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Best Barre Workouts: Quick and Easy Steps to Toned Muscles

Barre workouts, inspired by dance, are beneficial for total body transformation as they strengthen and tone the entire body. For optimum results, incorporate barre workouts into your routine at least 3-4 times weekly.

13 min readAugust 3rd, 2023
SLWritten By Sara Lindberg

You can take live classes at a Pilates or barre studio, fitness facility, or dance center or choose from one of the many online fitness apps that offer barre workouts.

Keep reading to learn the benefits of barre, how to get started, and recommended barre workouts.

An Introduction to Barre Workouts

Barre is an eclectic mix of Pilates, ballet moves, strength training, balance, flexibility, cardio, core work, and yoga. London-based dancer, Lotte Berk, created barre in the late 1950s as a way to help rehab a lower back injury.

After finding relief through a series of exercises, Berk shared the method with her students. And in the early 1970s, Lydia Bach, one of Berk’s students, introduced barre workouts to the United States.

Several long-time followers and instructors believe the influence of ballet is why barre became so popular in fitness studios, gyms, and boutiques.

While barre is inspired by ballet, you don’t need dance experience to benefit from this powerhouse workout. Studios typically teach barre workouts in a group fitness format utilizing a portable barre or one mounted on the wall, like you would see in a ballet studio.

In addition to the barre, instructors may incorporate props like light dumbbells, small inflatable Pilates balls, light resistance bands or tubing, as well as body-weight exercises.

What To Expect in a Barre Class

Traditional or classical barre classes generally feature low-impact exercises that help with posture, alignment, and proper engagement of the core stabilizer muscles. What makes barre different from many other strength-based routines is how you perform the move.

During a barre exercise, you will hold the position to keep the engaged muscles under isometric tension or contraction, which means, the muscle does not noticeably change length.

This focus on small movements enables you to hold a position or contract a muscle through a very small range of motion, which may help strengthen and tone muscles that are difficult to work through other types of exercise.

Barre workouts vary in duration, with the average class around 20 to 60 minutes, which includes a thorough warm-up and cool-down.

You can expect to spend the majority of the time standing while performing exercises at the bar. However, some classes also incorporate mat-based Pilates moves that will take you to the floor.

Barre is considered a total-body experience, but you’ll likely feel it more in your legs, core, and glutes. Some hybrid barre routines also infuse upper body strength with resistance and cardio intervals for an extra challenge.

Benefits of Barre Workouts

Barre offers countless benefits for both your mind and body, including improved flexibility, increased muscle tone and strength, better posture and alignment, and an enhanced mind-body connection.

Plus, because it’s a low-impact exercise, barre is appropriate for most fitness levels.

Improved Flexibility, Balance, and Coordination

Improving flexibility, balance, and coordination are some of the key benefits of barre workouts. Barre routines feature standing exercises that enhance balance and coordination while also focusing on movements that encourage stretching and holding positions for increased flexibility.

Increased Muscle Strength and Tone

Barre workouts feature exercises specifically for the legs and core muscles, but also include moves that target your arms, shoulders, and back muscles.

More specifically, you can expect to feel the burn and see increased muscle tone in lower-body muscles, including your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, while also recruiting the powerful core muscles that help stabilize the spine.

Low Impact

Barre is considered a low-impact activity because it puts less stress on your joints, making it an excellent choice for beginners, older adults, pregnant people, or anyone dealing with arthritis or other musculoskeletal issues.

Low-impact workouts also complement higher-impact activities like running by giving your body a break from repetitive wear and tear, which helps reduce the risk of injury.

Better Posture and Alignment

Performing barre exercises requires proper posture and alignment. The instructor will provide cues and demonstrate optimal body alignment throughout the class, with an emphasis on your neck, shoulders, spine, and hips.

This focus on correct alignment and form can assist in gradually improving posture and lowering the chance of injury when exercising.

Enhanced Mind-Body Connection

While the physical benefits from barre are almost immediate, it may take a few sessions to notice the mental and emotional perks that come from regular practice.

Exercise, in general, is linked to reduced stress, improved mood, better sleep, and overall enhanced quality of life. Because barre exercises require precision and connection with the breath, you may also experience a deeper connection between the mind and body.

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Types of Barre Workouts

Classic Barre

Classic barre workouts are a fan-favorite of all fitness levels, with many faithful participants opting for traditional or classic classes over other styles like cardio or fusion. Classic barre is also a great foundational class, making it ideal for beginners.

This traditional style barre workout incorporates ballet-inspired movements, isometric exercises, and small range-of-motion movements. It focuses on strengthening and toning the entire body, with an emphasis on the legs, core, and glutes.

Cardio Barre

Barre classes provide an excellent total-body strengthening and toning workout, but some of the traditional formats may not do enough to boost your heart rate or improve cardiovascular levels. That’s why cardio barre is so popular among people who want to add high-intensity cardio exercises to the traditional barre routine.

