I have always been obsessed with melting that final layer of fat that covers my belly.
More so, since I am not one of those genetically gifted freaks with unbelievably good fat distribution. You know the guys who have their abdominals popping at even 15-16% body fat? For me, anything more than 11% is not going to cut it. The abs just magically disappear.
So, I have spent a lot of time dropping weight, trying out diets and running exercise programs that allow me to retain a good bit of muscle, while reducing body fat. Tried different exercise challenges to see if they yield any results; like doing squats everyday for 3 months or doing 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups and 100 squats for 30 days.
My abs look fairly good. I have the six pack with striated oblique muscles. Or so I believed, until I saw a photo recently on Instagram.
It was one of those natty fitness influencers and the dude had like a 10 pack. I am not kidding you. I could count the ab insertions with 10 separate muscles. They were just freakish with perfect separation.
That got me thinking about this and I decided to do some more research. It led me down a rabbit hole about abdominal muscles. Nevertheless, I came out wiser.
Is It Even Possible To Get 10-Pack Abs?
First things first, why is it that some people have 6-packs (most people), while some have 8-packs and some have 10-packs?
Before we get into details, it’s important to understand the abdominal muscles and what determines the number of abs that we have on the abdomen.
Anatomy of The Abdominals
Most people are unaware that the abdominals have five separate muscle heads, which when developed together, create the impression of the perfectly chiseled midsection.
- External abdominal oblique – Also known as ‘Obliques’ in gym lingo
- Internal abdominal oblique – A smaller muscle head positioned on the inner side of the external oblique
- Transversus Abdominus – The sides of the abdomen which is typically where fat accumulates first.
- Rectus Abdominis – The biggest paired muscle that runs vertically on the front of the abdomen
- Tendinous Inscriptions – Also called linea alba, these are the bands that separate the rectus abdominus
The abs or the number of different muscles that we see on a person’s abdomen, is determined by two muscles from this list, the rectus abdominis and the tendinous inscriptions.
People with 10-Pack Abs Are Born with It
Yeah lucky f***s they are...
Some people are born with a perfect rectus abdominis, which is a paired muscle that runs vertically on the abdomen. What we call the ‘packs’ are actually bands of connective tissue that run across the rectus abdominis, creating the illusion of them being separate muscles.
So, if you have three connective tissue bands, you have a six pack. If you have four connective tissue bands running across the parallel muscles, you have an 8-pack.
Some people have five connective tissue bands running across their abdomen. Hence, the 10-pack. And for some people their abdominal structure might even allow for 12 pack abs to form.
You might spend a good part of your life doing crunches and oblique exercises. But if you still do not have a visible ten pack, point to the sky and blame genetics. You have to be born with them.
What Options Do I Have if I Want to Get 10-Pack Abs
Just like everything else in the world, if you need something bad enough, the universe magically does not align things in your favor.
You’ve got to go out there and get it.
One way to get a 10-pack is to go under the knife.
Cosmetic surgery sounds like a painful, invasive procedure that’s meant for rundown Hollywood stars and reality TV stars with an abundance of money. But the number of average men and women who undergo cosmetic procedures might surprise you.
If you are not genetically born with a six-pack, a cosmetic abdominal surgery might be one way to get it.
When you research abdominal surgeries, you’ll be met with a variety of options. Most of them sound like medical jargon and it’s very difficult to differentiate one from the other.
However, it’s crucial that you select the right procedure for yourself because the outcome depends on it. Not all procedures are cut from the same cloth. Your body fat levels, your current abdominal muscle conditioning and the amount of money you are willing to spend, everything matters.
Here’s a brief primer that should help you understand how these surgeries work.
Liposuction is the most common of them all. In simple terms, it is surgery performed to remove excess fat (in this, you will be targeting belly fat)and contour the body. When performed on the midsection, it is typically done to improve aesthetics or enhance the visibility of the abs.
It is known by several terms, such as lipo, lipoplasty, body contouring or abdominal etching. While it may improve the appearance of your abs, ab etching will not get you a 10-pack if you do not have the separations to begin with.
