Michelle is the author of Exercise For Your Muscle Type: the Smart Way to Get Fit and creator of Prevention Magazine’s ULTIMATE FLAT BELLY DVD series. She currently runs Lovitfitness, a Beverly Hills based training company that is known for getting clients in remarkable shape. Her background in Exercise Physiology is why her methodology and results reside in heart rate based training. Michelle’s signature training method, Train Smarter Not Harder, gives her clients educational tools that help them understand their bodies, lose body fat, get stronger, stay motivated and enjoy a better quality of life. She has a loyal following and a reputation for getting her clients in remarkable shape.
What is your core? Why do fitness gurus everywhere seem to sing the benefits of core exercises? Well, turns out it’s a pretty important part of your body and fitness journey! Your core can affect everything from your posture to your flexibility. Focusing on building back my core transformed my own body, and I want to share everything I learned from my personal trainer, Michelle Lovitt, with you. Find out which muscles comprise the core, why they’re vital to our overall physical fitness, and the at home exercises you can do to build up those muscles. I’ve learned so much from Michelle, and I hope these tips kickstart your own learning process with what works for your body. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with personal trainer to the stars, Michelle Lovitt.
This is an excerpt from my Instagram Live conversation with Michelle Lovitt on Feb. 3, 2022. It has been edited for length and clarity. For our full conversation, click here.
Carrie Ann: One of the greatest things Michelle taught me was to reconnect to my core. As somebody who had been working out her whole life – I was a dancer, I was fit my whole life, and then was not fit – I was trying to find my way back. Working with Michelle these past few years has been tremendously helpful, but we didn’t have a huge breakthrough until we realized I wasn’t using my core properly. But we didn’t really have the huge breakthrough until we rediscovered my core as a dancer.
The way I used my core was so second nature to me that I never had to think about it. But the way I was used my core wasn’t giving me the desired results. So why is the core such an essential thing? Why suddenly did we see such huge breakthroughs with me and my body and my shape (I went from a size 10 to a size 6)?
Michelle Lovitt: Well, I think everything from a dancer’s perspective is about extension. And everything about an athlete’s perspective is about performance and power. If they don’t have a strong base, they can’t bring any power from the ground up – your power starts with your trunk. And the misnomer with core is when you ask what it is, people will say, “oh, it’s my abs”. Wrong! Core is actually your abdominal muscles, your lower back muscles, and your hips in all four directions. If you have a weak core, your ability to stand and be stable is compromised. So if you want to start a workout program, starting from the ground up is the way to go. I would start with your core first, meaning do exercises to engage your abs, your lower back, and all four planes of your hips. And if you only have five minutes, then you do it every day for five minutes, or every other day for five minutes. You’ll start to get a stronger core, you’ll start to feel more centered, more balanced, and more capable of doing a workout.
Carrie Ann: Okay, so let’s show them what you’re talking about!
Michelle Lovitt: I think we should start with a bridge because I think everybody can do it right whether they’re on the ground or they’re in a chair. Let’s show them how to activate their abs by pushing them into the ground. So contract your abs like somebody is going to walk up and drop a medicine ball on your stomach. You have to contract them really hard and push a little back into the mat, and then you can lift and lower as you breathe. Don’t forget to breathe. When you do core, a lot of people like to hold their breath and that’s not good for your heart. So now Carrie Ann is going into her bridge position, which basically you just lay on your backside, and then you tuck your feet back to work your glutes, keep your weight in your heels, and get your butt up off the ground. If you can get your lower back off the ground, great. If it bothers your lower back, then put a block or your hands underneath just to give you some support. But which she is strengthening his her glute muscle, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles. So doing a bridge gets 3 out of the 7 things of core addressed. That’s one of the greatest exercises to do, I love bridge.
Carrie Ann: For everyone at home, is it better to just drop down or roll down?
Michelle Lovitt: When you come down after holding your spine in a fixed position, make sure you go down just as slowly as you go up. You don’t want to go up and jam your way up either. So when you go up, it’s a slow and controlled motion up. Then after you hold it, roll down and then pause for a second. Some people may even need to roll around a little bit just because their low back has been used for that 30 seconds. And then if you want to add your inner thighs to this move, you can grab a ball, a block, or anything, you just squeeze your knees together. You’re bringing in your adductors, or your inner thigh muscles, which are also part of your core. I usually like to hold the bridge for anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute. And I always have my clients do pulses with their knees toward the block or the ball just to get the inner thighs to fire up a little bit. And then when you come down, remove the block first, and then roll down one vertebrae at a time.
And then because you were able to address your glutes, your hamstrings and your inner thigh, I think a really fun one to do would be going into a bird dog. If you want to do a modified version of a bird dog, you can do it against the wall, or you can do it flat on the ground. You don’t have to be in an elevated tabletop position like Carrie Ann. We’re going to start with one foot, and then we’re going to add the opposite limb. So she has her left leg up and her right arm extended. You want to think about one line of energy coming through your fingertips, through the tip of your toes, as you squeeze your abs, lower back, and glutes. You’re already strengthening your core so much in this position. From here, contract your right elbow to your left knee, pulling your bellybutton up into your spine.
To engage the proper muscles, you want to make sure that your hips are level. And as she does this, I should be able to balance a teacup on her back while she’s extending. If she isn’t extending or she’s in a twisted position, the tea cup would fall. And then you want to switch sides. Sometimes these challenge your balance a little bit but if you fall you won’t go very far. So embrace the wobble. Remember everybody is where they are fitness wise until they’re not. It takes a few seconds to just get going and start the journey.
Carrie Ann: Okay, now we’re going to do my favorite exercise. If you guys have a band that you can attach somewhere, you can do this. What are these called, Michelle?
Michelle Lovitt: These are the “whittle the middles”! But first, make sure your band is secure! Carrie Ann is twisting against a band with quite a bit of tension. She’s leading with her hips and following with her arms which engages her lower abdominal muscles, her triceps, and we’re trying to get into the obliques so that we create that hourglass shape where you have that nice little whittled middle.
Carrie Ann: What about this option?
Michelle Lovitt: That’s a great one. To engage that lower part of her abs, Carrie Ann is going to grab the band, and push and pull outwards, starting from the center of her torso. We are creating core stability with this band.
And there you have it! As you can see, even the simplest of moves can help to strengthen and stabilize your core. Core strength is associated with better posture, balance, flexibility, and helps to eliminate back pain. All of these moves can be done at home – no personal trainer needed! If you’re interested in hearing more from Michelle, you can check out articles she has contributed to here. Our full Instagram Live video is up on my instagram pages, @carrieanninaba @carrieannconversations, if you would like to see our full conversation and live demonstration. Be kind and stay well!
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