In general, a cardio barre class includes elements like quick transitions, faster-paced movements, while sometimes incorporating light weights or resistance bands to elevate your heart rate and burn more calories.

Barre Fusion

Barre fusion is an excellent class to try if you want to combine barre with other fitness disciplines, such as yoga, Pilates, and dance. The routines are designed to target multiple muscle groups, increase flexibility, and improve overall body conditioning.

Plus, you’ll get a well-rounded workout by incorporating exercises and movements from various styles, making barre fusion ideal for anyone looking to get more done in less time. Fusion classes may require some experience with mat Pilates exercises, yoga poses, or dance moves.

Barre with Props

Barre with props, also referred to as barre sculpt, adds an element of resistance and intensity by using props like light dumbbells, resistance bands, small Pilates ball, or Pilates circle.

This class is a good fit if you’re looking for a challenging, strength-based routine that goes beyond the traditional style barre workout. Some instructors may expect you to have prior experience or knowledge about the basic barre moves, so make sure to check with the studio before attending a class.

Pre and Postnatal Barre

In addition to the core classes listed above, some studios offer pre and postnatal barre classes, which incorporate modifications and exercises designed for pregnant and postpartum bodies.

If you plan on taking one of these classes, make sure the instructor has specific training or continuing education in pre and postnatal Pilates and barre. It’s also a good idea to get clearance from your doctor, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy or are just beginning a fitness program while pregnant or in the months following delivery.

Recommended Barre Workout Routines

Whether you're a seasoned fitness enthusiast or a beginner looking to enhance your overall strength and flexibility, barre workouts provide a challenging yet enjoyable way to get in shape. Plus, taking a barre class has never been easier.

In addition to live classes in a studio or the gym, you can also stream a barre routine at home or on the go. Here are some barre workouts that will leave you feeling empowered, graceful, and thoroughly energized.

Classic Barre Workout

No barre? No problem. You can do this 35-minute Full Body Classic Barre and Pilates Workout with a chair – just make sure the top of the chair is roughly hip or waist height. You’ll move through a variety of barre exercises that target all your muscles through small isometric movements, with a focus on legs and glutes.

Barre with Resistance Bands or Weights

Combining resistance bands or weights with barre exercises is an excellent way to increase your heart rate and strengthen and tone the entire body, and that’s exactly what you get with this 1 Hour Cardio BodyBarre Workout with Props. The class uses small hand weights, a resistance loop, and a magic ring during several movements, but you can also use anything you have at home or use nothing at all. The exercises are still valuable on their own.

Cardio Barre Workout

High-energy cardio intervals meet traditional barre exercises in this non-stop routine that tones your body and boosts your heart rate. This 30-minute intense full body cardio barre workout from Action Jacquelyn is low-impact, knee-friendly, and does not require any ballet experience or equipment.

Beginner Barre Workout

Get fit, energized, and strong in just 15 minutes with this barre3 Signature Workout that combines strength, cardio, and mindfulness. All you need to get started is a bar, chair, exercise mat, and circle/loop band (optional).

20-Minute Barre Workout

This 20-minute Barre Workout is a perfect mix of ballet, Pilates, barre, and yoga that only requires an exercise mat and chair or bar.

Common Barre Exercises

Barre workouts typically include a combination of exercises that target various muscle groups and incorporate elements of ballet, Pilates, and strength training. Here are some common barre exercises you may see in the studio and in online barre routines.

  • Plies
  • Releves
  • Tucks
  • Pulsing Squats
  • Chair Pose
  • Arabesque Lift
  • Attitude
  • Leg Lifts
  • Arm Sculpting
  • Core Work (floor work including plank variations, bridges, crunches, oblique twists, etc.)

Getting Started with Barre Workouts

If you’re new to barre, it can be intimidating to know where to start. You might have some questions about how often to do a workout, ways to stay motivated, and how to combine barre workouts with other fitness styles. That's why we've compiled some expert advice on how to do all of those things and get the most out of your barre experience.

Consider the Cost

Doing barre workouts at home can save you a lot of money, but you may miss out on key instruction and the ability to ask questions. So, make sure you feel comfortable and ready to do classes on your own.

With that in mind, you can always start with a free class on YouTube or subscribe to a fitness app that offers barre workouts. Some fitness platforms offer a free version, while others require a monthly fee ranging from $12.99 to $29.99.

If the studio offers a free class or trial, make sure to sign up. This is a great way to determine if the pace, instruction, music, and overall vibe of the studio align with your preferences and goals. It also gives you an opportunity to ask questions.

Many studios offer trial classes or discounted introductory packages. In general, live studio barre classes cost between $20 and $40 per class, with many studios offering monthly pricing plans that lower the cost.

How Often to Do Barre

If your goal is to improve flexibility while still incorporating cardiovascular exercise, Gisela Bouvier, a barre instructor and registered dietitian, recommends doing a minimum of three barre classes per week. However, if your goal is to include barre just for fun or between other workouts, she says one to two classes each week is just right.

