What Are Barre Workouts?
Barre fitness is a super-energizing, whole-body workout that’s great for everyone, from beginners to pros. Each class works to build alignment, strengthen your core, and tone and elongate muscles. Think of it as offering all the body benefits of a ballet dancer—without attempting a pirouette.
“A barre workout combines traditional elements of a classical ballet barre workout with Pilates and contemporary leg exercises to offer a low-impact, challenging workout focusing on the lower body,” explains Erickson. “A barre workout will tone the glutes, hamstrings, and calves, creating that long, lean dancer look.” The workout itself is appropriate for most students with proper supervision and cueing by an instructor, with the exception of students with serious lower-body injuries.
What is a Barre Class Like?
Most barre classes will start with a short warmup, some using small weights and others starting at the barre. The teacher will demonstrate the movement and then provide encouragement and corrections for the students to get the most out of every move in every exercise. “All classes will hold a portion of their exercises at the barre and on the yoga mat,” says Erickson. “The exercises are fun to perform and it’s wonderful to ‘share the pain’ with the group in your class while you work at the barre.”
Erickson notes that it may take a few weeks to see results (hello, looser-fitting jeans). “Most dedicated students will see results in their overall leg and abdominal strength, including a decrease in the circumference of the thighs and a lifted tush in about four weeks,” she says.
What to Wear to a Barre Class
Part of the fun of picking up a new workout is choosing clothes and gear to accompany it. Erickson recommends wearing form-fitting clothing, such as leggings and a fitted top. “This will allow your teacher to see your form and provide corrections that will make you perform the exercise correctly to get the most out of each move while protecting your back,” she explains.
The Benefits of Barre Workouts
1. Improves posture
“There’s a big focus on strengthening the muscles through the chest and shoulders in barre practice, which in turn prevents us from slouching,” Willoughby says. After just a few sessions, you’ll feel yourself standing taller with a sense of elongation throughout your body.
A 2020 study investigated postural angles on participants partaking in ballet barre exercises for 50 minutes twice per week for 12 weeks. The results found that barre significantly improved head, shoulder, and pelvic posture.1
2. Strengthens glutes
Sure, this extra toning is a win for us in the peachy rear department, but Willoughby explains that there’s more to it than a tightened bum. “More importantly, working on your glutes helps to strengthen all the muscles that stabilize the pelvis. This helps to alleviate pressure on the back, hips, and knees,” she says.
3. Tones stomach muscles
Because barre focuses heavily on balance and strength, your core is an integral part of the training. “As you use the abdominals to hold the body in a correct alignment, barre classes will give you a heavy core workout—perfect for keeping toned tummies in check,” says Willoughby. This can be especially helpful for postpartum mothers looking to bounce back.
4. Increases flexibility
The combination of stretching and the focus on posture allows your flexibility to be pushed to the limit. This means fewer potential injuries and improved physical performance. By no means do you need to be the most graceful, swan-like prima ballerina at the barre (the movements are easy to adapt for all levels). Give yourself a few weeks and you’ll be surprised at how your flexibility increases.
5. Reduces stress
We all know that exercise, in general, helps to reduce stress,2 but whereas yoga quiets the mind and HIIT gets it all out, barre sits somewhere in between. Barre is a mental challenge, as each movement requires a level of mindfulness to stay engaged. It’s almost like a form of meditation, as your brain remains intensely focused on each small movement. You’ll leave each class feeling lifted and calm.
6. Better mental focus
You might find yourself being quick on your feet when it comes to thinking and problem solving after your barre session. Like stress, an exercise in general releases endorphins that keep your mind sharp. Research has shown the combination of pilates and yoga specifically (which is ultimately what barre is) may improve mental clarity and keep you thinking positively.3
7. Increases overall strength
Not feeling like lifting heavy weights, but want to improve your strength? No problem. With barre, you’re often using only small hand weights (or none at all), resistance bands, and stability balls. You also don’t have to worry about what day of the week leg day lands on. Barre exercises are full-body workouts, strengthening your arms, legs, and core all in one session.
8. Improves endurance
Endurance is more than improving your stamina for future workouts; it also impacts essential organs. The American Heart Association states that your heart, lungs, and circulatory system stay healthy when endurance activity, like barre, is incorporated into your routine. When you stay consistent with these exercises, you can reduce the risk of developing diseases like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.