In many ballet-inspired classes, the barre is used in most exercises, including ones that work the abs. The flat-back exercise, one of our favorite moves because it targets the deep abs (the transversus abdominis), usually requires a barre, but this prop-free version from Kara Kokorelis, owner of the newest Pure Barre location in San Francisco, means you can now work your low, deep abs and build a stronger core at home. This variation without a barre is more difficult than the original but all the reason more to try it! "The key is to engage your abs and pull them back and in," says Kokorelis. "You are using your abs and entire core to lift your legs while using a forceful exhale with every movement. Core work is a huge element of Pure Barre."
- You can try this exercise either against a wall for more support or in the center of a room for added challenge. Think about sitting tall against a wall so that your lower back is straight. Then, hinge your shoulders forward for more leverage. Do try to keep a flat back with the exception of your shoulder blades, which are at a slight angle forward.
- Open your legs into a diamond shape so that your toes touch and your knees open apart. By pressing your toes together will engage your inner thighs a bit as well. Keep your heels lifted for the duration of the exercise.
- Open your fingers away from each other and press your fingertips into the floor, making a cupping position with your palms.
- Try to keep the weight evenly distributed between all fingers for balance. Engage your abs by pulling them in toward your spine to prepare for the exercise.
See the exercise after the break!
Single Leg Extension
- Pull your abs back and in as you extend one leg straight in front of you to hover just off the ground.
- Lift the straight leg up with a sharp exhale 15-20 times. Your exhale will allow you to keep your abs where you want them, which is in.
- Switch legs, and repeat the movement with the opposite leg.
- After you finish the second side, bring both legs back into the diamond shape. Reset your fingertips on the ground.
- From here, lift both of your legs up together, keeping your toes pressed together and knees apart.
- Lift your legs together 10 times to finish.
- End your exercise with a well-deserved cobra stretch by lying face down on your mat with your hands underneath your shoulders. Press gently away from the mat and lift your chest up, arching your back slightly.
Model: Pure Barre instructor Juliann Witt at Pure Barre in San Francisco, CA