Are you skinny and wondering how long it’ll take you to get abs? Well, that depends on how skinny you are (amount of current muscle) and how lean you are (amount of fat you have.) There’s also other factors like how stressful your life is, and how obsessive you want to be. But I can show you my journey of going from extremely skinny (dangerously underweight) to “lean and fit” with abs in 120 days.
- The Formula To Getting Six-Pack Abs
- Getting Abs In 120 Days As A Skinny Guy: “Before” And “After” Photos
- The Best Ab Exercises
- Ab Workout For Skinny Men
The Formula To Getting Six-Pack Abs
To get visible abs, you’ll need a combination of being:
- muscular enough to have large abdominals
- lean enough to have low levels of subcutaneous fat (subcutanoues fat is regular fat that’s under the skin)
- healthy and active enough to have low levels of stubborn belly-fat (non-typical fat storage pattern around the belly, particularly the lower abs.)
Getting to this final state of being muscular and lean and fit will take different amounts of time depending on where you’re starting from.
For example, for skinny guys, if you’re cautious with bulking and do it properly, and you add in a variety of ab exercises, it’s possible to build up your ab size incredibly quickly without covering them up with tons of fat. You could have abs in a matter of months.
For those who are skinny-fat, people with low levels of muscle but lots of fat around their belly, they’re in a tricky situation of needing to simultaneously build up their ab size and strength while also burning off stubborn belly-fat. Many skinny-fat people are also quite sedentary (under 7,500 steps daily) or are eating inflammatory foods and so they’ll need to both eat more to gain muscle, while also cleaning up their diet.
For those who are more average, chubby but strong, they already have well-developed abs (in terms of size), so their main goal will be revealing their abs through burning off fat and improving their health to reduce belly-fat.
All that to say, that if you’re skinny but you’re already lean, the great news is you could have abs really quickly.
Here’s how I got abs as a skinny guy in just four months when I was 23 years old:
Getting Abs In 120 Days As A Skinny Guy: “Before” And “After” Photos
My business partner (Shane Duquette) and I decided to do an experiment after work (we were web designers) where we’d experiment and document our process of trying to gain weight to stop being skinny.
So we began lifting weights 3x a week and eating 3,200 calories a day of whole foods.
Here are my measurement changes:
- Body Weight: 130lbs to 157lbs (+27 pounds)
- Neck: 13.75″ to 14.25″ (+0.5 inches)
- Shoulders: 38.75″ to 41″ (+2.25 inches)
- Bicep: 11″ to 12.5″ (+1.5 inches)
- Chest: 33.75″ to 35.25″ (+1.5 inches)
- Waist: 27.5″ to 29.25″ (+1.5 inches)
- Hips: 35.5″ to 37″ (+1.5 inches)
- Thigh: 18.75″ to 22″ (+1.25 inches)
- Calf: 13.75″ to 15″ (+1.25 inches)
As you can see, my waist size actually went up while developing my six-pack abs. This is because my ab, obliques, and spinal erectors all increased in muscular size even though my fat levels went down.
Part of the reason I was able to develop abs so quickly is because I was already lean, but I also was aggressively bulking. This means I didn’t really have to burn much fat, I mainly just needed to build some muscle.
For the first 90 days, I bulked aggressively, gaining 21 pounds in the first 30 days. Then I peaked at 163 pounds (+33 added pounds) after 90 days. In the final 30 days, Shane and I did a cut for one month. A “cut” means we switched to a calorie deficit.
During that cut I burnt off around 6 pounds—revealing my abs.
For the 30 days of cutting, and we kept up with lifting weights 3x a week but we added in some HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sprinting outside at the local park.
Although we were working a lot to pay the bills, which came with a lot of sitting—the gym was a 40-minute walk away. That gave me quite a lot of extra walking, which probably helped to keep my bulking gains lean.
My weekly exercise regimen:
- 3x a lifting weights (around an hour each)
- 2x short HIIT sessions
- 240-minutes of walking to and from the gym
I probably also racked up some extra steps during my walks to buy groceries, and exploring the city with my then-girlfriend (now wife.)
The first photos were taken in the morning after waking up—no pump-up, no Photoshop.
After we documented our results as clear as possible, we decided to try and make our photos appear as impressive as possible like most people do on the internet (still without any photoshopping.) This next photo was taken after doing a mini-workout to generate a pump and then we added some oil for the lights to make us look more 3D.
