There really is no secret to getting flat abs: We all know toning any part of the body requires a healthy diet, exercise and patience.
Shedding belly fat in particular doesn't only take a long time, but our abdominal areas tend to store more fat compared to other parts of our bodies.
"Unfortunately, it’s one of the last areas to slim down when you’re eating right and exercising hard. Changes in hormonal levels due to aging, stress and lack of sleep add more unwanted belly fat to your physique," says Alex Savva, founder of CircuitFIT in Toronto.
Strutting a six-pack requires that much more time and patience. Savva says getting defined abs isn't easy for anyone and depending on your body type, it can only get harder.
"It depends on your current body fat levels, your stress levels, your exercise routine, your diet and how much sleep you get," he tells The Huffington Post Canada. However, Savva says, sticking to a fitness and nutrition plan (eating less carbs and more protein) can help you reach your goals in 12 weeks.
And even if you're not looking for a way to get pop-out abs, belly fat in particular can also be dangerous for your health. One study found that people with excessive abdominal fat were more likely to have poor lung function, according to Health.com, while other studies have linked belly fat to cancer, heart disease and liver damage.
Savva says that your gender also plays a role in burning abdominal fat.
"It’s generally harder for women to get ﬂat stomachs because of differences in muscle and hormone levels. Men make more testosterone than women, which allows them to build more muscle and carry less body fat," he says.
But the good news is, Savva adds, strength training can help you increase lean muscle tissue. For women, building muscle in the abdominal areas (you actually don't lose fat when you work your love handles) can be done through a variation of planks and crunches.
Ready to get fit? Here are Savva's 10 best exercises for getting those flat abs — and hey, maybe even a 6-pack:
Sit-Up And Press:
HOW TO: Lie back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and hook your feet under a dumbbell rack
or step. Hold a pair of weights over your chest ( and remember, start with a size you are comfortable with). Perform a full sit-up and press the weights up and over your shoulders. Slowly lower yourself back down with complete control, says Alex Savva, founder of CircuitFIT in Toronto.
Vertical Chair Knee-Raise:
HOW TO: "Use your upper body to hold yourself up tall while drawing your knees up and past your waist," Savva says. Remember to keep your shoulders pinned down and back. Squeeze your abs at the top of the move and slowly lower your legs back down.
Weighted Reverse Crunch:
HOW TO: Grab a pair of weights and lie on your back with your hands stretched out over your head and your knees bent. Bring your legs up until they form a 90-degree angle from your torso and pull your knees in towards your chest. Remember to squeeze your core and slowly start to lower yourself into the starting position. Also, make sure your feet just short of touching the ground.
HOW TO: Stand with your right foot forward and left leg back. Grip a dumbbell (a size you are comfortable with) with both hands and hold it above your left shoulder. Chop the weight down and across your body towards your right hip — similar to chopping wood with an axe. Pull the weight back up and across your body to the starting position.
Standing Ab Wheel Rollout:
HOW TO: Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Holding the ab wheel, bend from the waist and roll out as far as you can, pause, and pull back into starting position. Be careful
not to overextend, Savva says, start with a smaller range and build it up as your core gets stronger.
Vertical Leg Crunch:
HOW TO: Lie on your back and raise both legs up perpendicular to the ﬂoor. From there, lower your legs about 10 degrees toward the ground (to add some extra tension). Next, crunch up, squeeze and slowly lower yourself back into the starting position. You can add a dumbbell between your feet to make this move tougher.
Kettlebell Figure 8:
HOW MUCH: Stand with your feet double shoulder-width apart and hold a kettle bell in your left hand. Squat and twist as you pass the kettlebell behind your left leg and to the right hand. Repeat the ﬁgure eight pattern on the right side. Keep the motion ﬂuid and keep your chest high.
Plank And Reach:
HOW TO: Supporting yourself on your forearms and balls of your feet, get into a plank by positioning your
body in one straight line, keeping your feet just wider than shoulder-width. From this position, reach forward with your right hand, hold for one count, and slowly return to starting position.
Medicine Ball Bicycle Crunch:
HOW TO: Lying on your back, bring your knees up to form a 90 degree angle and hold a medicine ball over your chest. Crunch up and simultaneously perform a bicycle motion with your legs, driving one knee in toward your chest while passing the ball under your knee to the other hand.
Side Plank And Twist:
HOW TO: Holding a dumbbell in your right hand (again, a weight you are comfortable with), lie on your left side with your forearm perpendicular to your body. Keep one foot stacked over the other to form a side plank. Bridge your hip up and hold while maintaining a straight line with your body. If you can, twist and bring the dumbbell under your chest and back up to the starting position.