The Barre Workout: A Complete Guide

Last year, 3.66 million people in the United States participated in a barre workout.1 This is a workout that is popular among celebrities and regular people alike. In fact, Natalie Portman famously used barre workouts to get in shape for her role as a professional ballerina in Black Swan.2

So why the hype? What is a barre workout?

While the exact workout will vary from class to class and teacher to teacher, a barre workout from ballet, pilates, yoga, and cardio should give you an intense workout. Basically some studios market barre as a way to help you build muscle like a professional dancer.

Today, millions of people turn to the workout in search of a challenging, dance-inspired workout—and you could be next.

Grounded in professional dance

A barre exercise takes its name from the ballet barre used in many dance classes. In a traditional ballet class, part of the class uses a waist-high wooden bar for balance with the dancers while they drill dance moves to increase their strength and perfect their technique.3

Created by German dancer Lotte Burke in her New York studio in the 1970s,2 Barre uses ballet moves as a jumping off point for a full body workout class. Many of today’s authentic barre workouts use Burke’s techniques, and some barre studios were even founded by former instructors from his studio.2

Today, most barre instructors have a professional dance background.2

Many bar classes use dance terms such as:

  • pass – Your working leg (i.e. the leg that is moving) moves in front of or behind your standing leg (i.e. the leg supporting your weight).
  • statement – For this second position, you rise on your tiptoes, moving from a flat-footed position with knees softly bent toward the balls of your feet. This move targets your calf muscles.
  • round feet – With the raised leg, you raise the left leg or the right leg in front of you and slowly move it behind you, keeping the same height across your raised leg. This move targets your glutes and inner thigh muscles.
  • to fold – As you kick your legs out, bend your knees and lower toward the floor, keeping your torso straight.

It may seem like the legs are the focus for a bare workout, but the truth is your whole body gets a workout. Although dance vocabulary can add a fun element, don’t worry if you find it unfamiliar. Barre enthusiasts come from all walks of life. Your instructor will demonstrate each step and you can follow along visually until you look like a pro.

A famous intense workout

If you thrive on a challenge, a barre workout may be for you. Many moves feel so intense that your muscles will start burning and shaking within minutes. Even professional ballet dancers say they find barre workouts difficult.2

A typical barre class takes about an hour and focuses on four areas of the body:

  • inner thigh
  • weapons
  • stomach
  • Gluteal muscles

Most barre movements use small, precise, targeted movements to strengthen muscles without necessarily adding bulk.2 Instructors ask students to hold a position for most of the class and then move a limb up and down an inch for an extended period of time.

Intense workouts like barre can appeal to people just starting out or returning to fitness who want to see physical results from their sweat. Barre can help experienced athletes. A physical therapist recommends barre to dancers looking to cross train.9

Your typical class

A typical barre workout incorporates classical ballet, pilates and cardio, set to music in a friendly atmosphere. A barre instructor calls out and demonstrates the movements. Once class begins, one movement flows into another, powering you through a non-stop workout.

Most barre classes feature:

  • A warm up
  • Hand weights and mat work
  • Standing exercises using barbells

Although ballet takes inspiration from ballet, it leaves out complex choreography. The movement sequences are easy to learn and easy to execute – at least until you start feeling a good burn.

what to wear

You’ve read about barre workouts and decided to give one a try. The next question is: what to wear?

Most barre instructors recommend students wear:

  • Leggings
  • A fitted t-shirt or tank top
  • socks

Fitted, comfortable clothing allows you to move freely. They allow your instructor to evaluate your form and give you specific feedback on ways to improve your practice experience.

Socks mimic the smooth glide of ballet slippers and offer some protection to your feet without obscuring or restricting your foot movement like sneakers do. Some barre studios sell specifically branded socks, but any ankle socks will serve your purpose.

Finally, some barre classes allow or prefer students to go barefoot or wear soft dance slippers. You can always come prepared with a pair of socks (or dance shoes, if you have them) and ask your instructor before class what they’d prefer you wear.

Embrace the shake: Tips to get the most from your bar class

As with any new exercise style, trying the barre for the first time can feel awkward. This can be especially true if your fitness experience comes from sports, weightlifting, or non-ballet dance classes.

