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How To GROW Your Abs: 3 Science-Based Steps

by Jeremy Ethier - September 2, 2019

Do you want to make your six-pack pop and have abs that show even at a higher body fat percentage? In this article, I'll show you how to grow abs fast by showing you three evidence-based steps you should follow to build your abs.

Now, don't get me wrong. Proper nutrition, fat-loss dieting, and a low body fat percentage are still of paramount importance when it comes to achieving a six-pack. But what many people fail to realize is that the abs are just like any other muscle. If you choose the right abs exercises and get stronger with them over time, the abs will grow. And this will then, inevitably, improve the overall look and visibility of your six-pack.

And research is in agreement with this. A recent 2017 paper analyzed the effect of 10 weeks of abdominal training on abs growth in 28 collegiate male soccer players. Here's a summary of the male soccer players' increase in ab thickness after ten weeks:

  • Increase in muscle thickness in upper abs - 2.1mm
  • Increase in muscle thickness in mid abs - 1.9mm
  • Increase in muscle thickness in lower abs - 2.7mm

How to grow abs
As you can imagine, these results likely led to an enhanced appearance in their abdominal muscles. But - when it comes to how to grow abs fast, there are three critical steps that research indicates are crucial for you to nail down.

By the way: this applies to all muscle groups you're training - and are hoping to grow. That's why I've designed every BWS program to help you really understand optimal training principles behind every muscle group you're trying to target. And best of all? It's all rooted in science. For more information on how BWS programs can help you to look better - FAST:

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1) Choose the right abs exercises

How to grow abs tip 1
When looking for the best way to grow abs, the first step for you is to choose the right exercises. While there are countless abs exercises to choose from, we know that not all are equally effective when it comes to how to get bigger abs.

Isometric versus dynamic abs exercises

For instance, from the 2017 paper (which I mentioned earlier), only subjects who performed dynamic abs exercises such as the ab wheel out achieved the outlined results. Those who performed static or isometric exercises (e.g., plank) experienced no abdominal growth.
Best way to grow abs dynamic exercises
But why is that so? Well, isometric exercises, where the muscle lengths don't change throughout the execution, aren't as useful for growth. Therefore, static exercises (such as the plank) wouldn't be your best bet when your objective is in how to get abs to show.
Shortfalls of static abs exercises
Instead, you should opt for dynamic abs exercises that can be conveniently overloaded with weight. Because as mentioned earlier, you need to treat your abs like any other muscle group. Which means you'll want to overload them progressively to continue growth stimulation.

How to grow abs with the right exercises

How to get bigger abs
The easiest way to do this? Perform weighted abs exercises. Now, you'll once again have plenty of weighted abs exercises to choose from. But what I'd recommend is to pick one or two exercises suited for your upper abs and lower abs to incorporate into your existing routine.

Here's a rough breakdown of my recommendations, according to the muscle group of the abs:
How to build upper abs

  • Upper abs - Top-down exercises where the shoulders are brought down towards the hips are most effective. The best exercises include the weighted cable crunch and the weighted Swiss ball crunch. You'll find that both exercises can be conveniently overloaded with weight.

How to build lower abs

  • Lower abs - Bottom-up movements where the hips are brought up towards the shoulders are most effective. As mentioned in my lower abs article, the reverse crunch and leg raise are both excellent options. Once again, you'll find that both the reverse crunch and the leg raise can be conveniently overloaded with weight.

2) Perfect your form

How to grow abs tip 2
Once you've decided on the weighted abs exercises that feel the best for you, you'll want to execute them properly. And this is step 2 in how to grow thick abs, where, unfortunately, many people go wrong.

And that's because most people don't effectively activate the abs very well - even with unweighted abs exercises. So, when you add weights into the mix, they start swinging.
Hip flexor dominant
As you know, this allows other muscle groups to take over even more. Instead of growing their abs, they end up building and strengthening other muscle groups - like the hip flexors - instead.

