At What Body Fat % Will You See Your Abs?
Measuring your body fat percentage is a useful tool to track your progress on your journey to get six-pack abs. Most people who've tried to achieve a 6-pack realized that abdominal exercises don’t burn fat off your stomach. Abs are made in the kitchen, not just in the gym. It doesn't really matter how much you work out because if you don’t eat right and achieve a calorie deficit, your abs will remain buried under a layer of fat.
Once you realized that hits you need to reduce your body fat percentage to see your abs, one of the biggest questions that pops into your mind is, “how low do I have to get my body fat percentage to see my abs?” It’s a tough question and the answer may be different for men than women.
Here's what I'd recommend:
First, get familiar with some benchmarks for body fat levels.
Here's a Body Fat Rating Scale that I created with my research from scientific publications and personal experience :
How To Interpret The Chart
You're not doomed to get fatter as you get older, so don't use that as an excuse ;) But in the general population (excluding fitness models and bodybuilders), older people have more body fat in general.
To adjust the chart, I included a body fat range instead of one number. This way, younger people can use the lower end of the range and older people can use the higher number.
Also, just to keep things in perspective for the average human, a single digit body fat for women and low single digits for men is way beyond lean - it's RIPPED TO THE MAX ! And you usually only see these results in competing athletes.
Body fat levels that low are not even mean to maintained all year long, they're only for competition because it's not realistic and it could be unhealthy, specially for women.
For most women, 12% body fat is ripped and contest ready (figure or fitness competition).
Just for comparison, my professional trainer has done over 8,000 body fat tests during his career, and the lowest he has ever measured on a female was 8.7% (with the 4-site skinfold method). She was a national-level figure competitor and she was shredded with full six pack of abs... "onion skin!"
However, some women can get down to 11-13% body fat, which is extremely lean, and have a complete and defined six pack abs. It all depends on where a person stores their fat because oddly, these women can still have a few stubborn fat spots - usually the hips and inner thighs.
At What Body Fat % Can Men See Their Abs?
This is my boyfriend at 10% body fat, but a lot of his competing friends have to get down to 6-8% body fat before they achieve the same cut and defined 6-pack abs. Most Bodybuilders aren't ready for competition until they get under 6%.
Recommendations for 6-pack Abs
The problem with trying to pin down one specific body fat number as THE body fat level for seeing 6-pack abs (or being ripped and contest-ready) is that everyone stores their body fat differently and two people with the same percentage will look different.
The average guy or girl should probably aim for the "lean" category as a realistic year round goal, but if you're really ambitious and dedicated, the "very lean category".
You'll probably have to hit the "very lean" category for six pack abs. But the truth is that there's no "perfect" body fat percentage where you're assured of seeing your abs.
Besides, body fat is one of those numbers that gets fudged and exaggerated all the time. If I heard a report of a women with body fat between 4% and 8% and I most likely dismiss it as error in measurement (or it would mean there's some "assistance" involved).
Body fat testing, especially with skinfolds, is not an exact science. All body fat tests are estimations and there is always room for human error, unless you pay 400$ to have a DXA Scan done.
The low numbers are nice for bragging rights, but the judges don't measure your body fat on stage. What counts is how happy your are with the way you look and (or maybe if the judges are happy with it, if you're competing).
You can use my chart to help you set some initial goals, but for the most part, I recommend using body fat testing as a way of tracking your progress over time to see if you're improving rather than pursuing some holy grail number.
Use my body fat calculator to learn how to measure your body fat in the privacy of your own home.
And remember that the only way to get a 6-Pack Abs is to eat right.
I recommend this meal plan as it will show you when to eat carbs how many in order to boost your metabolism :
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