Ripped abs are the Holy Grail of the Greek God physique. Yet, the journey from skinny-fat — or plain overweight — to shredded is a months-long nonstop grind where only the committed to come out the other side with an aesthetic carved-out six-pack (and bragging rights, yeah, mostly that).
But, real talk, how long does it actually take to get ripped abs?
We’re droppin’ truth bombs today! Below, we’ll break down the estimated timeline by body fat percentage, gender, and age & also reveal a few tips and tricks to speed up the process.
What Are Ripped Abs?
Fun fact: the muscle behind the six-pack — the rectus abdominis — is actually two identical muscles. These right and left ab muscles split vertically down the middle via a connective tissue called the linea alba and into horizontal thirds through another type of connective tissue.
These six sections pop through to the surface to create the distinct six-pack look as you build muscle. (They also resemble an overhead view of a six-pack of Bud if you’re plastered enough.)
But ripped abs are all about the “Oh, s**t” factor.
Generally, abs begin poking through at around 15% body fat, though they’re not exactly visible unless you flex your core and know your angles.
Carved-out, ripped, Greek God six-packs — on the other hand — typically appear around <10% body fat (give or take a few percentage points). By then, there’s so little subcutaneous and visceral fat lining your core that your abs take on a chiseled, well-defined, and rippled look.
The obliques, which run diagonally on either side of the abs, add another touch of aesthetics for a ribbed, wider core.
The Best Answer: By Body Fat Percentage
For argument’s sake, we’ll say that 10% body fat is the “gold standard” for achieving cut-up abs and an overall ripped physique. Of course, it’s not an exact science … but bear with us here.
Fitness experts also generally agree that cutting back by 1–2% body fat per month is safe.
We’re going to base all of our estimations and math in this article on this range. There’s actually little to no research suggesting a safe pace for body fat loss, though the CDC recommends 1–2 pounds of steady weight loss per week to keep the weight off long-term.
Basically, if you’re already a pretty skinny dude, you’ll have abs much sooner than someone who has more excess body fat.
Theoretically, based on your current body fat percentage, here’s how long it might take you to get ripped abs with proper nutrition and exercise:
|Current Body Fat Percentage||Timeline to Ripped Abs|
|35%||12 ½–25 months|
|25%||7 ½–15 months|
|15%||2 ½–5 months|
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Gender and biology also play a role in how our bodies look and carry body fat.
Men tend to carry fat around their abdomen (called visceral fat), while women are more likely to store fat around their hips, thighs, and butt — according to 2001 research. Us girls also average about 6–11% more body fat than men due to higher estrogen levels (um, thanks, biology).
The American Council on Exercise considered these gender differences when defining five categories of body composition: obesity, acceptable, fitness, athlete, and essential fat.
If reaching ACE’s “athlete” level guarantees visible ab definition and a “ripped” core, here’s how long it’ll take to hit your goal based on your current body fat percentage & gender:
For guys, an “athletic” physique is somewhere within the 6–13% body fat range, which is remarkably close to the 10% not-100%-legit-but-still-somewhat-accurate rule of thumb.
Here’s how long it would take to get ripped abs (or close to it) if you’re aiming for the upper-end of that goal:
|Category||Body Fat Percentage||Timeline to Ripped Abs|
|Acceptable||18–24%||2 ½–11 months|
|Essential Fat||2–5%||0 months|
* The 6–12-month timeline is for men with exactly 25% body fat right now. If your body fat percentage is closer to 30%, 40%, or higher, a chiseled core is at least a year down the road.
Thankfully, according to ACE’s standards, the bar for women is a lot lower (phew!).
But while a woman with 20% body fat may appear athletic, we’d say that the lower end (about 14%) is actually a better representation of a ripped physique where carved abs appear.
With that in mind, here’s how long it would take you to build ripped abs at 14% body fat:
|Category||Body Fat Percentage||Timeline to Ripped Abs|
|Acceptable||25–31%||5 ½–17 months|
|Fitness||21–24%||3 ½–10 months|
|Essential Fat||10–13%||0 months|
Scientists believe the human body’s strength peaks around age 25. Shoutout to those of us already headed downhill!
But aging impacts just about every function of the body as well.
Exercise burns fewer calories than when we were in our prime, we begin to lose muscle mass, our bones weaken, and we accumulate more body fat as we exercise less and consume the same number of calories (1993 research).
We can also blame out-of-whack hormones and slower metabolisms. (Though, research shows that metabolism doesn’t slow all that much until we’re into our 60s.)
Now, let’s assume you’re in the 50th percentile for body fat in your age group — meaning half of your peers have more body fat than you, and the other 50% have less. We turned to the American College of Sports Medicine’s research here to determine what those levels were.
If you wanted to reach 10% body fat, here’s how long it would take by age group:
The Three “Secrets” Behind Ripped Abs
“But my body fat is within the general body fat, gender-based, and age-oriented guidelines.” Congratulations! Not to be a sarcastic POS or anything, but you’re living proof that the human body doesn’t understand numbers and science.
