Illustration of a naturally skinny guy building bigger abs.

The Skinny Guy’s Guide to Building Bigger Abs

Why do some skinny guys with a low body-fat percentage not have visible abs? After all, for the average guy, getting abs simply requires getting lean. But what if you’re already lean and you still don’t have abs?

If you try to search for information about how to get abs, there are two types of advice that you’ll probably come across, neither of which apply to skinny guys:

  1. Abs are built in the kitchen, not the gym. Yes, most men get abs by dieting down to a lower body-fat percentage. That’s because most men are overweight, and most overweight men already have large ab muscles. After all, when someone gains weight, at least 33% of that weight is going to be muscle. Plus, the heavier someone is, the bigger their ab muscles will need to grow in order to support that extra weight. Overweight guys already have big abs. Skinny guys do not.
  2. Abs are built with high-rep ab routines—crunches, sit-ups, and so on. The most popular ab routines are high-rep circuits that are brutally painful but aren’t effective at stimulating muscle growth. Doing high rep crunches to build bigger abs is like running a marathon to build bigger legs. High-rep circuits are designed for improving endurance and blood flow, not for gaining muscle size. Yes, you’ll see guys with great abs doing these routines. However, that’s not how they built their abs, it’s just something they do because they like their abs.

Neither of these pieces of advice work for skinny guys. After all, our problem is that our abs are too small. We need to build bigger ab muscles.

We need a bulking routine for our abs.

Before and after illustration of a skinny hardgainer ectomorph becoming muscular.

Why Do Some Skinny Guys Not Have Abs?

Some skinny guys don’t have visible abs. If you’ve heard that all it takes to have abs is to cut down to a lower body-fat percentage, that can be confusing.

In a way, abs are built in the kitchen. The average person overeats, causing them to gain weight. As they gain more weight, their abs need to grow stronger to support their heavier body. You could say, then, that abs are built in the kitchen. But it’s not dieting down to a low body-fat percentage that builds bigger abs, it’s becoming overweight that builds bigger abs.

However, as you can imagine, an overweight person’s abs are going to be hidden underneath a thick layer of fat. To reveal those big abs, then, they simply need to diet down to a lower body-fat percentage. Once they drop under around 12% body fat, boom: visible abs.

For skinny guys, things are a little different. We aren’t carrying around a bunch of heavy fat. We aren’t even carrying around a bunch of heavy muscle. Our abs don’t need to grow all that big in order to support our lighter bodies. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes even at low body-fat percentages, we still won’t have abs. It’s not because we aren’t lean enough, it’s because our abs are as skinny as we are.

If we want visible abs, we need to build them with hypertrophy training and bulking diets, just like we build the rest of our muscles.

GK is skinny but doesn't have abs.
GK was skinny but still didn’t have abs. He had to bulk them up.

For example, in GK’s before photo, he’s more than lean enough to have abs, they just aren’t big enough to be visible. Although I suppose you could say that his abs were built by eating everything in the kitchen, it’s probably more accurate to say that they were built by lifting weights.

We’ll start by going over your ab anatomy, and then we’ll talk about how to train your abs for muscle size.

The Skinny on Ab Anatomy

If you ask someone who’s into strength training how they got their abs, they’ll probably tell you that they built them with compound lifts. There’s some truth to that, sure.

Most compound lifts train our transverse abdominis abs, which acts like a corset, cinching our waists in tight. They don’t train our rectus abdominis abs, which is what gives us a sixpack. So compound lifts do indeed train our ab muscles, just not the ab muscles that you can see.

Before we talk about how to build your sixpack abs (rectus abdominis), let’s quickly talk about the muscles that are underneath those abs—the transverse abdominis muscles.

Illustration of the anatomy of the transverse abdominis muscles.
The transverse abdominis muscles act like a lifting belt, keeping our cores stable.

When you brace your core, these are the ab muscles that you’re flexing. As you can imagine, they’re incredibly important when lifting weights. After all, we can’t even do biceps curls if our cores have the consistency of overcooked noodles. As skinny guys, these muscles are even more important. Our cores are thinner, and our spines need all of the support we can give them. However, these ab muscles are deep. You can’t see them. 

This is important because these are the ab muscles that are trained with squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, rows, and most other compound lifts. If you’re trying to bulk up your abs so that you can see them, these compound lifts won’t help.

When most people say abs, they’re usually talking about the rectus abdominis, which are situated on top of your transverse abdominis. Your rectus abdominis is made up of a series of muscle bellies and tendons. The bits that bulge out are the bellies, the canyons between those bulges are the tendons. This gives your abs their unique washboard shape:

Ectomorph Ab Anatomy (How to Build Bigger Abs as a Skinny Guy)

These ab muscles can flex, just like any muscle can, allowing us to move our core like an accordion. Our 6-pack abs allow us to crunch forwards, and our obliques allow us to twist around. These muscles can also help us resist movement, keeping our ribs and hips in place when lifting weights. They aren’t very active during squats and deadlifts, but they do help keep our core stable during a couple of compound lifts.

There are two compound lifts that are great for training the rectus abdominis: the chin-up and the push-up. If you do a good job of keeping your core locked down while doing chin-ups and push-ups, your abs will be firing to keep your ribcage and hips in the proper position.

If your bulking routine has lots of push-ups and chin-ups, you might do a good job of stimulating your ab muscles. However, if you’re a naturally skinny guy and you’re trying to build bigger abs, that probably won’t be enough. After all, those exercises rely on our body weight to provide resistance, and our body weight doesn’t tend to be very heavy.

