Barre Fitness: An Excellent Full-Body Workout

Barre classes are a new popular fitness trend based on the fusion of ballet, Pilates, and yoga. It takes the basics of ballet movements done at the barre (a horizontal wooden beam attached to the wall used to hold onto for balance and stability) and distills them into tiny movements to work for the small muscle groups.

Key takeaways:
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    Barre fitness is a growing worldwide fitness method that fuses ballet, yoga, and Pilates.
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    There are many benefits to practicing barre such as improved posture and lean muscles.
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    Results can be seen as quickly as practicing three to four times per week in one month.

Usually, by the end of class, your legs are shaking and there are lots of smiles and laughter at how something so simple can get you so sore and provide an excellent full-body workout.

The history of the barre workout

Barre exercises were invented by Lotte Berk in the late 1950s in England. Lotte was a Jewish ballet dancer. At some point in her career, she injured her back and created a method to heal herself and called it the Lotte Berk Method. It then spread to New York City and Los Angeles in the 1970s, when the name changed to barre as she signed away the rights to the method to other fitness and dance professionals. It has since been adopted by many fitness professionals around the world to create the long, lean muscles that dancers have.

Characteristics of a barre workout

Lotte Berk invented the idea of working with a pelvic tilt during class, in particular, a posterior pelvic tilt, like what Michael Jackson was famous for in his dance moves. However, what set her apart is that the movements are continually done in a quick fashion to create a workout for the lower abdomen and glutes.

It is sensual, hence why many women (and men) are drawn to barre fitness. To perform a pelvic tilt, think of tucking the tailbone under and drawing the pubic bone toward the navel like there's a zipper between the two points. It's easiest to learn laying down on the floor where you have some support. It's important to not go into anterior pelvic tilt, where you arch the spine back (tailbone points back), as this can compress the lumbar spine and cause pain or even injury.

Other characteristics of a barre workout include:

  • Lots of repetition of small movements, including the pelvic tuck at the barre.
  • The small movements may include glute bridge squeezes, pelvic tilts in various positions at the barre, and squats in ballet positions, both small and big squats.
  • Balance work.
  • Core exercises.
  • Plank exercises were added later.
  • Dumbbell exercises using light weights and high reps.
  • Other props may include a yoga mat, grippy sox to prevent slips, a small fitness ball, or a yoga block.
  • Stretching in between or at the end, using the barre or not, to alleviate the muscles.

Benefits of barre fitness

  • More strength and flexibility.
  • A full body workout.
  • Core strength.
  • Focus on the glutes and thighs to create long lean muscle mass that is not bulky.
  • Better posture.
  • Determined mindset.
  • Elevated heartrate to increase cardiovascular strength.
  • Helps with weight loss because is a mix of continual movement plus strength training.
  • Better mood.
  • Improved metabolism.

Feet position in barre class

  • Parallel: Line up the feet with the hips, toes pointing straight forward like you're standing on railroad tracks. Toes, ankles, knees, and hips in a straight line.
  • Ballet 1st position: Heels together with toes turned out, making a pizza-like wedge between the feet. This activate the turn-out muscles (external rotators of the hips). It's important not to force the turnout so keep the knees in line with toes.
  • Ballet 2nd position: Step the feet out wide with the heels turned in and toes turned out. Again, don't force it. When squatting, roll the inner thighs out toward the pinky toes and sink the hips down while keeping the shoulders stacked over the hips in good posture.

The results of barre fitness

It is recommended to practice barre three to four times per week to see results. You can see results in as short of a time period as one month. However, you can also supplement this class with Pilates, yoga, Zumba, Tai chi, jogging, the elliptical at the gym, weightlifting, or any other activity you enjoy to mix it up. In the beginning, your muscles will shake a lot due to the repetition of movement, but over time it will become easier and more enjoyable. Remember to keep a positive mindset through the workout and stop if you feel pain or have muscle cramping.


Barre may be contraindicated for those who have had recent ankle, knee, hip, or shoulder surgery. Those with shoulder issues should avoid planks, pushups, and dumbbell series and keep their arm down without using ballet arm positions. Because the workout uses ballet exercises such as the French terms relieve (to rise onto the balls of the feet like a heel raise) and plies (to bend the knees), those with ankle or knee issues may have problems here. However, if no recent surgery or are cleared for exercise by your doctor, it may act as a rehabilitative exercise for you as it is still low-impact.

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