Welcome to our first of our Wednesday Wisdoms blog posts for 2019.
Pertinent to this time of year this post is going to look at what research has to say on the very common question of “how long does it take to see my abs or six-pack”? The range of answers to this question of varies between 2 weeks up to 6 weeks, depending on where you source your information. However, for a more imperial answer, we can seek the results from a study conducted by Anderson and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-La Cross. In this study, the researchers put 25 sedentary volunteers through a six-week body shaping program modeled on the infamous “body for life program” which in the late 1990’ to early 2000’s sold thousands of copies of their books and promotional material.
The program consisted of 3 x 20 minute HIIT sessions + 3 strength training sessions per week, body composition was assessed by visual appearance (panel of judges & clients own self-assessment) + standard laboratory measures (DEXA + Skinfolds). The study participants did not change their dietary habits throughout the 6 week straining period. So at the end of the study period, what do you think the results were? Did the 25 sedentary participants end up with a raging six-pack? The answer is, NO. The panel of 6 judges could not detect any visual changes to their body shape (abs included). According to the authors, these study participants failed to improve their global attractiveness even after completing a grueling 6-day a week vigorous cardio and weight training program.
After reading this you might be feeling a little disheartened, given the widespread claims of many body shaping competitions which show pictures of lean, shredded contestants who have achieved these results in as little as 6-weeks! Yes, diet is a key factor and the results of the aforementioned study would have been different had a diet plan been included. But, let’s face it, most clients usually want one or the other! So its time now to try and put a conservative, but realistic time frame around this question – how long does it take to see my abs coach? Kubo and colleagues from the University of Tokyo took six months to improve the physical appearance of a group of healthy younger men performing 4 intense weight training sessions per week. The common recommendation for the required time to see visual changes in physique, based on hypertrophy is approximately 3 months, so the results achieved by the Tokyo research group. So it does appear to the time course required for the average person in the gym to see their abs or at least a visual change in their physique without a significant change to their diet appears to be anywhere between 3 – 6 months.
- Anderson, M. L., Foster, C., McGuigan, M. R., Seebach, E., & Porcari, J. P. (2004). Training vs. body image: does training improve subjective appearance ratings?. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 18(2), 255-259.
- Kubo, K., Ikebukuro, T., Yata, H., Tsunoda, N., & Kanehisa, H. (2010). Time course of changes in muscle and tendon properties during strength training and detraining. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(2), 322-331.