Who wouldn’t like to flaunt ripped six-pack abs? While that is not entirely a true definition of fitness, aesthetically it is what many fitness enthusiasts aspire for – the proverbial six pack abs. The most popular symbol for fitness globally is a well-defined set of abs! Case in point is the recent music video of Kala Chashma with Katrina Kaif and her enviable abs. They would kill for it or (theoretically) die trying!

If you’ve been slogging in the gym without any results, here’s some expert advice on the best exercises for abs. There are two simple rules that need to be followed – lose fat and build muscle. Keep in mind, we all have a potential six pack abdomen lurking underneath the layers of fat. Hence, for definition, you would require a really low fat percentage in the abdominal region for the abs to be visible. Which means, a carefully calibrated diet is extremely critical with respect to obtaining washboard abs. A sound diet plan coupled with an exercise programme can help you achieve the desired look. Most importantly, you need time, patience and dedication.

Having said that, most people, in their efforts to obtain the six pack, focus on ab exercises only and perform 1000s of crunches and completely neglect their back muscles. This imbalance can drive the spine out of its neutral alignment and lead to injuries.

Thumb rule: Do as many crunches as you can do back extensions. It’s important to maintain balance in the strength of these two muscle groups to maintain the integrity of the spine and to improve your posture as well.

When it comes to nutrition, a diet plan that is 30 percent protein in the form of lean meats, 40 percent carbohydrates (preferably from fibrous, low glycemic foods) and 30 percent fats from whole foods, is desirable.

Here are five exercises that one can do to target the abs:

1. Plank

Lie on a yoga mat (or the floor) belly-down. Now, raise your feet so you are on your toes and your arms to rest on your elbows. Elbows should be just below the shoulder and not ahead or behind. Shoulder, hips, knees and ankles should be aligned and your head should be aligned with your spine. Basically, your body should look like a raised plank. Maintain a normal breathing pattern and hold this position as long as you can without losing form. Start with 30 seconds and over time, increase the timing to 2 minutes.

2. Side Planks

Lie on your side. Elbow directly under your shoulder. You can also be on your palms to begin with and then on your forearm to progress with. Lift hips off the ground. Shoulder, hips, knees and ankles will be in a diagonal straight line. Neck aligned with spine. Maintain a natural breathing pattern throughout and maintain position till you can maintain proper form and alignment. Repeat on other side.

The above exercise can be scaled down by keeping your knees on the ground. Go onto your toes as your core gets stronger.

3. Hollow Rock

Lie on your back with your legs in front and arms overhead. Lift shoulders off the ground till the lower part of your shoulder blade is on the ground. Feet should be off the ground by about 6-8 inches. Rock back and forth with your pelvis as the fulcrum. As many reps as you can maintain form.

4. Russian Twists

Sit on your sit bones with your torso angled at a 45 degree angle. Knees are bent and at a 45 degree angle from the hip. Using a med ball, bottled water or any weighted object, tap the ground close to your hip with it and then lift and tap the other side. Hips, legs and trunk should remain rigid throughout the movement. Inhale as you tap the ground and exhale as you lift.

5. Sit Ups

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on floor. Raise your arms overhead and inhale. As you exhale, lift your trunk and reach for your feet with your hands. Once the shoulder crosses over the hips, inhale and go back to starting position.

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