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Focus On: Barre Workouts

I’ve received quite a few requests about barre workouts, since I recently started teaching a barre-based class at work. Barre classes (like those you’ll find at Physique 57, Core Fusion, Pure Barre, Barre3 and the Bar Method, just to name a few) are ballet-inspired classes, guaranteed to make your legs and thighs quiver for mercy. These classes have soared in popularity over the last 5 years, and are an effective yet low-impact way to change up your fitness routine. Read on for more details about one of my all-time workout loves!

Barre

(Photo source)

What is it?
Barre workouts are ballet-inspired workouts, first introduced by Lotte Berk in the 1970s. The exercises often include a small group of props, maybe a playground ball or small weighted balls, light weights (3-5 lbs are usually recommended), resistance bands and a mat. Some studios may use all of these, while others could solely utilize a ballet barre and mat. The classes emphasize muscular endurance (very high repetition sets), isometric holds, pulses and stretching. After a particular muscle is worked to fatigue, you’ll stretch that muscle, which is part of the belief that immediately stretching helps to lengthen the muscle, hence a “leaner” physique. I personally don’t believe that the stretching after each set is necessary, as the muscle leanness you could experience would be attributed to building lean muscle from the workout itself (lean muscle burns more calories, hence more fat burning potential). If anything, the stretching feels good and is a nice break 🙂

What to expect:

SHAKING legs! Expect to do a short standing warmup (high knee marches and twists), maybe some planks, pushups or plies, with strength sets following the warmup for your upper body. This is where you’ll usually use your light hand weights (light because you’re going to do a thousand reps and it will burn like the dickens) or resistance bands to fully burn out your biceps, triceps, shoulders and lats. After that fun is over, you’ll head to the ballet barre for the “meat” of the workout, working your legs, glutes and core to the extreme. Expect to experience lots of shaking as your muscles reach fatigue, and don’t be afraid to take breaks as needed and pick up again when you’re ready.

Barre2

After your barre workout, you’ll likely do mat work, which may include more leg series, then finally abs and low back to the finish line. Even though the classes will work your entire body, legs and core are more heavily emphasized.

If it’s your first time, make sure to let the instructor know so that he/she may provide necessary modifications. While the exercises are low impact, I wouldn’t recommend them if you have any knee, hip or joint considerations, and if you’re pregnant, make sure to get the “ok” from a doc and modify accordingly (especially with the low back and abs series).

What to wear?

Many studios recommend form-fitting, yet comfortable clothing, like athletic pants and a supportive tank,

Planks

and socks. You may find studio-specific socks at your studio (with the cool logo and little non-slip beads on the bottom), but any socks are just fine.

Pros:

-Low impact yet extremely challenging workout. It’s always nice to find workout options that are easy on your joints.

-Totally different from traditional workouts. If you’re looking for a way to shake up your routine, this could be it, especially if you love dance workouts and a serious muscle burn.

-Can help with posture and alignment in addition to muscular benefits. There is a huge emphasis on proper form and posture, which for someone like myself (I have horrid posture despite my years dancing), it can make you stand a little taller.

Cons:

-Expensive. Many classes can range from $25-40 per class, so if it’s something you enjoy, a package or monthly membership offers significant cost savings. Many studios offer military and studio discounts, too.

-Classes can be difficult to find, especially if you don’t live in a large city. I would do anything for a P57 here in Tucson, but alas, it’s a special treat when I visit LA or NYC. In the meantime, many barre classes have DVDs you can try, in addition to workouts on YouTube.

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-Repetitive training style. I would recommend working barre classes into your usual rotation, but remember that you will still need traditional strength training and cardio. Also, make sure not to do barre workouts on consecutive days, as your muscles need time to rest and recover.

Here is a great article comparing some popular barre workouts, if you’d like to check it out!

Pure barre  1 of 1

Have you tried any barre workouts? What’s your favorite?

I’ve done Core Fusion, Pure Barre and Physique 57, which I Ioooooooove.

xoxo

Gina

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66 Comments

  1. Elizabeth on May 2, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    In Chicago Barre Bee Fit is gaining increasing popularity in addition to the Barre Method, but I have never tried a Barre class and would like to!

  2. Cassie Vaughn on May 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I’ve tried just one or two youtube workouts and liked them.

  3. DAnielle on May 2, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Barreworke and Poise Fusion at Studio Poise in Lynnfield, MA!

  4. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on May 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I would love to try this sometime! I’ve heard amazing things about barre classes!

