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The No. 1 best ab exercise you can do for a stronger core

Lisa Fogarty

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Lisa Fogarty

Lisa Fogarty has written numerous articles for USA Today, The Stir, Opposing Views and other publications. She has covered everything from red carpet events to the discovery of toxic PCBs on school windows. She lives on Long Island, N.Y....

The best core exercise for strong abs, according to one fitness guru

There's one thing many moms believe they'll never get back after having children: no, not their sanity — their abs.

If you've had a baby, chances are you understand how bizarre it is to look down at your tummy (when you finally have a few free minutes to yourself!) and see loose skin that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. Body changes, particularly in our abs, happen to the best of us — whether we're naturally slender, lived at the gym before baby or maintain clean, low-carb diets. Even if you aren't a mom, achieving rock hard, Victoria's Secret abs is a mystery for lots of women.

The truth is: You can faithfully adhere to your 100 sit-ups routine each morning and do 150 other random exercises and you may still never see a single defined muscle in your stomach. The key to great abs isn't working harder, it's working smarter — and certified fitness instructor Cassey Ho, who created POP Pilates, is here to explain exactly how to tone up postpartum abs with one easy (but super challenging, I can't lie) workout move and a few crucial diet reminders.

"Achieving abs isn’t just about doing crunches and waiting for your six-pack to happen," Ho said. "It's about burning the extra fat you’re carrying so your ab muscles can show through! Doing effective ab exercises that target your entire core, along with eating clean, will help you achieve a flat tummy with muscles that pop. The best exercise that will whittle down your waist, by not only targeting the front of your abs, but also your obliques and your lower back, is the hip twist."

More: The only 7 ab exercises you need

Also known as "waist whittlers," here is Ho's step-by-step guide on how to perform this exercise — no equipment needed.

1. Start in a forearm plank

The best core exercise for strong abs, according to one fitness guru

Make sure your elbows are directly under you shoulders and your wrists are in line with your elbows. Keep a long spine from your tailbone through the top of your head and your gaze should be straight down at your mat.

2. From plank, twist your right hip down to the mat

The best core exercise for strong abs, according to one fitness guru

3. Repeat on your left side

The best core exercise for strong abs, according to one fitness guru

4. Lift your butt up in the air for a mini "break"

The best core exercise for strong abs, according to one fitness guru

Keep going until you have done 10-15 twists each side, break and then repeat three more times for a total of four sets.

Modification: You always have the option of bringing your knees to the mat and twisting from there if necessary.

"This is one of the best ab moves because it not only tones and strengthens your core, but it also gets your heart rate up to help burn fat," Ho said.

More: The great big yoga pose guide

If you're a fan of Ho's Blogilates YouTube videos, you may be familiar with the saying, "Abs are made in the gym, but shown in the kitchen." There's no way to "whittle your waist" if you aren't watching what you eat.

"Slimming down your waist also requires you to be smart in the kitchen," Ho said. Here are her top three "waist-whittling" food tips:

Eat nutrient-dense foods (and stay away from highly processed products). These include whole foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals, but have relatively low calories. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein are examples of nutrient-dense foods that will keep your blood sugar levels normal and boost your metabolism.

Don’t overeat — even if it’s on healthy foods. An excess of calories will cause you to gain weight no matter what type of food it is. Therefore, controlling your portions will result in a leaner tummy.

Don’t drink your calories — drink water. Drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day helps to flush sodium from your body and reduces belly bloating. Swap carbonated, fizzy and caffeinated drinks for water and you'll feel slimmer in no time.

Ready to take Ho's Waist Whittlers 100 Challenge?

Sounds a lot easier than it actually is, right? I got through six minutes before collapsing in a heap on the floor — but my abs feel amazing and I'm sticking with it.

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