You're not alone if, now that the silly season is done and dusted, you're looking to discover your missing abdominal muscles under those few extra kilos you put on during the festive season. Though besides a nice flat tummy, a strong core is necessary for good posture, a healthy back and overall strength.
"You would be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't!) at how many times I get asked if there's a shortcut to achieving that shredded look that so many of us covet," Personal Trainer Dylan Rivier told The Huffington Post Australia.
"The simple truth is there is no short cut. As with anything health or fitness related, you'll get the results you're after with a systemised and consistent approach to your training and nutrition. However, there are some exercises that stand out among the many," Rivier said.
Hanging leg raises
"I'm a big fan of leg lifting as opposed to crunching, which is the opposite movement. Not only are you working your upper body extensively by simply by holding your body weight from a bar, you're also targeting those lower abdominal muscles that are often harder to hit with a regular crunch," Rivier said.
"Start by hanging from an overhead bar -- choose one that you can hang from without your feet touching the ground.
"With straight legs, slowly raise your legs in front of you as high as you can before lowering them back down to starting position, in a slow and controlled manner -- this will prevent you from swinging back and forward.
"If keeping your legs straight is too hard, try lifting your knees in towards your chest instead, before lowering them back down to straight.
"Boxing is a great form of training that teaches speed, agility, coordination and timing. It's also fantastic for your abs. Specifically your serratus anterior (below the armpit) and your external obliques. These are the muscles that you see along your rib cage between your rectus abdominis (6 pack muscles) and your lats (on your back)," Rivier said.
"Punching your arms forwards and backwards is great, however it’s the twisting through your trunk that gets the work done.
"During a boxing session you twist your trunk left and right as you throw punches as many times as you possibly can. Imagine that every single time you do this those muscles on your side are expanding and contracting, providing the stimulus you need to create that lean sculpted look."
"When done correctly, mountain climbers are a great exercise for getting your heart rate right up, as well as working your abs," Rivier said.
"Start in a high plank position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. This is very important. If your shoulder position moves, chances are it's because your butt is sticking up too much. Get it back down and keep your shoulders stacked above your hands.
"Lift one knee towards your chest thinking about using your abs as you do this (mental visualisation can be an incredible tool for activating muscles).
"Now swap feet, so you extend the bent knee back to starting and you lift your other knee back up towards your chest.
"Don't put too much weight on the top (knee towards chest) foot. In fact, try to keep most of it on the back foot, that way you can pick up the speed in which you perform this activity," Rivier said.
Crunching with your feet at knee height
"It's an oldie but a goodie. Lifting your feet helps you engage your lower abdominals and cuts out on excessive hip flexor usage," Rivier said.
"Lift your feet up until they are in line with your knees. It’s important to keep your knees straight up from your hips (90º) and your feet straight out from your knees (90º).
"Bring your hands up so that your fingertips touch your temples. Now slowly lift your shoulders off the ground till you're about half way between the ground and your knees then lower yourself back down to start.
"Again, start by imagining your abdominal muscles tensing, then contracting (getting shorter). After all, its these muscles contracting that is pulling your shoulders off the ground here -- not momentum, not your hips and not your neck. "
Side plank raises
"Nothing quite hits your obliques like a side raise," Rivier said.
"Take a side plank position with your feet stacked on top of each other and your weight on one forearm, elbow on the floor.
"Put your other hand on your hip so that it’s out of the way.
"Before continuing, check your body position. Ask yourself, 'Am I straight?' The best way to answer this is to have a look at your position and ask yourself if you were to be frozen, then lifted back into a standing position, how would you look? Your shoulders and hips should be square with each other, neck should be neutral as is the spine.
"Slowly lower your hip towards the ground until it almost touches, then lift them back up to start position. You should feel it start to work on your obliques, just above the hip closest to the ground. Be sure to do both sides.
"If it’s too difficult with your feet stacked on top of each other, try bending your bottom knee to 90º and placing that knee on the ground so that your foot is pointing behind you. This will take some of the load off and make it slightly easier."