As a skinny guy, you’ll probably want to directly target your abs. That’s going to make your abs look better, and it’s also going to give your core more stability, improving your posture and allowing you to lift more safely.

How to Build Upper and Lower Abs

As you build bigger abs, you’ll soon notice that they have their own distinct shape. You can make your ab muscles bigger with good training, but you can’t do anything to affect their symmetry or to alter the number of tendons that you have. Some have an 8-pack, others have a 6-pack. Some have a wide-pack, others have a thin-pack.

Bony to Beastly Genetics 6-pack or 8-pack abs

However, in a controversial new study, research has proven what belly-dancers have known for thousands of years: with enough coordination, your upper and lower abs can be individually targeted (study).

Most guys can’t see their lower abs. So after learning this, most guys will assume they have smaller lower abs, and they’ll start looking for exercises that target their lower abs, such as reverse crunches.

Although it’s possible that your lower ab muscles are disproportionately small, keep in mind that men store more body fat on their lower stomach than their upper stomach. Lower abs tend to be murky unless you are very lean—under 10% body fat.

Illustration of a man with smaller lower abs because of a higher body-fat percentage.

Another reason you can’t see your lower abs might be because you don’t have any lower abs. If you take a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, you can see that underneath his belly button, he doesn’t have any tendons running across his abs. No matter how big Schwarzenegger builds his lower abs, he’ll never have any ab definition on his lower stomach. He simply doesn’t have lower abs.

arnold schwarzenegger lower abs

The good news is that having lower abs doesn’t really matter. If your abs are strong and lean, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re symmetrical or not, or whether you have great lower-ab genetics.

Keep in mind that having great abs is just a proxy for being lean and muscular overall. Sometimes we get caught up in these minor aesthetic details. We get caught up trying to build the perfect shoulder-to-waist ratio, forgetting that it doesn’t matter how long our collarbones are, it just matters how big and strong our shoulders are. The same is true with our abs. What matters is being lean and strong.

If you have big ab muscles that are well defined, they’ll look awesome. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proof of that, of course, having built one of the most famous physiques of all time despite having no lower abs whatsoever.

Every set of abs will look different. All abs look good.

How Lean Do You Need to Be to Have Abs?

Not all skinny guys have a low body-fat percentage. Many do, but it’s fairly common for skinny guys to be between 15–20% body fat. If you’re between 15–20% body fat, it’s fairly common to have thin arms and a thin face, but a softer stomach.

If you aren’t lean enough to have visible abs, building up bigger ab muscles will just push the fat out further:

Ab Bulking at 15

For a flat stomach, you’ll want to be at around 15% body fat. That’s enough to make you attractive to most women, but it’s not enough to have clear abs.

To have clear abs you’ll usually need to be under 12% body fat. If you’re curious about how lean you are, here’s how to visually estimate your body-fat percentage by looking at your stomach.

But if you want to see how lean you need to be to have abs, here’s me at 10.8% body fat as measured by DEXA. You can see that my abs are just barely coming in. If I were just a couple body-fat percentage points higher, they’d be completely covered:

Bony to Beastly Shane Duquette Body Fat Percentage DEXA Scan

As you can see, my ab muscles are quite small, even though I’ve got a fair bit of muscle overall. This is because I gained 55 pounds of muscle without any direct ab training. The most stimulation my abs got was from push-ups and chin-ups. Because I never directly trained my abs, they never grew much bigger as I bulked up.

Anyway, let’s say you’re closer to 20% body fat. That’s not an overly high body-fat percentage. That’s still within the healthy range. However, your abs will be completely covered. At that point, regardless of whether your ab muscles are big or not, your best bet is to cut.

As you lose fat, you can carve out your abs. They might not be big yet, but once they’re hard, you’ve got something to work with:

Bony to Beastly Cutting Body Fat Percentage

While cutting down to a lower body-fat percentage, you’ll want to be following a good lifting program. If you’re already somewhat muscular (as I was) you can expect to maintain your muscle mass and strength. But if you’ve only just started working out, you should be able to build some muscle while losing fat.

(We’ve got a free guide here on what to do if you’re skinny-fat.)

So whether you’re under 15% or not, if you eventually want abs, you should be doing ab workouts along with your hypertrophy program. This means that whether you’re lean enough for abs or not, you need to be lifting.

How Can a Skinny Guy Build Bigger Abs?

We’re going to teach you the best exercises for building bigger ab muscles, but keep in mind that we need to get your hips positioned properly in order to get your ab muscles firing properly.

That way your abs won’t be hanging loose as you stroll around town, your gut won’t be jutting out even though you’re at 9% body fat, and eating a big meal won’t make you look quite as pregnant.

ecto-belly vs good posture with strong abs

If you want to see what this looks like in real life, check this out:

Europa's Bony to Beastly Ectomorph Transformation

This should also help fix the “lazy stomach” that some guys get when they aren’t intentionally flexing their ab muscles. Some degree of this is okay, but it’s best if your abs have the strength, positioning and endurance to always have a little bit of tension in them.

Here are two pictures that one of our members took just seconds apart. In the left photo, even with a low body-fat percentage, his ab positioning is preventing him from having abs. When your stomach is stretched like that it prevents the abdominal muscles from contracting properly, which can ruin a skinny guy’s ab definition:

lazy stomach vs good posture with strong abs

Fortunately, stronger ab muscles are better at holding your hips and ribs together. This means that building up bigger abs will improve your posture, and improving your posture will help you build bigger abs. These goals work additively with one another. By focusing on both simultaneously you’ll get the quickest (and best) results.

