For many years now people have slaved away performing countless core exercises hoping for the perfect '6 pack'. Ultimately all of the time spent grinding out sit ups could have been used more effectively to help you achieve the desirable flat stomach.

We assume that these isolation exercises would elicit greater activation of the main abdominal muscles, however, numerous studies have proven that the greatest abdominal activation comes from more functional exercises.

Now, chances are that you will need to lose some of the excess abdominal fat to allow the abdominal muscles to shine through. We have all probably heard the saying "abs are made in the kitchen". This is very true but it is most effective in conjunction with a suitable exercise plan.

Nutrition is very important! A high quality, high protein diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, and 'good fats' will all help to uncover those chiselled abs. As stated earlier this will work most effectively in conjunction with exercise. A recent study has found that performing sprint intervals to be far more effective in decreasing body fat around the core than the traditional crunches or sit ups. Therefore, including a sprint session into your workout will significantly aid in uncovering those much desired abs!

With the knowledge now to uncover our abs we need to look into the best exercises that target the most abdominal muscle activation. In another recent study, participants performed both isolation core exercises (traditional abdominal crunch & oblique crunch) vs. integration core exercises (side plank, mountain climbers & side hovers), and the researchers discovered that the integration exercises produced greater muscle activation of the core muscles than the isolation exercises. This will ultimately result in a greater adaptation of the core muscles.

Finally, a third study looked into the effect that the big lifts (deadlifts, squats, chin ups & olympic lifts) have on the core muscles. Even though you don't get the same 'burn' in your abs when performing these functional exercises the abdominals are actually placed under a significant amount of stress by stabilizing the trunk and the abs get a strong workout at the same time.