That’s because it’s insanely hard to create muscle definition in your midsection — even if it’s super strong — and not all of the factors that influence whether or not you can actually see your abs are under your control.
For example, body composition (or the ratio of body fat to lean muscle mass you have) is impacted by diet and exercise, sure, but also genetics. Plus, belly fat, in particular, can be impacted by hormones such as cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone. In fact, stress has been linked to higher levels of abdominal fat in non-overweight women, according to research.
Bottom line: “Every woman’s body is built differently, so it varies, but generally speaking it takes a lot of time and dedication to get those abs to show,” says Amanda Butler, certified personal trainer and instructor at The Fhitting Room in New York City. “It can take anywhere from three months to a year to get a six-pack, and it’s not just about doing a ton of abs exercises.”
So what does it take exactly? Scroll down for intel on how to get abs, asap, according to certified trainers and research.
1. Crank up the cardio
It’s hardly surprising that one of the things Kourtney Kardashian’s trainer had the reality TV star start doing to get in the best shape her life (visible abs and all) was incorporate cardio into every workout.
Why? Because aerobic exercise triggers fat burning. The more cardio exercise you do, the move belly fat you stand to lose, according to a system review of 16 clinical trials that looked at the connection between the two.
So, when you do cardio consistently as part of a fitness routine that’s also focused on core and muscle building, you’ll start to see your body composition shift and more tone and definition from head to toe—core included.
2. Add HIIT workouts into the mix
What is HIIT? Well, for starters, it’s short for high-intensity interval training, might just be the fastest track when it comes to how to get abs. That’s because the fitness technique combines cardio AND strength training in one quick, effective workout.
“The beauty of a HIIT class is that it gives you the benefit of body fat loss, as well as putting on lean mass,” says Steve Uria, certified trainer and founder of the HIIT-based fitness studio Switch Playground. “I would say, if you start doing HIIT three to four times a week you will see a noticeable difference in in your body.”
3. Exercise your abdominal muscles on the reg
“Every workout should involved core training, says Anna Kaiser, founder of AKT Fitness and the trainer behind the abs of stars like Kelly Ripa and Shakira. That alone isn’t enough to give your muscle definition because core workouts won’t decrease belly fat on their own, according to a small study that looked at 24 women who did abs exercises five times per week for six weeks; you need to also follow a healthy diet.
Still, the only way to get muscle definition is through exercise. When working out your abdominal muscles, it’s important to not just focus on your six-pack, or rectus abdominis. You want to strength train your entire core, which includes your internal and external obliques, transverse abdominals, and internal stabilizers.