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What Body Fat Percentage Do You Need for Abs?

Also known as your body mass index (BMI) or body fat percentage, this number helps to shed light into your cardiovascular health. Most importantly, it’s a decent indicator whether or not you’re obese, overweight, or at a healthy weight.

If your goal is to reveal a set of six-pack abs, knowing your BMI is a key indicator of whether or not you’ll need to suck in your gut or proudly stick out those abs. Let’s review the basics of your BMI, how to calculate your own BMI, and the body fat percentage you need for rock star abs.

How to Calculate Body Mass Index

Body mass index is helpful in determining whether or not you are at risk for obesity and cardiovascular issues, but how is it calculated?

According to the Center for Disease Control, body fat index comes down to a simple formula:

  • your weight (in pounds) / [your height (in inches)]2 x 703

Don’t let the math scare you off. You simply divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared, then multiply that number by 703. Here’s another way to look at the same formula courtesy of

  • Your BMI = (your weight in pounds x 703) ÷ (your height in inches x your height in inches)

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you weigh 150 pounds and your height is 5’ 8” (68 inches):

  • [150 ÷ (68)2] x 703
  • 150 x 703 = 105,450
  • 68 x 68 = 4,624
  • 105,450 ÷ 4,624 = 22.8
  • 8 is your BMI

With this number, you can move to the next step: calculating your body fat percentage.

Know Your Body Fat Percentage

Despite common mix-ups, your body mass index is not the same as your body fat percentage. Your BMI is a general estimation of your weight and cardiovascular health, but your BFP is how much of your current weight is made up of fat.

To figure out an estimate of your current body fat percentage, take your BMI from above and plug it into this formula:

  • Women: (1.20 x BMI) + (0.23 x Age) – 5.4
  • Men: (1.20 x BMI) + (0.23 x Age) – 16.2

For example: Let’s take two people, Sally and John, who are 28 and 34 years old, respectively, and they have the same BMI of 22.8.

Sally: (1.20 x BMI) + (0.23 x Age) – 5.4

  • (1.20 x 22.8) + (0.23 x Age) – 5.4
  • (27.36) + (6.44) – 5.4
  • 8 – 5.4
  • Sally’s body fat percentage is 28.4%.

John: (1.20 x BMI) + (0.23 x Age) – 16.2

  • (1.20 x 22.8) + (0.23 x 34) – 16.2
  • (27.36) + (7.82) – 16.2
  • 18 – 16.2
  • John’s body fat percentage is 18.98%.

What Body Fat Percentage Do You Need for Abs?

In general, you’ll start to see some definition around 15% bodyfat. If you can get your bodyfat down to 10%, this is when you’ll achieve the results that most people are after. Once you get into single-digit bodyfat percentages, you’ll see incredible levels of definition; however, this level might not be sustainable for most people.

It’s recommended to aim for about 10% to 12% bodyfat. In this way, you’ll have the results you want without over-taxing your body on a harsh diet and exercise program.

Please Note: Before following exercise routines or changing your fitness regime, please consult a certified fitness professional. Always talk with a medical practitioner before following dietary advice or taking supplements.

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