Barre workouts are nothing new, and both private studios and branded chains have gotten in on the action, with new classes springing up all over the country. However, many people have avoided barre exercise classes, believing that they aren’t graceful or coordinated enough for such a workout due to its dance background. Despite common belief, anyone (dancer or not) can do a barre workout, which is why we love them. Read on to get all your barre workout questions answered and to learn how you can join this workout movement — no dance experience required.
Barre workouts have been around for awhile.
The word “barre” probably conjures up a picture of your fifth grade ballet class teacher counting down pliés during warmup. However, while barre workouts are definitely inspired by ballet, they take it to the next level by combining it with other exercises, such as Pilates and sculpting. Barre exercise classes have actually been around since the 1940s, when European dancer Lotte Berk — whose ideas form the foundation of barre workouts — decided to combine dance moves with other conditioning exercises as a way rehabilitate her back injury. One of her students opened the first American studio in 1971, and barre workouts have remained popular ever since because of their no-nonsense fitness approach and proven results. Barre workouts target the lower body and core, although your arms will definitely get a workout as well. Moves include leg and hip lifts, plank work, and of course pliés and arabesques.
Pretty much anybody can do them. Even dudes!
First of all, barre exercises are very easy on the joints thanks to the low-impact moves, so they’re a good option if you have persistent joint problems or are recovering from an injury. Barre workouts are known for improving flexibility, balance and endurance, and you’ll probably find yourself standing up straighter after a couple classes, as they encourage better posture.
Because of the many modifications available, people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels can do barre workouts, including guys. Barre exercises also target traditional trouble areas, such as the stomach, thighs, and derrière, and many praise them for their fast, visible results. However, while a great addition to your workout routine — since it works muscles you never knew you had — barre workouts can’t replace cardio or strength training.
You WILL shake and tremble. Like, a lot.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a barre workout is easy just because you’re not lifting weights or jumping all over the place — you will be sore by the end, and your muscles will shake during multiple exercises, so embrace it. Be prepared to hold a static pretzel position for a while, or to pulse only an inch or two in your plié for dozens of reps (there’s no frantic rushing through the isometric movements). It may take you a few workouts to get the hang of the exercises, so don’t give up.
Most barre studios ban shoes, so bring socks with sticky soles to keep from sliding all over the floor. However, you shouldn’t need to bring any equipment except a water bottle and possibly a mat, as many barre workouts focus on body weight exercises. However, some studios may incorporate small hand weights, rubber balls, stretching bands, or other equipment to add some variety, so don’t be surprised if the instructor pulls these out. As for clothing, most studios recommend that you wear fitted but not revealing clothing, such as a tank top and leggings (the pants should cover your knee), so the teacher can better see your form. If it’s your first class, you should get there a few minutes early to sign a waiver and introduce yourself to the instructor.
Not all barre workouts are created equal.
Since the barre workout technique has been around for decades, many different variations have been developed. Pure Barre lives up to its name with a barre/Pilates combination that uses little equipment besides the barre, while The Bar Method combines the Lotte Berk technique with a physical therapy approach (check out the online classes for an example). Physique 57 combines intervals of cardio and strength training with recovery stretch periods. Pure Yoga’s Figure 4 classes are more dance-based and include more cardio-intensive options to get your heart pumping (try out a few of its moves here). For the more committed, Barre 3 is an entire lifestyle approach that goes beyond studio classes with a nutrition philosophy and online workouts you can try in the comfort of your own home. Other studios also offer barre-inspired workouts, such as the Barre X class at Pilates ProWorks, which combines barre work with TRX bands. Since barre workouts have become so popular, there should be a range of studio and classes available in your area so you can find the perfect barre workout.