How to Get Washboard Abs in Three Not-So-Easy Steps

Post written by Phoebe Balentyne

There’s a common phrase, “Abs are made in the kitchen.”

There is certainly some truth to this statement. You can have the most amazing abdominal muscles, but if they’re hidden under a layer of fat, you won’t be able to see them. 

But there are also people who have no fat on their midsection who still don’t have a six-pack. Why?

Because there are three very important (and not-so-easy) steps to getting washboard abs, and you have to follow both steps to get them.

Step 1: Nutrition

When I started at Sycamore CrossFit I wanted abs so badly. Although I was in decent shape when I started, my nutrition needed a lot of work. Overall it was decent, but I had a lot of bad habits.

I was addicted to soda. My meals were not balanced. Many days I wasn’t getting enough calories. And I made bad choices when I went out to eat.

I was able to clean up my nutrition a lot through following a plan and making small habit changes. I’m proud to say I hadn’t had a coke in over 8 years, and I used to drink four a day! I now do a much better job of balancing my meals and eating the right number of calories. I don’t eat meals that only contain carbs (hello there giant bowl of pasta), but I also don’t deprive myself of carbs.

Cleaning up my nutrition had excellent results, and I got rid of a lot of fat on my midsection. I had a flat tummy for sure. But where the heck were my abs?

That’s step two.

Step 2: build muscle

I used to have really skinny arms, but you could not see any muscle definition. Why? Because I didn’t have much arm muscle.

The same is true for your abdominal muscles. You can have a super flat tummy, but if you don’t have much muscle on your abdominals, you’re not going to see washboard abs.

So what should I do? 

50 sit-ups a day?

100 sit-ups a day?


What if I told you that you really don’t need to do any sit-ups?

Personally, I probably do sit-ups about once every two weeks, and it’s only because they show up in a workout. So what made the difference in building up my core (abdominal muscles)?

Using my core!

You’ve probably seen all sorts of exercise programs claiming if you do these core exercises you’ll have six-pack abs in no time. But the truth is, you shouldn’t have to do core-specific exercises to grow your abdominal muscles. You should be using your core in every movement you perform!

When you engage your core (using your abdominal muscles in exercises), you end up building up your abdominal muscles in all sorts of movements!

  • Weightlifting
  • Gymnastics
  • Even running!

Those are certainly things we do at Sycamore CrossFit on a regular basis!

If weightlifting isn’t a part of your fitness routine, you may want to reconsider! It does an incredible job of building up abdominal muscles.

But you have to be doing it correctly. You have to be engaging your core. Do you have a coach making sure you are moving properly? Do you have a coach to explain what it means to engage your core?

Step 3: be patient

We all come to the gym with a different physique. If you want a six-pack, it’s going to take some time. Losing fat doesn’t happen overnight. Building muscle doesn’t happen overnight. So what do you need to do? Keep your nutrition dialed in. Keep up your weightlifting and workout routine. Be patient.

I need a coach.

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