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What is Barre? Dance Your Way to a Strong Body and Mind

Barre is a workout method combining elements of ballet, pilates, yoga, strength training, and core work.

17 min readSeptember 12th, 2023
SLWritten By Sara Lindberg

If you’re ready to feel the burn in muscles you never knew you had, consider trying a barre class. Barre workouts are low-impact and focus on small range movements with isometric holds.

Most classes include a warm-up, mat work for the core, time at the barre working your lower body, and a cool-down with stretching and flexibility exercises.

And the best part? All you need to get started is a bit of floor space, an exercise mat, and barre – but you can swap out the ballet barre for a sturdy chair, table, railing, or ledge.

Some classes also incorporate light dumbbells, exercise bands, and a Pilates ball. So, if you’re ready to see how this versatile workout can boost your physical health and overall well-being, then check out our comprehensive guide on the barre method.

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What Is Barre?

Barre is a unique method that blends elements of ballet and Pilates with high-intensity interval training, yoga, and strength training sprinkled in. A barre workout incorporates the use of a ballet barre to enhance balance and stability while toning muscles throughout the body.

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the barre method originated in the late 1950s when Lotte Berk, a London-based dancer, created a series of exercises to help rehab a lower back injury.

One of her students, Lydia Bach, introduced barre to the United States in the early 1970s. Several long-time followers and instructors believe the influence of ballet is why barre became so popular in fitness studios, gyms, and boutiques.

Barre classes are a mix of ballet moves, core strengthening, total body toning, Pilates, and some elements of yoga. Classes are generally 20 to 60 minutes in length and include a thorough warm-up and cool-down.

Some barre classes spend the entire session at the barre, while others incorporate a short mat-based sequence of exercises performed while sitting or lying on your back.

A traditional barre class typically features standing exercises for your legs, core, and glutes while infusing traditional ballet moves like relevé.

But some hybrid versions also combine barre with core-specific work, upper body strength with resistance, and cardio intervals. Barre classes are available for all fitness levels, and you don’t need to be familiar with barre, or even ballet, to start.

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How Is Barre Different From Other Types of Exercise?

If you’re new to barre, you might wonder what sets it apart from other forms of exercise like yoga, Pilates, and dance. While it shares some features with various workout methods, there are some key differences that make a Barre workout unique.

Barre classes combine strength training, flexibility, and low-impact cardio to improve overall fitness, balance, core strength, posture, and wellness. One thing that makes barre unique is its focus on small movements.

For example, during a barre exercise like the parallel plié pulse, you'll be holding a position or contracting a muscle through a very small range of motion. These small, targeted movements can help strengthen and tone muscles that may be difficult to work through other types of exercise.

Similar to dance, barre incorporates ballet techniques like pliés and relevés, which can help improve balance, coordination, and posture. While some Pilates classes feature dance-type exercises, barre tends to have more ballet-inspired moves.

Even though the majority of barre exercises are performed while standing, the emphasis is still on core strengthening, which is similar to Pilates classes.

Both yoga and barre focus on the mind-body connection and overall strengthening, but yoga involves physical postures or poses called asanas to improve flexibility, strength, and balance.

Yoga poses involve holding static positions for longer periods of time, rather than the small, repetitive movements used in barre classes. Yoga also places a strong emphasis on mindfulness, with the aim of calming the mind and reducing stress.

Who Is Barre Best For?

The short answer? Almost anyone can do a barre class. This versatile form of exercise generally includes a combination of small, isometric movements designed to target specific muscle groups, as well as larger movements that get the heart rate up and burn calories, making it an excellent option for all exercise enthusiasts.

Barre Beginners

Barre is suitable for beginners, even if you don’t have previous dance experience. That’s because barre, especially intro classes, focus on basic techniques and lots of hands-on adjustments and modifications by instructors.


Barre is also a great workout for dancers to include in an overall fitness program, especially since barre is inspired by ballet. Barre workouts can help improve flexibility, balance, and strength, which can enhance performance in other types of dance.


