Superhero movies are everywhere these days. Ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe started to take off about 15 years ago, it seems like every month now that a new movie starring a comic book character I’ve never heard of before is getting its own movie.
With a few obvious exceptions, it seems like the one characteristic all the male superheroes have in common is that they all seemingly live inside a gym and have giant muscles in places I didn’t think were possible.
A friend of mine and I were watching a baseball game a few days ago and a commercial for Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3 came on. My friend, who is slightly larger than I am, looked at me and said, “I love eating too much to ever lose enough weight for it but wouldn’t it be nice if guys like us could have abs? Wait…CAN we have abs at our size?”
It was a very good question and one that I wish I got more often. Do you know if big guys can have abs? Let’s take a look at what we mean by “abs” and then we’ll get into whether or not bigger guys can have them.
What Does It Mean to “Have Abs”?
First, I’d like to clarify here because “having abs” is an idiom that might not translate well for our friends who speak English as a second language. “Abs” is short for abdominal muscles, which everyone has. It would be like asking if big guys can have thumbs.
By “have abs”, I’m specifically talking about “having a six-pack”, which is the common term for having abdominal muscles that can be seen through the stomach. In other words, when you think of a bodybuilder or another very strong person, those are the abs we’re talking about.
Strictly speaking, “the abs” aren’t just one muscle. They’re made up of the Pyramidalis, the rectus abdominis, the transversus abdominis, the internal obliques, and the external obliques. In order to have six-pack abs, you’d need all of these muscles to be strong and visible through the skin over the stomach.
Can Big Guys Have Abs?
Yes, big guys can absolutely have abs! It’s a common misconception that abdominal muscles or six-pack abs can only be seen with a single-digit percentage of body fat. If you have trained your abs for hypertrophy and they are therefore large enough, you can still get that six-pack.
Now, this obviously isn’t going to be the case if you’re obese but there are guys (not me…) that have visible abs with 20% body fat.
Granted, bigger guys like me have to work harder to get our abdominal muscles that large. That being said, it can still be done. There’s a famous image from Reddit that shows a larger man with a six-pack and is accompanied by many comments from confused people suggesting it might be Photoshopped.
It wasn’t. Big guys can absolutely get those muscles big enough to be seen. I understand why they think this, though. For years, I remember hearing the phrase “Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym”.
A lot of fitness websites even today repeat this statement as a fact. They’ll tell you that you have to cut weight by eating ice cubes and pictures of celery while doing their perfectly-tailored workouts.
Most of these websites are happy to sell you these workout plans for only a few dollars a month! Definitely just a coincidence they’re repeating this myth, though. I’m sure the two are not connected at all.
Best Ab Exercises for Beginners
If you want to improve the size and visibility of your abs, there are a lot of core exercises that you can try. Sit-ups are a common one, although beginners might want to try a variation that makes them more comfortable or slightly easier to do. As time goes on and a good strength base is built, you can move on to doing a normal sit-up.
Another good choice for big guys is bicycle crunches. These involve rotating your legs as if you were riding a bike while doing crunches, a modified and less intense version of a sit-up.
I’ve always been a fan of the leg raise because most of my strength is in my lower body. I do a lot of walking, so my legs are relatively flexible. For these, you simply lay down on your back, straighten your legs, and lift them into the air as far as you can, alternating legs.
When I first started doing them, it took me a few tries to get my leg all the way up in the air but now I can do a good number of them in one sitting. I certainly don’t have a six-pack but I can tell that my core strength has improved significantly.
Now for the unfortunate part. If you really want your abs to pop you’re going to have to eat at a caloric deficit and spend some time on a treadmill. The type of cardio you do is totally up to you, doing some sort of physical activity is going to increase the number of calories you can burn per day (which means you can eat more and still lose weight).
And you don’t have to head to the gym either. There are rowing machines, ellipticals, bikes, and tons of other types of home gym pieces that are suitable for big guys. Not to mention you could just buy some running shoes.
Is Having Abs “Worth It”?
No, cake is too good. At least, that’s the answer for me.
However, there’s no one right answer here and only you can figure this out for yourself. Only you can know if it’s worth it for you to work towards getting six-pack abs. Whenever I get this question about something, I usually find that the person has already made up their mind and just wants me to validate their opinion.
I know I give this answer a lot on here but if you want to do it and you think it’s a good idea to start working on your core, go right ahead! You can start with some of the exercises I’ve listed above, find out what works, and go from there.
On the other hand, you may have read that section and thought to yourself, “That all sounds awful. I don’t want to do any of these exercises.” If this sounds more like you, that’s also a valid opinion to have. Your self-worth should be not dependent on whether or not you have well-defined abdominal muscles or not.
To recap, yes, bigger guys can absolutely still have a visible six-pack despite having more body fat. It’ll take more work than a person who weighs less but it can absolutely be done.
The idea that “abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym” is true for some people but not all of us. Anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort to work on their abdominal muscles can achieve it.
Finally, I know this probably goes without saying at this point but if you can’t get six-pack abs, I wouldn’t worry about it. Personally, I’d rather marry someone who loves me for who I am as a person instead of for what my body looks like.
Whether you decide to go for the six-pack or not, I hope this article has been informative and I wish you the best of luck in your potential abdominal muscle-increasing journey!