WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Looking at the Ballet Barre in a Whole New Way

BY: Emily Wheeler


There is a new type of exercise class increasing in popularity that you may have already heard of, known as “Barre” or “Pure Barre.” Dancers know that the horizontal bar at waist level that dancers, especially ballerinas, use to maintain balance during some exercises is more formally known as the “barre.” However, barre studios are popping up all over the place and they’re not targeting dancers—they’re inviting anyone who is looking for a new, fun workout style to enter their doors and start working toward those strong, lean muscles of a dancer.

What can you expect from a barre class?
Most barre classes are not designed to burn a lot of calories or to be a cardio workout. They are designed to increase muscle tone through small, focused movements. Many people say that they don’t feel strained or extremely tired during and directly following the class, but the next-day soreness is an indication of their progress. Others find the classes challenging and tiring; it all depends on the particular class, teacher, and studio that you pick.

What should you wear to a barre class?

It is recommended that you wear comfortable, stretchy clothing to barre classes to allow for a wide range of motion. It is not recommended that men or women wear shorts and I would guess that this recommendation is most likely put in place to maintain your decency during workouts where you lift a leg up and place it on the barre. Yoga pants and leggings are the best choices for women and men should wear sweat pants that are not extremely loose or baggy. Depending on the rules of the studio, men may be able to wear basketball shorts in some classes. However, covered muscles also mean warmer and more flexible muscles. Some studios have carpet and some have hardwood floors, and shoes are not worn during the workout. Many regular barre students find that buying socks with the little grippy spots on the bottoms helps them maintain better balance and be more successful and controlled in their workouts.

Photo (Barre Fitness Launch Aug 2010) by (rolexpv), Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo (Barre Fitness Launch Aug 2010) by (rolexpv), Flickr Creative Commons.

What if I have neither dance experience, nor a “dancer’s body?”

Come as you are! Barre studios do not require any previous dance experience because the workouts do not use movements that would be familiar only to dancers. The classes use many familiar workout movements such as squats and even crunches. Also, don’t expect every participant to be a long, lean dancer! Barre students come in all shapes and sizes, men are definitely invited, and everyone can benefit from the great, muscle-toning movements.

What equipment is required for the classes?
Many barre workouts use workout balls (the lightweight, squishy kind, not medicine balls), light hand weights, elastic resistance bands, and sometimes yoga straps or blocks. If you’re working out at a studio, all you need to bring is a water bottle and yourself dressed in the proper clothes; the studio will provide the rest. You may need to purchase equipment to do your barre workouts at home, however, and many DVD’s can be purchased where the back of a chair is used in place of a studio barre.

What is the outline of a typical barre class?

Most barre classes last for 50 minutes or one hour and start with a ten minute warm-up, an arms sequence using the light hand weights, followed by a legs and core segment that uses the ballet barre as well as some floor exercises. The last ten minutes of the class are spent stretching and cooling down from the workout, and barre classes are typically set to upbeat music.

Where can I take a class?

This link shows Pure Barre studio locations near you when you enter your state and zip code: You can also simply search on Google the phrase “barre studios near me,” and several different locations and studio chains will come up. Most of their websites have location finders similar to the one I have linked above. There are at least five barre studios in Durham and Chapel Hill!

I have not yet had the opportunity to take a barre class, but after talking to a few people who have become regulars, I think I’ll give it a try once I get back to Chapel Hill! Most studios have special new student offers, such as taking the first class free or paying a reduced price for a month of unlimited classes when you begin! When I have the chance to take a class for myself, I’ll be sure to write about what I think about it and how everything went. I’m always excited to try out new workout styles and classes, so I’ll be on the lookout for more trendy new studios and workout types in the future!

Also, feel free to watch the above short video about barre classes that was featured on a news segment. The two instructors explain a little more about barre and give a demonstration with the help of the newscasters!

This link also gives a helpful review of the different styles that some of the big name studios offer in their classes. As it turns out, barre might not be as easy as I may have expected… have fun!


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