How to Build Ab Muscles with Low Bodyfat?

How do you recommend growing abdominal muscles and keeping body fat % low? I think my body fat % is pretty low but the muscles are not defined as My workouts are 90% cardio.

And how would knowing your body fat help that?

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you need to do something else than cardio / abdos. Push some squat, bench, military press, hip thrust. and pull some romanium deadlift.

keep your food clean, sleep well and stress less.


Lift heavy weights, cut down on cardio and eat at maintenance or a little over. You can post in the beginners category if you need with a program.


% body fat is just a number. The mirror tells a much more accurate tale.

The problem with the mirror is if you have a distorted view of your shape, your mind might be lying to you. IMO, women should find pictures of athletic women. Pick a shape that you could reasonably attain. (This is based on my taste of an attractive woman’s body, not necessarily yours). Today most athletic women incorporate weight training to their conditioning. They aren’t concerned with their % body fat, but their physical functionality for their sport.

Thank you!

Work your abs. I don’t subscribe to the “squats build abs” camp. Do hanging leg raises, weighted crunches, ab wheels (fight to not arch your back at all during these), machine crunches - work them hard, and with progressive overload, 2-3x a week.


Weighted exercises. Bf% is irrelevant



What do your workouts look like?

How much do you weigh? Age?

You’re female yeah? I’m assuming from your username

Daily macros? Height?

Most ladies who ask that aren’t asking the right questions. Your abdominal muscles, like any other muscle will get bigger over time. If genetics have given you pretty thick obliques already, training them excessively will give that blocky shape, even more so when you start training the muscles that cover the hips and rib cage. Most women want a tapered waistline, preferably that coveted hourglass type of shape. If that’s not you, or your aspirations, I do apologize for grouping you into my general assumption. Either way, excessively training your mid-section isn’t the most optimal of going about things.

Instead it would be better to ask how to get your already existing abdominal muscles to show. Your abs are already there. They’re just covered with enough fat to not be visible enough. Hence why I asked what your diet/daily calorie consumption looks like.

I wouldn’t suggest you do anything that directly targets your obliques. Side bends/weighted side movements, while they are beneficial concerning overall core strength, if you’re mainly leaning towards aesthetics, you don’t need to be doing them. As others have mentioned hanging leg raises, rollers, sit-up variations, planks, etc. would be fine.

However this:

Is more than likely causing this:

If anything, you may have low body fat percentage, but you also have a low ratio of muscle mass as well.

In general, I’ve come to find, along with copious amounts of reading, that women do not respond much, if any at all, to cardio. When we do respond, the amount of cardio needed is ridiculous (in my opinion).

Typically, as with guys, us ladies respond exceptionally well to heavy lifting, and short bursts of conditioning (think sprinting, prowler pushing, sled pulls, loaded carries,etc) Steady state cardio is great as well, but again, the amount that women end up having to do, typically, is a looooooot.

Of course if cardio is something you enjoy for your heart health keep on doing it (I road bike for fairly long distances, but don’t respond to it much by way of fat loss), but if you’ve got some aesthetic goals you wish to pursue I’d suggest rearranging your training/exercising AND your diet in particular.

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Thank you for this!! Very much appreciated! I do enjoy cardio - running is my favorite. I am 5’5 and between 105-108 pounds! Unfortunately I haven’t tracked macros. I will try to incorporate lifting going forward - I have very minimal experience with this, but do have access to a gym!

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Excellent! The good news is: you really can’t mess it up. I’d recommend just doing whatever you feel like for a couple weeks, then, once you know your way around a little, just picking a program off this site that appeals to you

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Squats alone will give you rippling abdominals and 24 inch pythons

CoMe At mE bRaH



You’re more than welcome to come into my log if you’ve got questions. I’m not a coach or anything of the sort, but I’ve managed to see good progress with training setups I run.

@planetcybertron makes a great point, which is that often when beginners ask about building their abs, they’re actually asking about revealing them. I’d just like to remind OP that quite often, these beginners lose the bodyfat required to see a strong set of abs and are rewarded with either no abs at all or a very unimpressive set of them. If the goal is “flat stomach” - not much is required. IF the goal is an 8 pack with cuts in it, you’ll need to hypertrophy your abs.


Thanks! Yes, my goal is definitely to build my abs not just have a flat stomach. I definitely am a beginner in terms of strength training as most of my exercise is running. While I’m still passionate about running, I want to try to incorporate lifting/strength workouts into my routine, which I haven’t done before. I think my current body type looks skinny whereas I’d like to look more strong. I eat healthy - plant based with minimal processed foods, however I think stress is a downfall for me & lack of strength workouts to build muscle.


I’d love to tell you a way to reduce stress, but I don’t know your situation and I’m not gonna pry, so I’ll just give you the good news - stress reduction is always a good goal, but most of us are stressed up in here. Half of us have image disorders, some of us are parents working and going to school, some of us are going through some really tough personal stuff, there are people with spinal cord injuries getting after it in wheelchairs, but it hasn’t stopped anyone who works hard and eats right from getting bigger and stronger. Don’t let stress go unnoticed or unaddressed, but it won’t stop you from building muscle unless you tell yourself it will.

More good news - if you want to lift 2, 3, 4 or 5 days a week, they can all work. If you want to split up bodyparts, if you want to split upper and lower body, if you want to split into pushing and pulling, or if you want to do whole body, they’ll all work too. The question is, what do you want to do, and what do you think you’ll stick with the longest?

You seem to be pretty cardio-based, so the most common, and most time-tested strategy would be to start you with a full body, 3x-a-week lifting program, with enough conditioning to keep you happy but not so much that it ruins your recovery. Let me know if you want any program suggestions - a ton of people will chime in and add options if you like, you can start a training log and get advice on your form and ask questions.

With the right attitude, this place is a gold mine.