Health Benefits of Barre Workouts

  • Posted on Apr 11, 2023
Health Benefits of Barre Workouts

You don’t need to be a ballerina to benefit from an hour at the barre. In fact, this low-impact, ballet-inspired workout is perfect for anyone looking to enhance flexibility, improve posture and body alignment, tighten core muscles, strengthen and stabilize smaller muscle groups, and fine-tune the mind-body connection. 

Not sure if barre is right for you? Check out the following six health benefits, as well as who should do barre, how to get started, and what to expect.

Barre Incorporates Several Components of Fitness
“Barre combines the best of the best: The core strength of Pilates, the mindfulness of yoga, and the high intensity of strength workouts, all mixed into a jam-packed 50 minutes of positivity and shaky muscles,” said Michelle Ditto, Pure Barre Master Teacher Trainer. 

The classes are low-impact and performed at a slower pace, with a focus on high-reps and small range movements with isometric holds like a plié and relevé squat. Most workouts include a warm-up, time at the barre, some mat work, and a cool-down with stretching and flexibility exercises. 

Barre Is a Total Body Workout
Barre builds strength through isometric holds, which require your muscles to remain tense or constantly contracted without changing the length. To understand how this works, Ditto said to think of a forearm plank—your core, thighs, and glutes are already working in this position, then you move through small ranges of motion (think the size of a paper clip) to target specific parts of your muscles.

A workout at the barre also requires you to use multiple muscle groups at the same time while engaging your core. As you flow through class, you target all major movers of your body, including the arms, thighs, glutes, abdominals, and posterior chain, with an emphasis on building your core strength as a foundation, Ditto said.

Barre also targets the smaller muscles in your glutes like the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius that often get ignored when performing strength training exercises in the gym. The positions may look easy, but Ditto said once you feel the muscular “shake” set in—an indicator that you are reaching fatigue—you may reconsider.

Barre Workouts Are Low-Impact
Pilates and barre workouts are considered low-impact, which means they put less stress on your body, which reduces the risk of injury.1 For example, when you work at the barre, there is no jumping, leaping, or pounding, which makes it easier on your joints.

Not only are the workouts low-impact, but the barre itself also provides support for anyone struggling with balance or stability. Plus, the focus on isometric holds allows you to strengthen the muscle group without placing extra stress on the joint.

Barre is even safe to do if you’re pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends participating in a modified class such as a prenatal Pilates or barre class to accommodate the shift in balance that pregnancy causes.3 Barre is also a good option during pregnancy since lying down on your back for long periods is not recommended. 

Barre Workouts Improve Posture, Balance, and Coordination
Better body awareness, including improved posture and balance, are two of the top health benefits of barre workouts. Exercises at the barre require proper alignment from the top of your head to the ends of your toes. This includes a focus on your hips, spine, neck, and shoulders. 

“Barre is one of the most accessible ways to improve your coordination and body awareness, leading to better posture and overall more stability as you move through everyday life,” Ditto said. 

Barre Workouts Increase Flexibility 
Flexibility is one of the five components of fitness, which is a central focus in barre workouts. Flexibility refers to the range of motion around a particular joint. Several of the movements you perform at the barre focus on improving flexibility.

This can help you stay mobile, improve your overall range of motion, and allow you to participate in everyday activities.4 In general, Pilates encourages a safe increase in flexibility and range of motion within the joints.5 

Barre Workouts Enhance the Mind-Body Connection
Barre workouts help you block distractions and focus on the mind-body connection. When you attend an in-person class, Ditto says you receive dedicated attention to technique and corrections specific to you so that you're more intentional in your work and develop a deeper connection to your body.

“Holding each position can be the most mentally challenging part of the class,” Ditto said. “Ultimately, a mental and physical connection is the goal of every class—how can you better attend to your body’s cues and needs in a way that helps you go one inch deeper than you did yesterday.” 

Who Should Do Barre?
Barre is a fantastic workout for anyone. “Barre is both low-impact and high intensity, which makes it modifiable for all fitness levels, yet challenging enough that the more you do it, the more you reap the benefits,” Ditto said.

If you have any issues with your knees, ankles, or hips, make sure to let the instructor know ahead of time. They can help you modify the movements to place less stress on those areas. 

How Do You Get Started? 
If this is your first experience with barre, it’s a good idea to start with an introduction to barre workout. A beginner class will allow you to learn how the instructor cues the moves and get a feel for what it’s like to do exercises at the barre. At Pure Barre, Ditto said they offer a foundations class that helps you get to know the technique and the terminology used during the workouts. 

For your first in-studio class, all you need is a pair of sticky socks and a water bottle. Sticky socks have special grips or stickies on the bottom that create traction to prevent you from slipping. If you are attending an in-person class, you can also bring your own mat for any floor work.

Several studios also offer barre classes that combine barre with upper and lower body strength training using weights, cardio intervals, and floor work. In general, a barre class lasts anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes.

If studio classes are not an option, you can also do barre workouts at home. There are several online programs such as Pure Barre GO, Daily Burn, and Pilates Anytime that offer on-demand content and live classes you can take in the comfort of your living room.

To get started in a barre class at home, you’ll need an exercise mat and barre. If you don’t have a barre at home, you can also use a sturdy chair, railing, or ledge in place of a barre. Besides a barre and mat, you may need a set of light dumbbells or exercise bands, but you can always do each move without these props.

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