Jared Polowick Muscle Building

How long does it take to get abs for a skinny person?

Are you skinny and wondering how long it’ll take you to get six-pack 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

To get visible “6-Pack Abs,” you’ll need a combination of being:

  • muscular enough to have large abdominal muscles
  • 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.

Are you skinny, skinny-fat, or average?

For example, for skinny guys, if you’re cautious and do lean bulking, 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 men, 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 5,000 steps daily) or are eating inflammatory foods that cause belly-fat 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 by burning off fat, and walking more and cleaning up their diet 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 quickly.

Here’s how I got abs as a skinny guy in just four months when I was 23 years old:

Skinny guy gets abs in 120 Days

My Skinny “Before” And “After” Of Getting A Six Pack In 4 Months

Jared Polowick 120 Days Six Pack Abs

My business partner (Shane Duquette) and I decided to do an experiment after work (we were web designers) where we’d document our process of trying to rapidly gain weight to stop being skinny.

3-Month Bulking Phase

Although we were working a lot to pay the bills, which came with a lot of sitting—the gym was a 20-ish minute walk away. That gave me quite a lot of extra walking, which helped to keep my bulking gains lean.

  • Eat 3,200 calories daily of whole foods with an emphasis on protein
  • Lift weights 3x a week with a routine that included some ab work
  • Walk 45 minutes outside in the sunshine 3x a week (to and from the gym)
  • Sleep 8+ hours for optimal recovery

After 3 months of bulking, in the fourth month, we did a “cutting phase.”

1-Month Cutting Phase

  • Kept up with a wholesome diet, lifting 3x a week, and walking 45 minutes 3x a week to and from the gym
  • Tracked calories to get into a minor calorie deficit
  • A couple of HIIT sprint sessions outside in the sunshine at the local park
  • Laying in the sun at lunch to help develop a natural tan
  • Upped the intake of caffeine (lots of coffee…)

Body Measurement Changes Over 4 Months

  • 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 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. As a skinny guy, 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.

I probably also racked up some extra steps during my walks to buy groceries, and because I wasn’t married yet, I was 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 for our experiment, 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 onto the skin for the lights to catch to make our muscles look more 3D.

Jared Polowick abs six pack ectomorph

Is It Easier For Skinny Guys To Get Six Pack Abs?

So does that mean it’s easier for skinny guys to get abs? I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but that we’re fighting different battles.

For skinny guys, they are fighting for every ounce of muscle. They have to lift weights, train hard, eat big, rest. For the regular average guy, he needs to fight to lose a lot of fat.

A lot of before/after transformations are just average dudes losing a lot of fat and getting six-pack abs. A lot of average men didn’t even need to lift weights to get abs, as they already have a substantial amount of muscle. All they had to do was cut out junk food and go for walks. So, both journeys are challenging but in different ways.

If you want to know exactly what I did, and what bulking routine I recommend, check out Bony to Beastly. I co-founded it with two other guys back in 2012, and we’ve since helped over 10,000 skinny guys bulk up fast.

Bony to Beastly Program

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

  1. Bodyweight Chin-Up: 249
  2. Ab Wheel Rollout: 143
  3. RKC Plank: 115
  4. Hanging Leg Raise: 300
  5. 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:

  1. Dead bug
  2. Front plank
  3. Large Swiss ball rollout
  4. Small Or Deflated Swiss ball rollout
  5. Ab rollout from knees

Ab Workout For Skinny Men

Three time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane started doing ab training like Zabo Koszewski because he had the best abs on the beach.

Zabo Six Pack Abs

What was Zabo doing? Five hundred reps of abs in the morning and another 500 reps in the afternoon. He was doing 1,000 reps of ab training daily!

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 more 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 skinny men to gain muscle size.

Skinny Fat Workout

AB Workout For Men

  • Free 14-day full-body lifting workout that emphasizes the upper abs, lower abs, and the obliques (and cardio if needed for belly-fat)
  • Do it at the gym or with dumbbells at home
  • Workout spreadsheet
  • Exercise demonstration video links


  • To have visible abs, you must:
    • Have big enough abs. Skinny people can’t just make abs in the kitchen. Very skinny guys will 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 already skinny, you’re probably already lean enough. While you bulk up, make sure to keep your gains as lean as possible. Walking more helps a lot while bulking. 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 super skinny (dangerously thin), 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.
Burn Stubborn Fat, Gain Muscle

9 thoughts on “How long does it take to get abs for a skinny person?”

  1. Pingback: Why am I not getting stronger in the gym? — Outlive

  2. Pingback: How do I get a six-pack as a skinny guy? — Outlive

  3. Pingback: Why calorie counting didn't work for me — Outlive

    1. Sounds like a fun experiment 😉 Why not try it out and document your results?

      If you’re skinny, like I was, then you will need to build new muscle mass at the same time.

      Exercise, like sit-ups, will stress the abs, telling them they need to grow bigger. But without the nutrition and sleep to rebuild bigger and stronger, they won’t get bigger—they’ll just heal and stop being sore. Exercise, diet, lifestyle, etc.—it all works together.

  4. Interesting, I am a bit less skinny than you were (20.5 bmi) but I have a hard time getting to 2500 calorie intake, let alone 3000+. Drinking calories is way easier, I just mix powdered oats with milk and protein powder and add cream milk. It’s like a 1000 calorie meal

    1. It was not easy getting to 3,200 calories. My business partner and I had a penalty of paying the other $5 for any skipped or unfinished meals. That means that a giant 1,000 calorie bowl of chili might take an hour to finish, otherwise, I’d be out $5.

      It was a lot easier on workout days since we allowed ourselves the use of mass gainers, which had a lot of processed powders but ultimately, took up a lot less stomach space.

      And yes, I agree, liquid calories a great. I pretty much had a large smoothie daily.

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