The Best Ab Exercises
A muscle researcher wrote an article on T-Nation detailing his experiment trying to figure out the best exercises for the lower abs, internal obliques, external obliques, and the lumbar area of the back. Ab exercises were ranked based on their EMG score:
Top EMG Ab Exercises
- Bodyweight Chin-Up: 249
- Ab Wheel Rollout: 143
- RKC Plank: 115
- Hanging Leg Raise: 300
- Weighted Swiss Ball Crunch: 231
It’s important to realize that EMG isn’t perfect. This is because muscle has been found to grow quite well when being stretched, which the EMG tests don’t capture. So there’s a bit of art when it comes to picking the best exercises.
Best Upper Ab Exercises
The best upper ab exercises are when you bring your head down. These include:
- Myotatic Crunch (great because you can weight it)
- Abdominal Crunches
- Cable Crunches
Best Lower Ab Exercises
The best lower ab exercises are when you bring your knees up to your chest or you are moving your legs. Most people really need to work on their lower abs more as they’ve done too many crunches. Lower ab exercises include:
- Leg Raises Lying On A Bench
- Flutter Kicks
- Hanging Knee Raises
- Hanging Leg Raises
- Dragon Flags
- Reverse Crunches
- Mountain Climbers
Best Oblique Exercises
While working the abs, it’s common to work the obliques too. These muscles run down the sides of your abs.
- Seated Barbell Twists (Frank Zane favourite)
- Weighted Russian Twist
- Side Bends
Starting Ab Exercises As A Total Beginner
However, depending on how skinny and how much of a beginner you are, you may find some of these exercises like the hanging leg raises and ab rollout too difficult (I know I did.) A good program will work you through the right progression. Many skinny guys might do well with a progression like this, moving onto the next exercise after a few sessions when they’re feeling confident:
- Dead bug
- Front plank
- Large Swiss ball rollout
- Small Or Deflated Swiss ball rollout
- Ab rollout from knees
Ab Workout For Skinny Men
Frank Zane started training like Zabo Koszewski because he had the best abs on the beach.
What was Zabo doing? Five hundred reps of abs in the morning and 500 reps in the afternoon. Frank Zane said his most extreme ab routine was getting into a trance and doing reps for 2.5 hours. That might be what it takes to get into shape for a Mr Olympia winner on a concoction of drugs.
For you, as a skinny guy, you don’t need to jump to 2.5 hours of ab workouts to challenge your abs to grow.
What you need to do is progressive overload. That means that you continually get stronger. Now, normally with weights, you can just add a tiny bit more weight. So if you’re dumbbell bench pressing 50 pounds in each hand, then you start pressing 52.5 pounds in each hand and rebuild your reps up again.
With ab work, which is harder to add weight to, you’ll want to increase the reps, and then once your reps get too high (beyond 30), then add sets.
Skinny Guy Ab Workout Addon
Add this to the end of your workout:
- Upper Abs—Abdominal Crunch: 20-25 reps
- Lower Abs—Lying Leg Raise: 20-25 reps
When you first do the lying leg raise, you may only be able to do a few reps. Keep fighting. Do perfect form, and rest, and eat well, and you’ll get stronger.
When you can do 25 reps in a row, then add one more set and do two sets. Then rebuild. When you can do two sets of 25 reps of both, add one more set to do three sets of 25 reps. When you can do three sets of 25 reps, that’s pretty sweet. You should then switch to harder variations like the weighted myotatic crunch and the hanging knee raise.
Dedicated Ab Workout For Skinny Men
Get a free ab workout where we hit the abs first and with multiple exercises. Then we move onto a solid full-body routine for men to gain size.
- To have visible abs, you must:
- Have big enough abs. Skinny people can’t just make abs in the kitchen. They need to build them up. Look at including dedicated ab training that works your abs in a variety of ways. Stretched abs, contracted abs, ISO holds, etc. and hitting both the upper and lower abs. Some good ideas to start with are the dead bug, reverse crunches, front plank, Russian twists (hits the obliques hard at the same time), and flutter kicks. After you get stronger, you can work towards things like hanging leg raises.
- Have a low enough body-fat percentage. Since you’re skinny, you’re probably already lean enough. While you bulk up, make sure to keep your gains as lean as possible. Otherwise, you may need to do a “cut,” which is when you focus on fat-burning while maintaining your new muscle size.
- Have good enough fitness and health and are active. Being too sedentary (under 7,500 daily steps) can lead towards building up of stubborn belly-fat. This stubborn fat hangs around on your abs and can create love handles, etc. It doesn’t respond well to a calorie deficit and responds better to aerobic work and a better diet. The good news is dealing with the stubborn belly-fat also deals with visceral fat, the unhealthy fat related to heart disease and diabetes.
- In my journey, I went from 130 pounds with a BMI of 17, which is dangerously skinny, to 157 pounds with a BMI of 21, which is on the lower end of a healthy body weight for my height.
- Skinny people may see their waist measurement go up even while getting leaner if they’re also building up muscle size.