Generally, ripped abs primarily depend on three factors:
Even at a lean, mean 5% body fat, chiseled abs don’t exist without muscular rectus abdominis muscles (and ripped obliques to top off the ripped look).
A completely shredded core means adding lean mass to your abs with weighted abdominal exercises that encourage hypertrophy — or increased muscle size. Some naturally thin folks will have ripped abs by sheer luck, but it’s generally not possible without sizable mass, too.
We’ve already beaten this one to death, but we’ll say it again: ripped abs don’t exist without the correct and reasonably low body fat percentage.
If you’re still well-into double-digit body fat territory, you’ve got a long way to go before you uncover carved-out abs. Even the most muscular abs will remain hidden until you’re between 5–15% body fat.
Ah, if it’s not everyone’s favorite scapegoat!
One 360,000-participant study revealed that where we store body fat is partially genetic, with women more likely to fall within this DNA vice. Others will struggle to strip fat around the abs for no reason other than s****y genes.
However, genetics don’t say “ripped abs aren’t possible” as much as they say “ripped abs are going to take a bit more concentration and time.”
How to Get Ripped Abs Fast(er)
OK, we can’t fix your genetics unless you give us a time machine and permission to prevent your parents from ever meeting (which is like the Butterfly Effect with extra steps).
But here are the five “shortcuts” to ripped abs:
Core Specialization Routines
If you’re training abs with a 3×10 rep scheme once a week, therein lies your problem. But then again, other aesthetic programs call for daily core training, which doesn’t help your case either and actually puts your abs at risk for overtraining (go figure).
The solution is training your abs in a way that they respond best.
That means 2–3 sessions per week, at least one full day of rest in between ab workouts, the same 6–15-rep range you use for every other muscle group, and progressive overload.
Yep, you read that right: progressive overload. So if you’re planking for 60 seconds, aim for 65 seconds next time, or add 2 ½ pounds to your weighted crunches when you max out at 12 reps.
Weighted exercises are another seemingly taboo topic in the ab-training world , though we’re not exactly sure why. Many guys latched onto the idea that the core muscles only respond to sets of 20–30+ reps in any ripped body workout.
This theory might date back to 1979 when scientists discovered that about 55–58% of the abdominal fibers are Type I muscle fibers, best-targeted with high-rep training.
But, that also means 42–45% of the core is slow-twitch fibers. So, in addition to higher rep training, you should also target weighted ab exercises within the 6–15-rep hypertrophy range.
Add weight to your core training with exercises like weighted crunches, hanging leg raises, side bends, Russian twists, planks (with a weight plate on your back), and weighted ab roll-outs.
High-Intensity Interval Training
There’s no need to run 20 miles a week to chip away at your total body fat and finally uncover your abdominal muscles. But aerobic exercise in the form of high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) could help you maximize your core aesthetics through more efficient, fat-burning cardio.
Studies show that HIIT can burn 28.5% more absolute fat mass than standard steady-state cardio. At the same time, additional research revealed that HIIT training could burn about 3.14 more calories per minute than a 70%-intensity steady treadmill session.
HIIT also gives you the freedom to choose your favorite cardio style to enhance fat burn.
HIIT can reduce your overall body fat without spending hours in the gym, whether it’s the rowing machine, burpees, mountain climbers, step-ups, the treadmill, or the recumbent bike.
There is a subtle “after burn effect” associated with HIIT, but it’s not nearly as severe as certain brands like V Shred would have you believe.
Given the key to ripped abs is dropping to (or below) 10% body fat, creating a caloric deficit is yet another way to chip away at the fat around your midsection.
Remember that a pound of fat has about 3,500 calories. So to lose approximately one pound of fat per week and sneak closer to your body fat goals, you’d need to create a negative energy balance of about -500 calories.
“Dieting” to create a caloric deficit is your answer. One year-long study in post-menopausal women found that the diet-only group decreased their weight by about 8.5%, while the exercise-only group (2.4%) lost significantly less weight in the same timeframe.
One possible solution: consume 250–500 fewer calories per day than your TDEE recommends to burn ½–1 pound of fat per week.
Strategic Macronutrient Intake
Is it really as simple as experimenting with your daily macros? Reaching a 10–15% body fat goal through dieting isn’t as much about dietary fat reduction as increased protein intake.
Aim for about 1.2–2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for muscle growth, according to one 2012 review.
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Really … How Long Does It Take to Get Ripped Abs?
Based on our calculations, it can take anywhere from a week, to 90 days, to over two years to finally get ripped abs. But it all depends on your current body fat percentage, age, gender, muscle mass, diet, and training routine.
Our key takeaway here is to invest in skinfold calipers and a bathroom scale. With these tools at your disposal, you can monitor your body fat and adjust the course as you see fit.
If you’re nearing 10–15% body fat and see your abs breaking through, continue on your way. Otherwise, it may be time to adapt your training routine or revamp your macro intake to increase muscle mass while shredding fat.
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