When you envision barre workouts, you may picture individuals with a ballet-like appearance holding onto a handrail and performing delicate movements such as pliés and leg lifts. However, according to Natalie Sanders, an IBBFA-certified virtual barre instructor in Austin, Texas, this mental image is often far from reality. She explains that barre workouts can be quite the opposite, causing you to feel out of breath and scrambling to keep up. It can be intense and leave you sweating profusely.
In other words, barre is not as easy as it may appear, but it offers numerous health benefits that make it worth incorporating into your fitness routine. In the following sections, instructors will answer all your questions about what barre entails, its advantages, and the equipment commonly used. Additionally, you’ll discover a collection of barre workouts that will allow you to experience the method from the comfort of your own home.
What Is Barre?
Barre is primarily a blend of Pilates, yoga, and strength training. However, it also incorporates elements of ballet, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and mobility work, according to Maya Bryant, M.P.H., a certified personal trainer and barre instructor. This combination allows you to have a well-rounded fitness routine by participating in just one type of workout. If you were to solely focus on strength training, for instance, you would still need to separately engage in cardio, endurance training, and mobility work to cover all aspects of fitness.
Typically, barre workouts are low-impact, which means they are gentle on your joints, lower back, and feet. Nevertheless, they are still energetic and high-intensity, adds Sanders. She explains that these workouts involve using light weights or no weights at all to fatigue your muscles through small movements performed repeatedly. For example, you might perform eight complete reps of plié squats or biceps curls, followed by eight pulses and then an eight-second isometric hold. Afterwards, you may repeat this process with a different exercise targeting the same muscle group, such as lunges or hammer curls. By focusing on one area of the body at a time, you’ll enhance your muscular endurance and mental stamina.
Overall, barre workouts require effort and may challenge your physical limits, but the rewards are well worth it.
While a few instructors provide mini classes online that focus on one specific body part (such as the glutes), traditional in-person barre workouts engage the entire body, according to Sanders. You can perform various versions of squats, lunges, calf raises, clamshells, planks, push-ups, biceps curls, and shoulder presses, often incorporating ballet-inspired movements. “You might engage in some exercises in your first position, which essentially means standing with your feet in a ‘V’ shape,” Bryant adds. “You might also do some work with adagio, which simply involves extending your leg to the front, side, or back.”
Before and after a barre workout, it’s also common to perform yoga-style stretches that enhance mobility and flexibility, mentions Bryant. For instance, to elongate your hip flexors, Bryant suggests her clients try a tree pose, which involves extending the knee as far sideways as possible, as well as a saddle stretch, during which you gently rock from side to side.
Although barre workouts can be done without any equipment, you often utilize a few props to build strength, says Sanders. One essential prop is a light set of weights (or even soup cans if weights aren’t available), which you can use to intensify curls and presses. Additionally, you may place a yoga block (or a book) between your knees while performing core exercises that involve lifting, lowering, or holding your legs to activate your core, Sanders suggests. Other props that can be incorporated into barre leg exercises include looped resistance bands, 9-inch Pilates balls, and, of course, a ballet barre. (By the way, you can use the back of a chair as a DIY “barre,” but you won’t be able to perform exercises that require hanging your weight off it, according to Sanders.) If you’re interested in at-home barre workouts (as well as other classes), consider investing in a workout mirror, which is sometimes available as a Cyber Monday fitness deal.
The Advantages of Barre Workouts
Now that you understand the definition of barre, you might still be wondering why you should incorporate it into your fitness routine. Get ready to enjoy the benefits of barre first-hand; after completing your barre workout, you’ll experience shaking muscles and potential enhancements in your stamina, functional fitness, and posture.
Enhance Muscular Endurance
Due to the use of light weights and high repetitions, barre workouts can assist in increasing muscular endurance, which refers to the ability of your muscles to work for extended periods, explains Bryant. The greater your muscular endurance, the longer you can perform without feeling completely out of breath, as Corinne Croce, D.P.T., a co-founder of Body Evolved and an in-house physical therapist for SoulCycle, previously explained to Shape. And this benefit can have real-life advantages: For instance, if you enhance muscular endurance in your arms and shoulders, you might be able to carry your heavy Trader Joe’s bags all the way home without needing to take a break.
Train Functional Fitness
When it comes to real-life advantages, “barre enhances your stamina, power, and endurance so that you can stroll or jog further, swim for a longer time, play around with your children more easily, and have the ability to carry all the groceries in one go,” says Sanders. “It’s developing all of that strength and endurance you require to support your life.”
Even particular exercises imitate actions you would perform in your everyday life: For instance, a calf raise with an overhead arm extension uses the same movement pattern that you would use to grab a can off the very top shelf of your pantry, she adds.
One of the primary focal points in barre is strengthening your core muscles, which can progressively enhance posture, according to Bryant. Reminder: Your core comprises the muscles running along the front, back, and sides of your trunk (referring to not just your abs), and it plays a crucial role in stabilizing your pelvis and spine, which, in turn, helps you maintain proper posture, Michelle Razavi, a fitness and yoga instructor at Equinox and co-founder of ELAVI, previously mentioned to Shape. By strengthening this muscle group, you will enhance your core stability and, consequently, improve your posture, as noted by the American Council on Exercise.
Barre vs. Pilates
Although barre incorporates elements of Pilates, they are still distinct workout methods. In a Pilates class, you will engage in specific exercises (such as lunges, planks, and glute bridges) that are designed to stretch, lengthen, and balance the body. These exercises are performed alongside focused breaths, according to the Pilates Method Alliance, a non-profit professional association.
Barre workouts may also incorporate similar movements, but they are usually done at a much faster pace, states Sanders. “One of the aspects I admire about Pilates is the slow and deep nature of the movements – I have never attended a Pilates class where the pace matches that of a song playing at 130 beats per minute,” she explains.
Why Choose Barre over Pilates?
Barre is primarily centered around dance music, has a more lively atmosphere, and occasionally integrates cardio elements, which are not typically found in Pilates. Moreover, the barre exercises often include ballet-inspired characteristics, such as specific feet and hand positions, that are absent in Pilates, according to Bryant.
In contrast, barre places less emphasis on breathwork, allowing individuals to breathe according to their own rhythm and pace. Bryant explains that in Pilates, you synchronize your exhaling and inhaling with various movements and are instructed to do so.
The Top Barre Workouts
Are you ready to try out the low-impact workout style and enhance your muscular endurance through barre? Consider incorporating these barre workouts into your fitness regimen or visit Sanders’ Instagram, where she offers complimentary monthly classes. Regardless of which workouts you try, expect to experience increased strength and possibly even a heightened stature sooner than you think.
Thank you for your input!