Older adults are another group that may benefit from barre workouts since the exercises are easy to modify and the use of a barre or sturdy chair allows seniors to have a secure object to hold onto. Barre exercises can help older adults improve balance, strength, and posture, which may reduce falls and other injuries that are more likely as we age.

Athletes and Gym-goers

Athletes and advanced fitness levels may want to incorporate barre classes into their weekly routines to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. Barre can also help prevent injury by targeting smaller, stabilizing muscles that may be neglected in other types of workouts.

Pregnant People

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends maintaining a regular exercise routine during pregnancy. While not all activities are safe, most are appropriate to perform during your entire pregnancy.

Modified Pilates and barre classes can help improve flexibility, encourage stretching, and focus on breathing. Plus, a prenatal barre class focuses on modified positions that accommodate your body’s shifting balance.

Because barre exercises rely heavily on lower body range of motion, make sure to tell your instructor if you have any injuries or limitations with your ankles, knees, or hips. They can modify the movements to place less stress on those areas.

What Are the Benefits of Barre?

The physical benefits of barre are one of the main reasons people of all fitness and experience levels choose to incorporate this workout into an overall routine.

That’s because barre workouts are known to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and posture. They may also improve mental and emotional well-being. Plus, you don’t have to be a dancer to get started. Here are some of the top physical and mental benefits of barre.

Easier on the Body

Barre workouts are considered low-impact, which means they are joint-friendly and put less stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You also have the barre for added stability and support if you struggle with balance.

Better Strength and Core Stability

Barre exercises require you to work multiple muscle groups at the same time while engaging your core. The core muscles, which include the rectus abdominis, erector spinae, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, and mutifid, support and stabilize your spine, allowing your trunk to move forward, backward, rotate, and side-to-side, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

This includes your arms, shoulders, back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves, with an emphasis on building your core strength as a foundation.

Increased Flexibility and Balance

Many exercises performed at the barre focus on improving flexibility, balance, and coordination, especially in your lower body. Standing barre exercises can also help improve range of motion and reduce the risk of falls.

Improved Posture

To correctly perform barre exercises, your instructor will teach proper body alignment, including a focus on your neck, shoulders, spine, and hips. This emphasis on proper alignment and form can help to improve posture over time and reduce the risk of injury during exercise.

Boost in Cardiovascular Fitness

While barre workouts are generally focused on strengthening exercises, they can still provide a good aerobic workout and help to improve overall cardiovascular health, especially if the class incorporates aerobic intervals.

Enhanced Mind-body Connection

Improving the mind-body connection is another perk of a barre workout. Because barre exercises require concentration, precision, and coordination with the breath, it’s critical that you stay present in the moment to execute the moves correctly.

This enhanced awareness of the mind-body connection may allow you to cultivate a greater sense of mindfulness in your daily life and become more present in the moment.

Improved Mood

Participating in a regular exercise program, like a barre workout routine, may help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety while improving energy, according to a 2018 meta-analysis.

Better Quality of Life

If loneliness or lack of social connection is something you deal with, getting involved in an in-person group barre class may help. Barre classes in a group setting promote social connection, motivation, accountability, and a sense of community, which may improve your quality of life, according to research published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine.

What Equipment is Needed for Barre?

Getting started with a barre workout is easy and affordable. If you’re taking classes at a studio or gym, the equipment will be provided for you, unless the instructor has said otherwise. However, if you’re doing a home barre program, you’ll need to purchase a few items to get the most out of your workouts.

Barre or Other Item for Balance

All barre classes require a fixed or portable ballet barre, sturdy chair, ledge, or railing to provide balance and support. If possible, aim for the top of the barre or chair to hit you about belly-button height while standing.

Resistance Tools

Exercise bands and light dumbbells are often incorporated into barre workouts to add resistance and an extra challenge to the moves. You may also use a small exercise ball during leg work and a yoga mat for floor-based exercises.