How to grow abs by perfecting your form (Upper abs)

Let's take a look at a top-down movement, like the weighted cable crunch, for example. What most people do is they'll use momentum and their hips to move the weight downwards. And this is especially so when the selected weight is too heavy for them.
Weighted cable crunch form
What they fail to realize is that by doing so, this makes the weighted cable crunch more of a hip flexor exercise, instead of one meant for the upper abs. Here's how to get abs fast (or faster) by perfecting your form for this exercise:
How to do the weighted cable crunch

  1. Choose a lighter weight that you can control. This prevents you from being overwhelmed, so you don't allow momentum to take over.
  2. Lock your hips into the starting position with your knees bent roughly 90 degrees. This prevents you from dragging your hips down to your feet.
  3. Exhale and tighten your abs. You can do so by thinking about drawing your belly button towards your spine; this creates more stability.
  4. Crunch the weight downwards by bringing your shoulders down towards your hips through the flexion of your spine. Keep in mind that this is exactly what your abs are supposed to do, and this is where your abs are most activated.

One important thing to note is that you shouldn't let your hips sink back into your heels as you crunch down. You should keep them locked in the starting position. All the movement should come from the flexion of your spine.

If you follow this tip, you'll notice not only a significant difference in the contraction of your upper abs but also the resulting abdominal growth.

Never sure if you're performing your ab exercises correctly - and optimally for muscle growth in the gym? Don't worry. Our 3-on-1 coaching program can help. My team of experts here at BWS – and I – will always take the time to explain the dos and do not's of each exercise's execution in your personalized training program. Find out more about how we can help you achieve your dream physique below:

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How to grow abs by perfecting your form (Lower abs)

For bottom-up movements such as the reverse crunch, you need to (once again) avoid swinging aimlessly as well. That's because when you use momentum to complete the motion, the exercise becomes a hip flexor exercise. And that's utterly useless when it comes to how to make your abs show.
Wrong reverse crunch form
Here's how to grow abs more effectively through perfecting your form for the reverse crunch:
How to do a proper reverse crunch

  1. Exhale and tighten your abs by drawing your belly button in. At the same time, move into a posterior pelvic tilt, so your lower back is flat against the bench.
  2. Think about raising your pelvis off the bench and curling it towards your belly button. At the same time, you should visualize your lower abs working; this will enable you to execute the exercise properly.

How to make your abs show reverse crunch
You'll find that by doing the above and controlling the movement, all the tension will be redirected to your lower abs, instead of your hip flexors. And that is something you want.

3) Overload the exercises

How to grow abs tip 3
Once you've gotten your form down-pat, it's time to implement step 3. Which is to overload your chosen weighted abs exercises as you get stronger with them. And this is going to be the crucial bit when it comes to how to grow abs - both sustainably, and in the long-term.

And just so you have a systematic way of overloading, you'd do best by sticking to a rep range of roughly 10-15 reps for your sets of weighted ab exercises. So, for example, let's say you have 3 sets of the weighted cable crunch.
How to build abs with weighted exercises
Once you can comfortably complete all three sets with 15 quality reps, then you're now ready to overload it further by increasing the weight. And then once you've built up your abdominal strength to complete 15 quality reps with the new weights, you can once again bump up the weight.
How to get six-pack abs with weighted progression
That's how you repeat the process. And if you're truly interested in how to sustainably grow your abs, it's also the general approach you should take with all your weighted abs exercises.

Wrapping it up

So, I hope you were able to see that you'll be able to effectively increase the thickness and growth of your abdominal muscles through the three outlined steps.

But keep in mind that you'll also need first to strip off excess belly fat to reveal all your hard work. And this is where nutrition and eating the right foods in the right amounts (weight loss meals) becomes absolutely critical.

If you're looking for a science-based step-by-step program that shows you exactly how to work out and how to set up your nutrition to effortless drop fat week after week so you get six-pack abs fast, you know what to do:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful! Don’t forget to give me a follow and connect with me on InstagramFacebook, and Youtube as well, in order to stay up to date with my content. Happy abs building!
social proof 2
P.S. A quick shoutout to Noel who ran the program for just 16 weeks – as you can see, he absolutely crushed it and was able to achieve the six-pack he was after in record time. Anyways, thanks for reading!

By the way, here’s the article summed up into a YouTube video:

How To BUILD More Visible Abs (3 Science-Based Steps)

How To GROW Your Abs: 3 Science-Based Steps