In exhale Barre classes, our Core Conditioning Series follows a pattern: Flat Back, Round Back, and finally the Curl – which introduces a progressive challenge of increased spinal flexibility with each position. All three exercises address two fundamental needs: strengthening the core while building flexibility in the back. Joseph Pilates always preached that the “supple spine equals a youthful body,” and it’s true. The more spinal strength and flexibility you have, the more strength and flexibility you’ll see in every other area.

The curl takes discipline because it’s a complex position. You have to prioritize pressing the lower back down on the mat while simultaneously curling up enough to keep the shoulder blades off the mat. It’s a tough challenge, and it’s impossible to cheat! Holding the position can only be attained by engaging the deepest abdominal compressor, the Transversus Abdominus, or TA. It’s the same energy that you need when holding a plank: pulling in from one hip bone to the other, and breathing without releasing the “abdominal lock” that you established to hold the position.

Once you are strong enough to confidently hold the base curl position, you’ll add arm and leg movements that will challenge your strength to stay in correct form. With small curl movements you’ll challenge your Rectus abdominals (these are the ones that give you that “six-pack” definition.) You’ll target the obliques with rotations to the right and left.

We love the core stabilization and back flexibility results that come from doing the Curl. Gradually, you will start to see inches reduced around your waist and definition in your core. After a couple weeks, you’ll also find that the other arm and leg exercises will get easier – raising you to an entirely new level of fitness.

Want to up your curl game? Here are 7 tips to remember for your next Barre class:

  1. As long as you’re prioritizing position and alignment, you’re going to see results.
  2. The more classes you take, the more you’ll be able to master this position. So, don’t get discouraged!
  3. Appreciate strength in stillness. You don’t have to move all the time for an exercise to be working. Holding the position with accuracy is the fastest way to get results!
  4. Hang on the stall barre before and after class, and work on increasing your hang time. This will enhance your back flexibility and help you with the entire core conditioning series.
  5. If you need to modify the position, don’t be shy! If you’re coming back from an injury, are pregnant, or just coming back to the studio after some time away, that’s okay. Work with your teacher and find what works best.
  6. Practice this exercise on a regular basis, even outside the barre studio. Make it your go-to abdominal workout!
  7. Embrace the challenge. After all, if it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.® -Fred DeVito