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You can reap the benefits of this dance-inspired exercise at any level.
Looking to tone, sculpt and stretch the body? Barre may be the perfect workout for you. The
dance-inspired workout has been around for decades, but recently became popular again as followers have come to appreciate its low-impact but effective movements and upbeat classes. In 2021 alone, over 3.6 million people participated in barre workouts in the U.S.
Many studios offer in-person classes with motivating instructors, energetic music and encouraging community, but virtual options are aplenty these days and many fitness apps offer incredible barre workouts that you can do from home. Here you’ll find guidance from fitness experts including important form tips, necessary gear and the best at-home barre workouts.
Barre is a unique type of workout that blends movements from ballet, Pilates moves, yoga and strength training. "Barre is a low-impact, high-intensity workout designed to strengthen and tone your body using isometric muscle contractions, mixed with dynamic movement patterns," says Dominique Clark, Pure Barre Fitness Instructor and Training Evaluation Specialist. The result is a workout that targets all the major movers of the body, including the hips, thighs, glutes, abdominals and arms.
"The goal is to work your muscles until they’re fully fatigued, and to challenge your stamina both physically and mentally to push through to build endurance and gain strength over time," Clark adds. Posture and alignment are important priorities as well in any barre workout, and Clark says that the dynamic range of motion that your body goes through during a barre workout will increase mobility, improve balance and enhance mind-body awareness.
The dance-inspired workout is popular for a reason; it’s beginner friendly but also extremely effective and low-impact at the same time. Across various barre formats, Clark highlights these benefits:
Since barre is a low-impact exercise, it can be a fantastic workout for all fitness levels. Clark says that it can be modified easily and that instructors will often offer adjustments during class. She adds that the workout is accessible for all.
"Barre can add definition to your physique, increase your strength and endurance, can lead to increases in your flexibility and balance and strengthens your bones as well as your core," Clark explains. "Another benefit of barre is the improvement of your mind-body connection and a boost in confidence and self-esteem."
She adds that barre is a great cross-training activity. For example, the improvement in endurance from barre can benefit runners, the flexibility work carries over into yoga and the mobility aspect will make everyday activities feel easier.
Most in-person barre classes range from 45 to 60 minutes and emphasize total body conditioning. Digital platforms and fitness apps that offer barre classes tend to provide shorter barre workouts spanning from 10-30 minutes, and some even focus on specific body parts like the lower body or core.
Class typically begins with a warmup, followed by an upper body sequence, lower body work and then core movements. Most sessions end with a cool down. Stretch sequences are integrated throughout the workout to combine strength and flexibility training. "Expect to challenge your physical strength in myriad ways, including focused attention on core strength," says Clark.
Proper gear is important to allow for full range of motion during your barre workout, and to help you get the most out of the class. A few items to wear or bring with you:
Some barre classes use only your bodyweight, while others require light weights, resistance bands, balls and more for added engagement (studios typically provide equipment). If you’re doing a barre workout at home, it may be a good idea to invest in a pair of light weights. You also may want to keep a sturdy chair nearby for movements that might require support and would typically be done on a ballet bar in studio.
If you can’t make it to an in-person class, these online offerings are just as effective and can be done in the comfort of your own home.
Clark says it takes 3-5 classes to learn the lingo and understand how to use your muscles to initiate tiny movements. "Proper form and range of motion helps achieve muscle fatigue as well as prevent injury," she says. She adds that it’s important to keep your spine neutral and to stay aware of your body alignment throughout class as you work to strengthen your muscles as well as improve your posture. She offers the following form tips for beginner barre exercises:
Stefani Sassos, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., has been working in the fitness industry for the past 10 years, specializing in indoor cycling and strength training. As a NASM-certified personal trainer, she uses her expertise and exercise science knowledge to create informed fitness content for the Good Housekeeping Institute. Stefani fell in love with barre after having her first child, as it was a great low-impact form of exercise to ease her back into fitness postpartum. She still practices barre 2-3 times a week, in addition to cross-training.
For this story, Stefani interviewed Dominique Clark, M.P.H., who has a master’s in public health and works for Pure Barre as a training evaluation specialist. She joined the company’s Training and Technique Team about a year ago and has been teaching Pure Barre for nearly four years. She serves as the lead teacher for her home studio, Pure Barre Eastlake, as well as other Pure Barre studios in the San Diego area.
Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping’s on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.
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