Everything You Need to Know About Barre Workouts

Barre is the latest craze in fitness classes. Whether you have no idea what barre is, you don’t know where to find classes or you’re worried you won’t be able to keep up, HC is here to answer all your questions. Is this butt-kicking, ballet-inspired workout right for you? Read on to find out!

What is it?

Barre is a challenging full-body workout designed to tone your muscles. Exercises are performed at a ballet barre to high-intensity music. A typical class runs for 45 minutes to an hour and is divided into sequences of movements that target different parts of your body (arms, legs, butt and core).

Barre also comes in various forms. Andrew Ames, a certified personal trainer, barre instructor at UCLA and creator of Butt N Gut fitness, explains: “The Bar Method, Pure Barre and Pop Physique are more traditional barre workouts.  Booty Barre and Cardio Barre are the trendy, ‘fitness-forward,’ fresh variations of the original barre format.” He describes all these variants as “fun, low-impact, ballet-inspired workouts designed for any dance ability.”

How it started

According to Ames, ballet-inspired workouts originated in the 1940s, when “Lotte Berk, a German dancer, had the idea to incorporate dance conditioning with rehabilitative therapy.” It wasn’t until the early 2000s that barre workouts really took off. Burr Leonard and Carl Diehl created The Bar Method in 2000, “re-designing the original barre format, with the help of physical therapists, to improve the barre method to be most efficient and effective,” Ames says. After this, barre spread to different cities in California. Other methods were developed, and the workout became popular worldwide.


How it works your body

Barre is primarily designed to strengthen and lengthen the muscles in your legs and butt. Much like Pilates, it elongates your body. Depending on each individual class, this workout can be executed at different levels of intensity, and thus burn more or fewer calories.

Because barre workouts are based on ballet, they also focus on posture. “The repetitive ballet moves keep the body burning calories, along with elongating the muscles and improving the body's balance and core,” Ames says.

But just because barre requires graceful and controlled movements doesn’t mean it’s easy!

HC contributing writer Katie Szymanski, a junior at the University of Michigan, took a barre class at a Barre Bee Fit studio in Ann Arbor. “I had never taken a class like this before in my life, and after the first day I remember feeling completely drained and sore EVERYWHERE,” Katie says. She felt discouraged at first, but after sticking with the class, she noticed both progress and results. “I would recommend barre classes to anyone who is interested in getting a great, butt-kicking workout,” she says.


Where to find classes

Some popular studios, such as Pure Barre, Barre Bee Fit and The Bar Method, have multiple locations across the US, but their classes can be pricey.

If cost is a concern for you, you can try to find discounted classes, as some colleges offer barre classes at a low cost. At the University of South Carolina, for example, there is a $20-per-semester pass to all classes for a semester, including barre. Other schools, such as Boston College, even offer them for free! If your school’s gym doesn’t give you that option, there are still plenty of ways for you to give barre a try. Websites such as Groupon and Amazon Local offer discounts on barre classes.


How to do it at home

If there are no affordable classes near you or if you’re not a fan of group exercise, you can still practice barre without leaving your dorm, apartment or house. According to Ames, “you can replace a ballet barre with any sturdy object or hard surface, like a chair or tabletop.” And there are plenty of (free!) videos out there for you to follow. Try this 10-minute workout from FitSugar or this 39-minute one from Fitness Blender.

There are also countless great barre DVDs available from studios such as Pure Barre or Booty Barre.

“I love going to Pure Barre and Barre Bee Fit classes at the actual studios, but sometimes it’s too much of a hassle for me to make the trek there when I’m at school with no car, especially in the middle of winter,” says HC’s Health Editor Sammie Levin, a junior at the University of Michigan. “So, I bought a set of six Pure Barre DVDs off their website to be able to do barre in my room when it’s more convenient. It’s not as fun as actually going to a class because you miss out on that energized group atmosphere, but you still get a great workout in from each 45-minute tape, and it definitely saves time!”


Potential risks

With every type of exercise, there is the possibility of injury. Ames recommends that you always consult a physician before beginning a new exercise program. He also advises that if you’ve had a past injury, you “let your instructor know before class begins, so they can provide you with the modifications.” If you are ever unsure of the proper form throughout the class, motion over the instructor to help you get into the right position. The instructors are well trained, so don’t be afraid to ask for their help!


Health benefits

According to Ames, “the benefits [of barre] are endless. Physical improvements are in flexibility, endurance, strength, core, balance and coordination.” And if that doesn’t convince you, Ames says that when you work out in groups, “you see positive self-esteem changes along with other beneficial chemical and emotional changes.” A healthier body and mind? What more could we ask for?


Barre could be your new favorite workout! “I love barre! I have taken many barre classes, and each time I feel like I got a really great workout,” says Chloe Addleman, a junior at the University of La Verne. “I would switch up instructors to try out new routines (and to weed out the less challenging ones). Barre is a lot of fun, and you really can feel a difference in your body immediately—especially posture.”

 

Like Chloe, Sammie and Katie, many collegiettes have already taken to the barre—and so should you! It’s both a fun and highly effective blend of cardio and strength exercises, so what are you waiting for? Channel your inner ballerina and get ready for a great workout!