Women are multidimensional. Some days we aspire to be graceful and elegant. Other days we may feel like an empowered and strong warrior. Barre – an amazing workout grounded in ballet – helps you build the skills to be all these things at once.
Inspired by ballet, Barre is a fitness class that uses the ballet barre to help you balance, with movements derived from yoga and Pilates.
Although you do not need equipment for Barre (even the barre itself is optional and omitting it creates its own style of movement called “unhitched”), instructors may use weighted bars, bands, balls, and light weights. There are so many options, your Barre class will always feel new and engaging.
Need more of a visual? Watch an at-home Barre workout. This workout would be considered “unhitched” as there is no barre used.
Do you feel like Barre has been popping up everywhere lately? If you have, you are correct. This fitness class has been steadily increasing in popularity for the last 10 years as the fitness community looked for less complicated and simpler workouts. Stephanie Medford, Master Trainer with SoulBody Barre, teaches a pre-choreographed, more athletic-style barre class with 25 years of teaching under her belt, believes that participants are looking for new and challenging ways to workout. They want an alternative to the gym but still want to combine strength training and cardio. “The practice of bringing awareness to the muscles used and isolated to create movement is empowering,” explains Stephanie. “Barre prevents your mind from wandering and instead focuses on YOU as you work through the shake and burn.” Seeing results relatively quickly might be another reason.
Personally, I am forever worried about inheriting my mother’s bad knees so was anxious that many pliés would be bad for my body but this is not the case – when done with proper form. Stephanie explains that the exercises are gentle on the joints but watch your posture and listen to your body. If you do have concerns speak with the instructor before class begins. They can offer tips you can be mindful of during class but they can also ensure you are using proper form and suggest any modifications. Stephanie reasoned “anyone capable of getting into a tabletop [all-fours] position and willing to challenge their mind and body” can do a Barre class.
What to bring and what to wear
Barre doesn’t require much equipment and what you’ll need is provided by the facility or your instructor. SoulBody Barre instructor Stephanie recommends bringing:
On the subject of what to wear, think what you might put on for an active yoga class or a vinyasa flow. You’ll want to wear clothes that are relatively close to the body but not constricting. I wore a tank top and full-length leggings although in warmer months I would recommend Capri- or knee-length bottoms if you tend to get warm when exercising. The class is done barefoot (unless you choose to wear the previously mentioned grippy socks) so no need to worry about in-class footwear.
What you can expect in class
Walking into the gym that morning for my Barre class with Stephanie, I was excited. I knew I was going to work hard and feel that burn but I also knew I was going to have fun and feel amazing. The sports I usually participate in can be a little on the ‘aggressive’ or ‘rough’ side (think hockey, martial arts, and HIIT) so it was fun to switch up my movements and mentality for the workout. I actually really enjoyed getting in the mindset of a ballet dancer while still putting my body through a fantastic workout. I felt like I was letting out a girly and graceful side of me that doesn’t come out very often in my workouts (and I wouldn’t generally describe myself as a “graceful” person).
The class and workout itself have an upbeat and cheerful vibe. The workout flows like a dance class but you’re not following complicated choreography so even if you’re uncoordinated (like me!) you won’t feel lost. The music has a happiness to it that keeps you motivated and smiling through the leg pulses and sautés. The fun energy of a dance class and empowerment of Pilates blend in a Barre workout, bringing the best of both worlds to participants.
Barre movements and exercises
Barre uses just enough ballet terms that you feel like a ballerina but you can still understand the movements, even as a newbie. There are a few yoga terms as well but every exercise is explained in detail. In the class that I tried, Stephanie, our instructor, did a wonderful job of explaining how our form should be and where exactly in our bodies we should feel the “Barre Burn.”
Movement-wise, in our class we did ballet-inspired movements like pliés and arm raises, weighted upper-body exercises with high repetitions and less weight, core work such as leg lowers, and some well-earned stretching. We also used a weighted body bar and a ball but the exact equipment will vary class-to-class, always keeping the workouts fresh.