Ab Workout for Skinny Guys

There are a few ab exercises that are particularly effective for getting your hips into a proper position and building bigger ab muscles. Here are six different exercises that will bulk up your abs in different ways, improve your posture, and help you bulk up the rest of your body as you do it.

The plank: The plank is great for teaching your abs how to become comfortable maintaining good posture under load. It’s an isometric exercise, meaning that you’re stimulating your ab muscles by resisting movement.

The farmer carry: In this exercise, we’re teaching your abs how to maintain a plank position while walking around with heavy things. This isn’t really an exercise for your abs, per se, but it’s great for your obliques, which are just as important for improving the appearance (and function) of your core.

The Sit-Up: Crunches involve repeatedly bending your spine under load, and while that isn’t always harmful, the most respected spinal health expert in the world, Dr. Stuart McGill, advises against them. Instead, he recommends variations where the spine remains in a more neutral position.

These spine-conscious variations will also ingrain better lifting habits, as you’ll learn how to keep your abs on lockdown during compound lifts. This makes them a better ab exercise for a skinny guy who’s trying to build bigger muscles overall.

Dumbbell Pullovers: In this ab exercise, you’re moving in the shoulder joint while your abs fight to keep your ribs down. The bigger and stronger your back and chest get, the bigger and stronger your abs will become.

Goblet Squats. In this exercise, you’re moving in the hips while your entire core is lit up. The bigger and stronger your entire body becomes, the bigger and stronger your core will become. Again, it’s not specifically an ab exercise, but it’s fantastic for your obliques and spinal erectors, which will make your core look quite a bit better (and much stronger).

Reverse Crunches: The reverse crunch works your abs through a fairly large range of motion, making it great for bulking your ab muscles up. What makes it even better is that it trains the lower abs a little harder than the upper abs, which balances out the other exercises, which focus mainly on the upper abs. This ab exercise is also good for your posture, which is an important part of having visible abs.

If you make a habit of doing one or two of these exercises every workout, your abs will grow quickly. When they become easy, just switch to more difficult variations, such as hanging leg raises and ab-wheel roll-outs.

Key Takeaways

Illustration of a skinny guy building muscle and becoming muscular (before/after).

It’s common for naturally skinny guys to have smaller ab muscles, meaning that they don’t show through very well, even at lower body-fat percentages. Fortunately, just like with the rest of our muscles, we can bulk up our abs.

As a skinny guy, building bigger ab muscles comes down to three things:

  1. Bulk up your abs just like any other muscle group. The same principles of hypertrophy that apply to all of your other muscles also apply to your abs. Train them heavy enough and often enough to stimulate muscle growth.
  2. Cut down to under 12% body fat if you want good ab definition.
  3. Strengthen your posture so that your abs will activate and flex naturally.

Also, remember that you don’t need abs. You’re perfectly healthy at 18% body fat and perfectly attractive to women at 15% body fat. Abs are a bonus. So there’s no need to stress if you lose sight of your lower abs when bulking. You’ll get them back. And when you do, they’ll probably be bigger than when you last saw them.

Illustration showing the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program

If you want more muscle-building information, we have a free bulking newsletter for skinny guys. If you want a full bulking program, including a 5-month workout routine, diet guide, recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. Or, if you want an intermediate bulking routine, check out our Outlift Intermediate Bulking Program.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained sixty pounds at 11% body fat and has nine years of experience helping over ten thousand skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

How to build 20 to 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days. Even if you have failed before

FREE Bulking Mini-Course

Sign up for our 5-part bulking mini-course that covers everything you need to know about:

  • Hardgainer genetics and how to make the most of them
  • How to take a minimalist approach to bulking while still getting great results
  • What you need to know about aesthetics, health and strength while bulking up


  1. jj on March 24, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    Yet another great post! Thank you guys you are very helpful to many of us.
    The exercises looks great and easy to learn. How many reps would you suggest?

    As a suggestion: could you write a post on pecs?

    Keep it up!

    • Shane Duquette on March 26, 2016 at 10:49 am

      Thanks so much, JJ! Really glad you liked it. 6–15 reps will work well 🙂

      I think a post on pecs could be pretty cool. I dig it.

  2. tim on March 25, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    The first picture… it is not the same guy, check out the moles, why B2B? Why 🙁 i believed on you

    • Jared Polowick on March 26, 2016 at 12:39 am

      Hey Tim,

      It’s all G.K., but he flipped the shot so the pose matched. We had this question come up when we originally posted his transformation to Facebook in late 2014. You can check out that here.

      If you’re a member, you can browse his transformation thread in the community as he had shared a handful of shots of himself there. All in the same bathroom, etc.

      We tried to predict this question in our new updated eBook where we had shared his transformation again. So we flipped the image back to normal and added another progress shot, and it looks like this:
      GK Transformation

      I hope that helps to clear up everything!

      • Shane Duquette on March 26, 2016 at 10:53 am

        Mm, yeah, I can flip that image back around. I always forget to anticipate that things can seem misleading when you don’t actually know us yet / aren’t seeing the changes happen week by week, month by month.

  3. Daniel on March 26, 2016 at 6:00 am

    Great article 🙂

    I am in the range: 12% strong guy. I trained my abs in the past a bit more. Not so much lately. The most difficult and time demanding (patience) will be the work on fixing my posture and getting pelvis in a proper position.I believe that in 3 months ar so first results can show.

