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July 08, 2021 10 min read

Barre is amazing for getting toned, building some muscle, and sculpting your body. If you find the grit and toughness of weightlifting or a Crossfit workout too much to handle, barre may be your new favorite training method.

Combining the discipline of ballet, the enjoyment of dance, and the burn of strength training, barre is an all-around great workout. 

Empty workout studio with a barre

What Is Barre?

A barre workout is a total body workout comprised of small but effective movements. Unlike other types of training, like weight lifting or running, barre typically utilizes a series of repetitive isolation movements, which target one specific area at a time.

The name barre refers to the horizontal wooden structure used in ballet that is typically fastened to the wall but can also be free-standing. The barre provides support for ballerinas and ballerinos when practicing certain movements. In barre workouts, a ballet barre, as well as ballet-inspired movement, is typically used, thus giving the workout its name.

Barre workouts are usually done in a class setting with a group of people and one instructor. Many gyms host barre classes or you can find a barre studio, so finding an instructor is usually very easy. However, barre is simple enough to be done at home.

Benefits of Barre

1. Low-Impact

For those with sensitive tendons, joints, or muscles, doing high-impact exercises like running or heavy weight lifting is simply not an option. Barre moves focus on quick, compact movements typically utilizing just your body weight for resistance.

Additionally, utilizing support from a barre hold makes barre workouts a relatively safe option for the elderly or for anyone who may have physical inhibitions. However, barre can be made simpler or more complex to fit many different fitness levels.

2. No Equipment

Barre really requires no equipment. While classes typically take place beside a ballet barre, you can definitely get all the benefits of barre free of equipment. For at-home barre workouts, simply use a stable chair or wall.

Bodyweight is still highly effective and efficient for muscular strength training. However, you can incorporate light weights for added resistance. Mats are also optional, but even a soft carpet at home can suffice. This makes barre exercise highly accessible to those without gym memberships or the means to attend classes.

3. Improves Balance

Barre is famous for its core-strengthening abilities. With an increase in core strength comes not only an increase in overall health, but also a large and noticeable improvement in your balance. Balance is important for everyday life and can help decrease your likelihood for injury. Additionally, adequate balance can heighten athletic ability, making you a better runner, cyclist, dancer, lifter, or whatever activity you may do.

4. Focuses on Mental Wellness

Like yoga or pilates workouts, barre places a large importance on mind and body connection. Sessions will often end with a slow stretch, which not only relieves the tension created by the workout but also encourages mindful meditation.

In addition to the direct focus on the mind, working out, in general, is good for your mental wellbeing.

Not only does it release chemicals that result in feelings of happiness and pleasure, but exercise can also increase your confidence and physical health, which both have a direct impact on your mental health.

5. Enjoyable

Barre workouts are often described as being highly enjoyable and even fun. Movements are formulated much like dance choreography and are typically paired with upbeat music. Furthermore, the class setting of barre creates a sense of community, which can make any exercise enjoyable.

6. Improve Posture

Posture is extremely important to overall health.

As society evolves to become more tech-centric, our posture is suffering. Often we are hunched over in front of a computer, or suffer from terrible “tech-neck” from excessive use of mobile devices. Barre works to combat these types of postural problems by increasing muscular strength in the core.

7. Protect You From Injury

Being inactive makes you more at risk for certain types of injury. Lack of muscle, as well as lack of mobility, creates severe tension. Tension can result in injuries like tendonitis or muscle strains and can be incredibly painful. Additionally, having more muscle can make you more capable in everyday life and allow you to perform certain tasks, like lifting heavy items, more safely. 

8. Cardiovascular Endurance and Increase Metabolism

Barre is considered a high-intensity workout because you’re almost always moving. This means your heart rate increases, making barre both a cardio and muscular workout. In addition to increasing the heart rate, barre also encourages muscular endurance and strength. The presence of muscle can increase the metabolism and help you burn more calories throughout the day, making barre a great tool for weight loss.

woman stretching her legs on a barre in a workout studio

7-Day At-Home Barre Workout

This program lasts only 7 days, but you’re likely to feel a great difference after just one session, so get your favorite playlist on and start moving!