‘Unhitched’ Barre is a style of Barre that is done away from or altogether without the horizontal ballet barre. Because participants are standing at their mats in their own space, this format resembles a more general fitness class compared to participants lined up at the barre side-by-side. SoulBody Unhitched incorporates all the same body-sculpting benefits as Barre but uses a weighted bar to challenge balance and core stability. This time on the mat is most often when you will use the free weights, balls, weighted bars, etc.
Although Barre movements may look graceful and gentle, the workout is hardcore. What I noticed though was that despite the fire I might’ve been feeling in my legs, I was still smiling. Maybe it’s the uplifting music or dance-inspired movements but Barre finds a way to sculpt your body while making you smile through it. I never even once looked at the clock which I have a tendency to do during tough-parts of a workout – I was having that much fun. I left the Barre class feeling empowered and was in a happy mood for the rest of the day.
No experience necessary. It's not just for dancers
While I have taken dance classes in the past, I will be the first to admit I do not have rhythm and this has often forced me to shy away from dance-themed classes. But Barre felt different. While it is inspired by ballet, it is not a dance class. You don’t have to follow nuanced choreography or worry you’re flailing about wildly. So let me assure you that if this stiff and not-at-all-rhythmic girl can feel comfortable and confident in a Barre class, you can too.
Barre movements are easy to follow and are not performed at too-high of a tempo (unless of course, you’re in a more advanced class) which is perfect for beginners or intermediate participants. The instructor will also provide options and modifications so the workout will scale in intensity as you build skill. The options allow you to tailor the workout to best suit your strengths, optimizing ultimate results for you.
Physical benefits of Barre
Now if you’re not already sold on the idea of trying a Barre class the list below might get you on the dance floor:
Curtain call: Final thoughts
I left my Barre class excited to return. A workout can be perfectly designed to produce results but if you do not find the workout enjoyable you’ll have difficulty sticking with it. Barre has the advantage that the results are rapid but the workout itself is fun – you leave wanting to come back again for more. Stephanie attributes Barre’s “addictive nature of the class to its results, opportunity to de-stress and the exhilaration of feeling like a powerhouse.”
If you’re looking for a fun and fresh new workout that produces real results, I highly recommend you give Barre a try.
Are you a city dweller? You’re in luck as studios dedicated to Barre are popping up all over. Toronto already has over 5 studios dedicated to solely to Barre and the workout is only growing in popularity. Many Pilates and yoga studios often offer Barre as a class as well.
Don’t live near a Barre studio? Not to worry, you still have options. While there may be fewer studios dedicated to Barre outside of the bigger cities like Toronto, many yoga studios, dance studios, Pilates studios, and even fitness facilities such as GoodLife Fitness are offering Barre classes in their schedules. Simply type Barre into our Athlete Advisor and find a Barre offering near you. Many locations offering Barre will offer a trial class or at least offer a drop-in rate so you can try a class without a big commitment.
Barre is even accessible if you don’t feel like leaving your house. Given the nature of the movements, equipment or a ballet barre is not required for a Barre workout. If you have space and a yoga mat at home, there are some great online classes as well. Online can also be a great place to start if you’re still unsure about the workout as you can exercise in a setting that’s comfortable for you and familiarize yourself firsthand with the concept. I can speak from experience, the online class 45-Minute No Equipment Barre Workout That Fuses Cardio + Toning, doesn’t require any equipment but you will for sure be feeling the results and ‘Barre Burn’.
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Have you tried Barre? Did it sauté into your heart? Let us know in the comments below. Share your highlights directly on our Discover blog, or by using #seewhatshecando on social media and inspire others to get active.
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Written by Jennifer Blair. Unable to settle on just one sport, Jennifer is willing to try any activity but can most often be found on the ice, in the pool, or on a yoga mat. When she's not working up a sweat, Jennifer is likely drinking an Earl Grey tea, daydreaming about travel, or convincing her boyfriend to watch Harry Potter with her. Again.
Photos by Caroline Wiley. Caroline is the Founder of SeeWhatSheCanDo. Her world has always revolved around sport. Caroline's passion is moving, doing and photographing the active moments all around her. When she’s not making plays on the ice or actively exploring the world with her family, she can be found researching her genealogical history and immersing herself in all things Cornish.
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