There seem to be barre-style workout studios popping up everywhere—do you consider a barre class a good workout? Is it worth the $20 to $35 price tag? —Molly C.
Just because a barre class might not make you sweat as much as a 5-mile run or a heated spin class doesn’t mean it can’t give you a great workout.
The exercises that you’ll do might look deceivingly simple when demonstrated because typically they’re small, controlled movements. But after a few reps you’ll definitely be feeling the burn, and that’s the point—barre classes tend to involve very light weights or resistance (and sometimes none at all) and a ton of reps.
Barre Exercises Use Lighter Weights but More Reps
Using lighter weights and doing more reps is considered muscular endurance training. For example, you might do 30 bicep curls with a 3-pound weight, instead of doing 10 reps with a 15-pound weight. Honestly, even though it might look easy at first, it generally feels like straight-up torture the first time you try it—but eventually you get stronger and better at it. People love endurance training because it tends to build longer, leaner-looking muscles, as opposed to lifting heavier weight for fewer reps, which encourages muscular hypertrophy, or growth. Both are good for you, so it just depends on your preference!
Generally, barre classes are low-impact and easy on joints, and you probably won’t get your heart rate up too much. Even though they don’t torch a ton of calories, barre classes work the stabilizing muscles and small postural muscles in ways that many fitness classes can’t. They’re great for people who might be starting exercise for the first time, recovering from an injury, or cross training. If you’re already in great cardio shape and want to tone up, try adding in one to two barre workouts a week.
The only downside? Those pricey classes add up fast. Here are four barre-inspired moves you can do at home.
Barre Move 1: Attitude lifts
This movement will test your balance, tone the stabilizing muscles in your standing leg, and strengthen the muscles in your lower back.
Stand on your right leg, with your standing knee slightly bent. Bring your left ankle directly behind your right ankle, so you’re making an elongated diamond shape with your legs. Your left knee should be pointing to the side, and you’re balancing on one leg. Lift your left leg up behind you, and then lower down to the starting position.
Do 20 reps, then switch to the other leg and repeat.
Barre Move 2: Grand plie pulses
Wanna feel the burn in your inner thighs and calves? This dance-inspired move is what you need in your life. Plies are a staple movement in any type of dance class, so you’ll see them often in barre classes. The trick here is to get and stay low as possible in this position.
Stand with feet wide. Lower down into a plie position (that’s dancer-speak for squat) until your femurs are parallel to the ground. Life your heels up—imagine there’s an egg under your heel and you don’t want to crack it—while staying in the same plie position. Hold here and pulse up and down. Keep it small! Just move about two inches at a time.
Repeat 30 times.
Barre Move 3: Side leg kicks with a pulse
One thing you’ve gotta get used to if you’re heading to the barre? Leg lifts. They look silly, even a little ’80s, but man, do they burn. You’ll feel these in your hips, glutes, outer thighs, and obliques.
For this one, you’ll want to grab a chair or a counter that comes up to your hip. Stand to one side of the chair with toes pointing straight forward. Place your right hand on the chair for stability, and raise your left leg directly to the side. Your toes should be facing forward, not up toward the ceiling. Lift your leg as high as you can while keeping your leg parallel (spoiler alert: you won’t be able to lift it very high!), and pulse your leg up and down at the height of the lift.
Do 20 reps, then turn and switch to the other leg and repeat.
Barre Move 4: Can-can dips
So far we’ve checked off the legs, abs, and glutes—time to hit the arms!
Start on a yoga mat, with your fingers pointing towards your toes and hips pressed up so you’re in a high tabletop position. Extend one leg up, with the knee straight and toes pointed. From here, bend at the elbows, and then extend back up. Keep your abs in and engaged as you do this to keep your leg from flopping around too much.
Do 10 reps, then switch to the other leg and repeat.