    Btw, Marco in all his video, funny and the t-shirts are great, I always chuckle even when I have a bad day 😉

    • Shane Duquette on March 26, 2016 at 10:46 am

      Your abs are doing pretty well, Daniel! Your posture too. And in three months you’ll definitely get solid results. You’ve already done great 🙂

  4. Jonathan on March 26, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    Dudes. This post is a God-send! Traditional ab exercises (crunches and the like) tend to kill my lower back. As a result, I resigned to just not having abs. These feel great, though, after a few tries. Hopefully I can see some results soon as I work on my diet. Question – can I do these exercises too often? Better question – does doing them everyday actually help more than say every other day? Thanks guys.

    • Shane Duquette on March 27, 2016 at 11:15 am

      So glad you liked it, Jonathan 🙂

      Yeah, you can definitely do them too often. Best to hit them solidly every couple of days rather than a little bit every day, just as with any other muscle group. In the b2B program we do three full body workouts per week, each ending with some quick ab isolation lifts.

  5. ea on March 27, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Holy shit shane!! What happened to your shoulders? insane gains man
    Great post as always.

    • Shane Duquette on March 28, 2016 at 11:23 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, man! Really glad you dug it 🙂

  6. Gorm on March 30, 2016 at 4:45 am

    Hey and thanks for a great article once again!
    Just have a question regarding the plank. How many minutes are ideal/normal to this exercise per set? Or in other words, should you do the plank until failure? And how many sets are ideal?


    • Shane Duquette on March 31, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Glad you liked it, Gorm! For the plank we like thinking in terms of breaths. This let’s us focus more on breathing naturally, and we find this carries over into better performance elsewhere. So 5–7 breaths, rather than 20–30 seconds. That gets you right in that ideal muscle-building range. (More than that would become more of an endurance thing, so not really our goal with this.) When that becomes easy, move to a more difficult variation.

      I wouldn’t go to failure, especially if you have weights on your back or anything like that. The renowned back researcher wound up hurting his back that way—doing planks with tons of weight on his back, he reached failure, his back caved in, and he ran into some issues. Not that this would happen when doing an unweighted plank, but it’s still best to avoid it.

      How many sets? That depends on what lifts come before it, how many times you’re doing it per week. For a general recommendation though, 2–4 sets per workout done 2–3 times per week should be pretty great 🙂

  7. Rafael on April 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I was trying to Goblet Squad but that really hurted my knee :/ had to stop going to the gym for a while

    • Shane Duquette on April 1, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      I hope your knee feels better soon, Rafael! No lift is perfectly safe, but this is one of the ones that’s more safe than many others. (And lifting in general is safer than even most casual sports, like soccer.) Sometimes if you’ve got knees that are especially susceptible to injury (or it had previously been injured) then squatting can cause pain. Oftentimes this can be fixed by focusing more on moving your butt down/back, and less on bending your knees. If you get your weight resting further back—in your hips—it will put less stress on your knees. You may need some knee wraps or something though.

      I hope that helps, and feel better soon, man! I know this stuff can be frustrating, but it will all come together if you stick with it.

  8. sean on April 1, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Like all your other articles Shane, an excellent read. Trying to trim up and get my abs back currently. Love those Farmer Carries tho.

    • Shane Duquette on April 4, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      Thanks, Sean! Ahaha I love farmer carries too. Well, love to hate them, I suppose. Best of luck carving out those abs!

  9. Simon on April 2, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    Hey guys I liked the article
    I would really like to use your program but I’m a little light on cash… so I was wondering if there is maybe a type of payment plan… ’cause that would be awesome.

    • Shane Duquette on April 4, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      There is! I’ll shoot you an email with the details 🙂

  10. Adam on April 4, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Dudes, I can’t believe how good this website is. Finally there is one website helps us to get to shape. Extremely helpful, motivates more than any others.
    So, as a skinny guy with the beer belly, should I do those exercises every day like a squat challenge apart from my gym schedule?
    Also, I can’t complete situps for some reason, I can’t stop using my neck going forward. Is this a sign of I am super weak or is it normal at first? Can you recommend something else other than situps or crunches? Thank you.

    • Shane Duquette on April 5, 2016 at 11:16 am

      Thanks, Adam! Glad you dig it. As a skinny guy with an actual beer belly (high body fat percentage) keep in mind that all ab exercises will do is make your ab muscles bigger, i.e., make your core bigger. So if anything it will grow your beer belly. To get rid of it you’d want to cut, and that’s more about lifting overall, eating in a calorie deficit, eating enough protein. However, you can certainly do these ab exercises while cutting to make sure that you come out of your cut with nice abs. (If you’ve got the skinny-guy beer belly that’s caused just by poor posture or a food baby then feel free to gain a little weight while building up your ab muscles.)

      As far as scheduling goes, treat your abs like any other muscle, training them every second day, and work them hard enough that you need that second day. (Squatting every day can work under the right circumstances but that’s a whole other story.)

      For your sit-ups, try weighting down your feet. If that still doesn’t work, just skip them for a month and then reevaluate. You can do extra sets of the other ab exercises in the meantime.

  11. Alex on April 5, 2016 at 3:51 am

    Excellent article again guys! One question, how long should one ‘rep’ of farmer carry be? 10/15/30secs, etc? Thanks.

    • Alex on April 5, 2016 at 3:53 am

      Sorry I mean one ‘set’ instead of one ‘rep’.

