Abs Are NOT Made In The Kitchen: The Truth About How To Get Ripped Abs

how to get ripped abs

In this crazy, fucked up world of fitness, there are 2 groups of people when it comes to getting ripped abs.

Group 1: Getting a ripped six pack is all about diet.

Group 2: Getting a ripped six pack is all about your workout and the exercises you do.

And then there’s crazy Group 3 who thinks it’s all about genetics.

Which group do I belong in? Well I used to belong in Group 1.

Up until a few years ago, I believed that getting a six pack and super shredded abs was all about dieting. All the gurus said shit like:

“Abs are made in the kitchen, bro.”

“Abs are 80% diet and 20% training.”

And these were statements coming from guys who were super ripped and on the internet, being ripped = everyone believes you.

So at that point, I was about 185 pounds at 6 ft tall. I didn’t have a ton of muscle mass (for my height), and I wanted to get down to about 165-170 pounds so I could have a body like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

So I dieted down to 172′ish using a combo of intermittent fasting (eat stop eat and leangains) along with some weird carb cycling stuff. My workout was a simple 3 day full body routine, that didn’t include any direct ab training.

So how did I look at 170? Did I have the super shredded Fight Club abs that I was hoping for?


I lost body fat, but my abs looked shittier than ever.

I wasn’t necessarily fat, but my stomach was just flat. It didn’t have any definition and I couldn’t even see the outline of my abs.

Why abs are not made in the kitchen

You can diet until you’re 5% body fat but none of that fucking matters if you have no developed ab muscles to begin with.

Dieting in hopes of getting a badass six pack without any proper ab training results in what I like to call the “Justin Beiber Effect.” See below.

Justin beiber abs

I’m apologize for this picture.

How to properly train your abs for a shredded six pack

Here’s are my 5 best tips for getting a badass six pack and avoiding the Justin Beiber body.

Tip 1: Build some damn muscle first

Seriously. Don’t even attempt dieting if you’re skinny and don’t have a solid foundation of muscle yet. If you do this in the name of getting abs, you’re just gonna look like a skinnier, weaker version of yourself.

And only when you have a solid foundation of muscle (your first 20 pounds or so), should you consider cutting some fat.

Mark Whalberg abs

Mark Whalberg had great abs and muscular development

Tip 2: Really contract your abs when training in the gym

There are 2 ways to train your abs. The first is by really contracting your abs hard when doing movements that engage them.

This means exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and virtually any exercise done standing (including things like dumbbell curls when done standing up). So the next time you do deadlifts or even dumbbell curls, really squeeze and contract your abs. Not only will doing so allow you to lift more weight, but it’ll also help you develop a strong and badass six pack.

Tip 3: Do direct ab exercises

Most people should directly train their abs anywhere from 2-3 times per week with 3-4 sets x 10-20 reps each time.

Exercises such as:

  • Cable crunches
  • Hanging leg raises (add some weight when you can easily do over 20 reps)
  • DragonFlys
  • Planks
  • Ab wheel exercises

are all great for developing your abs.

Pro Tip

Don’t be a show off.

Once you do reach ripped six pack abs glory, be humble about it. If you’re one of those people who lifts up their shirt in the gym and flexes their abs in the mirror, you have lost all respect in my book.

The truth about how to get ripped abs – why they aren’t made in the kitchen

While dieting and eating correctly is an absolutely crucial part of the six pack process, it may not be as important as you once thought.

Abs are not made by dieting, they are REVEALED by dieting.

And if you don’t have the proper tools in place (i.e. well developed ab muscles), then all the dieting in the world won’t give you a nice pair of abs.

Make sense?

The importance of having enough muscle

Here’s a pic of me:

get ripped abs


On the left, I weighed about 172 after dieting and frankly, looked like shit. At this stage I relied too much on dieting and didn’t train my abs at all.

On the right (about 18 months later), I ironically weighed much more at 185 after I decided to focus a large chunk of time on building strength and muscle. And it paid off. I have a better, more well-developed physique now at 185 vs 172.

Yeah yeah, I know I’m not the most ripped guy in the room. And guess what? I don’t freakin care. The point I’m trying to drive home is – sometimes you need to build up your abs a bit in order to see them and not just focus on body fat percentage.

What do you guys think? Is getting ripped abs all about dieting or exercise? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. John says

    So you reached 172 with not so impressive abs, what did you from that point? Did you go caloric surplus to built back up?

      • John says

        Got it. I get the point of your entry. Don’t expect the cutting down to automatically show that Wesley Snipes Blade like abs or whatever abs we’re thinking of. Cut down first, pat our backs for the progress, then lean bulk. I’m still on the Adonis Golden Ratio program and getting that last bit of fat off of me.

        • Keith says


          If you’re skinny, you should bulk first then cut. But if you’re overweight to begin with, obviosuly you should cut first then bulk and then cut again.

          • John says

            So another wisdom comes out of all this.


            However long it takes to cut first or bulk first, one has to do the second part then finally the clean up work. You committed 18 months after dieting which must have taken long time in its own.

            In that duration, all sorts of trial and error along with the mental lapses and frustration are bound to occur. The key is to never let your sights off the prize. Whoever gives in first loses and goes back to mediocrity. Considering most of us are regular people who are not getting paid to look good, may as well put in the all the work but be grateful for having to impress almost no one else except ourselves.

            Hugh Jackman said it took him over 10 years to finally like what he’s seeing in the mirror as Wolverine. So what’s the rush?