Day One: Toned Upper Body

Today’s focus is all about the upper body muscle groups. Proper strength in the upper body is essential for posture. For an added burn, try using lightweight dumbbells. Anywhere from 1 to 5 pounds of resistance is most recommended. However, if you aren’t using dumbbells, maintain beautifully extended fingers, known as port de bra in ballet.

  1. Swan Arms: Holding both arms out beside you, move them up and down in a fluid and graceful motion as if you were a bird with wings. Focus on moderate movement with perfect form. Maintain tall posture and an engaged core as well as long arms. Do this for 60 seconds. 

  2. Tricep Kick Backs: If you’re using dumbbells, now is a great time to grab those. Bend at the knees and hinge slightly at the hips. Hold your weights or hands at your chest, then, using the elbow as the center of rotation, extend your hands back behind you in a semi-circle motion. Do as many as you can with proper form and fluidity in the span of 60 seconds. 

  3. Wide Stance Dumbbell Overhead Press: Next, spread your feet just beyond shoulder-width apart. Holding your dumbbells or empty hands at your shoulders, press them up above your head. Keep your arms moving, don’t rest them at any point in the exercise. Engage the core and aim for graceful arms. For added difficulty, you can come up into a releve, or stand on your toes. Do this for 60 seconds. 

  4. Front Shoulder Raise into Chest Flye: Maintaining the wide stance from the previous exercise, go straight into a shoulder raise by holding your hands close together at hip height, then raise them out in front of your chest. Before lowering the shoulder raise, complete a chest flye by extending your hands away from each other until you reach full arms-length. Close the flye by squeezing the hands back in towards each other, they lower back through the end of the shoulder raise. Do this fluidly for 60 seconds. 

  5. Diagonal Presses: Return to a normal stance. Then, hold your arms comfortably out in front of you with your palms facing your body. This should look much like the start of a bicep curl. Next, press your hands out and up, moving at a slight angle in either direction. Then, squeeze the arms back down and bring your elbows to your side. Maintain a tight core and upright posture. Do this for 60 seconds.

Congratulations! That’s your first round done. Repeat these 5 steps for 3-6 rounds. Then, finish off with at least 15 minutes of slow, light stretching.

Day Two: Sculpted Lower Body

Today, we’ll focus on getting definition and flexibility in the lower body. You should feel engagement in the quads, glutes, inner thighs, hamstrings, and calves throughout.

  1. Plie in Second Position: This movement is entirely borrowed from ballet. Simply stand with a wide stance, toes pointed out. Hold the arms down by your side. If you’re using a barre or substitute, you can hold that with one hand for stability. Next, lower the body down into a squat while keeping the head and hips in line. You should not be leaning forward, but maintaining a perfectly upright posture. As you lower your body, slowly raise your arms out to the side. Return to the starting position by straightening the legs and lowering the arms. Repeat for 60 seconds while keeping the core engaged. 

  2. Curtsy Lunge: Go straight into a curtsy lunge by taking a hip-width stance. Then, point the right toe, raising your heel off the floor. Hold your arms out to the side with soft, graceful fingers. Then, while lowering the arms down, move your right leg out and behind your left leg while simultaneously bending both legs into a lunge. Always come back to a pointed right toe and extended arms. Do this for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat for another 30 seconds.

  3. Demi Plie into Releve: To get into a demi plie, simply stand with both heels together and your toes pointed out at an angle. Then, bend your legs out to the side, creating a diamond shape with the lower body. Holding your arms out in front of you, bring the heels up from the floor, keeping your toes in contact with the ground this is called a releve in ballet. Keep your spine straight and your upper body movement minimal. You can use the assistance of a barre or chair for stability. Do this for 60 seconds. 

  4. Back Leg Raise: For this movement, stand with your feet at shoulder-width. Then, bend slightly at the knees, hinge forward, and position your arms out in front of you. Next, point your left leg out behind you, then raise the leg to hip height, maintaining a pointed toe. Lower the leg, keeping the tension and length, and repeat. Do this for 30 seconds, then switch to the right leg. 

