Can You Have Bad Ab Genetics (The Role of Genetics in Abs)

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Tonya McIntosh

Tonya McIntosh—The main person behind TGFFitness as its Founder and Chief Editor. Get to know more about Tonya


Does genetics play a role in the appearance of your abs, and can you have bad ab genetics?

In a hurry? Here’s a quick answer

Yes, genetics can indeed influence the structure and appearance of your abs. The number and layout of your abdominal muscles are determined at birth, which can affect whether you can develop a six-pack, eight-pack, or even a ten-pack. If you naturally have fewer ab muscles or are genetically inclined to store fat in your belly area, achieving that coveted chiseled look can be a significant challenge.

Is having six-pack abs a genetic trait?

In a nutshell, yes. Your genetics largely influences the presence of a six-pack.

To achieve that coveted six-pack look, you need to have three muscle bands – the Rectus Abdominis, External Oblique Muscles, and Internal Oblique Muscles – naturally occurring across your abdomen. These bands are responsible for the segmented appearance of a six-pack.

So, the formation of a six-pack is largely dependent on the genetics you inherit.

What are poor ab genetics?

Alright, let’s dive a bit deeper into this whole ‘ab genetics’ thing. We’ve established that your genes can influence how your abs look.

But, for some of us, there are certain genetic factors that might make it a bit more challenging to achieve a six-pack.

Let’s take a closer look at what these factors are:

Uneven Abs

Sometimes, our abs just don’t want to line up neatly. This is often due to genetic factors that can lead to uneven abs or muscle imbalances. The result? Abs that may look a bit off-kilter or weaker than we’d like.

Number of Abs

Each of us is born with a certain number of muscle bands in our abdomen. Only a small number of people are blessed with four or five muscle bands, which can result in the highly sought-after eight or ten-pack abs.

So, if you have fewer muscle bands, you’ll naturally have fewer ‘packs’ in your abs, which can be seen as less than ideal in terms of ab genetics.

Genetic Impact on Metabolism (A slow metabolism)

In some cases, certain genetic variations in the abdominal region can lead to a slower metabolism and less effective abdominal muscle performance.

This not only gives the abs a softer appearance, but a slow metabolism can also affect overall body composition and weaken the health of your abdominal muscles.

A high level of abdominal fat

Some people are also predisposed to high abdominal fat, which leads to increased body mass. This can interfere with ab development as well as cardiorespiratory fitness, fertility issues, and poor cardiovascular health.

A weak or lack of muscle mass in the abdominal area

Along the same lines of having fewer abdominal muscles, lack of muscle mass is also due to genetic deficiency. It can mainly result from a considerable gap between the lowest part of the ribcage and the connecting abdominal muscles.

These are referred to as muscle insertion points, and irregularity/gap can lead to flabby or asymmetrical-looking abs, despite challenging exercises.

A tendency to gain weight easily, particularly in the abdominal area

Regardless of the high training frequency and a healthy diet, some people gain weight faster than others, and this flab accumulates in the belly.

This, combined with weak abdominal muscle growth and poor chest genetics, can also affect your six-pack development.

What can be done to improve poor ab genetics?

If you feel that your genetics are holding you back from achieving your ideal six-pack, don’t worry! There are several strategies you can adopt to improve the appearance of your abs:

  • Exercise Regularly: Aim for a minimum effective volume (MEV) in your workouts to promote muscle growth. This means doing enough exercise to stimulate muscle development but not so much that you risk overtraining.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: Consuming a diet that’s rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates can support muscle growth and fat loss, helping to enhance the definition of your abs.
  • Maintain a Healthy Body Fat Percentage: For abs to be visible, men typically need to aim for a body fat percentage of around 15%, while women should aim for around 20%.

Remember, while these strategies can help improve the look of your abs, they won’t alter your genetic makeup.

For instance, if you naturally have asymmetrical abs, these tactics won’t make them symmetrical.

However, they can help you build stronger, leaner abs, enhancing your overall physique and boosting your health, regardless of your abs’ specific shape or arrangement.

Is it possible to change your genes to get better 6-pack abs?

No, changing your genetic makeup is not possible. Factors like family variance determine the human gene map at the molecular level, so there is no way to change it.

Genomic studies reveal that even advanced techniques, such as unnatural selection, cannot change muscle and genetic makeup.

Good Vs. Bad Ab Genetics

In terms of developing abs, it’s considered good genetics if you naturally have three to five muscle bands in your stomach area.

On the other hand, if you naturally have fewer stomach muscles, tend to store fat around your belly, and your muscles grow at a slower rate, these are signs of less favorable genetics.

Exercises to Improve Abs


V-Up targets the obliques, rectus abdominis, and hip flexors for a defined look. Here, you lie on your back with weights in your hands and aim to reach your feet with them.

Hollow rocks

Hollow rocks are similar to a sit-up but with a stretched body and are a power move for working the abs and the entire musculature of the front body.

L-sit pull-ups

Another great exercise for the ab muscles and lats is the L-sit pull-ups which you perform hanging on a bar. It involves a range of motion and is fantastic for athletic performance but is also tough to master.

Hollow holds

This isometric move, where you pull your legs and arms off the floor and remain in a static position, is excellent for spine stability and, of course, the abs.

Ab wheel rollouts

Ab wheel rollouts are a very popular move among professional athletes for their excellent results by targeting the rectus abdominis, lats, and deltoids.

Hanging Knee Raise

Hanging knee raise is a powerful exercise for abdominal muscles, with several pieces of research done about its effectiveness.

Full tension plank holds

Full tension plank holds are fantastic for the core and the entire body. In addition to strengthening and chiseling the core, planks have several benefits, including improved athletic performance, lower risk of injury, and a solid core.

How long should you exercise?

Whether we’re talking about improving abdominal strength or overall fitness, the length of your workouts plays a crucial role in achieving optimal results. 

study referenced on PubMed suggests that engaging in 150 to 300 minutes of aerobic activity, coupled with two to three strength training sessions per week, is the ideal regimen.

Is it harder to get six-pack abs with poor ab genetics?

Regrettably, the answer is yes. If you have less favorable ab genetics, it can be more challenging to stimulate the various muscle fibers in your abdomen.

But here’s the thing: genetics aren’t the be-all and end-all. They might set the stage, but your actions play a significant role too. You can’t change your genetics, but you can change your habits.

A consistent workout routine, a balanced diet, and a positive mindset can make a world of difference.

Final thoughts

Poor genes affecting the baseline muscle mass in the abs can determine whether you get six-pack abs or not.

In addition, faulty ab genes combined with poor chest muscles can sometimes reduce your muscular endurance, aerobic power, and even cardiorespiratory endurance.

However, if you follow a regular training plan with or without a personal trainer and eat healthy, you can make up for your lack of abdominal strength in the long run.

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Chief Editor
Tonya McIntosh

Hello there! My name is Tonya McIntosh, and I’m the Founder and Chief Editor of TGFFitness. I’m also a NASM-certified Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer. With eight years of experience under my belt, I’ve found that one of the most common issues my clients struggle with is remaining consistent.

Finding your main motivator to keep going is easier said than done for Keep Reading.

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