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What Is Barre Class All About—And Is It Actually An Effective Workout?

Don't be intimidated by all those squat pulses.

BY KRISTINE THOMASONPUBLISHED: JUN 9, 2022

What To Expect In A Barre Workout Class

Each barre class is designed to be a full-body, muscle endurance workout (as I've definitely experienced). Typically, they're broken into different sections that focus on major muscle groups including the arms, legs, glutes, and core.

"The muscles in each group are fatigued via small targeted movements, high numbers of repetitions, and light weight or resistance," says DiGiorgio. Think pulsing in a squat to target the glutes and quads, cranking out as many triceps kickbacks as possible with three-pound weights, or moving through a lively plank sequence.

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"Barre class is a workout technique inspired by elements of ballet, yoga, and Pilates," says DiGiorgio. "It focuses on low-impact, high-intensity movements designed to strengthen your body in ways that few other workouts can."

In addition to building strength, this full-body workout also develops agility and flexibility, DiGiorgio adds. In some classes, you'll use just the barre (or equivalent like a countertop or chair back) and your body weight to churn out rep after rep of muscle-burning move, while others incorporate tools like resistance bands, sliders, ankle weights, free weights, exercise balls, and more.

"Sections of class are also paired with stretching to increase overall flexibility," DiGiorgio explains. So if you struggle with how to become more flexible (*raises hand*), barre class is a great choice.

Benefits Of Barre Workouts

There are many perks that come with dabbling in barre classes to supplement your other training or when you make them your go-to workouts.

  1. Increased flexibility. Borrowing from ballet and all the flexibility that dancers need, barre classes also can help improve your stretchiness. “Some exercises can involve a bit of mobility, particularly in your hips,” says Kara Liotta, the co-founder of KKSWEAT. She also notes that beyond the specific ballet-inspired moves, you’ll also get a fair amount of stretching in most Barre workouts to stretch out the muscles you’ll be exhausting.

  2. Increased muscle strength. Any form of resistance training—calisthenics, weight lifting, and barre—will increase muscle mass. Studies show that yes, intensity or added weight builds muscle, but so can volume, (think all those unending mini squats). Oh, and because so many of the moves you'll work through in class get your abs and back fired up, you can bet you'll sculpt a stronger, more defined core, DiGiorgio adds.

  3. Improved endurance. “Barre workouts are all about endurance, form, and repetition,” says Liotta. “You hold positions for a long time and exhaust reps, but with minimal weight.” Because you are spending a good amount of time in each shape to really wear out the muscles, you also can truly feel what part of your body you are supposed to be activating and strengthening.

  4. They're gentle on joints. Barre classes are low-impact, which can reduce the risk of injury and help if you are already injured. “Many people are working with injuries and still want a solid physical challenge without feeling like they have to modify everything,” says Liotta. “Barre is low-impact because there is no jumping whatsoever in a traditional barre workout.” That also makes it a great option for pre- and postnatal women, DiGiorgio says.

  5. Better posture. So many of the moves in a barre class also target your abs and core. So not only can you work toward a stronger, more defined core, you’ll also be gaining solid strength to improve your posture, balance, and overall agility.

  6. Great for cross training. You don't have to go all in on barre to feel the effects. Even if your primary focus is on getting ready for a race, barre class can be a great form of cross training to maintain strength and well-rounded fitness, DiGiorgio says.

How Barre Compares To Other Workouts

For starters, barre is for everyone, and you don't have to be a dancer or super fit to do it. "The community is made of people who have tried every fitness class ever created, as well as those just starting their fitness journey," says DiGiorgio. "Unlike many exercise programs, which require a high level of physical fitness or prior expertise, barre is very beginner-friendly and adaptable to different skill sets and ability levels."

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"Barre is very beginner-friendly and adaptable to different skill sets and ability levels."

Still, it may take a few classes before you hit your groove at the barre. "Class moves quickly, and can be challenging, since you’ll utilize muscles you never knew you had," says DiGiorgio. "But you’ll get the hang of it after three or four classes, and you'll generally see results in just eight to 10."

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