Last updated on February 10th, 2023 at 11:45 am
Here’s everyone training and dieting their heart in an attempt to produce the most defined set of abs.
However, just to prove how unfair life can be there’s people out there sporting a 10-pack.
As you may imagine, this isn’t a regular occurrence, but how rare exactly are 10-pack abs?
It is estimated that one in 6,000,000 people are born with five muscle bands in the rectus abdominis. This means that there are potentially 1,333 people in the world with the genetic potential to produce a 10-pack. This equates to less than 0.00002% of the world population at any one time.
Genetics & Abdominal Muscles Explained
Let’s get one thing straight from the off – the type of abdominals you have the ability to produce comes down solely to genetics.
In other words, if you only have the genetic potential to produce six-pack abs, then that is what you’re stuck with for life.
So, no amount of diet, cardio, resistance and ab-specific training is going to suddenly produce more muscle bands in your abs.
The abdominals are actually made up of four muscle groups.
And in order to have a well-defined midsection all four of these muscles will need to be equally developed.
The rectus abdominis is the most famous of the four ab muscle groups and also the most prominent.
This is what is known as the “six-pack muscle” and the ab muscle that most people specifically focus their training around.
In truth, the rectus abdominis is just one singular muscle.
However, the rectus abdominis appears to have two bands of muscles, each of which has 4-6 “muscle heads” or “muscle bellies”.
These are then separated down the middle by a band of connective tissue known as the linea alba.
As I’ve mentioned, how many muscle heads a person has is purely down to genetics.
Now, even though most of us train the rectus abdominis in the hope of producing visible abs, it does have another role which isn’t aesthetic in nature
The rectus abdominis is responsible for helping you maintain an erect posture, plus it regulates your breathing.
The transverse abdominis is extremely important for producing defined abs, yet it doesn’t get anywhere near the attention of the rectus abdominis.
However, without working the transverse abdominis you’ll find it difficult to produce a well-developed rectus abdominis.
In other words, regardless of your genetic potential it’s difficult to obtain that “pack” definition without some focus on the transverse abdominis.
This muscle group lies deep inside the abdomen.
Plus, you can typically train the transverse abdominis with various isometric contractions, e.g. planks, bird dogs, stomach vacuums, etc.
Internal and External Obliques
We typically view the obliques as one muscle group on either side of your stomach.
However, there are both internal obliques and external obliques, and both should be trained to produce a 6,8, or even 10-pack.
In fact, I’d advise that you concentrate on the internal and external obliques far more than you potentially think you should.
For many people, they’ll generally perform twisting or bending ab and core-based exercises as an afterthought.
Most ab training focuses specifically on the six-pack muscle (rectus abdominis) with some isometric contraction work too.
However, more focus on the obliques can help to produce that tapered look that most of us strive for.
In fact, nothing gives a more pleasing aesthetic appeal than broad shoulders and a slim waist.
So, never forget to work your obliques whenever you train abs.
The 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10-Pack Statistics
Okay, so we’re aware that a 10-pack is extremely rare.
However, as it turns out some the “lesser pack abs” are just as difficult to genetically achieve.
Most people will typically have 4,6, or 8-pack abs.
So, 2-pack and 10-pack abs are extremely rare.
As I’ve mentioned, approximately 1 in 6,000,000 people are born with the potential to produce 10-pack abs.
The number is just as low for those who have the potential to produce only 2-pack abs.
In effect, being cursed with a 2-pack or blessed with a 10-pack is extremely rare, and you’d be hard-pushed to ever actually meet anyone with either.
Now, most of us typically assume that there is only such a thing as 6-pack or 8-pack abs.
However, it is estimated that around 10% of the population have 4-pack abs.
And when I say “4-pack abs” I’m not talking about the defined upper abs and lower belly fat that a huge percentage of people have.
In fact, possibly the most famous 4-pack was sported by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and this was even in his bodybuilding prime.
Remember, how many muscle heads your rectus abdominis contains is purely down to genetics.
And for Arnold, he only ever had four.
So, even at his leanest and most ripped, Arnold still only had four-packs abs.
Much the same as the rest of us, no amount of training, dieting, or hard work would ever allow Arnold to obtain the coveted six-pack.
So, an important lesson there – if Arnold couldn’t achieve a six-pack in his prime then no-one else will be able to if their genetic potential doesn’t allow for it.
As you may expect, the six-pack, so six muscle heads to the rectus abdominis, is the most popular abdomen structure.
It is estimated that around 76% of the population have the genetic potential to produce six-pack abs.
Finally, there is the 8-pack, which surprisingly has more people genetically able to achieve it than a four-pack.
Approximately, 14% of the population has an eight-pack.
In truth, the only reason we’re even talking about 10-packs is due to fitness model, Muhammad Ali a.k.a “Mr 10-Pack”.
Muhammad became an overnight sensation when he revealed his abs on social media following a training session.
It is Muhammad abs that you see in the featured image to this article at the top of the page.
The Best Way to Reveal Your Abs
So, now you’re aware that approximately 0.00002% of the population has the ability to produce 10-pack abs.
However, irrespective of what you’re able to achieve genetically, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t focus on training your abs.
In truth, producing a set of chiselled and well-defined abs requires a four-pronged attack, i.e. nutrition, resistance training, cardio, and ab-specific work.
But, your main aim is get your body fat levels low enough to see ab definition.
For men, defined abs will generally start to become visible in the 10-15% body fat percentage range.
Once more, this comes down to genetics.
So, one guy could be at 13% body fat and not have visible abs, whereas another guy has 15% body fat, but his abs can be seen.
For women, visible abs will start to show in the 18-22% body fat range.
How to Lower Your Body Fat Levels
Now, your main focus, when it comes to lowering body fat levels, should always be your nutrition.
Basically, you will need to be eating at a calorie deficit, i.e. consume fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis.
My suggestion would be to calculate your total daily energy expenditure here, and then reduce your calorie intake by 200-500 calories per day.
I would always advise starting on the lower side and then working up if you need to.
In terms of exercise it shouldn’t all be about trying to burn body fat through cardio.
In fact, this approach could actually work against you.
You realistically want to raise your metabolic rate so that you’re burning additional calories throughout the day, even while at rest.
And the best way to raise your metabolic rate is to perform intense resistance-based training.
Plus, the more lean muscle mass you have, the less body fat mass you’ll have.
So, make sure you hit the weights with adequate intensity if you’re looking to produce abs.
Now, in truth, you could actually have highly visible abs without specifically training them.
This shows just how important lowering your body fat levels is to producing abs.
With that being said, you should train your abs the same as any other muscle.
So, hundreds or thousands of reps of sit ups and crunches just won’t cut it.
In fact, performing a huge number of crunches and sit ups will do little more than eventually injure your lower back.
Weighted ab work in the 6-15 rep range, while following the principles of progressive overload, is the best way to train your abs.
Key Learning Points
- Approximately 1 in 6,000,000 people have the genetic potential to produce 10-pack abs.
- You will be genetically limited in your ab development based on how many muscle heads your rectus abdominis has.
- It is estimated that 76% of the population have six muscle heads, therefore they are limited to only ever having 6-pack abs.
- 14% of the population has the ability to produce an 8-pack, whereas 10% can obly ever produce 4-pack abs (just like Arnold Schwarzenegger).
- 2-pack abs are just as rare as 10-pack abs.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.