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Women doing barre

A Beginner’s Guide To Barre Workouts

7 MIN READ • 29th November 2022

Designed to strengthen and sculpt, barre fitness cardio exercises combine ballet inspired moves with a type of Pilates and yoga and is beloved by celebs such as Calgary Avansino, Lisa Snowdon and Kimberly Wyatt. You don’t need a studio for the perfect workout, as this beginner’s guide to barre will make it a breeze.

If you haven’t hit the barre with your friends yet, then where have you been? Unlike the place where you’re served a G&T with your mates, this kind of barre is an innovative and challenging ballet-inspired workout that aims to torch calories and tone muscle across your entire body, to aid weight loss and help you reach your goals.

What is barre?

It’s no surprise that the number of searches for ‘barre classes near me’ has increased dramatically over the past couple years with the promise of real results from just a few barre fitness classes. Inspired by the classic and graceful ballet practice, a barre class requires muscular strength and balance, incorporating demanding cardio workout moves to help you create a lean physique. 

Barre is a form of physical activity that uses a ballet barre that you would typically find in a ballet studio, and it’s this barre that you use to perform isometric movements, such as plies and static stretches to improve muscular endurance, as well as arm exercises, strength training and upper body moves.

Torching calories long after your workout is a benefit of many high intensity interval workouts, but barre instructor Vicki Anstey, founder of ballet fitness fusion studio Barreworks, stresses that ballet offers something very different. Read our article on barre fitness to discover more expert advice.

Pilates VS barre

Although the environment may look the same (group setting, dance studio and mats), unlike Pilates, the barre concept tends to focus more on leg strength, helping to tone, sculpt and create a lean physique, without adding ‘bulk’.

“It works because a lot of ballet moves use micro-movements, in which you move just an inch or two,” explains former dancer Carrie Rezabek Dorr.

“They take momentum out of the equation, forcing you to stay in the contraction, which tires muscle quickly, giving you faster results!”

Types of barre workouts

There are a plethora of barre workouts that you can try and the results won’t vary, according to experts.

Ballet barre

A ballet barre workout is a fusion of ballet, yoga and Pilates all in one. Hailed for its strengthening and toning benefits, this could be the one to try before experimenting with other types.

Pure barre

Ready to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee? Channel your inner Ali with a fast-paced fusion of high-intensity boxing exercises and core-crippling ballet moves.

Founded by Paola’s BodyBarre, the brand new Boxerina class is a one-of-a-kind workout that promises to tone and lengthen while also torching fat. The result? A lean dancer’s physique in virtually no time at all!

What will I need to start a barre class?

Your first barre class will be different from any dance class you’ve ever experienced, but don’t worry, your instructor will help you every step of the way.

“They know how to work the body in a particular way and know how you’re feeling from first-hand experience,” explains Vicki.

“While you may not be flexible during your first class, stick with it and you’ll soon be amazed by what your body can do!”

Once you’ve mastered the moves of your ballet barre workout, you may be wondering how you can kick the exercise up a notch.

“The best way to boost your barre workout is to make sure that you’re doing the right technique so you get the most out of your session,” says Niki Rein, founder of Barrecore.

“Try to be mindful through each movement. Asking yourself ‘is my technique the best it can be?’ will help you target more muscle groups and work the entire length of them for better results.

“The second question to ask yourself is: ‘am I working at my challenge point?’ This is when the muscle you are contracting feels a deep burn and you start to feel a trembling sensation – you’re in the correct position for maximum results.”

Where is the best barre fitness class in London?

You could argue that London is the ultimate hub for barre exercise classes, with a range of studios competing for your time and attention. Luckily for you, we’ve rounded up the best studios in the capital to help you achieve your barre body.

FLY LDN

FLY LDN is London’s leading immersive yoga and low impact training studio, which has classes to suit all fitness preferences. From Chill Yoga to Skills & Drills, you can also mix up your exercise regime with Small Group Training Low Impact classes, Barre sessions or Dynamic Pilates.

Xtend Barre

Located in central London, its famous Xtend Barre workout combines dance, Pilates and ballet. It promises to get your heart rate up and you’ll be able to feel the ballet burn, with no prior dance experience required.

Barrecore Mayfair

Sculpt your body and your mind with this barre studio. Using your own body weight and our unique combination of high repetition isometric exercises and restorative stretches, you’ll soon be familiar with the barrecore method in no time!

The best barre socks

Before you head to your first barre class, it’s important to be clued up on any equipment or clothing you may need. “Workout clothing and bare feet is fine for first-timers. But once you’re hooked, it helps to have a pair of soft-soled ballet barre grip socks so that feet are protected,” says Vicki.

“Then the world is your oyster invest in super-soft leggings and layer up in true ballet-style with leg warmers, crossover cardigans and a back-enhancing leotard if you dare,” she says.

