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Strong, toned muscles will always be a coveted element of health, and for good reason. They cannot be bought, inherited, or exchanged, which means that anyone who has them had to put in the work to build them through different, hard exercises and a good diet.

Here are the best exercises for sculpting the areas where fat is most likely to be stored, which will provide muscle to replace the fat. Ceri Hannan of Virgin Active recommends the following abdominal exercises to keep you fit and ensure the weight that you lose stays off well into the year.

Abdominal exercises to keep you fit

1. Side Planks

Planks are hugely beneficial to your core strength, and they also improve your balance. Furthermore, side planks strengthen your arms, wrists, and legs.

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To make a proper side plank, lay on your forearm before placing yourself in a side plank position. You then lay your free hand behind your head and flex your obliques as you hold the position. Do 10 reps before switching sides.

If you want to try a normal plank, click on the following link to learn the proper way.

2. Triangle crunch

Aside from strengthening your core, a crunch improves your posture and this reduces the risk of lower back pain.

To perform a triangle crunch – which targets the abs, obliques and waist – kneel on your left knee, spread your right leg to the side, put your left hand on the floor and then place your right hand behind your head. Bring your right knee in, towards your right elbow, and squeeze your obliques as you do. Perform ten reps – remembering to alternate sides each time.

3. Cocoons

Lay flat on your back, with your legs straight out and your arms stretched out behind your head.

Bring your knees towards your chest and then rotate your pelvis as you do so while stretching your spine and bringing your arms back over your head similar to an abdominal crunch motion. After a short break, repeat from the starting position. Do 10 reps.

4. Reverse crunch

This type of crunch focuses on your lower abdomen.

Lying flat on the floor, with your feet firmly on the ground and your hands underneath your head, slowly lift your legs off the floor – keeping your knees together. If you inhale, pull your knees towards your chest – if done properly, your tailbone should rise – and use your abs to lift your head and shoulders. Your hands are there to protect your neck – not to pull your head towards your knees. Do 10 reps.

5. Hanging leg raises 

Aside from focusing on your core, this exercise stabilizes your lower back, and it burns your abdominal fat without pulling your lower back and spine.

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When you’re suspended from a pull-up bar – with your arms extended overhead as you use either the medium or wide grip position – ensure that your legs are straight down and your pelvis is rolled slightly backward. Tighten your torso and slowly raise your legs up until they’re at a 90-degree angle. Remember to breathe out as you you’re your legs and to hold the contraction for a second and to perform ten reps.

Important to remember regarding exercises:

Although these exercises are great for your body, no weight loss regime is complete without a few dietary changes.

During the recent holidays, we’ve likely given in to our bodies’ demands for sugary, processed treats and thus we need to teach our bodies to crave food that is actually good for it.  This can be done by incorporating fruits and vegetables into meals as well as replacing refined grains with whole-grains.

If you still have sugary cravings, learn to snack smarter – be it peanuts in your handbag or air-popped popcorn on the kitchen counter. If you don’t tone up as fast as you’d like, or you end up over-indulging on a February weekend, don’t feel discouraged – you have a whole year to reach your goal.

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a beauty and wellness writer who has a passion for poetry, equality, natural hair, and skin-care. With a journalism degree from Pearson's Institute of Higher Education, and identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to continuously provide the latest information, be it beauty or wellness, on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.