Why Skinny Guys Should Work Abs (and how to do it)

Why skinny guys should work abs.

Six-pack abs are one of the most coveted training goals. But do skinny guys really need to work their abs with dedicated exercises to reveal definition?

Ab workouts are not essential for skinny people to reveal abdominal definition. Popular compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts alone can help a skinny beginner build visible abs. However, direct ab exercises like the sit-up, crunch, and leg raise can lead to faster results.

Keep reading for my case study showing before and after results of direct ab training, the best exercises for skinny guys to build bigger abs, and how long you can expect to get chiseled abs!

Muscle gain results after training my abs as a skinny guy.
I combined direct ab exercises with compound lifts to build visibly-defined abs in 6 months as a skinny guy!

Key Points

  • Dedicated ab workouts are not essential for building visibly defined abdominals. But it will make the process much easier and faster.
  • Stronger abs not only have aesthetic benefits, but they also give athletic performance benefits too.
  • The best ab exercises bring your head and knees together. Examples include sit-ups, crunches, and leg raises.
  • By following a good diet and training program, skinny guys can typically get well-defined abs in around 3-6 months.
  • You can follow the ab workout program that helped me build a six-pack as a skinny guy.

My Skinny Guy Ab Transformation Case Study

Let’s first begin with a before and after visual examination of the differences between skinny guys who do and don’t train abs.

Below is a picture of me as a skinny guy (before I started my muscle gain transformation).

Photo of me as a skinny guy before I started to work my abs.

Next, are two pictures showing the visible results of my resistance training (with and without direct ab workouts).

Skinny guy with vs without ab workout before and after results.

Picture 1 (left):

This was during a period when I didn’t dedicate any time to training my abs specifically. But my workout split revolved around the compound lifts like the squat and deadlift. These are some of the best exercises for skinny guys to build muscle.

Whilst compound lifts do not directly work the abs, the abs are still indirectly engaged to stabilize the movement.

You can see there’s only a faint sign of a six-pack, but my abs are still slightly visible.

Picture 2 (right):

This was during a period when I started including 2-3 sets of direct ab exercises like weighted crunches and sit-ups into my weekly workout (on top of my compound lifting). You can see I have a more visibly defined set of abs that resemble a six-pack!

Lesson learned for skinny guys wondering if they should train abs:

It’s not essential for skinny guys to train abs. Heavy compound lifting alone is sufficient to grow bigger, stronger, and abs as a skinny guy. But including direct ab training into your workouts can help you to maximize ab muscle growth and build a more visible six-pack!

Next, I’ll explain the benefits of direct abs workouts for skinny guys.

As a skinny guy, you might also be interested in my other post to find out how to bulk up and keep abdominal definition.

Reasons Skinny Guys Should Work Abs

Generally speaking, abs workouts are good for skinny guys. The abs should be trained as part of a balanced workout program to build full-body muscle, gain strength, and improve aesthetics.

Benefits of training the abs for skinny people:

  • Lift heavier on compound movements. These are also known as multi-joint movements. The best examples include the bench press, shoulder press, row, squat, and deadlift. A strong core (abs) helps you to lift heavier weights in these full-body exercises. And heavy lifting is key for skinny guys to build muscle and strength fast.
  • Improved posture. Skinny people often have poor posture. Your ab muscles contribute to a strong core which can help improve your posture. This can make you look taller and more confident.
  • Reduced injury risk. Your abs contribute to the core muscles that surround your spine. A strong core protects your spine during heavy lifting, particularly in vertical-loading exercises such as the squat and deadlift. As mentioned before, heavy lifting on these big lifts is the bread and butter for skinny guys looking to get big and strong fast.
  • Better athletic performance. Your abs sit right in the middle of your body. This makes them important for upper and lower body force transfer. A strong set of ab muscles can help you generate more power, have better balance, and increase your stability in sports and physical activity.
  • Better aesthetics. Strong abs can help you develop a visibly-defined midsection. When your ab muscles are large and your body fat is low, your six-pack begins to show.

