6 Pack Abs: Merlin’s Master Class

Let’s talk about abs. In my 35-year career as a bodybuilder, trainer, and contest prep coach I have never come across anyone that wasn’t interested in making significant improvements to their midsection.

For some fitness enthusiasts, this means losing belly fat and creating a flatter and tighter tummy. For others, greater core strength is the primary goal. However, when it comes to most serious gym rats the ultimate achievement lies in forging a rock-solid, shredded 6-pack that appears carved from stone!

Now, I must tell you – while flattening the stomach and/or strengthening the core are tasks of only reasonable difficulty, creating a ripped-to-shreds midsection that makes jaws drop is an entirely different animal!

This takes serious discipline, sacrifice, and dedication that only select individuals will “have the stomach for.” And this is precisely why only a precious few, even within most hardcore gyms, own a 6-pack worthy of superhero status.

But please – do not let those last few sentences scare you, because I am here to lay out a master (class) plan to help guide you toward achieving the kind of midsection that looks as if it could literally stop bullets!

No, it won’t be simple and will require a lot of hard work (very few things worth having come easy). However, with a clear direction in hand, and a 3-pronged strategy that includes advice on diet, cardio, and exercises, you can more confidently set a course toward planet 6-pack!


Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat! No matter how well-developed your abdominal muscles are, they will not look all that impressive with a thick layer of fat sitting on top. Abs that look like bricks must be fat-free, covered only by a thin layer of skin, which means eating the proper foods, at the correct times and in the right amounts. Below you will find a list of high-quality foods that will deliver big on nutrients while encouraging muscle gain and fat loss.

To make things simple I put together a sample day’s diet for a reasonably lean (but not shredded by any means) athlete who is seeking abs of steel.

Meal 1

P: whey/casein protein powder mix (approximately 2 scoops)

C: oatmeal (3.1 oz. uncooked measure)

F: no added fats

Meal 2

P: chicken breast (7.1 oz. cooked measure)

C: brown rice (6.7 oz. cooked measure)

F: no added fats

Meal 3 (pre-workout)

P: tilapia (8.3 oz. cooked measure)

C: large mixed salad

F: olive oil (1 tbsp.)

Meal 4 (post-workout)

P: whey protein powder (approximately 2 scoops)

C: white potato (10 oz. cooked measure)

F: no added fats

Meal 5

P: top round steak (7.1 oz. cooked measure)

C: sweet potato (5.5 oz. cooked measure)

F: no added fats

Meal 6

P: casein protein powder (approximately 2 scoops)

C: none

F: natural peanut butter (2 tbsp.)

Totals: 300 g protein; 200 g carbs; 28 g essential fats

The above will serve as a good starting point, but small adjustments should be made weekly depending on how quickly (or not) results are coming. Additionally, as you begin to lose body weight, your overall calorie amount will need to decrease.


Yes, there are a few genetic freaks out there that have such naturally high metabolisms that they do not even need to utilize cardio as a fat-burning tool and can simply rely on diet to get the job done.

However, cardio is a necessary evil for the rest of us mere mortals. That said there should never be a need for excessive amounts, which will only serve to burn off lean muscle (a scenario we do not want)! The keys to successfully and effectively utilizing cardio are listed below.

Abdominal Training

If your diet is on point and cardio is in full effect, you can now turn your attention to building your abdominal wall. Now – while we certainly are not looking to create “huge abs” in the same respect as biceps, shoulders, or pecs, it is still necessary to forge some thickness into each “ab-block” if you wish to display a truly wicked 6-pack! I have witnessed many athletes/bodybuilders over the years with low, single-digit body fat levels whose abs were not all that impressive. The reason for this is simply because their abdominal muscles themselves lacked development. We are not going to let this happen to you!

Ab Training “Rules”

In regard to that last point, here are the exercises, which I have personally found to be the most productive and result-producing. 


Briefly, for those who may be unfamiliar with my P/RR/S™ Training System, it is a cyclical method where each week we approach muscle hypertrophy via unique training protocols. Below is the exact program I utilized for my last competition in 2011, where many felt I had the best 6-pack in the entire show.




*After two cycles of the above, I would shuffle around the exercises a bit to provide variation and constant novel stimulation to the muscles, mind, and CNS.

Try this program yourself utilizing the same exercises I do, or better yet, the ones you have found most personally effective. There is no magic formula behind building “bricks” for abs – what it takes is committing to working them with the same intensity, drive, and passion as any other major muscle group!