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Have You Got Low Body Fat, but No Abs? Here are 3 Reasons Why

Wondering why you're lean, but still don't have a set of good looking abs?

Fit and muscular man who is lean but doesn't have abs

It's a problem that countless guys face all over the world.

It's extremely common for us to hear men complaining about how they're lean and sitting at low body fat levels, but still don't have that set of perfect abs they've always been dreaming of.

It just feels like no matter how veiny, and defined, and lean their arms, shoulders, or the rest of their bodies look, the abs are always either hidden, or not looking that sharp at all.

Think you have the same problem?

In this post I'll go over 3 reasons why this is, and how you can fix the issue to get those abs popping out like never before!


Let's get started.

Why Am I Lean, but Have No Abs?

The first reason is probably the one that's going to apply to most people, and is the reason why the majority of the men complaining feel this way.

1. Your Body Fat Percentage Isn't As Low As You Think

This is true for A LOT of people.

Chances are, no matter what body fat percentage you think you are, you're a couple (or a lot more) points higher than you think.

Unless you're a well educated trainer, there's a good chance you haven't got the experience you need to accurately gauge body fat percentages just with your eyes.

You see, a lot of people think that they're within 10-12% body fat, when in reality they're closer to 15%, 18%, or even 20% body fat.

I've even seen people claim to have their body fat levels sitting around 8%, when they're EASILY at least 14-16% body fat!

You see, it's not ridiculously difficult to gauge your body fat just through your eyes, but you do have to be experienced in the gym (probably at least 2-3 years of experience) before you can make a good guess.

So if you think you're lean, but aren't able to see your abs and are confused as to why, there's a pretty good chance that it's due to you thinking you're leaner than you really are.

Bodybuilder showing off his hard work in the gym

So How Lean Do I Have to Be to See My Abs?

Well, if you're a male, you'll likely have to be sitting at around 12-14% body fat to really have your abs popping and looking impressive when flexing.

And unfortunately, 12-14% is a range that's quite difficult for most people to achieve.

It requires a lot of proper training, eating, resting, and overall commitment to your fitness to reach this stage.

It requires real discipline, and actual, efficient dieting, plus even more work to maintain them in the long run.

It's extremely tough work.

If you would like to learn what it takes to get that shredded sex pack you've always been dreaming of, plus how to go about doing it effectively so that you can get to that stage as quickly as possible, go check out this article here.

2. Your Abs Aren't Developed Enough

While it's true, and we've said time and time again that having a low enough body fat is paramount and when it comes to determining what your abs look like, there is also a chance that your abs aren't developed enough.

Yes, shedding those extra layers of fat are going to allow you to see your abs, even if you don't train them.

But that doesn't mean that training them is pointless either.

Training your abs and making them bigger and stronger is going to allow them to protrude through your fat, even at higher body fat levels than usual.

The abs works like any other muscle group.

They require mechanical tension and progressive overload in order to grow bigger and stronger.

Training your abs for hypertrophy is going to make your abs look more cut, as well as more defined and give you other benefits for strength and performance as well.

Athlete doing dumbbell curls to build muscle in his biceps

And, training them is going to make them pop out more, even if you're storing a bit more fat on your body.

So don't go around thinking that deadlifting and squatting is enough for your abs.

It's a good idea for you to train them directly, through weighted cable crunches and hanging leg raises to make sure that they're not being neglected.

Train them 2-3 times a week, with progressive overload and sets taken close to failure like you would with any other muscle group.

3. Your Body Might Naturally Store More Fat In Your Stomach

This is also a very common reason why people will think that they're lean, without having a defined and cut looking mid section they're proud of.

Our bodies all have body fat distributions.

Put simply, this is the way that our bodies like to store our body fat.

Some people will find that their bodies tend to store more of their fat on their arms and chest, while others will store more of their fat on their stomach or back.

It's all determined by your genetics and isn't something that you can change, but it's worth knowing about.

Typically, men are going to naturally store more of their fat around their stomachs, while women will tend to store more fat in their lower bodies.

However this doesn't mean that just because you're a man this applies to you, or just because you're a woman that your legs are going to store most of the fat.

Everybody is different, and it's only up to yo to find out.

For example, I've noticed that I tend to store the majority of my fat in my chest and my stomach.

Even when I thought I was pretty lean, with veins all over my arms and an overall defined-looking physique, I still didn't have a great set of abs I would've expected to see.

Strong and muscular forearms being shown off.

It was because a large majority of my body fat was being stored in my stomach and chest.

The plus side was that my arms, shoulders and legs did look INCREDIBLY lean, but it meant that I would have to cut down even further and reduce my body fat percentages even more to see my abs clearly.

Body fat distributions that cause you to store more fat in your stomach are going to mean that you need to cut down to lower body fat percentages than usual to have your abs looking as defined as someone else's.

But that just means the other parts of your body are going to look leaner and more impressive most of the time!

To learn more about this topic, click here to read our guide on body fat distributions.


To wrap things up, putting in all your hard work and getting down to a low body fat percentage but still not seeing your abs sucks.

It's demotivating, it's frustrating, and it can cause us to feel like we've been cheated.

But just remember that the things worth having never come easily, that hard work and sacrifice is necessary if you're wanting to pull this thing off!

And we have no doubts you'll be able to achieve it in the end.

Just stick at it, take these 3 reasons into account, and keep putting in the hard work!

Hopefully you've enjoyed reading through this post, and have learnt something from it!

If you did, don't forget to share it with your friends so we can reach more people and help keep as many people as possible educated in the fitness world!


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