Here are a selection of our favourite grip socks and their benefits:

Sweaty Betty Pilates Socks

  • Super soft, lightweight and sweat-wicking fabric
  • Arch support for extra comfort and security
  • Anti blister heel panel and ankle lip to prevent excess rubbing

Oysho Sport Yoga and Pilates Socks

Products with this label are made with at least 50 percent organic cotton, which is produced without the use of any synthetic pesticides and fertilisers or genetically-modified seeds. Most organic cotton is rain-fed, leading to significant water savings, and organic agricultural practices also ensure that farmers produce more than one crop, which supplements their food and income and helps regenerate the soil.

Gaiam Grippy Yoga Barre Socks

Perfect for yoga, Pilates, barre, and dance, these Grippy Yoga Barre Socks from Gaiam are designed to keep you centred during your session.

Based on a ballet inspired design with criss-cross top straps to keep the socks in place, non-slip silicone grippers on the sole will keep you from sliding around, and are ideal either with or without a mat.

Other home workout equipment

What other equipment might you need to do a barre class at home? As well as grip socks and a yoga mat, you could also invest in a hand weight set, such as dumbbells, a resistance band, a barre ball and sliders.

Ballet barres for your home

If you’re wondering whether you can get a ballet barre for sale to use in your own home, the answer is yes! From the portable ballet barre type to your own personal stretch machine, we’ve got the best suggestions for you:

XRX Portable Free Standing Ballet Barre

4.0 metre Freestanding Ballet Barre Set

However, as Helen Skelton explains, you can also use your kitchen island!

Three of the best barre videos

Try these barre videos at home to learn the ballet technique.

30-Minute no equipment barre sculpting workout

Sculpt, stretch, and sweat with this no-equipment workout from Barre Belle creator Marnie Alton, whose clients include Kate Hudson and Jennifer Aniston.

Online beginner barre workout

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this Beginner Online Barre WorkOut is a walk in the park! The movements may seem uncomplicated, but they are still challenging. With modifications and progressions where you need them, this is the perfect introduction to the barre and a great workout to come back to again and again.

Ballet body sculpt

This 25 minute ballet inspired workout uses six moves to sculpt your body with both toning and cardio exercises. This is a full body workout that’s low impact, with no equipment and no jumping, so it’s perfect if you live in an apartment.

Easy at-home ballet workout plan

Try this mini Barre workout from BalletBeFit, using the back of a sturdy high-backed chair for support. Complete one set of the recommended number of reps for each move, moving from one to the next with little rest in between. Repeat the full circuit one, two or three times in total. Perform this routine three times a week, and along with simple lifestyle changes such as diet and hydration, you’ll be sporting the ‘dancer’ look in a month!

Barre move one

This move targets your thigh muscles, glute muscles, calf, abs and ankles.

  1. Face a sturdy chair with your feet in first position (with your heels together and your toes slightly turned out at about 45 degrees), your legs straight and your hands on the back of the chair.
  2. Keeping your spine long and your abs tight, rise up onto your toes.
  3. Plié/squat down by bending your knees out over your toes (lowering only halfway down).
  4. Straighten your legs and squeeze your inner thighs together as you extend upwards and then lower your heels. This is one rep. Repeat 20 times.

Barre move two

This exercise targets your thighs, glutes, calf, abs and ankles.

  1. Begin standing, facing a sturdy chair with your feet together and your hands resting on the chair.
  2. Rise up on your toes and bend your knees into a deep plié/squat. Squeeze your inner thighs together and keep your knees together.
  3. Lift up halfway (with your knee remaining bent), and then return to the deep plié/squat position. This is one rep. Repeat 20 times in total.

Barre move three

Target your glutes, abs, calf and ankles with this exercise.

  1. Begin standing, facing a sturdy chair with your feet in first position, your legs straight and your hands on the back of the chair.
  2. Rise up onto your toes, keeping your legs straight, to a slow count of four.
  3. Slowly lower your heels, keeping your legs straight and think of extending and keeping tall, to a count of four. This is one rep. Repeat 20 times in total.

Barre move four

Complete this move to boost your glutes, hamstrings and abs.

  1. Begin standing, facing a sturdy chair with your feet parallel and hip-distance apart and your hands resting on the back of the chair.
  2. Bending your knees slightly, hinge forward from your hips so that your torso is parallel to the ground.
  3. Raise your right leg as high as is comfortable behind you (no higher than hip height). Lower and lift your leg one inch from this position. This is one rep.
  4. Repeat 60 times in total (vary the speed from medium to fast). Recover and repeat on the other leg.

Barre move five

This move targets your hip flexors, quads, and abs.

  1. Begin standing sideways with a sturdy chair to your left and your feet in first position. Keeping your legs straight, rest one of your hands on the chair and put the other arm down at your side.
  2. Slide your right foot out to the front, lifting the heel and pointing your toes. Lift the leg 45 degrees high. Lower and lift your leg, tapping the floor with your toe.
  3. Repeat 60 times in total (vary the speed from medium to fast). Recover and repeat on the other leg.
Meet the writer
Vicky Warrell
H&W deputy editor

As H&W's deputy editor, I'm lucky enough to cover everything from celebrities to skincare. At the weekend, I'm happiest when adding to my ever-expanding houseplant collection, swimming laps at my local lido, spending time with my family and... Discover more

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