Tips for Staying Motivated

While you might be sore in places you didn’t expect after doing barre for the first few times, Whitney Berger, certified barre instructor, and owner of WhitFit NYC, says this happens with anything you do that your body isn’t used to working certain muscles.

Her advice? Keep going! That said, Berger does stress the importance of listening to your body and not pushing through pain, especially sharp or persistent pain and discomfort, which may require a pause in exercising and a visit to the doctor if it does not get better.

Another way to stay motivated and committed to a regular barre routine, says Bouvier, is to find a studio or instructor that you find entertaining. She also recommends classes that play music you enjoy and instructors who show both beginner and advanced moves. “Finding an instructor you want to take a class with is key to motivation,” says Bouvier.

Combining Barre with Other Exercises

“A barre workout is a great workout on its own because it incorporates cardiovascular, flexibility, and weight training exercises all in one,” says Instructor Bouvier. However, she does point out that shorter or short bursts of barre exercises can also be incorporated into any other exercise routine.

And Instructor Berger agrees. “Barre workout combos are great, because it’s so easy to incorporate them into any other modality.”

Plus, since barre is so leg and core focused, Berger also says adding hand weights to challenge the arms or incorporating barre moves into a HIIT or Tabata style workout can boost the intensity and target the entire body.

Common Barre Mistakes to Avoid

Barre workouts are a wonderful way to tone and strengthen your body. While most classes are considered safe and appropriate for beginners, intermediate, and advanced levels, there are some common mistakes you can make that may increase your risk of injury.

Using Poor Form

One of the fundamental principles of barre is maintaining good posture and alignment, which maximizes the effectiveness of the exercises and helps to minimize your risk of injury.

Throughout a barre class, make sure to avoid slouching or rounding your shoulders during the exercises.

Instead, focus on engaging your core, lifting through the chest, and lengthening the spine. Also, make sure your knees, hips, and ankles are properly aligned in exercises such as pliés and lunge.

Instructor Bouvier advises participants to avoid locking out their knees during a barre workout. “Not only does this limit your range of movement, but it can also lead to injury. It's important to keep the knees straight, but still slightly bent to help prevent injury,” she says.

If possible, sign up for a beginner or foundational series of classes to learn proper cueing, form, and appropriate pace.

Overdoing It

Barre workouts engage multiple muscle groups, so it's essential to give your body time to rest and recover between sessions. Incorporating rest days and cross-training with other forms of exercise, such as cardio or strength training, can help create a well-rounded fitness routine.

Additionally, pushing yourself too hard without allowing for proper recovery can lead to overuse injuries. Incorporate rest days into your fitness routine and listen to your body's signals for when it needs a break.

Instructor Berger says if you feel sharp pain, stop. Listen to your body and don't hesitate to ask for modifications from the instructor. They can provide alternative exercises or adjustments to accommodate your specific needs.

Bottom Line

Barre is a total-body, challenging workout that combines Pilates, ballet moves, strength training, balance, flexibility, cardio, core work, and yoga all into one efficient routine.

Participating in a regular barre program can help improve flexibility, increase muscle tone and strength, improve posture and alignment, and enhance the mind-body connection. Plus, because it’s a low-impact exercise, barre is appropriate for most fitness levels.

Before starting a barre workout, consult your doctor or another healthcare professional, especially if you have a chronic condition or injury.

And, if you’re new to the method, have any questions about how to perform the moves, or dealing with an injury, consider working with a certified barre instructor. They can help ensure that you’re performing the exercises correctly and safely.

Here are some in-person barre studios and online platforms to consider:

FAQ About Barre Workouts

What Should I Wear to a Barre Workout?

What you wear (or not wear) can make a big difference during a barre workout. When it comes to clothing, opt for comfortable form-fitting items like shorts, leggings, t-shirt, tank top, or sports bra.

If possible, let your feet go naked. This will give you the most traction. But if barefoot is not an option, get a pair of grippy socks that allow you to grip the floor during movements.

How Often Should I Do Barre Workouts?

How often you do a barre workout depends on your fitness goals, time, and overall fitness program. In general, taking two to three barre classes or workouts a week is ideal, with advanced fitness levels taking three or four.

If you’re new to the method, consider starting with one or two workouts a week until you learn the fundamental movements and allow your body time to adjust.

Is Barre Workout Good for Weight Loss?

Exercise is an excellent tool for shedding a few pounds and keeping it off. Combined with a healthy diet, participating in regular physical activity is a great way to meet your weight loss goals.

Some barre classes emphasize flexibility, balance, and strength more than they do a high calorie burn. That’s why choosing barre workouts that combine cardio bursts with strengthening exercises is ideal if you want to lose weight.

In general, a 155-pound person can burn around 162 calories in 30 minutes when engaging in moderate calisthenic movements, the activity type most equivalent to a barre class, says Harvard Health Publications.

More Barre Advice from GymBird Experts