How many of you break a sweat at the gym on a daily basis but still can’t generate those Shakira abs? I can imagine a significant number of you struggle with this issue. A few years back, I did. I never left the gym without leaving a trail of sweat behind me, but no matter how intense my workouts were, I felt like rock hard abs were just never a possibility.

After much observation, questioning and experimenting, I was able to discover a solution. Regardless of how hard you think your workout is, you need to eat clean and switch up your abdominal exercises.

Former LA Fitness trainer and friend of mine, Steven Smith, said, “You can work on your abs for hours, everyday, but you will not produce your maximum results if you’re still consuming Doritos and soda for snack time.”

Smith recommends cutting down on the sugar and carbohydrates, and amping up on the vegetables and lean protein. He also stressed incorporating some type of protein into your diet after every workout. “Fish, chicken breast and turkey burgers are all great choices, but I understand sometimes it can get boring, so don’t be shy to get creative with your food,” he said.

If your motivation is at its highest level, cut back on fruit to minimize your sugar intake and help promote faster, better results. “Fruit is great, and your bodies need it, but try aiming for one or two servings, and [it’s] best if eaten in the morning,” explained Smith. “This way, throughout the remainder of the day, you will be burning it off.”

Besides my diet, I was making another huge mistake on my path to getting toned abs. Every trip to the gym consisted of the same abdominal routine each day. As a result, I no longer experienced pain and soreness; my exercises became easier for me every time. However, changing up my routine could have made a difference.

“Repeating the same workouts consistently will never get you where you want to be,” said Smith. “Your body needs diversity, and you need to feel the burn. And once you feel the burn in your abs, do another five reps, and then you can take a break.” He constantly reminded me to “push my body till it hurts when [I] laugh the next day.”

I am definitely still a work in progress, but I have improved my body, specifically my abs. After making changes to my routine and diet, results began appearing after about two weeks. And, I learned the longer it takes for the changes to come, the more permanent the changes will be.

So, add a cleaner diet to your lifestyle, switch up your exercises, and watch the stubborn fat melt away. Patience is essential in this process; do not expect results overnight. One salad will not make you lose 2 pounds of fat in a day, so set a realistic time span.

Smith recommends these three abs exercises, which have improved my own abs. Trust me, they will make you feel tighter in just minutes!

1. Leg Raises. Feel the burn in your lower abs. Lay your back straight down on a mat and place your hands under your butt. Begin to raise your legs up and down by alternating height level each time. Be sure to keep your abs tight and breathe. To feel an extra burn, start off fast, and then gradually slow down your speed, and then switch it up again.

Check out this YouTube video to see how to do it!

2. Alternating Stability Ball. This exercise has by far been the best for me. Grab a stability ball, and lay your back straight down on a mat. Start off with the ball in your hands and simultaneously raise your arms and legs, giving the ball to your legs and then back down. Keep switching back and forth; hands to legs, and legs to hands. Be sure to keep your legs straight as they go up and down. Feel the pain in your entire abdominal section!

Check out this YouTube video to see how to do it!

3. Russian Twist with Medicine Ball. Grab an 8 to 10-pound medicine ball (depending on your strength), and sit down on a mat. Hold the ball with both hands, and raise your feet from the ground, and find your balance while sitting on your butt. Hold the ball with your arms straight out, and twist your torso from left to right, hitting the ball on the floor on each side. This exercise mainly targets your oblique muscles.

Check out this YouTube video to see how to do it!

For each exercise, repeat three sets of 20 reps, and gradually increase your number of reps as your muscles become stronger.