Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Madonna and Diane Kruger are all doing it — but what is barre, and is it worth the hype?
Plié, pirouette, arabesque or assemblé — barre is not simply traditional ballet. While the exercise phenomenon takes inspiration from its ballet counterpart, the methods won’t turn you into the lead for The Nutcracker. What it will do, however, is help you to develop a strong core, strengthen muscles and improve posture. Sign us up.
Fitness instructor at FLY LDN, Amber Walton, shares her advice. “There are so many reasons to try out barre. It is based around performing movements to the beat of music, meaning whilst you’re working out you could find yourself dancing along to Madonna or Beyonce, forgetting how hard you are working. It’s fast paced, amazing for the body and most importantly, extremely fun.
“It’s the perfect workout to feel like you’ve worked hard without lifting heavy weights or having to go to the gym, and will tone and lengthen muscles, keeping them healthy and strong.”
Barre workouts are a low-impact conditioning class that combines the strengthening of Pilates we all love, the stretching of yoga (flexibility is ever-important as we age) and the movement of ballet. And all within a class of 45 minutes, making it ideal for fitting into a busy schedule.
The ‘barre’ aspect is the prop which helps you to keep balanced, so you can focus on isometric exercises (holding your body as still as possible whilst you contract specific sets of muscles with each movement). And if you’re thinking small movements must mean little effort — you just haven’t felt the burn of barre yet. It’s more impactful than you think.
Amber continues, saying, “Barre is low impact, meaning it’s not going to cause too much stress on the knees or hips. Some of the class can be mat based, taking pressure off the legs, and as you also have the barre for support, it’s a great way to enjoy exercising without worrying too much and just having a boogie.”
You don’t need a fancy kitted out studio to do barre, either.
Amber says, “Barre is the perfect workout to do at home. All you need is a small clear space and something to use as a barre such as a table, chair, windowsill or kitchen worktop. I would recommend having a yoga mat down on the floor — YogiBare or Lululemon are my usual go-tos for the best non-slip mats.
“You may also need light hand weights which you can buy from various stockists. For these I would go no heavier than 1.5kg. Another prop that is often used to add resistance is a thigh band, for which I recommend using a fabric band with an inner grip.”
It’s often likened to having the body benefits of ballet dancing, as it’s an energising full-body workout that lifts, targets and stretches the body’s muscles in a precise manner. Amber explains, saying, “Like any workout regime, barre will take around eight weeks to see results if you remain consistent and work out around four times a week. However, straight after any workout, you will undoubtedly FEEL great as endorphins will be flowing!
“One big essential is to make sure the core is engaged and the shoulders are relaxed, creating space between the neck and ears and keeping the body in a strong, stable posture. This prevents excess tension into the neck and the lower back, ensuring you get the best out of the class and keeping your body pain-free.”
For those looking to give it a go, Amber shares some advice.
“Starting something new can always be slightly nerve-racking, but no good ever comes not taking a risk. I would recommend trying your first class with no equipment — just keep it simple. Once you’ve got the feel for the movements and know what to expect, then look at adding some resistance.
“Remember that nothing good ever comes from staying in your comfort zone. Sometimes the body needs a change and this could be that new perfect workout that your body and mind is craving.”
At FLY LDN, there is huge library of live and pre-recorded barre classes, or you can check out Youtube videos. Now all you need is some new kit, to start this fitness journey in style!