will weightlifting give me abs
Strength Training

Will Weightlifting Give Me Abs?

No, weightlifting, by itself, will not give you abs. Revealing defined abdominal muscles requires achieving a low level of body fat. To do that you need to focus on nutrition to reduce your body weight and get super lean. Weightlifting can strengthen and slightly build your abs but, unless you lose the fat through nutrition, you will never see them. 

The Only Real Way to Get Abs

The reason that 99 percent of the population will never see their abdominal muscles is that they have bought into the myth that you can spot reduce body fat. As a result, they pump out thousands of sit-ups, leg raises, and crunches in the belief that they will get rid of their belly fat.

They will not.

The key to getting a six-pack is to follow this 3-step formula:

  • Create a calorie deficit every day with a balanced diet
  • Do strength training for the abs and core muscles
  • Add in cardio 2-3 times each week to burn calories

Nutrition is the most important factor when it comes to getting a six-pack. To be able to see your abs, you will have to get your body fat percentage down below 12 percent. To achieve that low level you must strip fat from your body.

As already noted, you cannot spot reduce body fat. So the fat will come off from all over your body. Creating a daily calorie deficit will force your body to make use of stored energy in the form of fat to power you through your day. But you don’t want to reduce your calories by so much that you end up losing lean body mass. So, avoid going on a crash diet.

woman pinching her belly fat

I recommend dropping your daily calories by 500 below your maintenance level. Your maintenance level is the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight.

The Best Foods for a Six Pack

When it comes to losing fat and getting a six-pack, protein is the most important macronutrient.  As well as being a great food for muscle growth, it has the highest thermic value, meaning that it takes more calories to consume protein than carbs and fat.

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Protein is also the most satiating macronutrient. It fills you up so that you are able to meet your reduced-calorie goal.

The best protein sources are:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Beef
  • Whey Isolate Protein Powder
image of protein-rich foods

When it comes to carbs, you need to sort out the good from the bad. Avoid sugar and processed carbs and seek out whole grains and fiber-rich carbohydrates, such as vegetables and fruit.

Eat whole-grain sources of carbs earlier in the day. You should also take in high glycemic carbs straight after your workout to replace the glycogen that you have used u during your workout.

image of fiber-rich foods

Healthy fats are another important ingredient in perfecting your ab-defining nutrition. The best fats to include in your diet are those that are as fresh and close to their natural state as possible. Here are the ten top healthy fats that you should add to your nutritional plan:

  • Avocados
  • Butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fatty fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Organic grass-fed beef
  •  MCT Oil
  • Full-fat dairy products
image of salmon meal

Ab Defining Cardio Workouts

In order to achieve the low body fat percentage that you need to be able to see your abs, you should be doing cardio a few times per week. The best form of cardio for fat loss is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). 

Studies have shown that High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which involves alternating short intervals of high intensity, all-out exercise with short intervals of rest or active recovery, is far more effective than steady-state cardio at burning fat and increasing both aerobic and anaerobic endurance. 

HIIT also provides the EPOC effect. This acronym stands for enhanced post-exercise oxygen consumption. It involves an increased demand for oxygen for up to 36 hours after your workout that leads to an elevated metabolic rate. In other words, you will still be burning calories from your early morning HIIT workout that night when you’re watching TV!

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For example, if you are using kettlebell swings as the basis of your resistance HIIT workout use the following method:

  • 20 seconds two-handed kettlebell swing
  • 10 seconds rest

Repeat for a total of 3 rounds in the first week, then add a new round every week, so that by Week 8 you are doing 10 rounds of the circuit.

Weightlifting for Abs

The third pillar in getting a six-pack involves weight training. Lifting weights will help you to reduce your body fat percentage and build stronger muscles. As well as the calories you burn when working out, every ounce of lean muscle mass that you add to your frame will enhance your metabolism so that you are naturally burning more calories as you are muscle building.

You should also be doing specific abdominal exercises to develop core strength and develop the abs. These will not get rid of body fat, but they will strengthen and develop your abdominal muscles. Here is an effective abs workout to follow…

1. Hanging Leg Raise

  • Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and your feet together and legs slightly bent but locked in position.
  • Without using momentum, pivot from the hips to bring the legs up as high as you can.
  • To bring the focus more toward the obliques, tilt your body to the side and bring your legs up on a diagonal.

2. Starfish Crunch

  • Lie spread-eagled on the floor with your arms and legs stretched out starfish style.
  • Now, without bending your knees, attempt to bring your right hand and left foot into contact with each other. You should only be lifting your shoulder blades from the floor.
  • Feel a deep contraction in the abs in the top position. Return to the start position and repeat with the other side.
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3. Cable Crunches

  • Set the pulley on a cable machine with a rope handle to hip level while seated.
  • Now position a bench three feet in front of the cable machines and sit on it, facing away.
  • Grab the rope handle over your head. Now contract your core to lower your chest down to your knees.
  • Forcefully contract your abs.
  • Reverse the action to return to the start position.

Final Thoughts

Weight training will definitely help you to get a flat stomach and defined abdominal muscles, but it won’t do it alone.

By incorporating the nutritional guidelines suggested here, reducing your daily calories by 500 each day, and doing HIIT cardio 3-4 times per week, you will be able to change your body composition and get your body fat levels down so that your six-pack finally reveals itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you see sculpted abs if you have a low body fat percentage?

You will not necessarily be able to see sculpted just by getting your fat level down. The abs are a muscle like any other. If they are not exercised, they will not be sculpted and well developed. That is why you need to be doing ab-specific exercises.

What are the best forms of running to develop your abs?

The best form of running to develop your abs is sprinting which is of high intensity as that will burn the most calories and boost the metabolism.

Can you change your body type?

No, you cannot change your body type. You can, however, you can train your body composition through nutrition and exercise to achieve your fitness goal. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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