You might picture ballerina-like people doing little motions like plis and leg lifts while grasping a railing during a barre workout, but that mental picture is frequently very different from reality, according to Natalie Sanders , an Austin, Texas-based virtual barre instructor who is IBBFA certified. “Barre workouts may actually be the reverse, where you’re gasping for air and attempting to keep up,” she claims. It’s challenging, so you might be panting and sweating buckets.
In other words, despite how simple it may seem, barre offers several health advantages that make it worthwhile to incorporate into your exercise program. Instructors explain what barre is, its benefits, and the equipment typically used in order to answer any of your concerns about the exercise method. Additionally, you’ll discover a collection of barre exercises that will enable you to try out the technique in the convenience of your house.
DESCRIBE BARRE According to Maya Bryant, M.P.H. , a certified personal trainer and barre instructor, barre is largely a combination of Pilates, yoga, and strength training, but it also incorporates elements of ballet, high-intensity interval training, and mobility exercises. By participating in only one type of exercise, you can have a well-rounded fitness program because of this mash-up. On the other hand, if you focused on strength training, you would still need to undertake cardio, endurance training, and mobility exercises separately in order to check off all your boxes, she says.
According to Sanders, barre workouts are typically low-impact but nonetheless lively and intense because they are gentle on your feet, low back, and joints. “You basically just burn your muscles out to fatigue, sometimes through very minor movements, with high repetitions,” she explains. “You use light weights or no weights at all.” She gives the following examples: eight complete repetitions of pli squats or biceps curls, eight pulses, and an eight-second isometric hold. Then, you may repeat the procedure using a different exercise that targets the same muscle area, such as a lunge or hammer curl. You’ll concentrate on enhancing your muscular (not to mention, mental) endurance by concentrating on only one section of the body at a time, but more on that later.
While some teachers provide brief online workouts that concentrate on a specific body part (like the glutes), Sanders claims that conventional in-person barre workouts engage the entire body. Squats, lunges, calf raises, clamshells, planks, push-ups, biceps curls, and shoulder presses could all be performed in a variety of ways, frequently with a ballet-inspired twist. In your initial position, which is essentially the same as standing with your feet in a “V,” Bryant continues, “you might do some work.” Adagio, which simply means to extend your leg out to the front, side, or back of you, may require some practice.
You might also do some yoga-inspired stretches to help improve mobility and flexibility before and after a barre workout, advises Bryant. For instance, Bryant advises her students to do the tree posture and the saddle stretch to lengthen their hip flexors. In the tree pose, you extend your knee as far to the side as you can.
BARRE TECHNOLOGY Although barre exercises may be performed entirely without any equipment, Sanders says you’ll frequently use a few props to help you gain strength. One essential is a light set of weights, which you may substitute for soup cans if necessary in order to increase the difficulty of curls and presses. In order to strengthen your core while performing ab exercises that require lifting, lowering, or holding your legs, you can also insert a yoga block (or a book) between your knees. Exercises for the barre legs can also include the use of 9-inch Pilates balls, looped resistance bands, and, of course, a ballet barre. (FYI: You can use a chair back as a makeshift “barre,” but Sanders notes that you won’t be able to perform any exercises in which you hang your weight off of it.)
The advantages of barre exercises If you’re still wondering why barre is even worth adding to your regimen after learning the definition, keep reading. Prepare to discover the advantages of barre for yourself; after your barre session, you’ll have twitching muscles and possibly notice a few changes in your posture, functional fitness, and endurance.
CONSTRUCT MUSCULAR ENDURANCE According to Bryant, the training method of barre workouts can aid in developing muscular endurance, or the capacity of your muscles to function for a longer amount of time. The longer you can perform without becoming completely exhausted, according to Corinne Croce, D.P.T. , a co-founder of Body Evolved and in-house physical therapist for SoulCycle, previously told Shape. In real life, this benefit may be useful: You might be able to carry your bulky Trader Joe’s bags the entire way home without stopping for a break if your arms and shoulders’ muscular endurance increases.
IMPROVE YOUR FUNCTIONAL FITNESS In terms of real-world advantages, Sanders notes that barre “increases your stamina, strength, and endurance so that you can walk or run farther, swim longer, run about with your kids easier, and be able to carry all the groceries in one trip.” “It’s developing all the strength and endurance you need to be able to sustain your life,” the speaker said.
Even specific workouts simulate actions you might take every day: She continues: “For instance, a calf lift with an overhead arm reach is the same movement pattern you’d execute to get a can off the top shelf of your cupboard.”
AMEND POSTURE According to Bryant, one of the main goals of barre is strengthening your core muscles, which can eventually aid with posture. Reminder: According to Michelle Razavi , a fitness and yoga instructor at Equinox and co-founder of ELAVI , your core is made up of muscles that run down the front, back, and sides of your trunk (so it’s not just your abs). It is crucial for stabilizing your pelvis and spine, which in turn helps you maintain appropriate posture. According to the American Council on Exercise , by training this muscle group, you can enhance your core stability and consequently, your posture.
PILATES VS. BARRE Although Pilates and barre share some similarities, they are still very different types of exercise. According to the Pilates Method Alliance , a non-profit professional association, during a Pilates session, you’ll perform precise exercises (including lunges, planks, and glute bridges) meant to stretch, lengthen, and balance the body, all of which are accompanied with focused breaths.
These types of motions may also be included in barre workouts, although Sanders notes that they are typically carried out at a considerably faster tempo. She says, “I’ve never gone to a Pilates session that’s counting down at a quick speed that fits a 130 beats per minute song. That’s one of the things I love about Pilates: you’re extremely slow and deep in the movement. Compared to Pilates, barre is more energetic, dance music-focused, and occasionally incorporates cardio elements. Additionally, according to Bryant, the barre exercises frequently incorporate ballet-inspired elements that are absent from Pilates (as evidenced by the location of the hands and feet).
In barre, Bryant continues, there is less emphasis on breathwork, so you can breathe to the rhythm of your own drum. It’s required of you in Pilates to exhale and inhale “in harmony” with a variety of various motions, she says.