  5. RachelG on May 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Bloom Yoga in Southington, CT offers amazing barre classes and normal (aka non-NYC)prices. GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  6. The Delicate Place (@misathemeb) on May 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    i actually prefer pure barre over the others. i disagree about not doing consecutive days as waiting until DOMS has fully set in actually makes you stiffer in the long run. it’s important to take rest days but doing a couple days of barre did nothing but improve my flexibility and endurance in the long run. i’ve participated in challenges as well—successfully completing 20 classes in 30 days: http://thedelicateplace.com/2013/01/02/20-in-30-pure-barre-completion-progress/ doing this defined my lower abs and gave me arm muscles for the first time–i don’t strength train with weights (bodyweight only or 2-3lb db).

    these days, i do pure barre 1-2x weekly, a yoga day or run for 20mins. i only have time for 3 workouts a week so i try to make them count! i’m too lazy & busy with work/life to do more haha.

    • Deanna on May 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      I’m doing the 20 in 30 challenge at pure barre right now!

  7. Lisa on May 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Barre workouts are easily becoming one of my favorite workouts these days. I like to combine pilates and barre together and it’s my ultimate workout. I’ve never felt so much happiness from workouts (besides spinning) and such improvement in muscle tone and definition.
    I’m excited since I’m doing my pilates training right now and hoping to do barre closely after!

  8. Kim @ BusyBod on May 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the post! I’ve been wondering about Barre classes since a lot of my friends have been trying them. I did the Lotte Berk Method dvds back in college (http://www.amazon.com/The-Lotte-Berk-Method-Disc/dp/B00008J2I3) and I wasn’t sure if Barre classes were a similar concept or not. Sounds like yes! I remember the burn well – it always amazed me how such teeny, tiny movements could make my legs burn so badly lol. Maybe it’s time to bust those dvds back out 🙂

  9. Minerva on May 2, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Pop Physique just came to Baltimore in the last year. It was definitely a good butt workout but I feel like the instructors lack of demonstration coupled with some of the micro-movements made me feel like I was missing some of the burn due to improper form. I should probably ask next time…

  10. Monica on May 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for the review, I’ve been curious about these classes!

  11. Kendra on May 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I have been doing Dailey Method barre classes in California for the last 5 years. The hip, back, ab, and glute focus has helped strengthen my core immensely and allows me to go father and deeper into my other workouts.

  12. Jay on May 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    That looks like a cool workout – unfortunately I have to stick to videos, classes in my area are too expensive!

  13. Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health on May 2, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I have yet to try a Barre workout but I really want to! But you’re right, they are so expensive and not conveniently located.

  14. Kim on May 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve done a DVD Barre workout – Cathe Frederick – it was really good!!

  15. Angie on May 2, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I did a month membership at Pure Barre, and I’m one of the few that hated it. I’m used to running and doing yoga, and I found that although the classes definitely made me sore, there wasn’t much stretching and it made my leg muscles super tight. I actually injured my foot during a run, and I think it was due to a tight calf. Completely my fault for not doing more stretching, but I prefer classes with a bit more balance. There wasn’t much variety either, the classes got boring after awhile.

    On a side note.. I’m making your chicken chili verde tonight, and that recipe (so easy!) has become a staple in our home. So thanks for that. 🙂

  16. Julie on May 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I’ve done both Pure Barre and Bar Method and I definitely recommend you try Bar Method! I think the Bar Method movements and cues are better, and instructors are looking more closely at form than the instructors I’ve experienced at Pure Barre. Bar Method is more controlled and not as much flailing around as I found Pure Barre to be.

  17. April on May 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Great review, thank you! I now need to take a class to see what all the hype is about!

  18. Chelsea on May 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks for this, Gina! I’ve been thinking about picking up some Barre DVDs because I can’t find an affordable class locally, but I wanted to look into it a bit before I started. This was a huge help!! 🙂

  19. Natalie on May 2, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    First off,I absolutely ADORE your blog! I never leave comments, but read everyday! Our kiddos are close in age and it’s been so fun to see differences between Benson and Miss Livi.

    Anway, I started Barre3 after doing years of pilates/running/spin and have had great results with these online workouts. I think the membership for their online access is a steal at $15/month and you can do as many as you would like. They have great energy and, honestly, have been such a breath of fresh air for workouts! And, I am looking forward to your Summer Shape-Up!

  20. Tara on May 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    I have done a Bar Method class but can’t agree on the pricing to go more often, even though I enjoyed it. In San Francisco, it’s about $20 for an hour class! That really adds up after 3-4x/week.

  21. Meagan on May 2, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I just did my first barre3 class last weekend, it was awesome! I really loved it, and I was surprised, since I am a typical run and weights, hard core working out, kind of girl 🙂

  22. Emily Stember on May 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Tracey Mallet makes some great barre workout DVDS for about $20 a piece and they have multiple workouts on them. It’s a cheap, convenient way to do barre workouts. I love them!!

