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Meet Me at the Barre

Photo courtesy of Fit Barre

Barre is becoming all the rage in the fitness world. But what exactly is it? Although barre originated from dance, you don’t need to have a dance background to participate—it’s a low-impact fitness workout that anyone can do. The exercises develop long, lean muscles (similar to a ballerina’s) as well as increase flexibility and improve balance.

I’ll have the usual

Barre classes share a similar foundation of movements, so after a few you’ll have a general idea of what to expect and the target areas you’ll hit (though the actual moves will always change). Depending on your studio and instructor, the order of movements varies, too. To give you an idea, here is one example of how a class may flow. 

You’ll start with a warmup that gets you familiar with lifting to a beat. From there, your instructor may throw in some light bicep curls or squats to activate your muscles. Next is a push-up and plank series, followed by arm sequences using weights (shoulders and biceps and triceps, oh my).

At this point, you may be eyeing the door and planning your escape, but hold tight! The best part about a barre class is that it follows a pattern: after every challenging portion of class you’ll take a rewarding stretch.

Once your work on arms is over, you’ll move to the barre to indulge in juicy stretches that boost your flexibility. Then, it’s right back to work with a lengthy sequence focused on your thighs, typically using a resistance band or ball. This can be one of the most difficult parts of the class, but afterwards you’ll balance it out by stretching your hamstrings and hip flexors.

You’re not done yet—glutes are next. Push through these last sets, and you’ll surely feel it the next day. Last on the list are your abs (as if you haven’t been using them this whole time) and some back-building exercises.

Whew! You made it. Now enjoy some relaxing final stretches and cleansing breaths—you’ve earned them. If you find a studio you like and return frequently, you’ll get to know their sequence better and better. Or, if you’re the type who likes to explore different places around you, your experience could be something new every time!

Shaken, not stirred

Barre is all about micro movements—the smaller the better. The point is to fatigue the muscles quickly and break them down so they grow back leaner. That’s why your starting position will be something like a deep bend, from which you’ll pulse, lift and tuck slightly to really hit those muscles. You might shake like crazy, but the more you shake the faster your muscles will fatigue. Don’t be alarmed, that means it’s working. The best thing to do? Breathe, embrace it and try to stay in the position as long as you can.

Low-impact, not low calorie

Just because barre is low-impact doesn’t mean it’s any less of a workout. Expect to burn anywhere between 200 and 600 calories in one class—and your muscles will continue working and burning them even after you’ve left the studio. It’s a total body workout, so you’re always working multiple areas at once. Plus, you can constantly push your limits by increasing your weights.

Do a breath check

Like many workouts, your breath is crucial for getting through the tough parts of barre. Consistently exhaling sharply will not only send strength to where you need it, but will also help you focus on something other than giving up. The more you breathe, the more you tell your body that you’ve got this (smiling helps, too).

Friends make it a happy hour

Nothing lifts your spirits higher during a tough sequence than turning to a friend and exchanging that “What have we gotten ourselves into?” look. Feed off the energy of the class, groove to the music and maybe make a new friend in the process. Don’t forget to high five them at the end and celebrate what you’ve accomplished together.

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