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5 Exercises that will strengthen your core

Tracy E. Hopkins is an accomplished writer, blogger and editor living in New York City. She has expertise covering travel, fashion, health and entertainment.

Core fitness with celeb trainer Michelle Lovitt

We’ve all seen the taut and toned abs on celebrities and thought, “I could look like that, too, if I had a trainer.” While not everyone can afford a celebrity trainer, we’ve got the next best thing – core exercise tips from fitness expert Michelle Lovitt, who has trained Hollywood stars including Courteney Cox, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mary Louise Parker and Julianne Moore.
Celebrity trainer Michelle Lovitt
celebrity fitness

Core fitness with celebrity trainer Michelle Lovitt

We’ve all seen the taut and toned abs on celebrities and thought, “I could look like that, too, if I had a trainer.”  While not everyone can afford a celebrity trainer, we’ve got the next best thing – core exercise tips from fitness expert Michelle Lovitt, who has trained Hollywood stars including Courteney Cox, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mary Louise Parker and Julianne Moore.

Get to know your core

"Most people think of the core as toned abs, but the abdominal muscles are a very small part of the core," explains Lovitt, adding that core muscles help control movement, transfer energy and shift body weight. "What fitness experts refer to as the 'core' actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso."

The strength and conditioning specialist notes that core conditioning exercise programs need to target all of these muscle groups to be effective.

Core training can be done anywhere

"There are many exercises that will strengthen the core," says Lovitt. "A large number of core strengthening exercises can be done at home with no equipment, while some require the use of equipment and gadgets."

To whip yourself into shape for summer, here are Lovitt’s five core fitness moves that can easily be done at the gym or at home.

Side plank

Side plank

The side plank engages the often-overlooked muscles that help support the core. This exercise will help increase lateral hip strength and stability. It also strengthens the internal and external oblique muscles and the transverse abdominal muscles.


Start position:
Get into a plank position on your forearms, keeping your body in line from head to toe.

Movement: Roll onto your right forearm and extend yourself up. Reach up with your left hand. Press up through your forearm while keeping your hip off the ground. Hold the position for 15 to 60 seconds and repeat two to three times.

The forearm plank

The plank provides a great warm-up that engages all the muscles of the core.

Start position: Lie on your stomach with your elbows underneath your shoulders.

Movement: Lift up onto your elbows and toes, keeping your torso and your body in a straight line from your ears to toes (with no sagging or bending). Hold the position 15 to 60 seconds on your forearms. Lower down to the floor, take a short rest and repeat up to 10 times.

Note: To increase the difficulty of the forearm plank, alternate lifting one leg behind you while maintaining your posture for 10 seconds; repeat on the other side.

Bridge exercise

The bridge exercise isolates and strengthens the gluteus muscles (butt) and hamstrings (back of the upper leg), and is a good core strengthener that targets both the abs and the lower back muscles. The bridge exercise is considered a basic rehab exercise to improve core and spinal stabilization.

Start position: Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart on a mat or a flat, level surface.

Movement: On an inhalation, curl your tailbone under, press down with your heels and raise your pelvis off the floor. Press your shoulders down and lift your ribs up. Stay in this position (continue to breathe) for 30 to 60 seconds. Release and roll down slowly. Repeat two to three times.

Single-leg bridge exercise

The single-leg bridge exercise isolates and strengthens the gluteus muscles and hamstrings, and is a good core strengthener that targets both the abs and the lower back muscles.

Start position: Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart on a mat or a flat, level surface.

Movement: On an inhalation, curl your tailbone under, lift your right leg up and press down with your left heel. Using only one leg, raise your pelvis off the floor. Press your shoulders down and lift your ribs up. Stay in this position (continue to breathe) for 30 to 60 seconds. Release and roll down slowly. Repeat two to three times; repeat with the other leg.

Pushups

Pushup

Start position: Place your toes and hands on the floor, making sure your back and arms are straight. Keep your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart and tighten your abdominal muscles.

Movement: Inhale as you lower yourself to the floor, stopping as your elbows reach a 90-degree bend. Keep your body from touching the floor. Press back up and repeat; do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.

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