Appropriate Clothing

While not considered barre equipment, what you wear, especially for your feet, makes a significant difference during a barre workout. If going barefoot is an option, you will likely get the most traction. However, if you need to wear something on your feet, opt for grippy socks that allow you to grip the floor during movements.

What Should I Expect During a Barre Class?

While each instructor and workout may offer something unique, most barre classes generally feature a full-body workout designed to target multiple muscle groups, with a specific focus on the lower body. Barre classes generally last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes and include a warm-up and cool-down.

Most studios offer classes that combine barre with cardio intervals, floor work, and upper and lower body strength training exercises using light weights.

To start, there's a warm-up that includes light cardio and stretching, followed by barre exercises that work on your arms, legs, core, and back. These movements are inspired by ballet and can include pliés, relevés, and arabesques.

You'll be using your own body weight to create resistance, and you might also use small props like bands or weights to enhance the workout. At the end of the class, there's a cool-down that includes some stretching and relaxation.

Because barre workouts move at a faster pace than traditional Pilates classes, the music tends to be more upbeat and rhythmic. You’ll want to wear comfortable, form-fitting clothing like leggings or shorts and a t-shirt, tank top, or sports bra. Most people will go barefoot or wear grippy socks.

Online barre classes are either free or part of a paid subscription platform. On average, a fitness app costs between $9 and $30 per month.

Live studio classes will run you an average of $20 to $30 per class, depending on the location, brand, and instructor’s experience. That said, many health clubs and gyms offer barre in their lineup of classes that come with your membership.

Pure Barre logo

Pure Barre

Best for Barre Beginners

Pure Barre is a fitness studio that offers a low-impact, high-intensity workout that focuses on sculpting the body through a series of isometric movements, emphasizing a specialized and low-impact workout.

  • Beginners welcome

  • On-demand classes

  • Locally owned

Is It Necessary to Take Classes or Can I Do Barre at Home?

If you've been wondering whether to hit up a barre studio or try it out at home, we've got some good news for you.

While going to in-person classes is ideal for beginners, you can absolutely do barre at home too. With that being said, we do recommend starting with a studio class to learn the basics and get coached up on proper technique, regardless of your fitness level.

That’s because starting with a studio class can be helpful for perfecting your technique and receiving guidance from an instructor, which may help prevent injuries and make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout.

There’s also the social aspect of taking a class in person, which can be motivating and help you stay accountable to your fitness goals. It’s also a great way to connect with others and push yourself further than you might on your own.

But, if you’re unable to attend classes or prefer to exercise at home, there are many online resources and at-home barre workout programs available.

Just make sure to do your research and follow a program that is safe and effective, and be sure to listen to your body and modify exercises as needed.

Tips for Setting up a Home Barre Workout Space

If committing to an in-person class on a regular basis does not seem doable, you may want to consider an at-home barre program.

There are several online platforms and apps that offer barre classes for all levels. You can also search YouTube for free videos.

To get started at home, all you’ll need is a small room or space large enough to move your arms and legs up and out while standing.

If you have access to a ballet barre, great. If not, opt for a sturdy chair or railing that hits you just about your belly button. You may also want a cushioned exercise mat for floor exercises and a set of light dumbbells or exercise bands.

If streaming classes on a phone or tablet, consider propping the device on a small table in front of you, with plenty of room to perform the exercises without hitting the table.

Best Gyms for Barre

Whether you’re a seasoned barre buff or just getting started with this full-body workout, finding a gym that blends expert instruction, a welcoming atmosphere, and a commitment to personal growth is essential to your barre practice.

The good news is barre is now a top pick in many fitness studio lineups, making it easier than ever to find a class that works for you. Here, we share three of the best gyms for barre, all offering in-person and online classes.

