Want a flat stomach? Of course you do! While it's not going to be easy, you may be surprised by how quickly you can achieve the stomach of your dreams. The good news is it's not all sit-ups either. With some hard work, commitment and even some sitting down, you can get a flat stomach.

The trouble with many people is that they want a flat stomach without having to work for it. The trick however, isn't to work harder but to work smarter.

Doing effective exercises which challenge your stomach muscles and work areas you've never toned before, will be of more benefit to you than doing endless sit-ups or hours of cardio to little effect.

Effective tummy toning exercises

Getting a tight tummy doesn't have to take hours of hard work. One of the most effective exercises you can do for this area is a set of crunches, but three sets of 12 reps is all that's needed. The key is to do crunches correctly. Master the crunch and you are halfway there to a flat stomach!

To perform crunches, you need to lay down on your back and with the knees bent, move upwards from the stomach, rolling up one abdominal muscle at a time. You need to work from the stomach, to the chest, shoulders and chin, reversing these movements on the way down.

To perform a reverse crunch, lay on your back and pull your knees to your stomach. Remembering to breathe steadily, keep the lower back on the ground and raise your bum, keeping the stomach muscles tight as you work the legs. This is a very effective exercise for toning the abs, so make sure to repeat three sets of 10-12 reps.

Blast your belly fat

It goes without saying that the best way to reduce the amount of belly fat you have is to consume less calories and increase the amount of exercise you partake in. Some of the best include cardio exercises like running, aerobics or swimming. While we all know this is the best way to blast belly fat, the key is knowing how to fit this into a busy lifestyle and get the results you've been after.

One simple way to do this is to reduce sugar in your diet and this includes limiting the amount of alcohol you consume. After all, a 'beer belly' is really just the result of too much bloating and sugar consumption. With this logic in mind, it's wise to limit or avoid too many fizzy or carbonated drinks as these can contribute to these effects.

Similarly, avoiding sugary or salty foods is a good idea. Eating lots of sugary foods causes weight gain because if it's not converted into energy, it becomes stored as fat instead. To prevent this, avoid excessive sugar and choose 'healthier' options with less added sugar, particularly in cereals and desserts.

Top tips to a trim tummy

Making sensible dietary choices will help if you're looking to get a slim stomach. You don't have to cut tasty food choices out either. All you have to do is be aware of how much salt and sugar that food contains, which can easily be read on the cardboard box or packaging that most modern foods come in. Here are some other top food tips which will give you a trim tummy.

1. Avoid fried foods. Especially chips, onion rings, fried chicken, etc. These foods can be very heavy and hard to digest, which make you feel bloated.

2. Eat fresh and raw foods. Choosing an abundance of brightly coloured and fresh fruit and vegetables is the best way to get a variety of nutrients into your diet and as these are easily digested and contain virtually no fat compared to highly processed or fried foods.

3. Avoid spicy food. Anything that has a lot of chillies, hot spices or contains a lot of vinegar will stimulate stomach acid, leading to an irritable or bloated stomach.

4. Avoid salt. Excessively salty foods can cause temporary fluid retention, which can add pounds to your figure. An easy way to avoid this is to not put any additional salt into meals during cooking or add it as a condiment.

5. Try to cut out tea, coffee, alcohol or fruit juices. All of these can be highly acidic and cause irritation and swelling to the GI tract.

Burn that stomach fat with yoga and pilates

If you don't want to do hours of running and endless crunches to get the stomach of your dreams, it doesn't have to be as tiring or as gruelling as you might at first think. Here are some of the best tummy toning exercises you can do without barely breaking into a sweat.

Pilates is a great choice of exercise if you're looking for a long and lean body. It also helps to strengthen muscles over time as it works the core of the body, along the abdomen and back. Pilates can help to tone and strengthen the abdomen with a series of workout exercises which challenge these muscles, creating a firmer, flatter stomach while also providing other benefits when working in tandem with the trunk, to create better support of the spine.

Yoga has a number of poses which can help to flatten the tummy. These include the cat pose, where lying on a mat, the abs and buttocks are pulled inward as the spine is arched upwards as much as possible, held for a number of breaths before letting go for a similar duration.

Another one you might like to try is the bow pose, where lying flat on your stomach, the legs are kept together and bent upwards from the knees, hands grabbing the ankles, so that the upper body rises off the floor. When the stomach touches the ground, this is the ideal position to be in for maximum effectiveness at working the abdomen area.