I don’t know about you, but I find that the hardest area for me to tone is my core. A few weeks of strength training and I see definition in my biceps and triceps, or see my legs looking firmer; but at times I feel like no matter how hard I work my core, it just doesn’t look much different.

Recently I’ve found a few exercises that really work my core muscles and I’m starting to see some results! Here are 7 exercises that will help give you killer abs.

Reverse Crunch: Start this move by lying on your back, your palms facing down, and your knees bent in towards your chest. Raise your hips off the floor and crunch your knees inward. Reach towards the ceiling with your toes. Then, slowly lower your legs and roll back down until you are back in the starting position. Repeat.

Plank: A correct plank stance should position you facing the floor, your raised body elevated off of the ground with only your elbows and toes. Your elbows should be positioned directly below your shoulders and your feet should be close together. The key is to keep your body as straight as possible and your abdominal muscles as tight as possible! TIP: To really challenge yourself, position your elbows even further ahead so that there is more distance between your elbows and toes.

Russian Twist: This exercise is great when done correctly! And, as is the case with many of these, it can be intensified with a medicine ball, hand weight, etc. To do a Russian twist, sit on the floor with your feet flat on the ground and your upper body about 45 degrees from the ground.  This alone will challenge your ab muscles. In this position, twist your torso from one side to another, really focusing on squeezing the muscles being used. TIP: The slower the motion, and the tighter your muscles are squeezed, the more intense the workout is!

Bicycle Crunch: This classic workout is a great one that engages all your stomach muscles! Position yourself on your back with you hands up behind your ears and your legs raised to a 90 degree angle at both the hips and knees. Perform this exercise by touching your left elbow to your right knee and your right elbow to your left knee, one after another. When doing this, you will crunch upward while twisting either way. TIP: For this exercise to work, the movement has to come from your abs…simply swinging your elbows from side to side doesn’t work your stomach.

Pilates Sit Up: Lie down, chest up, on your mat. Extend your legs with your toes pointing up and extend your arms straight back past your head. Keeping your arms straight, lift them over your head so they are even with your shoulders. Raise your head, shoulders and upper body toward the ceiling. Keep your body in as much of a straight line as you can. Avoid arching your back. Lead with your chest, not your head. Your upper body should move as a unit. Your arms should remain straight in front of your shoulders as you sit up to a 90 degree angle. Pause at the top seated position. Slowly lower back down, curling your back towards the floor, taking it vertebrae by vertebrae. Once your back is flat, return your arms to the floor behind your head. That is one repetition.

Crab Twist: Sit on the floor with knees bent in front of you, feet hip-width apart on the floor. Place hands shoulder-width apart on floor behind you, fingertips facing your tush. Lift your butt so that your body is in reverse tabletop position. Extend your left leg and place your right hand behind your head, elbow out. Crunch diagonally, bringing your left knee to your right elbow. Perform this move for 30 seconds and then switch to the other side and perform the move for another 30 seconds.

AB Rollup: To begin, lie on your back with arms at your sides and palms facing down. Lift your butt and lower back up in the air so that the bottoms of your feet are facing the ceiling. In one fluid motion, lower your back and legs and transition to your feet while jumping in the air as high as you can with arms extended straight overhead. That is one rep. Do as many as you can within 60 seconds.

 

Diet: Great abdominals start in the kitchen. This isn’t an exercise per se, but it is an exercise in willpower.  I have found that I see the biggest change in my core when I watch my diet.  To be honest, I think you can do crunches all day long, but if you don’t alter your diet then you won’t see a big change. You have to fight the belly fat in order to show off the muscle definition that the exercises are accomplishing. Some great abdominal friendly foods include: walnuts, olive oil, pistachios, almonds, avocado, flax seed oil, macadamia nuts, natural peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and dark or semi sweet chocolate.