With so many boutique studio fitness classes out there, gym-goers have more options than ever—from the mega-popular (spin and bootcamp) to the more experimental (aerial yoga and aqua cycling).
One non-traditional exercise approach you may not have considered because it may come across as too “fancy”: barre, a studio workout that incorporates ballet-inspired exercises, bodyweight moves, and—yep—a bar.
For the record, barre is not for lightweights. We touched base with Becca Lucas, the owner of Barre & Anchor, a barre studio in Weston, MA, to get the basics on barre workouts, and find out what kind of results you can expect from them.
What Exactly Is Barre?
This trendy class blends ballet-based exercises (think: tiny, isometric movements, like plies), yoga, pilates, and core work, requiring you to use your own body weight to create resistance, which increases endurance and stamina, explains Lucas.
The exercises are lower-impact (read: fewer knee or back troubles here) and apply little stress to the joints. Better yet, while you might feel like a ballerina at the bar, no prior dance or ballet experience is necessary, she notes.
Expect moves such as planks, push-ups, bicep curls with light weights (these are usually quite light, around two- or three-pounds), and tricep dips. You’ll also perform those burns-so-good thigh exercises, like fold-overs or pretzels for glutes work.
It’s not all about the legs, though: You can expect a section of class to focus on the abdominals and back, as well. Classes finish with a cool-down stretch, helping you rest and lengthen the muscles.
What Are The Benefits?
Expect to gain a toned body, improved posture, increased flexibility, improved range of motion, and muscle endurance, Lucas says.
Look at a barre class from a distance and you might not notice much movement. But that’s the idea: “Isometric contractions or movements involve tensing the muscle without changing the length of it,” explains Lucas. “With each isometric movement, you target the tiny muscles that may get ignored if you’re sticking to exercises with larger ranges of motion. By repeating these small movements, you’re able to build up endurance, better balance, and posture.”
Plus, you’re going to really feel the burn. Unlike other fitness classes (such as cycling or HIIT), barre workouts work muscles to fatigue, target each muscle group from all angles, and strengthen unused muscles, says Lucas.
Ever experience ‘the shakes’ when working out? That will happen in barre class: “When your muscles reach the point of fatigue, they start to tremble and shake,” says Lucas. “The shake you experience in barre is unlike anything you will find in other exercise classes.” Embrace it!
Another plus: Barre is a total-body workout. Classes incorporate upper body, lower body, and core strength. “Your core is used for at least 80 percent off the entire class, notes Lucas. Good news, considering a stronger core means better posture and less lower back pain.
Who Is Barre For?
You don’t have to be a ClassPass regular or a ballerina to sign up. “Everyone benefits from taking barre,” says Lucas. Anyone looking to improve their posture, lift their seat, shrink their waist, tighten their core, and boost their confidence can reap the rewards.
Plus, it’s a great addition to a workout routine that’s cardio-heavy or one that doesn’t always include core exercises. Says Lucas: “Barre is a lifelong exercise program, suitable for all ages and all levels.” And, we might add, it’s not limited to one gender: Guys, grab a bar and go beast mode!