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What To Expect In A Barre Class

Meet you at the barre…

First things first: you don’t need to be a dancer to do barre. The class focuses on fitness, but if you commit to it, you will start to see some of the benefits of being a ballerina: grace, strength, and a long, lean bod!

With new studios popping up everywhere, barre is definitely here to stay. This is what to expect in your first barre class…

WHAT IS BARRE?

Barre is a fusion of ballet, pilates and yoga. It’s a low-impact, full-body workout that aims to strengthen the core, tone the body, and lengthens the muscles.  It focuses on small movements that target those tiny muscles you never knew you had. Burn, baby, burn!

In class, you’ll use an actual ballet ‘barre’ as a prop to help you to balance while you’re working on the strength exercises.

Like yoga and pilates, barre is a workout for the mind as much as the body.

WHAT HAPPENS IN A BARRE CLASS?

Ready to get your prima ballerina on? A typical barre class lasts 50 minutes, and you may not sweat much or pant for breath (like you would in a boxing class), but trust me when I say you’ll feel the burn!

barre class

Classes are usually structured like this:

Warm up

You’ll start with a mat-based warm-up, like squats, lunges and planks.

Barre work

Once you’re warm, you’ll move to the barre for the bulk of the workout. Barre is all about isometric movements, which isolate and work specific muscles until they tire out. In plain English, think teeny, tiny movements and lots of pulses!

You might begin with a lower-body series of squats and plies. But instead of doing regular squats, the teacher will usually tell you to hold the bar, stop halfway down in your squat, and then pulse up an inch, down an inch, and so on. They may even challenge you to use a prop, such as a resistance band or ball. If you’re shaking, you’re doing it right! It means you’re getting stronger.

You’ll then move on to the upper body. With the help of small hand weights, you’ll do things like arm circles and arm lifts – and you can expect plenty of holds and pulses.  While HIIT classes involve a low amount of reps and a heavy weight, barre is all about lighter weights and more reps. As you can imagine, these small movements work to sculpt and strengthen the entire body.

Since barre is inspired by ballet, your teacher will use lingo like:

  • First position –stand with your feet flat, heels together and toes apart
  • Relevé – balance on the balls of your feet
  • Plié – bend your knees with your feet turned out

The choreography isn’t complicated, though. You’ll get the hang of it after a few classes, but for now, just copy the pros around you. The teacher will demonstrate most of the movements and offer modifications – aka easier versions of the exercises. There’s no shame in taking them.

Mat work

For the last part of class, you’ll go back to your mat for a core series with sit-ups, crunches, reverse crunches, planks and so on. To boost the intensity, your teacher will probably incorporate balls, bands, Pilates rings or light dumbbells.

Stretching

You’ll finish with a juicy stretch, which will feel amazing. You can expect to be a little sore the next day, with a newfound respect for ballet dancers!

Barre is a judgement-free zone. If you’re new to the class, work at your own pace and do as much as you can do. And if you need a break, take one! You can stretch and shake out your muscles, or go into child’s pose or downward dog at any time.  

THE BENEFITS OF BARRE

These are the benefits of doing barre on the reg:

  • Creates long, lean muscles
  • Defines and tones the arms, legs and butt (hi, booty gains!)
  • Boosts core strength and stability
  • Helps with flexibility
  • Improves posture
  • Increases coordination
  • Relieves tension in the lower back – which is fab if you sit at a desk all day
  • Eases stress and anxiety

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A BARRE CLASS

If it’s your first class, try to get there 10-15 minutes to introduce yourself to the instructor and let them know you’re a newbie. Then, claim your spot at the barre. I’d suggest setting up somewhere in the middle of the barre so there’s always someone in front and behind you (in case you need to copy them!).

Fuel up 1-2 hours before with a light, healthy meal or snack, like apple slices smeared with almond butter.

WHAT TO BRING TO A BARRE CLASS

You’ll need grippy socks so your feet don’t slip. Other than that, bring water and a towel (if your studio doesn’t provide one).

Showpo barre buy:

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WHAT TO WEAR TO A BARRE CLASS

In barre, shorts are a big no-no. With all that bending and stretching, there’s a chance of exposing your bits – plus the resistance bands and balls will ‘stick’ better if you’re wearing longer pants.

Pop on a pair ¾ or full-length leggings, and any top you’re comfy in. You won’t be jumping, so you can get away with a cute crop (unless you have big boobs and need support 24/7). You could even go all out with the theme and wear a leotard under your leggings! Bonus points if you wear legwarmers, too.

Most studios won’t let you in without grippy socks. You can save money by buying them online for $5 to $15.

Showpo barre buys:

Words by Katia Iervasi.

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