15-20ish% for females.
Is this doable for you?
The lifestyle you want to live may not be conducive to this or the sacrifices you have to make. There is nothing wrong with that but you have to take that into consideration.
This is where we spend a lot of time with clients, finding out what they truly want.
You can still have a GREAT physique and not have to see your abs.
One of the main things you can do to have a great physique still is by lifting weights, building muscle, and making your waist appear smaller.
This is out of your control but also realize genetics are going to play a massive role in this process.
This is my reminder to read why someone is leaner than you, HERE.
You dont want to use it as an excuse to not try your best, but also realize that some people have shapes that are going to make their midsection appear leaner.
They also might have muscles that are very responsive to training.
They might also store more or less body fat in their mid section.
Either way, there are things you can do to make them appear leaner even if you dont have the best genetics.
Don’t always diet for fat loss/periodize training/nutrition
If you always restrict calories so you can have a leaner midsection you are going to make muscle growth tough, which is going to make the appearance of a leaner/smaller mid section tougher.
Also adhering to that long term is going to be a challenge that will violate the first point of losing body fat.
This is why with online clients we do fat loss in periods of 8-16 weeks, followed by building phases to build their body up.
Chances are if you haven’t seen your abs like you want or it doesnt look like you have a lean midsection you are making atleast one of these mistakes.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to stop overly focusing on losing body fat in your midsection and instead build up your body around them.
Its the most practical way and will leave you feeling better about your physique overall.
One last thing I wanted to mention, if you had been overweight at one point, realize that getting super lean in your midsection might be tough due to excess skin. You can still build abs and work on the things above, but you might not be able to get super lean in your midsection.
If you need help with this process check out our 1:1 online coaching page HERE.
You can also reach out with any questions you have.
Lastly, you can listen to this episode on my podcast HERE.