A sexy core- who doesn’t want one? Let’s be real, when you’re strolling down the beach and checking out people, your eyes don’t dart straight to their arms, calves or back, you look directly at their abs first. Most people define a fit person on how cut up his or her midsection is. I admit I’ve seen dudes that have huge, muscular arms, yet sport a sloppy gut and automatically I say to myself -- “outta shape”. Yeah, okay... this may be shallow and cold of me, but in reality, a blubber belly isn’t gonna convince me that you eat clean and train efficiently. Sorry yo. So, let’s dig into the factors that keep a belly flat, tight and flirtatious. Obviously, the two general components are diet and exercise. You simply cannot carve a core unless you have the food and training down correctly. CORRECTLY, I said....and this is where the blog gets good.... I’ll get the gross part out of the way, first. The immature part of my commentary where I talk about poop. You poopin’ enough? I mean around one or more times a day? If not, I’m pretty confident to say that you have a ton of gunk built up along your colon, intestines and other parts of your digestive system that are are not only unhealthy, but seemingly contributing to a portion of your belly bulge. As this waste paste continues to shape inside of you, your body becomes constipated and will start to have a hard time absorbing other nutrients you try to feed it, ultimately leading to a sluggish metabolism. Now, as you smart readers know, in order to jog your poo along, you have to ingest fiber and hydrate like crazy. With that being said-- I’m not talking fiber gummies or old man Metamucil and I’m certainly going beyond the “hydration” you have in mind of a couple big bottles of water. You need REAL, fibrous foods like leafy greens, broccoli, avocado, beans, pears, oats, artichokes, berries, apples, almonds, etc. Ditch the fiber pills because guess what? Your body has a hard time absorbing nutrients already with all of that gunk stuck inside of you and it will certainly reject a fortified tablet. Next, make sure you’re doubling your hydration. Shoot to begin and end each meal with around two glasses or 16 oz of H20 and then some between meals. I get it-- it can be a pain in the butt to guzzle all this liquid, but it’s worth getting rid of the other pains near your butt. Just saying. To finish, be sure to avoid berserk cleanses that can be dangerous and leave your body once again dehydrated. Keep electrolyte consumption high through fruits or other means, and take down lots of digestive enzymes from veggies, greens drinks, and fermented foods like plain, greek yogurt. In addition, don’t treat this process as a short-term, get-it-all-out-and-then-go-back-to-my-dumpy-diet kinda deal. Make these foods a part of your daily lifestyle and keep your insides happy. There is no doubt that a truly amazing stomach is built in the kitchen-- 80% diet, 20% training, people!! Moving on, the diet portion is covered and now we enter the exercise realm of a flat belly-- probably what most of you are interested in anyway. What awesome exercises do I have to do to make my abs ripped? First, I’m sure you’ve heard a few times here and there to ditch traditional crunches and sit-ups with more up-to-date, challenging movements. This is absolutely true. When it comes to your core, it is critical that you keep in mind that this part of your body consists of more than just your stomach. In fact, it acts more like a girdle, wrapping all the way around your midsection and includes your lower back (side note: want to rip up your lower abs? Train your lower back). The strength of this girdle is what keeps your body centered, strong and upright. As a result, training it appropriately is important. Try some of these movements: -Planks: keep hands apart and strong under your shoulders and do not clasp hands together. Back straight, don’t dip hips or stick your butt in the air. Beginners, hold for sets of 30 sec at a time and work your way up. If you’re more advanced, push for sets of 1:30 sec holds and work your way up. Planks work your core ALL THE WAY AROUND. -Mountain climbers: squeeze your abs tight while you do this and really focus on your ab muscles crunching together as your draw your knees into your chest. You can also try them “crooked” and drive your knee into the opposite elbow for some added oblique work. -Stability ball jackknives: set yourself up in straight-arm plank position with a swiss ball (stability ball) under your feet. Draw the ball in towards your upper body, piking your body up in a V or jackknife position. Do this SLOWLY. This isn’t for speed, but for control. -Stability ball push-ups: set yourself up in straight-arm, plank position with your feet under the swiss ball and continue with push ups. Want to make it more challenging? Draw your knees into your chest along with the ball and roll back out between each push up. You can also raise one foot and do the push-ups with only one foot on the ball. -Hanging knee raises: Find a pull up bar or captain chair and try both tucking your knees into your chest, or keeping your legs straight and lifting them straight out in front of you. -Plank medicine ball pushes: in straight-arm plank position, face a wall and push a medicine ball against the wall so it rolls back to you. Continue to do so and switch hands with each push. Keep your body still and DON’T LET YOUR HIPS ROCK. To make this harder, bring your feet in closer together. To make it easier, spread your feet apart for more stability. You can also do this with a partner, facing each other and rolling the ball back and forth, switching hands. Keep in mind, training abs is not limited to isolation. Full body movements such as weighted (heavy) front squats, burpees, explosive squats, squat thrusters, etc. are incredible for your abdominal muscles. Finally, one of my favorite exercises-- SPRINTS are so good for your core. Hop on Google and look up pictures of sprinters and check out their abs. They didn’t get those beauties from sit ups, but from explosive exercising. Now that you're done reading, go time your plank while chomping some kale. Happy sweating, kids.