Next, I’ll share the best ab exercises and workouts for skinny guys to start building a defined midsection!

Best Ab Exercises

The abdominals comprise the upper and lower regions surrounded by the obliques. To build a strong and well-defined core midsection, it is important to perform a variety of exercises to target all three regions.

Here are my favorite ab exercises for skinny guys to do at home or at the gym:

Upper Abs ExercisesLower Abs ExercisesObliques Exercises
Weighted crunchesLying leg raise (floor or bench)Golf swing with cables
Weighted sit-upsHanging leg raiseWoodchopper with cables
Kneeling cable crunchMountain climbersDumbbell side bends
Plank (all ab regions)Scissor kicksRussian twist with dumbbells

The best upper ab exercises induce spinal flexion. This describes a movement that brings your head down toward your knees. The best lower ab exercises induce hip flexion. This describes a movement that brings your knees up toward your chest.

Both are similar movements. But they differ slightly in the location of the bend (spine vs hips).

The best oblique exercises induce lateral torso flexion. This describes a movement that moves your torso sideways from left to right.

15 minute Home Ab Workout For Skinny Guys

Here is a simple home workout for skinny guys to train their abs. The workout can also be done at a commercial gym of course.

It’s a 3-day routine (each day comprises a 15-minute workout).

Each exercise is performed to 12 reps (or held to a duration that is the equivalent of performing 12 reps). This falls within the ideal rep range for skinny guys to build muscle.

The routine can be completed as a standalone abdominal program or performed alongside your current full-body workout split (simply perform the exercises in conjunction with your current lifts).

Day 1:

Ab ExerciseSetsRepsRestWeight
Weighted crunch3122 mins75% of 1RM
Leg raise3122 mins75% of 1RM
Plank230 secs1 minBodyweight

Day 2:

Ab ExerciseSetsRepsRestWeight
Side-bends3122 mins75% of 1RM
Mountain climbers320 secs2 minsBodyweight
Plank230 secs1 minBodyweight

Day 3:

Ab ExerciseSetsRepsRestWeight
Weighted sit-up3122 mins75% of 1RM
Leg raise3122 mins75% of 1RM
Plank230 secs1 minBodyweight

How To Do These Ab Exercises

1) Weighted crunch

How to do the weighted crunch to work the upper abs as a skinny guy.

This is an easy and convenient exercise for skinny guys to work their upper abs. Lie on the floor. Bend your knees and put your feet on the floor. Hold a dumbbell to your chest. Flare your elbows out for balance. Bring the dumbbell towards the knees and simultaneously bring your knees towards the dumbbell.

2) Weighted sit-up

How to do the weighted sit-up to work the upper abs as a skinny guy.

This exercise is even better than the crunch for isolating your upper abdominals. However, it requires a foot anchor. Lie on the floor and anchor your feet below a couch (or anything heavy and sturdy). Hold a dumbbell to your chest. Bring the dumbbell toward the knees. You can also perform this exercise using a weight bench with a foot anchor.

3) Leg raise

How to do the lying leg raise to work the lower abs as a skinny guy.

This is my favorite movement for targeting the lower abs. Lay flat on your back. Spread both arms out wide for stability and to serve as a counterweight. Keep your legs straight and bring them towards the ceiling. Stop when your legs are perpendicular to the floor. Grasp a dumbbell using between both feet for an even greater challenge.

4) Plank

How to do the bodyweight plank to work all ab regions.

This is a great finisher exercise for skinny guys to work all abs regions at the end of a workout. It works your core isometrically. Assume a push-up position. Lower your body and transfer your weight onto your forearms. Brace your core and contract your glutes. This helps to keep your torso in a straight line. Hold this position for the allotted time.

5) Side bends

How to do the dumbbell side bend.

This is a great movement for isolating your obliques. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and place your other hand behind your head. Lower the dumbbell to the corresponding side of the body. Stop the movement when you begin to feel a stretch in the opposing side of the torso. Bring the dumbbell back up.

