Yes, 12-pack abs are real but not everyone can build them. Less than 1% of the population has the muscle makeup needed to get well-defined 12-pack abs. And, you need to have an extremely low body fat percentage to find out if you are genetically blessed with such a body. Keep reading to learn more about the anatomy of abdominal muscles, how their arrangements decide the number of abs you get, and what you can do to enhance the abs you are blessed with.
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What are 12-pack abs?
To understand this, you need to have a brief understanding of the anatomy of our abdominal muscles.
Our abdominal muscles can be divided into four types-
- Rectus abdominis– This is the primary abdominal muscle group. It runs vertically down your stomach. It consists of two muscle bands that run parallelly down and are connected by Linea Alba, a connective tissue. When you start toning your core muscles, linea alba is the first thing that will become prominently visible as a line running down through the center of your torso.
- Tendinous Inscriptions– As I said above, rectus abdominis are two muscle bands. Just two; not 4 or 6 or 8 or 10 or 12. But, these two muscle bands along with Tendinous inscriptions or tendons decide the number of abs you will have. These tendons run horizontally across the rectus abdominis thereby separating them as abs.
- External and internal obliques– These are oblique muscles that run along the sides of your abdomen.
- Transversus abdominis– These are located deep within the torso and help keep your back straight.
As I said, tendons decide the number of abs you can have. If you have one band of tendons, it will separate your abdominal muscles into 4 parts (vertically by linea alba and horizontally by tendons). If you have two such bands, your abdominal muscles are divided into 6 packs. Similarly, for 8 packs, you should have three bands and so on. For 12 packs, you need 5 bands of tendons.
The number of tendons is not fixed. About 60% of people have two sets of tendons. With the right exercises and the correct amount of body fat, they can get well-defined 6 packs. About 15% of people have only one set of tendons, so no matter how hard they try, they can only get 4-pack abs. About 20% of people have the three bands needed to get 8 packs. People who can have only 2, 10, or 12-pack abs are very rare i.e. less than 1%.
📖 Related Article: Body fat percentage is a major factor that decides how prominent your abs could be. But, does that mean fat guys can’t have abs no matter how hard they try? All your queries and doubts are covered in our article on ‘Can You Be a Fat Guy With Abs?’
Who can get 12-pack abs?
You might have come across social media influencers and trainers who have claimed that their unique, highly targeted workout program helped them get the almost impossible 12-pack abs. But, that's not entirely true. Unless you have the above-mentioned abdominal muscular structure i.e. 5 bands of tendons horizontally running across the two bands of vertical rectus abdominis, you can’t get 12-pack abs no matter how hard you try. Reducing your body fat to a mere 5-8% might help you enhance the lower abdominal muscles, which may give an illusion of an extra pair of abs but they are not real abs. Your abs are pre-defined by genetics and anyone who promises to help you change it naturally is lying.
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Can you get 12 pack abs even when you are not genetically blessed?
Yes, you can but you will have to go for surgical options. Such surgeries have become rather common these days. Many social media influencers and celebrities keep going under the knife to get the impressive body that you believe they acquired naturally. Ab etching, liposuction, and abdominal implants are common surgeries used primarily for enhancing the appearance of abs. But, I do not recommend such surgeries. I would rather focus on enhancing whatever number of abs I naturally have. But, if you are a bodybuilder, model, or a celebrity where having 12-pack abs might boost your career or give you the attention you need for professional growth, you may go for surgery.
💡 Quick Tip: Have you heard of ab stimulators? These are wearable devices that send minor electrical currents to your abdominal muscles to stimulate them so they burn fat from that specific region. Although there is no scientific evidence available so far that proves their effectiveness, a lot of people have found them useful. If you are interested, you may buy the MarCoolTrip MZ ABS Stimulator.
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How to find out if you have the right muscle structure to get 12 pack abs?
I found this YouTube video with clear instructions on how you can test for 6, 8, 10, or 12-pack abs. The test is pretty easy but requires some brainstorming. I had to try a couple of times before I could feel the tendons. And, I also realized that if your body fat percentage is more than 15, you may not feel the tendons at all.
Don’t know how much body fat you have? We have created several body fat calculators to help you. You can try The YMCA Body Fat Calculator, The Covert Bailey Body Fat Calculator, FFMI (Fat-Free Mass Index) calculator, and the Navy Method Body Fat Calculator.
📖 Related Article: Calisthenics are great for building strength and stamina naturally. These exercises can help you build visibly larger abs without being dependent on heavy machines. Find out if you can do calisthenics every day.
The images of social media influencers having 12-pack abs can definitely move you enough to start pumping iron in the gym every day. And, that inspiration is good unless you go crazy about it. Remember that not all of us are born to have 12-pack abs and that's OK. Respect what you have and work on making the best out of it. Keep reading our other articles to learn more about workout trends, product suggestions, how-to guides, etc. that can help you train safely and get the best possible results.