The Ultimate Abs Talk (Part 1): What Shapes a Visible Abs?

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“You need to have a low body fat to have visible abs.”

“Everyone have abs, but only those that is really lean can see abs.”

“Your abs will be visiber once you going through cutting.”

Those are the thing that we all heard in order to have abs. As result, that makes everyone think that the only key to having visible abs is body fat.

This also means you can’t have visible abs because you are bulking. Because bulking = calorie surplus = higher body fat.

Is it the truth? Well, no.

In this post, I will decipher the secret of getting abs, science explained. Keep reading if you are those that think you need to wait until you are lean enough to get abs.

Time for a mind blow.

Low Body Fat Contributes to Visible Abs…Partially True

Let’s debunked this in the first place, this statement isn’t completely wrong, but it’s still not true.

Of course, if your body fat is too high (let’s say above 25 for females and above 19 for males), it is impossible for your abs to be seen. That’s true. However, for most of us, our body fat is within the moderate category but we still couldn’t see abs.

Don’t worry, your body fat is not the blame.

You might get confused about this, to make it clear, I’ll pop some images for this.

First, is an image of women with ‘visible abs‘.

Women with Visible Abs

The abs are visible and clear, we even can see the curvature of the abs muscle. Perfect.

This is an achievable case if you are lean enough and you had spent some time doing abs exercises. To have this kind of abs, the body fat you have is the most important factor. Meanwhile, the exercise is the secondary factor, at long as you have quite a developed abs.

How about this?

How about a strong, well developed abs that standout of itself?

The abs that show in the second picture have no lower body fat than in the first picture. Instead, slightly higher for about 2~3% body fat than in the first picture. But the higher body fat doesn’t stop the abs to be visible.

For most of us that have muscle building goal, chances we can’t always stay at low body fat for a long time.

Here’s the good news, you don’t have to be extremely lean to have visible abs muscle. Same as how you train your other body parts, the abdominal muscle need to have enough muscle mass. NOT how less coverage is on it!

Abs are not made in the kitchen

Everyone has a different body, therefore the factor of having a visible abs will varies from person to person. However, the one thing I could tell you is at least a strict diet is not the main factor (hurray, for all the intuitive eaters!).

Here is a few things that determines how your abs will look like:


You really can’t make much change on this. Some individuals can have visible abs even though they did not train their abs much. If you found you are one of this, considered you a lucky one.

However, genetics is only defining that starting point. Everyone that dedicated enough definitely can get visible abs. The key is patience and consistency.

Relatively low body fat

Body fat is still a factor. However, quite different from those that say ‘you need to have a low body fat in order to have visible abs’, we don’t need to be too strict about the low body fat here.

As long as you are within a body fat range that is considered lean (not skinny) with a good abs development, visible abs are possible.

Of course, you can’t have really high body fat and expect you can have visible abs muscle. That’s will be quite hard to achieve.

Well Developed Abs Muscle

How mach abs definitions do you have? Does the size of your abdominal muscle enough to make it visible under your skin? ‘

Most people will think that a well-developted muscle is one that is called ‘toned’. Well, another myth.

It’s a long story to explain about this, but this article will help me debunked the myth of the ‘toned muscle’.

Here is the misconception of everyone about a well-developted muscle. As we were afraid to get bulky, we always seek to get ‘toned’. However, there is no ‘toned’ muscle.

You can’t expect your abs muscle to grow by some cardio-based core exercise. Because what cardio actually does in the first place is just help you burn more fat. But did not directly contribute to the activation and provide muscle growth stimulus.

This leads us to the next point, the type of training.

Training Type

Same as how you train your other body parts. The abs exercise that you are doing should focus on hypertrophy to stimulate muscle growth.

You might not expect that we need progressive overload for abs training. However, YOU NEED.

The only difference between abs training with training other body parts is just we don’t need so many rest days before training the same muscle group again (you can train abs every day or on any alternate days). Other than this, everything there should be no difference.

Focus on growing stronger instead of targeting to do more crunches the next time. Use weights. Always go for a full range motion and really feel the muscle working.

What we want to work here is Type two muscle fibers(fast-twitch fibre) rather than Type one muscle fibre (slow-twitch fibre), which leads to a strong defined abs that stand out. [The difference?]

Last… But Not Least

That’s all for Part 1:The Truth of Having a Visible Abs. However, it’s not the end of the abs talk.

In the next article, I’ll talk about different parts of abdominal muscle and the right exercise selection for you to train your abs.

Want to sculpt your abs muscle and define how it looks? Next week I’ll explain to you the autonomy of abdominal muscle and how exactly you can target it.

Stay tuned!

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