Ab implants is a procedure where silicone implants are surgically inserted into your abdominal region to create the perfect 6, 8 or 10-pack. Believe it or not, some people are unfortunate enough to be born without the rectus abdominus.
Ab implants are generally used to create the 6-pack that they lack. However, if you have the 6-pack to begin with, then ab implants can help you extend the appearance of the muscle, giving you an 8 or a 10-pack.
Unlike liposuction, which is a minimally invasive procedure, ab implants are a surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia. You will have a long road to recovery, during which you may have to wear compression garments and/or use antibiotics.
Create an Illusion of 10-Pack Abs
Yea... you read that right. Illusion mudafu.... how you think these instagram models do it?
This is Your Most Reasonable Option and Can be Done Quite Effectively
If you do not have deep pockets to afford cosmetic surgery, or are generally averse to going under the scalpel, then there are some other ways in which you can create the illusion of 10-pack abs.
Drop body fat
That’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? Start by assessing your current body composition so that you know a ballpark body fat percentage. Now start a calorie deficit diet and exercising to drop body fat. What I mean by exercise is rather simple, workout does increase metabolism, thus burning most of the fat that the body would otherwise stock up.
This depends a lot on body fat distribution. But in most people, below 12% is when they start to notice abs. The leaner you get, the more defined the abs appear.
**Important Note: When the appearance of your abs starts to improve and you can notice, ya know.... abs, then and only then should you start to work on your lower abdominals and by start, I mean just start to focus more of your efforts on your lower abs. Think 80% effort should be focused on building and shredding up your lower abs.
The lower abs are very important
Going off what I just noted about the lower section I want to make you realize just how important lower abs are.
Most gym buffs will spend hours working on their upper abdominals. But the lower abs are conveniently left out. The reason is that lower ab workouts are tough as nails. Be it weighted leg raises or bicycles, you will in all probability be left weeping after a set or two.
However, lower abs is where the bang for your buck is, if you are looking to create the illusion of a 8 or 10-pack.
The Adonis belt
One of the most neglected body parts, is the Adonis belt, also called the Apollo’s belt, which really enhances the appearance of your abs.
The Adonis belt is a V-shaped groove that runs alongside the hips towards the pelvic region.
If you have a 6-pack or even just a solid 4 pack set of abs with a perfectly shaped Apollos belt, it creates the illusion of the ab muscles extending to the pelvic region.
Do You Really Need 10-Pack Abs?
After spending a month obsessing over the 10-pack, I have come to the conclusion that you don’t really need 10-packs. I mean, if you are born with them, great. Go flaunt them you lucky b*****d.
But if you are not, then spending a few thousand dollars of your hard earned money for what is essentially a cosmetic improvement, is just not worth it. It does not make you any healthier than you are. It will definitely make you poorer though.
What you should do instead, is focus on improving the appearance of your abdominal muscles. If you have a great 6-pack, you are better than half of the population already. Why not focus on improving the conditioning of that 6-pack? If you have muscle separation, work on enhancing them.
If you do not have muscle separation, think of how you can get it. If your body fat is too high, think of how you can drop it.
What Can I Do to Make My Abs Look More Prominent
Now we are talking. Believe it or not, getting visible abs is not as tough as it is made out to be. Of course, that depends on how much body fat you carry. But with a decent fitness plan, anybody can get visible abs and even enhance the appearance.
Lower Body Fat Percentage
Like I mentioned earlier, get a body scan to know the exact amount of lean muscle mass you are carrying, and the exact body fat percentage. Even a drop of 1-2% of body fat can lead to a significant difference in the way your abs appear.
There are two ways to drop body fat. One is to eat fewer calories than you do now; avoiding shakes with artifical sweeteners (if you have been binging on any) and opting for naturally sweetened ones like Kachava does help here.
And the other way around this? Simple! Burn more calories than you do now. That’s it.
If the net total calorie deficit is around 500 a day, you will lose weight. Adding resistance training to this will help preserve lean muscle tissue while you start to lose fat.
There are several ways to accelerate or improve the results. Maintaining low insulin levels for instance, allows the body to use fat instead of sugar for fuel. But the basic way to lower fat is to cut calories. There’s no two ways about this.