  2. Conrad says

    I am 5″10 in height and weight about 176lbs. I train about 3-4 times a week, and I directly train my abs. I’m still struggling to get that cut/ripped look though (partly due to nutrition I admit) I am now working hard to get my nutrition under control. Would you recommend I continue to cut or bulk some more first?

  3. Andrei says

    Dude, seriously, before giving this kind of advice don’t you think you should get ripped abs first?

    • Keith says

      Oh I’m so sorry. I forgot the golden internet rule that everyone who gives advice needs to be ripped.

      But seriously, just because I’m not super shredded, does that really make my advice wrong? If a super overweight person told you that you had to eat in a calorie deficit to lose weight, does that make him wrong?

  4. says

    Look at any fitness magazine on the rack right now, and I guarantee that they promise you the short-term fix to a six pack. My all time favorite advice is how eating certain foods will pave the way to great-looking abs.

    What non-sense.

    Time, training consistency and caloric willpower are about as unsexy as it gets. No magic pill is going to do those crunches for you, As always, great to hear the truth we all need to hear more of.

    • Keith says

      Thanks Sean, always good to hear from you.

      Haha yeah, no one wants to read about being consistent with your diet on a magazine cover.

  5. Andreas says

    This is the shittiest advice ever.
    Abs are obviously made in the kitchen. When they say this, THEY do NOt say that you should diet. Wtf is that assumption. Some unexperienced guy just might believe all this. What you do is that you write some info made for lazy ass mofos that want to gain muscle but dont have the strength to do it.

    This is misleading in so many ways and its a sign of that you dont know shit about any of this Either.

    Serious question. Are you trolling people?!

    • Keith says

      Please explain what they do mean by this then? So you’re saying when people say abs are made in the kitchen, they don’t mean you should eat healthy and diet to lose fat?

    • Keith says

      It’s really just a matter of having low body fat and well-developed abs. Genetics help too, but if you don’t have very small abs, I would train them hard directly first. For workout routine, my fitmole.org/abercrombier workout might work for you.

  6. J says

    Thanks for writing this Keith. I needed to read it. I’m where you were in your 172 lb photo. I’m 148 lbs, 5′ 7″. Body fat is under 10%. Going to add hanging leg raises, dragon flies and an ab wheel to my routine.

  7. Paul says

    Keith did you bulk for a full 18 months? If not how long? I’m curious because I have to start lean bulking?

    • Keith says

      Good to hear from you, Paul. Not the full 18 months, but it was largely my focus. Had a few bouts where I just maintained for a few months. In general, if you’re on the intermediate side, expect to gain about 1-2 pounds per month of lean muscle when lean bulking.

  8. Alan says

    So you say you lean bulked your way back up to 180+ lbs. Did you gain any noticeable BF in the process?

  9. AH says

    So doesn’t this article totally contradict your free ebook “celebrity bodies the easy way? I quote “Getting A Six Pack – 95% Diet, 5% Exercise
    Most people underestimate the effectiveness of dieting to get a six pack. They think that getting a six pack has more to do with exercise than dieting when in fact it’s the complete opposite.”

    Please clarify, thanks.

    • Keith says

      Hah yes, you got me :)

      But yeah, that book hasn’t been updated in like 2.5 years so my way of thinking has changed a bit…I’m in the process of overhauling it and putting out a much better free report for people. Should be out in a month or so.

  10. Tim says

    Kinda funny how you say you lose respect for guys taking their shirts off in the mirror and showing off. Then not to far down the page there are 2 pics of you doing that exact thing. I’ve read two of your articles and this website is a joke!

  11. Steve says

    Hey Keith:

    Really appreciate your work — you’re always honest and helpful with your posts.

    I have a conundrum – I come from a family where everyone has chicken legs and pot bellies. I’m 5’8′ 32 years old and definitely fit this body type. Over the years, I’ve done just about everything to attack my abs – I used to work out 5-6 days a week with my best friend who is a former US soldier and current MMA fighter. We would do sprints, pullups, pushups, dips, planks, box jumps and intense cardio. I was down to about 168-170lbs, but was never super chiseled or had a 6 pack.

    Now I lift heavy weights 3-5 times a week, mixed in with some cardio. I’m up to 190lbs, with alot more definition in my arms, back, shoulders, and legs. However, my stomach sticks out more than ever.

    I’m not sure if this just a genetic thing I can never really defeat, but it’s discouraging because I feel like I’m doing things the right way (allow myself one cheat day a week, the rest of the week I eat lots of protein, veggies, fruit and drink water). When I wasn’t doing any weights, I was smaller but couldn’t carve up my abs. Now I’m stronger and bigger and have the same issue. I’ve tried some of the workouts you’ve posted, after doing a 2 month cycle of the HIIT 100, so I’m open to any new ides.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Keith says

      Well like you said you went up to 190, so maybe that’s why your stomach looks more fat.

      Now that’s you’ve gained a good bit of muscle, maybe it’s time to lean back down. Just make sure you continue training your abs abd your diet is solid.

  12. Mike says

    If you have a 1-2 inch blanket of fat (which means a BMI over 25) covering your muscles (anywhere on your body) you won’t achieve a lean muscle, cut body form, period.

    This is evident by “Steve’s” comment, above. He’s 5’8″ and 190 lbs and disappointed that his stomach is “sticking out.” Steve’s BMI is 29, which indicates he’s overweight. That’s not your stomach, Steve. That’s the layers of fat covering your abdomen.

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