Many people aspire to getting a lithe, limber “dancer’s body,” and this is exactly what barre workouts promise to deliver. If you’ve never danced before — or not since the third grade, anyway — the thought of taking a barre class can be an intimidating one.
However, as with most things in life, looking before you leap (or grand jeté, in this case) can help you know what to expect in order to overcome your inhibitions. Here’s a closer look at what happens during a barre class, along with the many fitness benefits of this popular type of workout.
The 411 on Barre Workouts
On the surface, barre workouts are exactly what they sound like. Participants work through a series of basic ballet-inspired movements using a ballet barre as a balancing prop. Originated by a German dancer who was looking for a combination of dance conditioning and rehabilitation while recuperating from a back injury, the concept quickly picked up steam with many different versions emerging soon after barre workouts first appeared on the fitness scene. In addition to ballet, many barre-based classes also draw from complementary disciplines, including Pilates and yoga.
Despite its origins in ballet, ballet barre is not limited to ballerinas. As Nicole Bushong, DPT, a former dancer and physical therapist at the Center for Advanced Orthopedics and Advanced Medicine in Auburn Hills, MI told The Greatest, “You don’t need any dance experience—you’re not going to be doing pirouettes.”
What’s Involved in a Ballet Barre Workout?
This begs the question: if you won’t be doing pirouettes, what will you be doing? Unlike the typical strength training class, barre workouts use small, repetitive “isometric” movements as opposed to large compound movements. This supports the creation of long, lean lines and toned muscles without adding bulk or stressing joints.
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While barre classes vary depending on the instructor, most begin with a warm-up, comprised of upper-body exercises such as planks, pushups, and free weights before moving to the barre to exercise the lower body through bodyweight resistance. Cool down usually takes place on the mat or barre and involves stretching both for flexibility and muscle recovery.
Not only does a barre workout exercise the whole body, but the core is engaged the entire time, which is one of the reasons barre workouts are such effective fitness boosters. And because barre combines both strength training and cardio, participants build muscle and burn fat at the same time. In other words, it’s a metabolic win-win.
Benefits of Barre Workouts
1. You’ll get stronger.
Barre workouts may use small movements, but the payoffs are big — particularly when it comes to building muscle strength. Additionally, high-rep, low-weight exercises target slow-twitch muscles associated with endurance.
2. You’ll get more flexible, too.
While getting stronger is good; getting stronger while improving your flexibility is even better. The focused stretching component of barre workouts offers significantly improved range of motion, which is the key to a long, active, injury-free life.
3. It’s a highly efficient form of exercise.
Barre workouts engage the core while targeting several muscle groups at the same time. The result? In addition to toning multiple muscles at one time, it also gives you a cardiovascular workout by raising your heart rate.
4. It raises body awareness.
By focusing on the smallest movements, the barre method can raise your level of body awareness for enhanced muscular activation.
5. It’s gentle on joints.
Barre workouts may be hard (in a good way) on muscles, but this low-impact form of exercise is easy on the joints, meaning participants have a decreased risk of injury.
One of the best things about barre workouts is that they can be modified to suit exercisers of all ages and abilities. In other words, all of these body-beautifying benefits are within your reach, whether you’re a lifelong ballerina or brand new to the barre. Interested in checking out a barre class for yourself at Brick Bodies? Sign up for a trial pass.