[Workouts] Tone Up With A Low-Impact, High-Intensity Barre Workout
From mega celebs (think Natalie Portman & Kelly Ripa) to Victoria’s Secret Angels (think Doutzen Kroes & Miranda Kerr), everyone is using the hottest new fitness craze to sculpt a svelte, strong physique. Welcome to Barre.
Yet to experience it? Don’t let the phrase “low-impact” or its ballet influence fool you; barre workouts may be easy on the joints, but they are absolutely relentless when it comes to blasting muscles.
Here’s the full skinny on barre workouts, including class dynamics and what type of results you can expect to see.
What is “Barre”?
First things first: barre (pronounced bar) literally refers to the barre that is used as part of conditioning in ballet and some other styles of dance. Barre, the class, is a total body workout that promises to sculpt long, lean muscles after just a handful of sessions. The key? Seemingly endless repetitions of low-impact, high-intensity moves that really let you feel the burn.
I’m serious — your muscles will be shaking and screaming for mercy by the time you finish each section, but if you’re as masochistic as the average competitive athlete or fitness fiend, you’ll love every minute of it. Barre classes incorporate elements of yoga, pilates, and dance in order to whip your body into pristine condition; primarily utilizing small, repetitive movements to tone muscles quickly and effectively.
What Should I Expect During Barre Class?
Most classes follow a similar format. They range from 45-60 minutes and are divided into choreographed sections focusing on different parts of the body. Much of barre involves using your own body weight, but plan on working with a set of light weights, a resistance band, and a soft toning ball. Although the exercises are challenging, they can be modified to account for varying fitness levels and possible injuries.
What’s the best part about barre workouts? They’re highly effective without being hard on your joints. Knees still aching from that long run you logged the other day? 60 minutes at the barre is the perfect complement to the most rigorous of cardio workouts.
And a word to the men: yes, you’re right, the words “barre” and “ballerina” do go hand in hand; but, don’t rule it out for yourselves and your fellow gym rats. Although the most loyal clientele of barre studios happen to be women, that doesn’t mean it can’t have tremendous benefits for men, too. Having a hard time with muscular endurance and flexibility? Step up to the barre. It can’t hurt.
Still unclear on what barre is all about? Here’s a sample format of an average class:
- Warm Up: Dynamic stretches lead into variations of everyone’s favorite strength exercise: the plank. You’ll likely do some push-ups and then drop down to forearm plank for a brief hold that somehow feels like an eternity.
- Arms: Do not be fooled by the 2 or 3 pound weights you’ll be instructed to grab before class. You’ll spend 5+ minutes doing traditional arm exercises (think bicep curls and shoulder presses) without lowering your arms the entire time. This is where your muscular endurance is truly put to the test.
- Legs: In this section you’ll stand next to the barre (trying not to grip it for dear life) as you tuck, pulse, and squeeze your way to leaner legs. Most of these tiny movements are done in a first position relevé with or without an exercise ball squeezed between your upper thighs.
- Seat: Be prepared to work muscles that you didn’t even know existed. This section targets even the tiniest muscles in your glutes and hamstrings through a series of small movements. Most of the moves are done lying on your side or in pretzel position on the floor.
- Abs: While some instructors will have you use the barre to anchor your feet for a series of crunches, others will stick to a challenging sequence of abdominal and oblique exercises performed on the mat provided.
Finally, you’ll cool down, stretch, and leave class feeling truly wiped out. Every muscle will feel worked to its maximum potential.
What Kind of Results Will I Get From Barre?
The grueling number of repetitions and isometric movements performed in barre class take muscles well past the point of fatigue. If you push through the pain and work your muscles to failure, they will be forced to tone. Embrace the shaking; it means change is happening.
Additionally, you’ll improve your posture, flexibility, and muscular endurance while strengthening the arms, legs, and core. Over time, barre workouts help to build lean muscle mass; this raises your metabolic rate and allows you to burn more calories throughout the day while your body is at rest. Because most classes move at a quick pace, you’ll notice that your heart rate is raised almost the entire time. Some studios even offer classes that incorporate cardio drills into each workout. While the average person burns up to 400-500 calories in an hour of barre, classes that include cardio bursts can increase the burn to 700 calories/session.
Ready to take the plunge and try an insanely addicting barre workout? Find a local studio near you and check out some of the most popular barre hotspots in the nation:
- Physique 57
- The Bar Method
- Pure Barre
- The Dailey Method
Marissa Gillis recently graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in psychology. She believes in a sound mind and body and is all for living a holistic lifestyle.
When it comes to exercise, she's always looking for new ways to stay fit. She loves to complement her runs and HIIT classes with barre workouts and yoga. In the fall, she will begin a graduate program to earn her Ed.S degree in school psychology.
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