Pure Barre

Pure Barre is a nationwide studio chain focusing exclusively on barre workouts. It is the largest franchise, with over 600 studios in North America. Pure Barre features in-person group class formats that deliver full-body, low-impact workouts for all levels. Classes are 50 minutes or less and include:

  • Pure Barre Define: Combines classic barre technique with weight-based strength training.
  • Pure Barre Foundations: Introduces the basic movements of Pure Barre workouts (great for beginners).
  • Pure Barre Align: Fuses classic strength-building barre technique with an emphasis on flexibility and balance training.
  • Pure Barre Classic: The original full-body barre class that uses a ball, light hand weights, and a resistance tube.
  • Pure Barre Empower: Combines classic barre with high-intensity interval training to elevate heart rate, build strength, and increase metabolism.

They also offer Xponetial+, an on-demand format with thousands of online barre classes you can take from the comfort of your home.

Pure Barre logo

Pure Barre

Best for Nationwide Access

Pure Barre is a fitness studio that offers a low-impact, high-intensity workout that focuses on sculpting the body through a series of isometric movements, emphasizing a specialized and low-impact workout.

  • Beginners welcome

  • On-demand classes

  • Locally owned


Barre3 has over 165 studios offering a unique combination of strength conditioning, cardio, and mindfulness for an efficient full-body workout. They also offer an online program with access to 600+ on-demand workouts. Studio classes are all 60 minutes, while online classes range from 10 to 60 minutes.

  • Barre3 Signature: Efficient + total body workout that combines strength, cardio, and mindfulness.
  • Barre 3 Cardio: Full-body workout to build aerobic fitness and increase stamina through large-range functional moves.
  • Barre 3 Prenatal: Routines organized by trimester to help you maintain strength and boost energy.
  • Barre 3 Postnatal: Class are grouped into three key phases designed for the postnatal recovery period.
  • B3 Strength: Combines barre moves with heavier weights and resistance bands to build strength.

The Bar Method

Another popular barre studio chain with 100 locations across the United States and Canada is The Bar Method. Like Barre3 and Pure Barre, The Bar Method also offers users an online experience with access to on-demand and live stream classes.

Studio classes are 60 minutes or less and include:

  • Bar Method: Low-impact, classic interval-training workout for all levels.
  • Bar Strength: Combines the signature barre exercises with challenging weight work and compound movements.
  • Bar Method Cardio: Features high-intensity, low-impact movements with fast-paced cardio exercises.
  • Bar Flow: Infuses Vinyasa yoga flow sequences into the signature Bar Method class.
  • Bar Restore: Combines the signature Bar Method class with a segment of stretching.
  • Bar Combo: 30-minute class full body class.

Some Bar Method studios also offer a bar basics class and prenatal specialty class.

In addition to the three barre studios listed above, you can also find a variety of barre workouts in large gym chains like Crunch Fitness, Equinox, Life Time Fitness, LA Fitness, 24-Hour Fitness, and the YMCA.

A Word from Ashley

I'm Ashley Walton, Cofounder and Chief Content Officer at GymBird, and I wanted to add my personal experience to this article.

While a lot of barre enthusiasts have assured me that it's best enjoyed in a barre fitness studio, such as The Bar Method, I've only done barre workouts at home.

Don't get me wrong: if you love fitness studios and group fitness classes, barre studios seem like a blast, and I know friends who have really formed strong friendships and communities through their barre studios. There's also certainly something to be said for having an instructor there in person to help you improve your form.

For me, I'm always trying out different kinds of workouts. And truth be told, I'm usually trying to fit in a quick workout within the confines of my busy schedule. So if I can knock out a workout from home, around my timetable, that's works best for me.

When I started dipping my toes into barre, I was surprised to discover I could enjoy really effective barre workouts at home through fitness apps like FitOn, Peloton, and Fiit. And I also liked that I could choose the virtual instructor and duration.

Let me tell you: I'm a pretty fit person overall, but I mean it when I say barre worked muscles I'd never worked in earnest before. I was shocked by how powerful little tiny movements could be. Barre movements may look easy, but don't be fooled, they'll tire you out.