6) Mountain climbers

How to do mountain climbers to work the lower abs.

This exercise works all your abdominal regions whilst emphasizing the lower abs. Get on all fours. Keep your arms fully extended to support your body weight. Bring both knees towards the chest one after the other in an alternating manner.

How Skinny Guys Can Progress With This Ab Workout

The program has been designed with skinny beginners in mind.

However, studies have shown that increasing exercise intensity over time (also called progressive overload) will promote the best muscle gains.

So how do you apply progressive overload?

  • Lift heavier weights on weighted ab movements. Add 2-5lbs on the weighted crunch, sit-up, leg raise, and side bend whenever the current workload becomes easy to complete.
  • Increase set duration on bodyweight movements. Increase the duration of each set on mountain climbers and plank whenever the current duration becomes easy.

Expected Timeframe For Skinny Guys To Get Abs

The average skinny guy takes 3-6 months of consistent training and dieting to get visible abs. However, various factors can affect the amount of time required to achieve visibly defined muscles.

The timeline for muscle growth is the same for all muscles. Assuming a good training and diet program are being followed, the first signs of muscle gain can be noticed within a few months. And the longer you train and diet, the more visible the results.

However, these are generalized timelines.

Factors that can affect the actual time required to build visibly defined abs include:

  • Body fat percentage. A low BF % is essential for revealing abdominal definition. Typical skinny guys often have a low enough BF % to get visible abs fast (if they don’t have them already). But skinny-fat guys with a higher BF % may need to cut first before bulking which can extend the timeframe to get impressive abs.
  • Workout discipline and intensity. Skinny guys need to perform high-intensity workouts consistently to grow the ab muscles fast. Aim to train at least 3 times per week and choose a challenging weightload.
  • Nutrition. Building bigger abs and maintaining a low BF % to reveal them is as much about your diet as it is about your training. Eat at least 1g of protein per day, go on a mild caloric surplus, and focus on whole foods rather than processed junk.
  • Genetics. Some people may find it easier to build muscle than others. Similarly, some people may find their bodies store fat more easily than others. This is something completely out of your control.

Why Some Skinny Guys Don’t Have Visible Abs

Skinny people often have visible abs despite having small abdominal musculature. This is because a low BF% can reveal the underlying muscle.

However, this is not always the case; you can be skinny and yet still not have visible abs.

Some skinny people do not have visible abs because:

  • They are skinny-fat. This body type is characterized by low musculature and a high bf %. You can look skinny and still have “belly fat” that hides the underlying abdominal muscles.
  • Lack of abdominal muscle size. Being skinny does not automatically mean your abs will show. If your abdominal muscle size to BF level ratio is too low, your abs will not be visible.
  • Poor diet. Consuming too much junk, processed foods, and sugary ingredients can lead to the above two points.
  • Genetic predisposition to abdominal fat storage. Some people are just more likely to store body fat in the abdominal area. This can mean you’re more likely to have the skinny-fat body type.

Skinny guys who don’t have visible abs can work them with the program given in this article. The definition should start appearing quickly!

Can Everyone Get Visible Abs?

Not everyone is able to get visibly defined abs. Older individuals with less muscle-building capabilities, and those with a predisposition to storing body fat, often find it harder to get visible abs.

The good news is that most people can build a defined midsection through resistance training, proper dieting, and patience.

Even if you can’t get a six-pack, you can add some extra abdominal definition through hard work!

So don’t be discouraged if progress seems slow.

Remember, the abs are some of the hardest muscles to reveal!


Skinny guys should work their abs with direct isolation movements like crunches, sit-ups, and leg raises. This can help to build bigger and stronger abs fast.

Not only do stronger abs provide aesthetic benefits (who doesn’t want a six-pack?!), but it also confers a host of functional performance benefits too.

With that being said, it’s not essential to train any body part. But I would strongly recommend doing so for a balanced physique.

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printables) I used to go from skinny to ripped!


I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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