Take Care of Your Diet
As clichéd as it sounds, ‘Abs are made in the kitchen’. If you are eating junk all day and guzzling soda that has processed sugar that does more harm than good (I cut my sugar intake entirely and never looked back), all while lazing on your couch, you are going to find it incredibly difficult to burn fat. Fix your diet. Here’s a simple three step diet fix that works great for me.
- Calculate your TDEE and subtract 250 from it. That’s your target calorie number.
- Split this into 40-40-20 for your macros. This can be 40 protein, 40 carbs and 20 fat. Some people prefer to alter this by reducing carbs and increasing fat. Either way, ensure that you keep your protein intake high. I eat protein in every meal (I do gulp down on protein-rich shakes too) and maintain it at 1.5 grams per lb. of my body weight.
- This last step is optional. Try intermittent fasting if you can. It helps you keep your insulin levels low, which when clubbed with a high protein diet and exercise, should help you lose weight.
Work Your Abdominals... Duhhhh
There are so many theories on the internet about how to target your abdominals. Some experts even suggest that direct ab work is unnecessary as long as you are performing compound lifts. All that you need to do is reduce your body fat enough for abs to be visible.
I don’t think it’s that simple. Some people have very poor fat distribution with the bulk of the fat centered around the abdominal region. In such situations, you have to include direct ab work in your exercise routine. You can try exercises like double crunches or try to use equipment like squat machines or Pilates chairs to target these areas, but depending on the fat distribution you might have different results than you expect.
Best Exercises for Building a Shredded Set of Abs
When it comes to direct ab work, I prefer keeping things reasonably simple. There are three exercises that I highly recommend that will get you as close to a 10 pack as possible.
The dumbbell crunch adds a bit of resistance to a conventional crunch. The difference is night and day. You will feel the burn a lot sooner. More importantly, it will add some size and thickness to your upper ab insertions.
Here’s how you can do the dumbbell crunch
- Lie on your back with a dumbbell in your hand. Alternatively, you can use a weight plate. But I prefer the dumbbell because it gives me a better grip.
- Raise your upper body from the waist. Hold for a count and lower it back until your back touches the ground again. That’s one rep.
- Continue for the desired number of reps.
Like in this video demonstration
Weighted Hanging Leg Raises
If you thought that hanging leg raises was tough, wait till you try this. I love weighted leg raises. It allows me to add resistance to my lower ab workouts. Also, it’s so easy to recruit the oblique muscle as well. All that I have to do is twist my legs.
Here is how to do this ten pack abdominal building exercise
- Place a dumbbell or med ball between your feet, so that you can grab them easily when you are hanging on the pull up bar.
- Grab the bar and pick the weight up. Alternatively, a spotter can help you grab the weight once you are hanging off the bar.
- Keep the legs straight and lift the weight up crunching your abdominals as you come up. At the top of the move, your feet should be at a 90-degree angle and you should resemble an L. Some people may find it tough to maintain straight legs due to tight hamstrings. You can also bend your legs at the knees if that works for you.
Here is a video illustration of this exercise
Heavy Barbell Rollout
I love the rollout. It’s the bee’s knees for the entire abdominal section. However, you’ve got to have strong ab muscles to begin with. Else you end up hyperextending your spine due to your pelvis going into anterior tilt.
The barbell rollout prevents that. It gives you a lot more range of motion. You can also add weights to it, which increases the tension in the ab muscles.
*Bonus – This is a great exercise for the transverse abdominal muscle, which is the secret to the Adonis belt.
Here is how to do the barbell rollout - Its Freaking Simple as heck!
- Load a barbell with weight. You can even do this with very little weight until your form improves.
- Sit on a Yoga mat or a padded floor with your knees close to the barbell.
- Grab the barbell with a shoulder wide grip. From the sides, you should resemble the cat pose position with neutral spine.
- Roll the barbell out, maintaining a neutral spine and squeezing your abs and butt. Roll out as far as you can. Pause for a count and then roll it back ensuring that your spine does not bend inward or hyperextend.
Here is a Video Demonstration of this Ab Destroying Exercise
That’s it. Use these three basic exercises and your abdominal muscles will start popping in no time.
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