Some girlies love to sweat, some don't. It's a fact of life. But no matter which camp you belong to, exercise is important for both your body and mind (hi, ever heard of endorphins?!), even if you don't wanna believe it. Fitness fanatic or not, chances are you've heard of barre as a type of workout. And if you think it's just for former ballerinas...I've got some news for you.
Barre classes are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason: they're fun, full-body workouts that anyone—at any fitness level—can participate in. They'll leave you feeling hella strong, a sense of community, and probably a lil sore (I can personally attest to all three). Wanna know more? Of course you do. Read on for a beginner's guide to the trendy technique (which, frankly, I don't see going out of style anytime soon), with insight from some of our favorite experts.
First things first: What even is a barre class?!
“Barre is a dynamic workout that combines elements of ballet, pilates, and strength training into a class that totally transforms the body from head to toe,” says Pilin Anice, a lululemon Studio Trainer and health coach who has been teaching barre for over a decade. With a focus on beats (a good instructor will come with a killer playlist!), it’s an entertaining, minimal-sweat style of exercise.
“Barre works out and engages muscles throughout the entire body,” adds Sandra Gail Frayna, a physical therapist and the founder of Hudson Premier Physical Therapy & Sports. “A majority of the class is usually done at a ballet bar and focuses on toning, stretching, lengthening, and strengthening.”
Wait…do I have to dance?
Only if you want to! For real though: "You absolutely do not have to be a dancer to take a barre class," promises Pilin. "While someone with a dance background may be familiar with the positions, for those who are new to ballet terminology the class instructor will break everything down so you are successful." Basically, even if you quit ballet back in your elementary days, you’ll have zero issues following along in a barre class if you’re paying attention. No rhythm required.
However, if you do enjoy dancing, you'll probably be drawn to barre, says Emily Sferra, an Alo Moves instructor who has been teaching barre since 2012. "You'll find that moving to the beat of the music often comes naturally and allows the workout to go by faster," she says. "Often those who have prior dance experience comment that barre classes feel familiar and fun."
What kind of moves should I expect?
"In a barre class, you can expect a warm-up that includes leg lifts, push-ups, abdominals, and footwork to activate the core, lower, and upper body,” says Pilin. And after the warm-up is done? "High reps of full-range and small precise movements that target specific muscle groups like thighs and glutes in traditional ballet positions like first and second,” she says. Idk about you, but I’m shaking already?!
Basically, you’ll be working your muscles to exhaustion with focused movements, pulses, or poses that’ll have you feelin’ the burn quick, even though they might not look all that hard to the untrained eye. That’s what makes it ~unique~.
"Barre is different from other workouts because it relies on isometric movement," explains Sandra. "It's the act of holding a position without moving for a prolonged time, and it’s a great way to challenge new muscle groups and build strength without the need for heavy weights.”
Speaking of weights, many teachers will use props in their classes—but they actually make things more fun, I swear. Think: light hand weights (between 1-3lbs), playground balls, stretchy bands, and ankle weights.
Alright, why should I do it? Like, what are the benefits?
There are so many reasons—both mental and physical—that barre can be a fabulous addition to your workout regimen. And if you ask Sferra, they can all be boiled down into three main categories: barre burn, mind-body movement, and spinal integrity/joint alignment. Allow us to explain:
Barre Burn: "The 'barre burn' effect is probably the most well-known benefit of barre," explains Sferra. "In barre workouts, we’re often targeting a specific area of the body, like the inner thighs, while using supporting muscle groups, like the core, to stabilize the movement, creating an incredible full body burn." With consistent classes, you can expect that sizzle to turn into strength…and some nicely toned muscles, obv.
Spinal Integrity/Joint Alignment: While yoga may be the first that comes to mind when you think about exercises that benefit your joints and spine, barre should also be in the conversation, says Sferra. "Many of the core barre exercises promote spinal integrity and joint alignment, which can positively impact our posture," she says. "This also makes it a great option for anyone working a desk job, as it can help combat the effects of repetitive motions or sitting at a computer all day." (*Guiltily books class from behind desk.*)
Is there any ~lingo~ I should know before heading into a barre class?
There are some terms you might want to skim over before you go—but, if you go in blind, you’ll be totally fine. A good instructor will check to see if there are any beginners in the class and make sure you’re tuned in accordingly. That said, here’s a wee bit of a glossary, courtesy of Pilin, if you’re an overachiever who can’t help but feel the need to study despite having been out of school for years (lol, just me?).
- Plié: to bend
- Relevé: to lift heels
- Turn out: external rotation from the hips, with knees tracking the toes
- Parallel: feet under hips, toes forward
- First position: turn out, heels touching
- Second position: turn out, feet wider than hips
- Fifth position: turn out, feet pressed closely together, the heel of one foot against the toe of the other
- Arabesque: to balance with one leg extended behind
- Seat: the glutes
Perhaps the most important Q: What do I wear?
The most important thing to remember when you’re picking an outfit is to make sure it’s something you feel comfortable and confident in. If you’re going to be constantly fidgeting with your tank top straps or pulling down your spandex shorts…just don’t wear them. Life is too short.
When it comes to barre, specifically, it can also help to wear comfy clothes that fit close to the body. “Being able to see your major joints (shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles) is always preferable, so form-fitting clothing is ideal,” says Sferra. “This allows you and your instructor to see your alignment easily, and in turn be able to help cue you into the correct setups. That’ll let them offer small, personalized adjustments to ensure you get the most out of every move.”
Another good thing to wear to class? A pair of grippy socks, often called barre socks (though they can also be used for pilates, yoga, ballet, and literally any other activity in which you don’t want to be slipping and sliding). They’re not necessary, but they are strongly encouraged, says Pilin, explaining: "They support and provide comfort for the feet, as well as stabilize you and help prevent slipping." Some studios require them, but most give you the option to wear regular socks or go barefoot. Check the studio policy before you go!
Where can I take a barre class?
Well, that depends on if you’d rather take one in person or virtually—and both are great options! Going to a studio can help create a sense of community and allow you to get real-time adjustments from an instructor, whereas virtual classes are often cheaper and can be more accessible if you are short on time or live far from a studio. It’s really up to you!
If in-person is what you’re after, Google classes near you. We recommend Barre3 in BGC, Taguig.
If you’d rather stay home (hey, I get it), consider signing up for an online class or two. Bigger studios and fitness platforms will offer memberships or a la carte options (they're normally pretty affordable!), or you can simply go the YouTube route for a free workout.
Is there anything else I should know before I go?
Honestly, just don't overthink it! Barre is great for people of all shapes, sizes, and strengths and you'll only get stronger when you start. Just listen to your body and do what feels right for you—stop when you need to and don't be afraid to make modifications. You'll be a barre addict like the rest of us in no time.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.