For those who would rather pound the pavement, lift hardcore weights, or hit the soccer field than pirouette across the shiny hardwood floor of a mirrored dance studio, barre classes may appear to be a worse idea than having John Travolta introduce anyone at the Oscars — but looks can be deceiving.
Barre routines have taken the nation by storm, letting grown women play ballerina for a day while also giving them one hell of a workout. “All barre workouts incorporate some element of yoga, Pilates, and dance,” explains Marlo Brausse, owner of Barre Body Studio in Calgary, Alberta. “At our studio the goal is to offer a combination of exercises that are unique in intensity while focusing on building strength, sculpting muscles, and improving posture.” But those aren’t the only benefits touted by this expert-designed routine. Regular barre enthusiasts can also look forward to stronger muscles, toned thighs, a lifted seat, flat abs, increased fat-burning abilities, and unrivalled flexibility.
At Barre Body Studio, as well as in this routine, dance takes a backseat to the true star of the show — fitness. “We take the ‘dance-y’ element out of the class to make the method inviting to all participants, not just those with a dance background,” Brausse shares. “Barre classes rely heavily on isometric work, which allows us to focus on muscles that can’t be easily targeted through more traditional exercise, producing results that participants may not be able to obtain with other styles of fitness.” Slip on your ballet shoes (or strip down to your bare feet) and get started — your dancer’s body is only four to six weeks away.
You “Raise The Barre” Workout
Do the first five moves eight to 16 times, holding each position at mid-range for 30 seconds before moving one inch up and once inch down 30 times. Conclude with another set before stretching for 20 seconds. For the plank, hold for 30 seconds, then rest for 10 before increasing your hold time to 45 seconds and then one minute, with 10-second rest periods in between. As with your other moves, stretch for 20 seconds following your movement.
Targets: Hamstrings, abductors, glutes
With your profile facing the barre (use a chair or countertop if you’re at home), your spine neutral, and your heels together, rock back on your heels, keeping them together and your toes angled out in a pie-slice shape. Roll forward onto the balls of your feet and lift your heels, engaging your glutes and abs, relaxing your shoulders, and lifting your chin. Knees should be slightly bent and in line with your first and second toes when movement begins. Keep your motions slow and controlled as you move up and down, contracting your muscles and bending and extending your legs. Squeeze into your heels on the way up for deeper glute work.
Tip: Watch for upper-body leaning that can create a sway in your back. Keep toes on the floor and lift heels no higher than three inches.
Targets: Adductors, hamstring, lower glutes
Begin holding the bar as in first position, with the arches of your feet, knees, and inner thighs glued together. Knees should track straight forward over your first and second toes when lowering into a squat, which can be achieved by pushing your hips back and lowering your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then slowly rising back up. Be sure to squeeze your inner thighs, hamstrings, and glutes while bending and extending the knees.
Tip: “The more you squeeze into your knees and heels, the deeper you will get into the adductors and glute muscles,” Brausse advises.
Barre (Wall) Sit
Targets: Adductors, quadriceps, glutes
Stand with your back to the barre and drop as though sitting down, keeping your shoulders stacked over your hips, with the barre pressed just below your shoulder blades. Walk your feet forward so your knees are directly over your ankles, bent 90 degrees, with your hands resting gently on your thighs, chest open, and ears in line with your shoulders. Press into the outer edges of your feet, lifting and lowering your heels to move your body up and down. Your movements should be slow, controlled, and deliberate, with the only motion coming from your ankles.
Tip: Be wary of your hips pulling too far forward or back, your knees moving in front of your ankles, and your shoulders crunching toward your ears.
Targets: Glutes, hamstrings
Lie face up on a mat with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart on the ground. Your shoulders should be flat on the floor, but do not tuck them under as you would do in yoga. Push into the soles of your feet to lift your hips off the mat eight to 16 times, but do not raise them so high that you feel tension in your lower back.
Tip: If you feel pinching in either your knees or lower back, adjust your positioning by moving your feet closer to or farther away from the body, respectively.
Targets: Glutes, outer thighs, obliques
Start seated with your left leg at a 90-degree angle resting on the floor in front of you. Your right leg should be behind you, with your knee behind your hip. Place your hands flat on the floor in front of you. Your right hand should be in front of your left ankle while the left one should frame the outside of your knee. Shift your weight to the centre, keeping your shoulders and hips square and your chest in line with your front thigh. Sit tall, with shoulders relaxed and chest lifted. Raise your back leg up as high as possible, engaging your core and glutes, before lowering. When complete, repeat on your opposite side.
Tip: During the first few days, you may need to lean slightly forward and away from your lower body in order to lift your working leg.
Targets: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques
Begin on all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet back to the end of the mat until your heels, hips, and shoulders all create a diagonal line. Engage your abdominal wall by bracing your belly, and activate your quadriceps and inner thighs. Slide your shoulder blades down and back. Press your chest forward without bending your arms and simultaneously press your heels back. Hold this position. Hold the plank for 30 seconds, then rest for 10 before increasing your hold time to 45 seconds and then one minute, with 10-second rest periods in between. Stretch for 20 seconds following your movement.
Tip: Watch that your hips don’t sag too low or lift too high, and ensure that your shoulder blades don’t crunch toward your ears.