We could call this a 10-minute barre ab workout. But these 7 core exercises hit so much more than just the abs.
Core muscles extend from the base of your head to your pelvis. You have 29 core muscles; the main core muscles include:
Traverse Abdominis — deep abdominal muscles.
Internal and External Obliques — side ab muscles along the rib cage.
Rectus Abdominis — known as your six pack ab muscles.
Multifidus and Erector Spinae — located along the spine from head to pelvis.
And this 10-minute barre core workout hits every one of these muscle groups.
Why are core muscles important?
Strong, stable core muscles help effectively and efficiently coordinate movement to your arms, legs and spine. This means less chance for injuries, better balance and coordination, improved performance in sports and better posture (Marshfield Clinic).
How to activate your core muscles during mat ab workouts:
These are some common “fitness instructor cues” you’ll hear in workout classes or during personal training sessions that are designed to help you safely perform core exercises:
Pull your belly button towards your spine. Your belly button is connected to your transverse abdominis, your deepest ab muscle which you want ‘pulled in’ when performing ab exercises.
Whenever you’re doing an exercise on your back, make sure to press your lower back into the mat. Maintaining a neutral spine again the floor is the safest way to perform lying ab exercises, without injuring your back.
MY FAVORITE: Imagine there is a string between your hip bones. As you exhale that string (or your TA muscles) are pulling your hip bones together. You can also imagine a grape sitting on your belly button, as you exhale try and crush the grape with your core muscles.
Feeling neck pain or like your hip flexors are doing all the work during your ab workouts? Learn how to fix these exercise errors in this post: The 18 Best Ab Exercises.
Can you get abs from Barre workouts and Pilates?
Barre exercises are also great for your abs:
Barre requires you to keep your core engaged at all times. So while you’re working your arms, legs, and booty, you’re also working your abs.
Barre targets the smaller, stabilizing core muscles (we tend to miss in other full body workouts).
Overall barre workouts are great for improving your core strength and posture.
Similarly, pilates exercises strengthens:
And muscles that support joints (those small stabilizing muscles again)
This core workout is an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible).
You’ll complete 10 repetitions of each exercise, then move immediately onto the next exercise, repeating all 7 ab exercises as many times as possible in 10 minutes. You can stick with me, or move at your own pace.
Watch the video for form cues and modifications, or see GIFs of each core exercise below.
7 Barre-Inspired Ab Exercises
Plank Leg Lifts, right
Fire Hydrant Kicks, right
Plank Leg Lifts, left
Fire Hydrant Kicks, left
Straight Leg Pulls
First Position Kick Out
Boat Pose (Roller Boats)
1. Plank Leg Lifts (also exercise #3, repeated on the left side)
Benefits: strengthen your abs and core while also targeting the: shoulders, triceps, glutes and lower back.
How to do Plank Leg Lifts:
Start in high plank with hands shoulder-width apart. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toes, with gaze slightly in front of you.
From this plank position, engage your core as you use your glutes and hamstrings to raise your right leg off the floor until it’s at about hip height. Foot should be flexed.
Hold at the top for a moment then, lower your right leg back to the floor with control.
That’s one rep, complete for 10 reps. Switch sides for the second set, performing plank leg lifts on the left leg.
Modification: perform a table top leg lift instead of a plank leg lift (with the opposing left leg bent on the ground to support you).
2. Fire Hydrant Kicks (also exercise #4, repeated on the left side)
Benefits: targets the outer glutes (abductors), hips, obliques and core muscles. Tone your butt while also strengthen the hips which stabilize the pelvic floor.
How to do Fire Hydrant Kicks:
Start in a table top position on all fours; with shoulders stacked over wrists and knees under hips. Core engaged.
With a flexed foot, and leg bent at 90 degrees, perform a fire hydrant leg lift — lifting your right knee up in line with your hip.
Hold with your knee in line with your hip and kick through your heel, straighten your right knee to fully extend your right leg.
Return your knee to 90 degrees and lower your right leg back to the starting position.
That’s one rep, complete for 10 reps. The second set will be performed on the left knee and leg.
Modification: omit the kick and perform fire hydrant leg lifts only (steps 1-2).
3. Straight Leg Pulls
Benefits: the abdominal muscles isometrically stabilize the body during this exercise; strengthening the rectus abdominis muscle and the internal and external oblique muscles. Not to mention a nice hamstring stretch.
How to do Straight Leg Pulls:
Lie faceup, legs straight and low back pressing firmly into the mat and your abdominal wall wrapped as tightly as possibly around your core.
Raise one leg overhead while the other leg hovers off the ground. Toes pointed.
Option to lift your neck and shoulders off the mat for additional core engagement.
Reach your hands up towards the calf or ankle of the overhead leg; pulling the overhead leg towards your face.
Then with control switch legs, lowering the raised leg to hover off the ground and pulling the other leg overhead.
That’s one rep, complete for 20 reps.
Modifications: option to bend your legs at the knees, rest your leg closest to the ground on the ground, and keep your neck and shoulders on the mat.
4. First Position Kick Outs
Benefits: again the ab muscles isometrically stabilize the body during this exercise; and the core engagement increases the farther your legs kick out away from your body. While this exercise emphasizes the lower abs it also hits the hips and inner thighs (abductors).
How to do First Position Kick Outs:
Lie faceup, arms extended at your sides and low back pressing firmly into the mat and your abdominal wall wrapped as tightly as possibly around your core. Keep neck and shoulders resting on the mat, arms at your sides.
With knees bent at 90 degrees, stacking knees over hips; bring your flexed feet to ‘first position’, making a V with your feet (heels in toes out).
From here, kick your heels out, fully extending your legs as you pull your inner thighs together.
Hold the kick out for a moment before returning the the starting position.
That’s one rep, complete for 10 reps.
Modification: kick out one leg at a time instead of both legs.
5. Boat Pose Exercise (Roller Boats)
Benefits: increases balance, abdominal and core strength. Also works the deep hip flexors (which can be weak from sitting too much).
If you find it especially difficult to fully extend your legs in boat pose you may need to increase hamstring mobility.
How to do Roller Boats:
Sit on the mat on your sit bones, legs bent at 90 degrees, feet flat. Tilt your hips forward, rounding through the spine as you pull your navel towards your spine (making a ‘C’ shape with your upper body). Keeping your shoulders down and the crown of your head towards the ceiling.
Clasp your hands behind your thighs and roll onto your back and returning to your sit bones.
Take a moment to balance and reset posture. Then if you’re able to release your hands from the back of your legs and extend your legs out away from your body. Toes pointed.
Hold the extended position for a moment. Then place your hands behind your thighs and repeat steps 2-4.
That’s one rep, complete for 10 reps.
Modification: keep hands clasped behind thighs, and legs bent at all times.
Is this barre core workout pregnancy and postpartum safe?
This is an advanced core workout which I wouldn’t recommend for pregnancy or newly postpartum. Try these beginner ab workouts instead: