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Focus on your core for a better body

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Core-focused fitness

Achieving a strong, toned physique is a common goal for many, but the path to getting Jennifer Anniston’s legs, Cameron Diaz’s ultra-muscled arms or Gwyneth Paltrow’s flat-as-a-board abs is different for everyone. With so many workout philosophies floating around the Web and in books and magazines lining store shelves, it can get confusing trying to find the best fitness program for you. That’s why we turned to Joshua Lipsey, personal trainer and founder of Core Concepts, who takes the confusion out of getting the body you want. He shares some of his better-body secrets with SheKnows.

Core fitness class

Core focus

Lipsey's fitness philosophy – and that of Core Concepts – is that you should always train your four major core muscles (abs, obliques, glutes and back) during every workout, and the only way to see optimal results is through mixing up exercises and by working muscles to their maximum. Core Concepts was developed by Lipsey as a way to strengthen major and minor core muscles through a series of holding, balance, functional and combination movements. The idea is to make sure the core never plateaus in development, which can happen when your muscles get too used to certain exercises. The system aims to help people lose weight, improve posture, increase lean muscle mass and build stronger stability muscles.

Getting results

Choosing a fitness plan is one thing, but getting the results you want is another issue entirely. Lipsey believes that anyone can tone up and achieve Lady Gaga or Gwen Stefani's rock-hard bod – with the right blend of determination and focus. "If you are extremely disciplined with your diet and are doing the right core exercises in the most effective manner you will see optimal development and you will have a body better than an A-lister," he says.

Staying motivated

For many of us, starting a fitness program is easy – it's sticking with it that's the hard part. Along with variety – and not letting those muscles get bored and plateau – Lipsey sees goal-setting as the best method to keep clients motivated. So rather than just say you need to get more toned, find something that will really get you revved up to work out. Whether it's being able to run 10 miles without stopping or being able to beat your best friend in a foot race, goals get results. "Everyone has some type of competitive nature, whether they are competing against themselves or someone else," the trainer explains.

Must-try moves

Lipsey's approach to getting the whole body in top shape focuses on the core, so we asked him to let us in on some of this favorite exercises aimed at tightening the often hard-to-tighten tummy area. Here are two of his go-to toners.

Double leg lift

  • Lie on your side with your legs stacked and knees together.
  • Keeping legs squeezed together, lift both legs off the ground, focusing on your oblique muscles. Hold for one breath.
  • Slowly lower the legs to the starting position.
  • Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Plank lateral reach

  • Start in the plank position (forearms on a mat with your hips off the ground, back flat, looking forward and your elbows positioned under your armpits).
  • Reach as far out to the side as possible with one arm, putting the weight on your toes. Hold for 5 seconds, then switch arms.
  • Do 2 sets of 20 reps each?.

Calorie blasters for ripped abs

Along with his ab-toning moves, Lipsey shares two exercises that take a torch to calories. We've tried them and they're tough! Not only do they get your heart pumping, they use lots of major muscles so your whole body is working hard as you sweat. Mountain-climbers are a great exercise to burn calories and strengthen your core, and explosive lunges work the legs, glutes and thighs while also burning mega-calories.

Mountain-climbers

Start in a pushup position. Jump your right foot forward towards your chest, keeping your knee bent. Then switch to the other leg, alternating legs at the fastest speed possible. Trust us, you'll be sweating in no time!

Explosive lunges

Start in a lunge position (being sure not to extend your knee too far over your toe). Throw your arms towards the ceiling as you jump, lifting your entire body off the ground and alternating the position of your feet before you land. Continue switching sides.

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