  23. Nic on May 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I have a monthly membership to Bar Method. My arms and legs have never looked better. I had been going since January 5 times a week, but recently decided to go 3 times a week and 2 times a week I do cardio. I needed to mix things up a little bit.

    It does get insanely intense and I highly recommend that when you first try it to not be afraid to ask loads of questions. Some of the moves they have you do do NOT feel natural at all.

  24. Becca on May 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I tried a sampler DVD that had about 10 minutes of a Barre class on it. Even that was starting to burn, haha. I thought it was really boring to do so many repetitive moves, though. Not my thing, I guess!

  25. Ali on May 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I haven’t done a barre class yet, but I think I’d LOVE it since I grew up a ballet dancer for 15 years. Can you recommend any DVDs? I live in a tiny town and the closest place that offers classes is an hour and a half away! 🙁

  26. Liz @ Southern Charm on May 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    I’m a Pure Barre Instructor and agree with everything you said in this post!! I love it! I actually started off with various barre DVDs until we got the Pure Barres (we now have 2 over the last two years and one of our studios has the most classes offered out of every Pure Barre in the nation!)

    And you’re right – it is important to still do cardio and strength training. You will for sure see results from just Pure Barre, but your body needs more 🙂

    • Erica Ellingsworrh on October 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      How close do the DVD’s compare to the classes? I can no longer afford the classes, but would love to get the DVD’s if they were close!!

      Thank you!!

  27. Tara @ Sweat like a Pig on May 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Just had to comment to say that there is no such thing as “lengthening” the muscle. That is a buzzword like “toned” which has no real meaning. Your muscle is attached to the bone, so the only way to lengthen your muscle would be by breaking your bones and inserting artificial plates between them.

    • Yaara Leve on May 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Yes!! Thank you for saying this Tara! I feel like all of these barre studios give women false hopes and expectations of lengthening their muscles and turning them into ballerinas when really it’s based solely on genetics and diet has a lot to do with this too.

  28. Lucie @ Fit Swiss Chick on May 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    That sounds like a great workout, I have never done Barre before! I would love to try it though. As always, it will probably take 2-3 more years until it arrives here in Switzerland. I will definitely check out YouTube for it!

  29. Ashley on May 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I’ve been wanting to try this out for a while and I just found out that theres a cardio barre less than a mile from my house! Also, I wanted to say thanks because I really appreciate your “focus on” posts. They contain a lot of great info without trying to sell me stuff!

  30. Sarah @ Yogi in Action on May 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for the review! I always feel like I’m behind on the working out trends, as I never really try anything “new” until someone else gets addicted and drags me to a class.

    I definitely want to try this class out- just to say I did it, since it sounds pretty intense!

  31. FitBritt@MyOwnBalance on May 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Gina, I love this post!! You did such an excellent job explaining barre classes. I’m a huge fan of barre classes, probably because it reminds me of all my years in ballet. I’m lucky enough to live in proximity to a ton of barre classes here in NYC. My fav is P57 but I’ve tried ’em all! In case anyone is interested, I did a Barre Week on my blog and did a countdown of the top barre classes in NYC and the top barre DVDs for all you who don’t live in NYC: http://bit.ly/XHVbtE AND http://bit.ly/XXlVnT. In addition to P57’s DVD, I recommend Xtend Lean and Chiseled and Booty Barre. All excellent workouts you can do in the comfort of your own home!

  32. Shira on May 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Nice review, I’ve been trying to try Barre workouts for years, since I used to dance and miss ballet so so much.. But here in Toronto they don’t offer them anywhere! I miss that burrrrrn!
    I would love a barre workout dvd , are the Physique 57 dvds a barre workout?? I’m in the market for something anyways.. I was looking at Turbofire based on your reviews actually, but if Physique 57 is barre maybe I’d try that one 🙂
    Which are a better investment, in your opinion?

  33. Mallika Iyer on May 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Great post. It is worth mentioning that Barre workouts are not as injury free / safe as they all make it out to be. I am a long time barre lover and sufferer (since 2010) and from personal experience – it can aggravate old knee injuries, and it can make your wrist very very sore. I have tried Pure Barre, Bar Method, Physique, Nailni Method and Exhale Core Fusion …can’t help it , I love them but they sometimes really hurt (in a bad way).
    Recently did a post on barre : http://imallika.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/when-you-love-the-barre/
    It’s fantastic that you actually teach barre…I have always wanted to be one of the chosen few barre teachers 🙂 …someday!

