Beginner’s Guide to Barre: Everything You Need to Know About the Ballet-Inspired Workout

Beginner's Guide to Barre: Everything You Need to Know About the Ballet-Inspired Workout

If you long for a lean dancer’s body, you might want to consider adding a barre class to your workout routine. A popular exercise among celebs (Kelly Ripa and Zooey Deschanel are fans), the ballet-inspired workout incorporates elements of Pilates, yoga, and weights to sculpt and strengthen your bod.

Even if you think you have zero coordination and rhythm, you can definitely try this dance workout solo, or with your squad, for a rigorous-yet-graceful sweat session. Curious about releasing your inner ballerina? Here’s everything you need to know about barre before you plié into your first class.

What is Barre?

The barre workout was originally invented in 1959 by German dancer Lotte Berk. After injuring her back, she developed an exercise program that combined ballet positions with her physical therapy exercises, all of which consisted on building core stability with zero impact.

Using a combination of ballet poses, core training, and hand weights, as well as elements from Pilates and yoga, a typical barre class today is also low impact and targets four major muscle groups — the thighs, arms, abdominals, and glutes — with both isometric training and high reps with small movements and light resistance (think three-pound to five-pound weights).

And the best part? Although you will be doing some dance poses, you certainly don’t have to be a dancer to partake. The workout is perfect for anyone who is looking for a low-impact workout that blends both cardio and strength training.

What are the Benefits?

Think toned, toned, and more toned. Because barre classes focus on intrinsic muscles, rather than superficial ones, you will find that your body will tone up faster than previous exercises (hi, treadmill!).

Barre isn’t so much about torching calories (although you certainly will burn a lot during a session) as it is about developing and building lean muscle that not only looks good, but will also help you burn more calories throughout the day.

And if you’re longing for that straight-as-an-arrow dancer’s posture, then barre will definitely help with that too. Improved posture, flexibility, and stress reduction are just some of the amazing benefits of a barre class.

What Do You Need to Bring?

For clothing, you would typically wear what you’d wear to a yoga class: leggings, sports bra, and tank top. Basically, you want to have comfy clothes that are also tight to the body so that the instructors can notice and adjust your posture and alignment — and, because, let’s be honest, dancers are never sloppy.

As for your feet, different studios have different preferences. Some might want you in bare feet, while others might prefer socks or wraps. Check with your class ahead of time to know the deal.

How Difficult is It?

While everyone’s fitness level is different — and every fitness level is welcome — barre isn’t an “easy” exercise. It’s a muscle endurance workout that is meant to wear each of those above-mentioned four muscles groups (arms, abs, glutes, and thighs) to fatigue. It will burn, and most first-time barre exercisers might even find that their muscles shake during or post-workout. This is normal. It just means those deep muscles are fatiguing, which, over time, will build more and more strength.

At the end of your workout, you will be longing for that end-of-class stretch session. You’ll definitely need it.

The Takeaway

For a low-impact exercise, barre is definitely high intensity. However, if you’re looking for a new workout to complement your routine that focuses on building strength and increasing muscle tone, while giving you those long dancer-like muscles, then you’ll definitely want to hit up this “barre” for a new kind of happy hour.

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Brianne Hogan is a Canadian writer, currently based in Prince Edward Island. A self-proclaimed "wellness freak," she has a... More about Brianne Hogan