I began teaching group exercise classes about 20 years ago. Today, I am the founder of barre3, which is based on classes that combine the disciplines of ballet barre work, Pilates, and yoga. This sequence includes four of my favorite core exercises because they're efficient, results-driven, and energizing. You can do all of these moves consecutively for a quick, targeted 8- to 10-minute core workout. If you're crunched for time, choose a couple of moves to light up your core, rev your metabolism, and refresh your energy!
Props You'll Need: Yoga mat, core ball, sturdy waist-high surface, optional light weights
1. All Fours With Weights
Time/Reps: 2 minutes or 20-30 reps on each side
What It Works: Hamstrings, glutes, abs, and upper-body postural muscles
Start in a tabletop position, with your palms under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Reach your right leg long, point the toes, and hold. Push your palms into your mat, relax your shoulders, and pull your abs in. Lift your left arm and right leg long, and lengthen (image on left). Exhale as you scoop your abs in and round through your spine. Pull the elbow toward the opposite knee (image on right). Inhale as you draw back to the starting point.
2. Boat Pose With Band
Time/Reps: 1-minute hold
What It Works: Abs, upper-body postural muscles, and lats
Roll down to your back, and place the band around the balls of the feet. Hold one end of the band in each hand by your shins. Extend legs toward the ceiling. Feet are hip-width apart. Hold here and let your hips be heavy. Pull your abs in and relax your shoulders. Keep your abs engaged and tug the band so that you feel your upper-body postural muscles light up (image 1).
Push your feet into the band and scoop your abs in to start to lift you up. Legs are straight and you are pushing the balls of the feet into the band (image 2). As you draw up to being lifted, hold. Anchor your seat into the mat and engage your core. Keep your spine long and your shoulders soft.
3. Mid Core
Time/Reps: 30 reps/1 minute
What It Works: Waistline and abs
Place a core ball right below your shoulder blades and come down to the mat. Bend your knees and place your hands behind your head and hold. Your hips are heavily weighted into the mat, core engaged, collar bone is wide, and your head is heavy in your hands.
As you inhale, lengthen your spine slightly back into the ball, keeping your hips heavy into the mat (image on left). As you exhale, curl your head, neck, and shoulders up. Your core should be firm and pulled in, seat soft, and neck relaxed (image on right).
4. Upright Core With Oblique Twists
Time/Reps: 30 reps (15 each side)
What It Works: Abs and upper body
Sit tall on your mat as you place a core ball behind your lower back. Inhale to lift tall and exhale to take a slight scoop back into the ball. Hips are heavy into the mat, spine is long, core is firm, shoulders soft, knees bent (image on left).
As you exhale, lift your torso slightly up and forward. Take a slight twist to the side as you pull your elbow back. Return through the center and repeat on the other side.