    • Shane Duquette on April 5, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Thanks, Alex! We go for around 40 steps. Easy to count out your set that way 🙂

  12. Tyler on April 29, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    This is a great website! If I’m 17 years old and playing basketball at least 2 times a week can I still get good results because I’m constantly running up and down the floor like I’m doing endurance training. Thanks

    • Tyler on April 29, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Also by the way is there any other way I can get this program without having to pay 197? I would ask my parents but they would say “we’re not buying that” or “you have to pay for that” and I don’t have any money or a job. I’m 6’6 190 trying to close in my basketball scholarship. Thanks

      • Jared Polowick on May 1, 2016 at 10:14 pm

        Hey Tyler,

        You can definitely get good results. You would just need to account for that extra energy you’re burning off with some more calories coming in, and ensuring you’re getting lots of good rest at night.

        We do have a student discount, and we have a payment plan to split up the program into 4 payments. I’ll shoot you an email with more details on both 🙂


        • Tyler on May 2, 2016 at 12:25 am

          Thanks for the reply Jared. I’ll plan on getting some extra calories in and taking some Zma for good rest at night. And mostly likely I would do the payment plan. Thanks again

          • Jared Polowick on May 9, 2016 at 4:07 pm

            Sounds good Tyler 🙂 We’d love to have you with us!


  13. Oscar on May 6, 2016 at 11:04 am

    I am confused. I have flat stomach but no abs or six pack, but if I work the abs would I get the abs/six pack at the expense of a bigger stomach?

    • Shane Duquette on May 6, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Exactly. Training your ab muscles will give you bigger ab muscles if you do it right. That means a bigger stomach, yes, but it will still be flat and likely look pretty rad.

  14. Oscar on May 8, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Thanks, just two more doubts:

    1) When you say flex abs, do u mean suck it in?

    2) My stomach is flat but soft/jiggly. Does this mean I have a flat stomach despite having fat, or does the softness/jiggliness hint at loose or weak stomach muscles? If it is the former, i should lose fat, but if the latter then i should work my abs, right? But how do I know which it is – the stomach is flat, so I assume i have little fat. But since it jiggles I assume the opposite also (meaning I have more fat to lose). It is so confusing.

    Hope you can clarify, Shane. Thanks again.

    • Shane Duquette on May 14, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Sucking in your abs is indeed flexing some core muscles, but when we talk about flexing abs we’re talking about flexing your rectus abdominis muscles—the abs that make up your 6-pack. It can take a little patience and practice to learn how to flex specific muscles, and your abs are no different. One way to start learning what it feels like to flex your abs is to forcefully breathe out. Try breathing out through a nearly closed fist, for example.

      If it’s soft and jiggly that sounds to me like there’s some fat there. If your stomach is flat though then there isn’t much fat there. May be a case where you need to lose just a little fat and then build some muscle.

      I hope that helps 🙂

      • oscar on May 14, 2016 at 11:11 pm

        thanks, shane. when i breathe out i can flex but it is hard to maintain position when u breathe in. hopefuly u can post a video on this someday.

        • Shane Duquette on May 16, 2016 at 11:21 am

          That’s a great idea, to post a video. You’ll get better at this stuff with practice too 🙂

  15. Kai on May 15, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Hey guys,

    I have the older version of the B2B program. What is different and new in the updated program and can I still have access to it even if I’m no longer a member?

    • Shane Duquette on May 16, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Hey Kai,

      A lot is different! The workout program has been tweaked and improved, all the videos have been updated, new illustrations, new stories, new information, new programming in the community, new bonus member content, new challenges, etc.

      The fundamentals of lifting and nutrition are still the same, of course, but we’ve organized them in far clearer way that makes it easier to understand which aspects are the most important. Because we have a clearer hierarchy now, that also means we can go more in-depth at the end of the eBook without it being overwhelming for the newer guys. I think you’d really like it 🙂

      A membership includes a year of updates, so you should have had access to the most recent version of the program right up until the end of your membership (and then you get to keep it forever). If you want this new update, you can sign back up as a returning member for 9/month at So if you wanted the new stuff you could get it for that $9 then cancel your subscription, although hopefully you’d decide to stick around! The community is pretty amazing these days 🙂

  16. Oscar on May 20, 2016 at 7:07 am

    Hi Shane, sorry for bothering u again. When i flex my abs, i am sort of pushing out the stomach. Do u also do that, or is that wrong? I want to practice but dont know if i am doing it right way.

    • Shane Duquette on May 20, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      There are different ways to do it. I think most fitness models flex in a way that feels more like laughing.

  17. Blake on October 8, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Great article guys!! Hey i’m new here and i’m really keen to this program. But i have the same issue as Tyler ^ , so can i know more about the student discount & payment plan (4 payment) as well? really hope to hear from you guys soon!!

    • Shane Duquette on October 8, 2016 at 11:16 am

      Absolutely, Blake. I’ll shoot you an email with the details now 🙂

      • Maison on March 26, 2018 at 2:45 am

        Hello! I just stumbled upon your website. As another broke college student, could I also get the payment plan info? Currently I’m 6’4” and about 173-178 depending on the week, flat stomach but would really like to build some definition. Thank you!

        • Shane Duquette on March 27, 2018 at 1:35 pm

          Absolutely, man! I’ll have Sunny shoot you an email with all the details 🙂

          I think you’ll really dig having Marco teach you the lifts from the perspective of a guy who’s also 6’4. Especially as a naturally skinny tall guy, it can really change the dynamics of the lifts.

  18. Vasika on October 17, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Hello there 🙂 I just happened upon this site and read through it a tad. I’m 5’5” and currently around 64.5 kilograms as of my latest weight measurement, and am trying to put on more weight after losing around 2-3 kilos over the last few months. Unfortunately I noticed serious drops in muscle size too and well, to be fair I’ve had a bizarre sort of journey…(#longstorycomingup) ahem…

    I started working out last year and first went on a schedule to bulk myself up, right up to 68 kilograms after starting at around 60 (somewhat skinny-fat) and well I gained size and strength and also a great deal of stomach fat. Afterwards I fell ill due to a flu at the end of the year and had dropped 3 kilos, dropping my stomach too. I went on a slightly more intense schedule after, and have been doing that for, unfortunately, six months. I lost again recently, getting to around 62-63 kilos, so I saw the abs but also lost a good deal of size. Recently I got back to bulking up once more, and noticed today that a lot of ab definition has been lost, especially on the lower stomach.

    My chest, shoulders, back, legs and arms all look better, and I’ve regained a good deal of size and power and really I want to see some ab definition without losing all that size and weight again. Heck, I would like to go back to 68, maybe with less belly fat involved. It’s mostly strength and size I’m looking for.

    Is cardio an option? I’ve been skipping cardio for a long, long time…

  19. Ron on December 29, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Hey! Could you please reply to my email?
    I sent it on Dec 24!

    I am going to join your program and I just want to clear everything up before! 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Shane Duquette on December 29, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      Hey, Ron. Glad to hear you’ve decided to sign up, man!

      We’ve been trying to stay on top of emails even during the holiday season but I was a little worried that one slipped through. But it didn’t! Jared answered your email on the 24th, just a couple hours after you sent it. I’d check your junk mail just to make sure it’s not hiding in there.

      To answer your question about the dumbbells, yes, Bowflex is great… as are the ones we recommend in our article. Just depends on your budget and preferences. Whichever dumbbells you choose, they’ll be enough to get the results we promise 🙂

      • Ron on December 30, 2016 at 2:19 am

        Thanks! And are you sure?
        I checked everywhere and I can’t see the reply :/
        Could you possibly re-send it?

        • Shane Duquette on December 30, 2016 at 6:22 pm

          Sure 🙂

  20. Ben on January 8, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Hey Guys!
    Is it possible to have a small waist, where i can see my upper 2-4 abs, but not the lower abs and have some sort of love handles? (Im 170 cm tall and have a 74 cm waist, which is quite small i guess) Maybe it is wide hips or what? What can i do to make this part smaller?

    Also, do you guys have any sort of payment plan or discount for students? I really would like to join you guys, but im sure as hell i couldnt pay 200 bucks instantly. :/

    • Shane Duquette on January 10, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Hey Ben,

      Different people have different bone structures and fat storage patterns, so it’s very possible to have a small waist and wider hips, or a small waist and love handles. The best way to get a great looking core tends to be the same for most people, though: build up some hearty abs and obliques, and minimize your overall body fat percentage. The bigger core muscles should minimize any appearance of an hourglass shape, and getting rid of extra fat should take care of the love handles.

      I’ll shoot you an email with our payment plan and student discount details 🙂

      (For any other students reading this, email and we can do the same for you.)

  21. Dave Francis on February 15, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Fantastic post. Abs have always been an issue for me, likely due to poor diet choices, believing the conventional view of smashing out 1,000 crunches a day and questionable posture. It’s always made me very self conscious in terms of taking my shirt off at the beach/when with a lady friend.

    Breaking down the ab section and how it should/could look based on our genetic make up was very insightful. Thank you for putting this post up, the passion that the 3 of you have for helping skinny guys out is clear for everyone to see.

    • Shane Duquette on February 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Dave! Best of luck, man 🙂

  22. Shortcut to Shred - Week 4 Review. Face the Pain - on February 20, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    […] was able to make sure that my abs were fully engaged with every cardio activity.  After reading an article called “the skinny on abs”, including an part on how posture shapes the mid-section, I […]

  23. Shortcut to Shred - Week 6 Review. Completion - on March 8, 2017 at 7:50 am

    […] need strengthening and growing, I can accept it.  Besides, realistically I would need to get below 12% to have my abs […]

  24. sarah Fickes on March 12, 2017 at 1:20 am

    Hey how to I get lean muscle, I am 113-114, 5,8 and having trouble with getting a six pack. I’m also female so it’s harder for me. Please show me your daily ab routine and what you eat to bulk up. I really need to get stronger for my strength and conditioning class. Thank you

    • Shane Duquette on March 15, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Hey Sarah,

      You might enjoy our sister site:

      But even as a female, the ab exercises here should help you with your goals 🙂

  25. Connor on May 15, 2017 at 10:55 am

    So I have two ab muscles at the base of my rib cage, right under my pecs. They are really weird; they stick out more than any other of the ab muscles (although I have a tiny bit of muscle definition a little lower) Can you please tell me why this is and how to fix it if I can. I don’t know, it could be genetics because I’ve been doing mostly reverse crunches and all that and the problem is still there. I looked at your chart and I found out that I have about 11% body fat. Thanks for the help!

    • Shane Duquette on May 15, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      Heya Connor. First of all, why is this necessarily a problem? It’s totally normal to have those as a lean guy with some muscle on him.

      Second, if it is indeed an issue, are you sure it’s not a postural issue? If you’ve got something called “rib flare” then that part of your body would be angled upwards. You could go to the mirror, make sure your ribs are down in their proper position, and see if those abs still stick out in a weird way.

      Third, is it possible that building up bigger pecs would bring things back into balance?

      • Connor on May 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm

        Yes you’re right about the larger pecs thing, I’ve been working out in that area and its seeming to help things up a bit, thanks for the advice.

