When it comes to getting shredded, there are lots of ways to power up your workouts in order to improve your results. Eating the right pre- and post-workout snacks can encourage your body to build lean muscle and listening to a great workout playlist can keep you psyched to give it 100 percent when your energy begins to lag. But when it comes to abs, the secret to a lean, muscular midsection eludes even the most dedicated of fitness devotees. But there’s an ab-strengthening technique many fitness gurus swear by that you may not have considered — and it has nothing to do with sit-ups (phew).

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A fitness YouTuber revealed on her channel Sarah’s Day (fast-forward to minute three) that her big secret to a super-toned midsection is core engagement. Core engagement refers to the tightening of the ab muscles from the inside, essentially sucking your belly button in toward your spine. You might be familiar with this idea if you’ve ever done pilates. Or if you’re a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger — seriously. A lot of weight lifters, including Arnold, swear by the “stomach vacuum” exercise to tighten their inner abs (AKA transverse abdominal muscles), demonstrated by K’s Perfect Fitness.

According to Sarah’s Day, whether you’re on the treadmill or doing leg curls, you should be engaging your abs. In fact, you should probably be engaging them even if you’re just enjoying a good Netflix binge. Doing this consistency will build your ab strength from the inside, strengthening the many layers of your abs that are barely even touched by crunches and sit-ups.

Friends Working Out Together

The biggest roadblock of consistently engaging your core is, well, remembering to do it. It’d be unrealistic to expect yourself to simply walk around with your abs tensed from this moment forward. Instead, try to start out by doing core engagement exercises a few times a day. When you’re on your way to and from work, tense up your core muscles for 20 seconds, and repeat five times. Do another series right before lunch. And when you’re at the gym, focus on engaging your abs regardless of what exercise you’re doing. You’ll feel stronger and fitter within the month.

What’s your favorite ab exercise? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!

(Photos via Getty)