  5. Side Leg Raises: Go right into the last movement by maintaining the same posture and form, but this time raising the leg out to the side. Keep your core tight and your head, shoulders, chest, and hips aligned. Do each side for 30 seconds.

Repeat these 5 exercises for 3-6 rounds. For added difficulty, add 15 seconds to the end of each exercise for pulsation. Pulsing is minimizing a movement by keeping it in the most difficult, highest tension portion of the exercise.

For example, for the first exercise, stay in the lowest depth of the squat and move up and down just an inch. Stretch the entire body for at least 15 minutes after your barre workout.

Day Three: Total Body Toning

In two previous days, you should have gotten a good idea of the form and movement required for a barre workout. Today, we’ll put your barre skills to the test with a full-body barre workout.

  1. Bent Over Rows: With your feet at hip-width, bend at the knees and hinge slightly forward at the hips. With dumbbells in hand, bring your hands from an outward extended position towards your chest. Keep engagement in the core and lower body. Although you’re bent slightly forward, keep good alignment in the upper body. Do this for one minute. 

  2. Shoulder Pulse: From the previous exercise, go straight into a shoulder pulse. Stand with your feet slightly beyond shoulder-width and move up into a releve position. Next, hold your dumbbells in each hand and out to the side. Keeping your hands at about shoulder height, begin moving the dumbbells up and down with very minimal movement. Do this for 60 seconds. 

  3. Plie in Second Position Pulse: Refer to the first exercise in day two, “Plie in Second Position”, for form. However, pulse this exercise rather than doing the entire range of motion. 

  4. Lateral Straight Leg Swings into Kick Back: Next, get on the mat or floor on all fours. Extend the right leg out to the side with your toe pointed. Lift the leg up in the air then lower it back down. Then, move the same leg back behind you and lift it up in the air again. Lower the leg back down, and go back for another lateral leg swing. Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch to the other leg!

  5. Lying Leg Lift: Now, turn around and lay on your back and extend your arms above you. With your toes pointed and legs extended, lift the legs up in the air. At the same time, keeping relaxing and graceful arms, lift the arms to meet your legs in the middle. In a controlled manner, lower your arms and legs back down. Repeat for 60 seconds.

Once again, you should repeat this circuit between 3 and 6 times.

Day Four: Toned Upper Body

Today, repeat day one’s workout. Add more resistance today than you did on the first day.

Day Five: Sculpted Lower Body

For day five, repeat day two’s instructions. Once again, add more resistance. Focus on perfecting the form of each exercise and creating a sense of fluidity.

Day Six: Total Body Toning

Repeat day three’s program, but aim for more intensity through added resistance or a faster pace. Be mindful in your muscle engagement, remembering to keep the core engaged throughout.

Day Seven: Relaxed Barre

The last six days probably took a lot out of you. Today you’re likely sore all over and might not even want to finish out this 7-day barre plan. That’s why the last day is relaxed and stress-free. Today we want you to focus on your breathing, your mind-to-muscle connection, as well as your mental health. Use today to stretch through movements and listen to your body.

  1. First Position Plie: With heels together and toes pointed out, stand up straight and engage the core. Next, bend the knees slightly and then return to the starting position. Continue this movement for just 30 seconds.

  2. Swan Arms: This movement is from your upper body workout days, so refer to those days for form. Today, really play with movement and fluidity. Do this for 30 seconds.  

  3. Second Position Plie Hold: With a wide stance, get into a squat like position. Keep the upper body aligned. Hold for 30 seconds. Focus on stability and balance. 

  4. Plie Heel Lifts: Don’t move from your previous position. From here, lift the right foot into releve. Place it back down, and repeat on the left. Do this for 30 seconds.

Repeat this for 5 rounds for a quick and easy 10-minute workout. Then, stretch the body for at least 15 minutes.

Raising the Barre: Final Barre Workout Thoughts

Barre fitness works to sculpt and tone through fun ballet-inspired movements. Pair this with a high-quality muscle-building supplement, and you’re on your way to becoming stronger and leaner.