  26. Jack on June 3, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Abs have always been one of my most developed body parts. Before I started training they looked decent. In my first couple years (8 years training atm) I went crazy on the ab volume because I didn’t know any better. Mostly consisting of sit ups and leg raises. Anyways back to now, even when I’m lean my abdominal region feels too ‘big’ like there’s too much size/thickness in that region overall. It’s a little wider than I’d like from the front (obliques) and a little thicker than I’d like (from the side). Almost like I’m headed towards ‘bodybuilder abs’ rather than ‘mens physique abs’. It’s especially prominent if I bend over or sit down, people are surprised b/c they think I’m so lean when standing up. Now I do want a strong healthy mid-section to prevent injury but I want my abdominal region to be as tiny/shrink wrapped as humanly possible. It might be in my head but my abs today seem bigger (and less shrink wrapped) than they did just a couple years ago at the same bodyweight. My ab isolation volume is slightly lower than before but my overall lifting volume (and uni-lateral volume) is higher than before. So I’m not sure if my overall ab volume is up or not.

    IN CONCLUSION I’m not sure if I should do moderate ab volume or decrease it (maybe none at all).
    -Moderate volume b/c of what this article states about ‘lazy stomach’ and weak abs. I haven’t been deadlifting/squatting heavy in the past couple years due to a so-so lower back so that could factor in here.
    -Decrease volume b/c loss of hypertrophy in abs (see Mike Israetel’s ab hypertrophy article. He states ab volume increases the size of the abs and training them directly might be a net drawback for physique competitors). And besides they already get trained indirectly in other movements.

    • Shane Duquette on June 19, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Hey Jack,

      Nice job building up your abs! When you bend over or sit down, your abs aren’t going to look shrink-wrapped no matter how perfect they are. Your skin will fold, and as you breathe your stomach will inflate in and out. That’s okay—men aren’t supposed to look like cover models 24/7.

      As for your abs being too big, though, yep, you might want to just stop training them altogether. They’ll stay strong with all the isolation work you do, but there’s no need to do any direct ab work.

      You can also work on your posture and keep improving your technique with the squats and deadlifts, even if they aren’t that heavy. That should help train your transverse abdominus and keep your core really functional.

  27. chase on July 23, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    some people say work abs several times a week, while others say to treat them like any other muscle group and only work them out once or twice a week. how often should ectomorphs work them? Thanks!!

    • Shane Duquette on July 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Your abs are a muscle group. They’re not just like all of your other muscles, but they’re more similar than not in terms of what makes them grow. Just like our other muscle groups, we can train them once, twice or even several times per week and get fairly optimal growth. Most research shows that a training frequency of 2–3 times per week per muscle group leads to more muscle growth (in all muscles), but when comparing that to guys who train their muscles just once per week, the difference is actually pretty small. So I’d say it would depend on what style of training program you’re following.

      So I would recommend training your abs 2–3 times per week, just like you’re training your other muscle groups. (You can do this fairly easily by doing three full-body workouts each week.)

  28. Vinit on November 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Hi, I weigh around 145 lbs with 17% (according to my scale) and 20% (according to your chart) body fat. I am trying to bulk up and not worried about abs for now. But I have a question, can genetics lead to development of love handles? My stomach is fairly flat but I’ve had love handles since I was a kid and I weighed 90 lbs till the age of 16 with well defined abs. Then I started eating more, gained 30 lbs and after turning 18 I start lifting weights. And today I am 145 lbs at the age of 20. My love handles are still the same. So I just wanted to know how can I get rid of those?

    • Shane Duquette on November 16, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      Hey Vinit. Yes. Love handles definitely have a genetic component. The trick is to not worry about where you’re storing fat, which we have little control over, but rather what your overall body fat percentage is. So to get rid of your love handles, lose fat in general. I see you’ve commented on our skinny-fat article, so I think you’re already on the right track 🙂

  29. Aaditeya on August 10, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Hey Shane! I read a few of your articles and they’re great. Loved it!

    I do have a query though. I am 17 years old, 125 pounds and 5ft 10 inches tall. So I have a little less than a flat stomach. What would my body fat percentage be?(14 to 15% according to some scales) It is because I wanted to develop six pack abs so bad. I have started exercising an hour daily, but should I first bulk up then cut down or is there any other method?

    Thanks for your help. 🙂

  30. RapidFail on October 13, 2018 at 5:08 am

    How much do genetics determine one’s ability to get visible abs? I seem to carry my fat quite low – when out-of-shape I have solid pecs and visible ribs, but a belly and love handles at the same time.

    When I finished high school I was 6 foot and 135lb, but no visible abs. I was in the best shape of my life at 22 when I was boxing – I was a little under 150lb, good muscle definition, particularly in my arms and chest, but still could barely see my abs while tensing with good lighting.

    I’m wondering if I’d need a lower body fat percentage than most to have abs?

