Strengthen your deep core muscles and prevent back pain with this six-move barre workout

Try this barre routine if you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk and deal with lower-back pain

Woman doing flutter kicks with a towel
(Image credit: Maria Eleftheriou)

If you haven't already heard of barre, you're missing out. A combination of ballet, Pilates and yoga, it's one of the best ways to build core strength and balance.

Barre routines usually focus on precise, controlled movements, which target smaller muscles that are often overlooked during strength training. It doesn't require a lot of equipment to do and is particularly good for strengthening the deep core muscles.  

"Back pain can be caused by a lack of core strength," says Maria Eleftheriou, head of Barre at London-based training studio Psycle. "A common cause of this is sitting at a desk and hunching over a computer for too long, which can easily lead to a weak core because your chair supports you, and your core is rarely activated." 

Eleftheriou explains that the core is made up of deep, middle, and outer layer muscles. The deep core muscles are particularly important for spinal support, stability and control. Adding deep core exercises into your weekly workouts can improve both your sporting performance and the way you move in everyday life. 

Below, Eleftheriou has shared six of the best exercises to target your deep core, all of which are inspired by barre. All you'll need for this workout is a towel, but you may also want a yoga mat to support you. 

1.Flat back spine

Woman lying on back with towel above head and stretching one leg out to the front

(Image credit: Maria Eleftheriou)

Reps: 20 on each leg

  • Lie on your back with your legs in a table top position. Your shins should be hovering in the air and facing the ceiling. Hold the towel above you and pull it gently to engage the back. Keep your lower back flush to the mat by pulling the tailbone up slightly.
  • As you exhale, extend one leg slowly away from the body and increase the tension on the towel. Repeat this move on the other leg.

To increase the intensity of this move, stretch out both legs at the same time.

2. Vertical spine

Woman sitting down and holding towel above head with legs stretched out in front

(Image credit: Maria Eleftheriou)

Reps: 20

  • Sit up with your legs long and hold the towel in front of you. Hinge from the hips and lean your upper-body back without curling the spine. Tuck your tailbone and pull on the towel for support. Your eyes should be looking up towards the ceiling. Hold this pose until the core feels a little tired.
  • Maintain the tension on the towel as you Inhale and bring your arms up. Then exhale and bring them back in front of the chest. Repeat this 20 times.

3. Curl

Woman holding towel around knees while sitting down on the floor and curling spine

(Image credit: Maria Eleftheriou)

Reps: 20 

  • Sit up with your legs bent. Loop the towel underneath your thighs and hold onto both ends.
  • Exhale, pull on the towel and round your spine into a c-shaped curve.
  • Inhale, come back to your relaxed seated position, then repeat the exercise. Move slowly and with control. 

4. Lateral lean

Woman sat with one knee on floor and the other leg stretched out while holding towel overhead and leaning to the side

(Image credit: Maria Eleftheriou)

Reps: 20 on each side

  • From a kneeling position, take your right leg out to the side. Hold onto the ends of the towel and reach the arms over the head, pulling the shoulders downwards.
  • Exhale, engage the inner thighs of the right leg and lean the body to the left, pulling the towel tighter. 
  • Come back to centre slowly. Repeat 20 times on each side.

5. Oblique leg lifts

Woman lying on side with a towel wrapped around foot holding her leg up to the ceiling

(Image credit: Maria Eleftheriou)

Reps: 15 on each side

  • Lie on your right side. Raise your left leg and loop the towel around the arch of your foot. Hold the towel with your left hand. Your right arm should be on the floor, bent at the elbow, supporting you. Lean back slightly, to ensure your are not lying directly on your hip bone.
  • Exhale, pull hard on the towel and elevate the right leg, bringing it as close to your elevated left leg as possible. Engage the thighs as you move.
  • Slowly lower back down and repeat 15 times on each side.

6. Upper ab pulse

Woman lying on back with her legs towards the sky holding a towel in both hands and reaching it up to her feet

(Image credit: Maria Eleftheriou)

Reps: 3

  • Lie on your back and straighten your legs towards the ceiling. Hold the towel in the air above your head and hold it taught.
  • Inhale and roll the shoulders off the floor and pulse your body up towards the toes ten times with short, sharp exhales. Relax and repeat two more times.

Looking for more routines that target your mid-body? Try these seven core strengthening exercises, or read up on how to do a plank.

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.