It’s the universal quest so many strive to achieve, but so few manage to attain and, let’s be honest, maintain. It’s that of the desire for a six-pack and no, we’re not talking about canned beverages, but rather the indentations on your torso that scream “Yeah, I work out!”
For anyone that’s lusted over a six-pack and sought to achieve such a feat on their own body, you’d likely have worked out that the age-old piece of advice that diet really does outweigh exercise is true. No matter how many crunches and sit-ups you power through in a day, if you’re not eating right, you won’t see results. It’s for this reason that getting rock hard abs is so difficult as it’s not just a case of working the muscle, but about whittling down your body fat percentage too. That’s why a six-pack can take months – or even years – to achieve.
It’s well known that you can’t target or spot-reduce fat, and likewise you aren’t going to be able to out-train a diet that consists of soft drink and various forms of processed carbohydrates. Achieving single-digit body fat is the work of diligent training and clean eating, the latter being incredibly important. As Louis Rennocks, cofounder of the IRL and online boxing studio Boxx and weight loss coach, explains to Men’s Health UK, “Dropping body fat is a tough ask. It’s about being consistent and disciplined. It’s not going to happen overnight, but you set yourself small goals and you will get there.”
Rennocks adds, “I aim to lose 1 to 2lbs (approx. 0.5-1kg) per week over the period of 10-12 weeks, and I increase my activity levels by walking more and increasing the intensity of my gym sessions. You’ll need to cut out junk food and takeaways for a while, stay away from sugars and alcohol. It’s a marathon not a sprint.”
It goes without saying that if you want a six-pack, you’ll need to commit to the task and be in it for the long-haul. It’s not an Amazon delivery, it’s not going to arrive overnight. But, if you stick with it, the results will come. Below, we’ve rounded up all the various stages of body fat percentage that will inform you of just how far off you are from the coveted six-pack and what you need to get to to see those abs.
What 30% body fat looks like
For men aged 20-39, anything above 25 per cent body fat is categorised as obese, while those aged 40-years and above are classified as such at 28 per cent body fat. In short, this percentage put you in the ‘at risk stage’, and can lead to serious complications like heart disease and cardiovascular issues.
What 25% body fat looks like
At this percentage, you can begin to question if you have an unhealthy physique. It’s not as dangerous as those who find themselves at 30% or above, however you likely are still carrying around excess weight. That said, perhaps you still have an acceptable amount of muscle mass, too. The key difference though is that this muscle is covered in subcutaneous fat, so you will still look overweight and far from your desired six-pack.
What 20% body fat looks like
Considered the ‘skinny fat’ phase, men in this body fat percentage look a little softer as a result of poor muscle-to-body-fat ratios. Thankfully, it’s still considered healthy and will help stave off diseases that are associated with higher levels of body fat.
What 15% body fat looks like
OK, now we’re talking. At this percentage you’re looking lean, or at least starting to. Men in this percentage tend to start seeing muscular shape and definition, while also noticing changes in body composition and fat stores. Your arms and shoulders will likely appear more vascular too, meaning you’re on your way to that six-pack.
What 10% body fat looks like
Considered the safest place to be in terms of body fat percentage, at 10 per cent you’re lean enough to show muscle and can see your veins from your shoulders to your hands. Importantly though, you’re not so shredded so as to become translucent. It’s a healthy stage because you do need fat after all, it’s vital for your body to function normally.
What 8% (or under) body fat looks like
Unless you’re an elite-level athlete or bodybuilder, single-digit body fat isn’t sustainable – and shouldn’t be. This percentage is usually reserved for the like of race0car drivers or fitness models preparing for a shoot, taking their body through the rigours of dehydration and carb-depletion. It might be aesthetically pleasing for some time, but it’s not practical to live in this percentage. Too low a body fat and you’re at risk of muscle loss, organ shrinking, nervous system damage, and fragile bone structure. If this is a goal of yours, approach it with professional supervision and caution.