A strong, flat, and well-defined core is one of the ultimate physique goals for many people looking to flex their fitness. Here’s what you need to know about getting washboard abs, including how they’re different from a six-pack, plus tips on how to achieve that goal for good.
Washboard abs and six-pack abs both describe tight and defined abdominals and, in many cases, can be used interchangeably.
A six-pack specifically describes the look of six defined, blocky muscles, while washboard abs simply refer to any defined abs with a low body fat percentage.
A regular calisthenic routine with moves like flutter kicks, Russian twists, toe reaches, planks, and boat pose can make your abdominal muscles stronger and more defined, but they can’t burn fat to make those abs visible.
To target your body fat percentage, make sure to get plenty of cardiovascular activity and watch your diet to stay at a caloric deficit.
What are washboard abs?
Washboard abs have been named so because they look like a ripply-laundry board.
When we’re talking about “abs,” we’re primarily talking about the rectus abdominis, the muscle in your abdomen that looks like a “six-pack.” Your abdominal muscles are located below a thin layer of subcutaneous fat.
In short, to get washboard abs, you need two things: a strong, defined rectus abdominis, and a low body fat percentage.
Washboard abs vs six-pack
For all intents and purposes, washboard abs and six-pack abs can often be used interchangeably to describe a well-defined core.
However, your washboard abs may not look like a six-pack, depending on your genetics. Some people are genetically inclined to have that classic “six-pack” definition, while others may have different kinds of abdominal muscles that don’t necessarily have the six classic blocky muscles, but they can still be referred to as a flat and defined “washboard stomach.”
How to get washboard abs? 7 exercises for chiseled abs
If you’re aiming to get that washboard stomach, you can start defining those abdominal muscles with challenging calisthenics workouts. These exercises can all be done without equipment, but you can also use a bench for many of them for more challenging variations. They are all suitable for both men and women, as well as people of all fitness levels.
How long does it take to see washboard abs? You may start seeing ab muscle definition as quickly as one or two weeks, but it ultimately depends on the amount of body fat you are currently carrying, which can mask those abs. Do three sets of ten reps of these exercises back to start transforming those abdominal muscles:
1. Flutter kicks
Lie on your back with legs straight out about six inches off the ground and hands beneath your lower back. Raise one leg higher using your ab muscles, then switch positions between legs.
You can also perform these on a bench with your butt on the edge of the bench and your legs out, forcing you to continue the movement without resting while further challenging your balance.
2. Toe reach
Start flat on your back with your legs straight up towards the sky. Reach your fingers towards your toes and lift your trunk in a “crunch,” then return to the ground while keeping your core engaged.
To get into a plank position, support yourself with your forearms and balls of your feet with your back neutral. Use a timer to hold this position for one full minute, then release.
To make it more challenging (and add some cardio into the mix), start in a classic plank position and then use one arm at a time to push up to a high plank, then descend back down to your forearms one arm at a time and repeat.
4. Russian twist
Sit up with your feet on the ground and hands together and straight forward. Then, slowly lean back until your abs engage and twist from one side to the other, keeping your back as straight as possible.
5. Mountain climber
Start in a high plank position, then quickly kick each knee up one at a time towards your chest. Bonus points: mountain climbers are also great for cardio, which can help with fat burn.
You can also make this an abs bench workout by bracing your hands on a bench rather than on the ground, which may be easier on your wrists, shoulders, and back.
6. Boat pose
Start in a sitting position with your legs bent. Next, extend your legs out at an angle while leaning back and extending your arms forward until your body forms a “V” shape. Hold for one minute.
If you’re a beginner, start by mastering the six inches exercise: lie on your back with your legs extended straight out and your hands below your head for support. Then lift your legs up about six inches off of the ground while using your upper abs to bring your shoulders slightly off of the ground, and hold.
7. Bird dog
This slow and controlled exercise may seem easy at first, but it’s a great exercise for engaging your entire core. Start on your hands and knees on the ground. Then, lift one arm straight out in front of you while extending the opposite leg straight behind you. Return with control to the start, then repeat on the opposite side for one rep.
For a more advanced variation, do the same movement but in a plank position rather than with your knees on the ground.
What else you should consider when working for abs
Even though the ab workouts listed above are a great way to chisel and define your abdominal muscles, you still won’t be able to see them and get that washboard stomach look if they’re covered with a layer of fat.
So to get the look, you’ll need to target your body fat percentage as well. Abdominal exercises on their own aren’t enough to change your abdominal fat, so here’s what else you should know:
If you’ve ever heard the old saying, “Abs are built in the kitchen,” then you already know how important your diet is for achieving that flat, hard stomach.
Your main priority should be to eat at a slight caloric deficit (in other words, eat fewer calories than your body uses for energy). In addition, prioritize getting plenty of protein, since protein can help you rebuild those abdominal muscles after a workout and lead to more strength and definition.
Furthermore, your caloric deficit can also be augmented with plenty of regular cardiovascular activity. There’s even evidence that aerobic exercise alone can lead to clinically significant weight loss in both men and women with no changes to diet.
Incorporate steady-state “classic” cardio activities like walking, running, and swimming, as well as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that help you burn more calories in a shorter period.
It’s important to note that the shape of your abdominal muscles can vary based on your genetics. The rectus abdominis muscle can look different for different people: three intersections across the abdominal walls give that signature “six-pack” look, but other people may have two or four intersections, leading to “four-packs” or “8-packs.”
Regardless, you can still get a washboard stomach, but your genetics may dictate that you don’t have a classic six-pack at the same time.
Frequent, regular exercise is important for achieving and maintaining results over time. However, research has suggested that volume matters more than frequency when it comes to muscle hypertrophy — so as long as you’re hitting the right volume, you don’t necessarily need to work out abs every day.
How should I eat for washboard abs?
The most important thing is to be eating at a caloric deficit to cut down on your body fat percentage. Since you’re working on building those abdominal muscles, you’ll also want to get plenty of protein to help those ab muscles grow.
Can anyone get washboard abs?
Anyone can get washboard abs with the right combination of diet and exercise, but it isn’t always easy. You’ll need to follow a consistent routine of staying at a caloric deficit through both cardiovascular exercise and mindful eating patterns.
Are six packs different from washboard abs?
A “six-pack” refers to six defined ab muscles, while “washboard abs” is a more general term that can describe any defined core. Washboard abs and six-packs can be used interchangeably. However, some people may not be genetically inclined to have those six defined ab muscles but still can have flat, defined washboard abs.
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