Now I incorporate barre movements into my regular workout routine. I love how barre helps strengthen my core and improve my posture and body awareness in general. If you're curious about barre, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking to improve overall fitness, enhance sports performance, supplement a dance program, or recover from an injury, barre is an excellent practice to incorporate into an overall routine.

Barre workouts focus on whole-body fitness, which can improve movement, strength, and control. It’s suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels and can be adapted to accommodate different levels of intensity and difficulty. You can do a barre workout at home, the gym, or a specialized Pilates studio.

Before getting started with a barre class, make sure to consult with 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:


How many calories can I expect to burn in a Barre class?

Although barre is not advertised as a solution to weight loss, exercise, in general, can help you burn calories. According to Harvard Health Publications, a 155-pound person can burn approximately 162 calories in 30 minutes doing moderate calisthenic exercises, which is the activity type most similar to a barre class.

That said, barre is more focused on strengthening, toning, balance, and flexibility than it is on the scale. But if you’re trying to lose weight, and want to include a barre class in your weekly fitness routine, opt for classes that mix in cardio bursts with barre strengthening exercises.

What kind of exercise is barre?

Barre is considered a low-impact, total-body strength training workout that is challenging enough for advanced fitness levels, yet easy enough on the joints for older adults, beginners, and people with injuries. Barre exercises focus on muscle strengthening, posture alignment, flexibility, and in some cases, cardiovascular fitness.

While barre targets all muscle groups, it focuses more on core and lower-body strengthening and toning.

What does barre do for your body?

Barre workouts are a great way to tone and strengthen your muscles, increase flexibility, and improve your posture. You’ll perform most of the exercises while standing at the bar, so you’ll also get the added benefit of improving bone density, which requires weight-bearing activities, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Barre classes are considered a total-body experience, with a specific focus on strengthening and building lean muscle mass in your core, thighs, glutes, and arms.

Can I do barre without a ballet background?

If plies and arabesques are not part of your fitness repertoire, you might be wondering if barre classes are out of reach.

While barre has its roots in ballet, you don’t need a dance background to reap the benefits of this fantastic workout. In fact, barre workouts are accessible to all fitness levels and backgrounds.

Most studios offer beginner level classes to teach the basics and introduce any ballet-inspired moves and terminology you need to know.

Plus, instructors do an excellent job of providing modifications to match different fitness levels and dance backgrounds, so don’t be afraid to ask if a specific exercise or routine is too difficult.

Can barre workouts be done at home effectively?

Barre workouts are versatile and easily adaptable to many locations, including at home. While not exactly the same as instruction in a studio, online barre classes can be an effective way to stick to a regular workout routine.

That said, if you’re new to barre or have any concerns about proper form or performing the exercises, it’s a good idea to start with an in-person class.

If you decide to incorporate barre into your home workout routine, the first thing you’ll want to do is find a reputable online class and instructor.

Thanks to online providers like Pure Barre, Barre3, and The Bar Method, you’re able to stream classes anywhere with an internet connection. These classes can provide structure, motivation, and proper form guidance, making it easier to follow along at home.

It’s also important to designate a clear and open area in your home where you can move freely without any obstacles. You may need a sturdy chair or a countertop to use as a makeshift barre for balance.

While you can do some barre exercises without any equipment, you may want to invest in a few props like a yoga mat, light hand weights (1-3 pounds), a resistance band, and a small ball. These props can enhance your workouts and add variety.

Is barre a cardiovascular workout or is it more strength-focused?

Barre workouts typically focus on low-impact, isometric movements that target various muscle groups, particularly in the legs, core, and upper body.

You’ll do high repetitions using bodyweight or light weights and resistance bands to improve flexibility, balance, posture, and overall muscle tone.

While barre is considered primarily a strength-based workout, you may see some cardiovascular benefits, especially if you take faster-paced classes that incorporate continuous movements and flow between exercises or add elements of cardio, such as jumping jacks or high knees, into the routine.