  31. […] Here’s our article on how to bulk up your abs […]

  32. Skinny with a pot belly: the fix — Outlive on August 21, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    […] Lower cross syndrome versus “neutral” and proper posture. Illustration credit Bony to Beastly, The Skinny on Abs […]

  33. What's the Best Type of Lifting for Skinny Guys? on September 6, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    […] Core exercises to bulk up small ab muscles. […]

  34. The Male Body Types: Ectomorph, Endomorph, Mesomorph on September 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    […] How to Get Abs as a Skinny Guy […]

  35. […] getting fat, either. I was under 10% body fat (estimated in the mirror). And I didn’t have the problem of having flat skinny abs, either. I had great ab […]

  36. […] For them, getting lean will yield great ab definition. However, for us naturally skinny guys, our abs are often skinny. We need to bulk them up in order to see them properly. So getting overly lean before bulking up […]

  37. How to Bulk Up a Bony Upper Back | Bony to Beastly on September 22, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    […] your upper-back posture, we also want to make sure that your abs are big and strong. After all, skinny guys often have skinny abs as well. That’s why even at low body-fat percentages, we often don’t have visible abs. In fact, […]

  38. […] for building up your biceps, forearms, and upper back. They’re also great for your core, working your abs in a similar way to hanging leg raises (which are another great bodyweight […]

  39. […] presses, bench presses, rows), and then finish the workouts with some lighter accessory lifts for your abs, arms, shoulders, chest, and upper […]

  40. […] up your upper back, which will improve your deadlifts and squats. Then your squats and deadlifts develop the core and hip strength that will help with your push presses. And so […]

  41. […] If you want to see what a good chest program looks like, I recommend checking out our War Chest Program. It’s a workout program designed to help you build up a strong, full chest. But it does so in a way that also includes plenty of pulling and external rotation work, which will help to keep your shoulders healthy. We also go over how to bench press safely and effectively for chest strength and growth. (It’s a full-body workout program, but it’s designed to emphasize growth in your chest, shoulders, and upper back.) […]

  42. Bony to Beastly—The Skinny on Clothing & Style on September 22, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    […] Building up bigger shoulder muscles will bring you up a shirt size, but that bigger shirt will be enormous around your still-slim waist. […]

  43. How to Build a More Attractive Physique: Infographic on September 22, 2019 at 5:34 pm

    […] you do that, work on strengthening your posterior chain, bulking up your abs and obliques, and improving your […]

  44. […] a trim waist, i.e., no love handles or belly. A flat stomach is equally as attractive as having well-defined abs. The exception to this is if you’re dating a woman who’s into fitness, in which case […]

  45. Anwer on May 28, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    Hey.firsty i appreciate the article it was great but i want to ask that im 17 5’3 and i weigh around 50 to 54 kg .i workout im not consistently but i believe I workout enough throughout the year.i never went to gym all i have done is bodyweight training at home .im skinny i have a bit visible abs but im not satisfied i believe they are not enough.i wanna gain more muscle while maintaining my body fat so how can i do that and is it okay to increase my diet in order to bulk up ?

  46. Ashhad on February 11, 2021 at 10:35 am

    Hey, is it wise to bulk up your abs only by using upper ab exercises, so that you don’t get that lower belly sticking out. Lower belly fat also tends to be greater in most people, so maybe it can help in giving the illusion of a flat stomach even at higher body fat percentages?

    • Shane Duquette on February 15, 2021 at 5:14 pm

      Hey Ashhad, that’s a neat idea, yeah. I see your logic. Plus, your abs will be worked fairly well with compound lifts anyway, so I wouldn’t say that dedicated lower (or upper) ab exercises are required to begin with. So I think sticking with upper ab exercises like crunches is totally fine 🙂

      • Ashhad on February 16, 2021 at 9:27 am

        Thanks for the reply, man

  47. Chase on June 9, 2021 at 12:59 am

    Thanks so much for the info. I’d like to add these ab exercises to my routine 2x a week. How many ab exercises should I do per session? Would 3 sets of 2 exercises be enough? Thank you.

    • Shane Duquette on June 9, 2021 at 12:52 pm

      I’d do 2–3 sets for abs and another 2–3 sets for obliques. Done twice per week, and in addition to some other compound lifts, I think that’ll be perfect 🙂

  48. Aaron on August 28, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    Another cool example here: photo of different ab genetics!

    I love this article and thought about it a lot this summer when watching Olympic divers. Their abs can be shaped pretty differently (not to mention differences in body composition and age).

    • Shane Duquette on August 28, 2021 at 1:58 pm

      Totally! That’s a great example of how your ab genetics change the appearance of your abs, even when you’re lean and muscular.

  49. chase on March 21, 2022 at 8:51 pm

    Is there a good alternative to sit ups? I tried doing the ones shown in the video with a 35 lb. dumbbell and it feels too easy for my abs. The problem is my arms feel like they’re getting more of a workout so I don’t want to go higher. It’s also really awkward to get into position with such a heavy dumbbell. I have a captain’s chair at home and was wondering if hanging leg lifts are a good alternative. Thank you for the information and help!

    • Shane Duquette on March 22, 2022 at 10:22 am

      Hey Chase, good question. Yep! Hanging leg raises are a great alternative.

  50. Rockie on May 19, 2022 at 7:14 am

    Thank you very much for this very detailed post. I’m around 10% after working out for more than a year. I have lost around 18 kgs of weight. I love my veiny arms now. Although external obliques are visible, abs aren’t.
    In this case, how can I remove the fat from my abs? I do not want to cut calories anymore because I have already lost enough weight.

    And yeah, I do weighted abs exercises regularly.

    • Shane Duquette on May 19, 2022 at 10:31 am

      Congratulations, man! That’s awesome! Losing 18kg is amazing 😀

      You’ve already got the two solutions: lose more fat or build bigger abs.

      It could be that once you stop eating in a deficit, you’ll be able to gain muscle more easily, and so you’ll do a better job of bulking up your abs. Focus on getting stronger at the ab exercises you’re doing. Gradual, progressive overload.

      If that doesn’t work, after a break from cutting, you can always trim off that final little bit of fat.

      Also, keep in mind that you don’t NEED visible abs. There’s nothing wrong with having a flat stomach. But I know that abs do look cool.

      I hope that helps, and keep killing it!

Leave a Comment