  34. Kayla on May 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    the timing of this post is perfect– I’m ridiculously addicted to FlyBarre from flywheel right now and have been trying to figure out the best balance between barre, strength training and cardio

  35. Victoria @ Reluctantly Skinny on May 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    my gym offers a barre stretch fusion, which is pretty low impact and after reading your descriptions doesn’t actually sound like barre – more like just stretching on a ballet bar! i still love how flexible I feel after doing it though =)

  36. Melissa a on May 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I request a you lead tube Barre work out, please ! 😀

  37. Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) on May 2, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Love your “focus on” posts! A barre studio recently opened here in DC, and I’m excited to try it out!

  38. Meghan @ After the Ivy League on May 2, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Love this explanation of Barre workouts. They’re offered at my gym and the three sentence blurb that describes the class doesn’t quite cut it. This was much more informative and helpful! I think I’ll have to check out that class now 🙂

  39. Allison @ girlOCTOPUS on May 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve been doing the Physique 57 DVDs on a regular basis since I was cleared for postpartum exercises, and they have done wonders in rehabilitating my core. (At three months postpartum, I actually was called “ripped” by the saleswoman when bra shopping. I’d like to think it was referring to my abs rather than my stretch marks!) I really appreciate that they focus on strengthening the back, especially since I work in the medical field and have to perform patient lifts. Protecting my back from injury is very important!

    Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about how well barre workouts work for my body. Even though I am a woman and I know people always say that women won’t bulk up from lifting heavy, I find that I bulk up more than I would like when lifting heavy on a regular basis. Barre workouts don’t bulk me up in the same way. I feel more lean and fit into smaller pants when most of my strength training is from barre workouts, as compared to when I was lifting traditional weights and had larger thighs of dooooooom. However, I still feel just as strong. My muscles just seem more compact!

  40. Celia on May 3, 2013 at 2:47 am

    Awesome post, Gina! I have the P57 DVD’s and love them. Is there anywhere to take classes in Tucson if you’re not a guest at Canyon Ranch??

  41. Andrea on May 3, 2013 at 7:35 am

    i am doing barre dvds since last year! I do them on consecutive days, with rest days of course, and I have never had such good results with anything before! I own quite a few dvds, and I rotate them. I disagree that you shouldn´t do them on back to back days, it´s not like you are lifting heavy weights.
    Thank´s for the blog post!

    • Lisa on May 3, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Which dvds do you use? I’m thinking I can do this since it’s low impact.

      • Andrea on May 4, 2013 at 2:11 am

        Physique 57 dvds, bar method dvds, Pop Physique and Ballet Physique(have them all), Pure Barre, Ballet Fitness. They are low impact. The bar methods one just don´t raise my heart rate up, they are slow, but they give you a good hurt 🙂

  42. Britt on May 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

    I just tried Barre for the first time and loved it! Although in the middle of the workout I swore to myself I’d never do another plie squat!! 🙂

  43. Maria on May 3, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I used to take Bar Method in Chicago 4-5 times a week. I LOVED it. It was the only strength training workout where I saw results after just a few workouts and I noticed my legs hurt less after running longer distances. It’s an awesome addition to your cardio routine. Since moving to Wisconsin, I now do Bar Method and Physique 57 DVDs.

  44. Brigid on May 3, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I went to some Pop Physique classes here in LA and loved/hated it — as in the workout was killer good. Ha. I can’t justify the price to go regularly, and now that I’m pregnant (yay!), I don’t think it’s a good choice for me. Pop Physique offers a post-partum package that I may save up for after the New Year.

  45. Lara on May 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I love barre! In the Bay Area I got really into The Dailey Method at one point. Here in Seattle I’ve been to Pure Barre a few times, but they don’t have childcare. I just bought a Groupon for Barre3 and I’m hoping that can be “my place” here. When I was doing it regularly it really toned up my body. I want to get back into it!

  46. Vanessa on May 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I have tried a couple barre method workouts and they were fun! But i didn’t feel like i really worked out much, i like to get a big sweat going! They would be nice to add into your regular routine for sure.

  47. Tracy on May 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Two studios (Pure Barre and the Bar Method) recently opened near me and I’m dying to try them but the $$ is so high! I wish they’d add some classes at my Lifetime (for free ha).

  48. Bek @ Crave on May 4, 2013 at 12:26 am

    I’d love to do a Focus On post on Les Mills classes or programs in particular like BodyAttack or BodyStep!

  49. Jo on May 5, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for this. I also like your section on what to wear!

  50. Jo on May 5, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Alos, you mention mention this but these classes target the butt and thighs, yes but more than any other type of exercise in my opinion. The classes target inner, outer thighs and every tiny muscle inbetween. This is a great work out for pear shaped women!

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