Try these tips to get the most out of your first few barre classes.

  • Eat first – You may be wondering what to eat before a workout. Health experts recommend eating a complete meal with carbohydrates, protein and fat two to three hours before your class. Protein in particular can improve muscle strength, performance, recovery and growth. Eating closer to class can also help, although the closer to class you eat the lighter and lighter your meals should be.4
  • Stretch and warm up – While most classes include a warm-up, you can further support your success and stretch yourself by showing up for the warm-up beforehand. This is especially helpful if you’ve worked out the day before and ask yourself, “Should I exercise when I’m sore?” You can warm up your muscles by jogging or moving in place for a few minutes. (Yes, speed walking in class counts.) Then slowly stretch, going deeper into a stretch until you feel tension. Hold that position with deep breathing for 15 to 30 seconds before moving on to your next stretch.5
  • hydrate – Sweating during exercise can dehydrate you, causing headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps and weakness. To help you perform at your best, drink water before, during and after class. Avoid chugging all the water at once. Instead, aim to sip slowly and steadily over several hours to replace the fluid you sweat out during your barre workout.
  • Focus on small movements – With barre, strength often comes from keeping your movements short. If your workouts typically involve big movements like running or lunging, this may feel counterintuitive. But small, precise, repetitive movements can exercise your muscles in a unique and effective way.
  • Focus on your baldness – A pelvic tilt, known as a tuck on bars, comes up often in class. To execute the movement correctly, focus on moving your pelvis forward while tightening your abs Following your instructor’s advice on exactly how to perform each movement can help reduce your risk of injury.
  • hug hug – If your muscles start shaking fifteen minutes into an hour-long class, you may have bitten off more than you can chew. But at the bar, twitch muscle a well sign. Shivering means you’ve pushed yourself so your muscles work their hardest.

Long-term benefits of barre workouts

After researching bars, you show up to your first bar class and I love It’s music, challenge and the camaraderie of the class gave the exact workout vibe you were hoping for. You are hooked. But your best friend is currently a sweaty puddle that needs some more convincing to come back next week.

Here are some long-term bar benefits that can keep every student motivated:6

  • Increase muscle strength – Regular bar workouts can increase arm, thigh, glute, pelvic floor muscles and core strength. Strong muscles can help improve your balance, help you maintain a healthy weight, help keep your joints flexible, and help maintain your muscle mass as you age.
  • Improves muscular endurance – Regular bar routine workouts can improve your muscular endurance, which in turn can increase your endurance in everyday life and reduce your risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
  • More flexibility – Stretching incorporated into barre workouts can improve your flexibility and range of motion in your joints, making everyday movements more comfortable and reducing stiffness.
  • thick bones – Over time, regular barre workouts can help maintain or increase your bone density, reducing your risk of osteoporosis (and the accompanying broken bones).

Once you’ve attended enough barre classes to learn how to execute each movement correctly, you can supplement your class workouts with occasional home workouts. All you need is a mat and a sturdy waist-high object like a counter that you can use for balance.

Try a Chuze Barre fitness class near you

Can’t find a barre studio? A Choose FitnessWe offer a range of fun, friendly, satisfying Fitness class To help you meet your health goals with Choose Barre.

Choose Bar uses elements of ballet, yoga and pilates to create a low-impact, high-intensity workout. Our expert trainers lead you through a precisely tailored program that strengthens and conditions your body with a focus on isometric training, posture and alignment. To motivate you even more, you can even listen to our Spotify workouts Playlist.

So check out one of our dance-inspired workoutsgym near me“Online. We can’t wait to help you discover exactly why millions of people love Barre.

Reviewed by:

Ani is Vice President of Fitness at Chuz Fitness and oversees the Group Fitness and Team Training departments. He had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Annie lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and son and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.


  1. Statesman Barre Workout Participants in the US 2013–2021.
  2. The New York Times. Lining up to Barre.
  3. Dance Magazine. The best boutique fitness classes for dancers.
  4. Healthline. Pre-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat Before a Workout.
  5. Healthline. Stretching.
  6. Healthline. Barre has many benefits.
  7. Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. What happens in a typical ballet class?
  8. Advanced Health Channel. Exercise – Hydration is reduced.

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