What Is Barre?

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If you’ve been paying attention to fitness trends, you’ve hear the words “barre workout” more frequently. But what is it? Barre workouts are an offshoot of ballet and are designed to give you that long, lean dancer’s physique. It combines exercises done at a ballet barre/ballet bar (you can use the back of a chair at home) combined with elements of ballet, Pilates, and yoga. Barre doesn’t use lots of equipment and instead relies on your bodyweight for resistance. The moves are designed to challenge you core stability and balance to achieve a strong and sleek body. And these classes really work! Participants rave about getting their bodies slimmer and more “chiseled”. For best weight loss and results, combine your barre workouts with a few cardio sessions and a healthy diet.

When you first enter a barre studio, you’ll see that it looks like a dance studio with a large open space, long mirrors, and ballet bars fixed to the wall. Some of the studios have wood floors so you generally don’t wear socks or shoes though some people like to wear “grippy” socks. There is not much equipment used but you’ll see a ball, light weight, and yoga straps. Generally, the classes last about an hour with a short warm up, 10-15 minutes of light weights (upper body), 20-30 minutes of barre exercises (mostly lower body), 10 minutes of floor work that includes abdominals and lower body exercises. Most classes finish with a cool down and final stretches.

Here are some terms you’ll hear in the class(as described by Jamie Young form FitSugar):

  • First position: This is part of the setup for many barre exercises. In first position, you are standing on the floor with your heels touching and your toes apart. When you gaze down, your feet should look like a small “v” shape.
  • Plié: This is a pretty French term that means to bend, or fold. It is only used when referencing a bend in your knees, which you do often in barre. You can take a plié in almost any standing position. Your instructor might alternate the words bend and plié intermittently.
  • Relevé: The actual meaning of this French term is lifted, or raised. The word is used when instructed to lift your heels off of the ground. This is usually only instructed when your heels are together, either side by side or in front of one another, so that you have plenty of ankle support.
  • Second position: Stand with your legs separated from each other, with your feet about two feet apart, and your toes pointing outward on a diagonal. From here you will most likely be instructed to take a bend in your knees. Once you plié, make sure your heels are under your knees and your shins are parallel to prevent injury. Every barre goer loves to hear the term second position because it is often used for a series of thigh exercises. The position might feel like a break at first, but you’ll begin to feel the burn.
  • Tuck: A key concept in barre, the tuck is part of the secret to sculpted thighs and seat. You may even hear this instruction during your ab exercises. It simply means to pull your hips forward while drawing your abs back. If you look at yourself in a mirror, you can see the tuck happening from a side view. When you tuck, the arch in your lower back will disappear, elongating your tailbone. This can make any exercise feel harder and therefore show more results, so embrace the tuck.


Have any of you Rockheads ever taken a barre class? As always, let me know in the comments!

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