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Barre Class Basics: Tone, Sweat, and Strengthen

Updated: Apr 2

If you've heard of barre classes—also known as barre fitness or barre pilates—you might be under the mistaken impression that it's a ballet bootcamp for retired dancers. While anyone with a dance background will surely love this type of workout, it's equally as enjoyable if you've never stepped foot in a dance studio your whole life.

Barre class is more about getting a full body dynamic workout and less about perfectly pointed toes. It's an upbeat yet low impact style of workout that will get your heart pumping and your muscles burning. Best of all, it yields impressive results in a surprisingly short period of time.

Here are all the essential details you'll want to know before you try a barre class...

Multiple Fitness Boosting Benefits All From One Barre Workout

The first thing you need to know about barre is how beneficial it is! Though this style of exercise might look fun, don't let that fool you into thinking you won't get a serious workout from it. There's some variety with the genre of barre, but the classes will all generally focus on building lean long muscles. It has its roots in ballet, but it also draws inspiration from pilates & dance.

Barre class with small pilates ball
Barre Class

You'll see improvements not only in your strength from doing barre classes consistently, but also in your posture, flexibility, body awareness, and cardiovascular endurance. This makes it an incredibly well-rounded workout.

Barre workouts achieve all this by focusing primarily on plenty of small range of motion and high rep movements. Much like pilates, you'll learn to utilise large and small muscle groups alike to give you better stability, mobility and strength. You'll also become familiar with isometric holds and pulses which help to tone muscles without increasing muscle size in the way weightlifting can.

Last but not least, you'll burn an impressive amount of calories in a barre class. It combines strength training with some aerobic moves that amp up the intensity and let you get your sweat on.

Learn more about the health benefits of Barre workouts here, and if you're interested in starting your Barre journey, book with us today in our Neath or Swansea locations.

Do I Need Any Dance Experience?

The great news is that you don't need any dance or pilates experience before trying out your first barre class—or honestly, any type of fitness background at all. Since it's a low-impact workout, it's gentle for beginners. Skilled instructors will also offer a number of modifications and options throughout the class so it can be catered to each individual's preference. Barre is actually so safe and beginner friendly that it's considered to be one of the best prenatal workouts for expecting mothers.

Some students also worry about there being elements of "choreography" or "musicality" to contend with. You can put these fears aside as well because it's much more in line with an exercise class where you follow along with both visual and verbal instruction. More complex movements are demonstrated in advance, and you're perfectly welcome to do all the moves at your own pace.

A Barre Class Stretch & Cool down

What Is The Difference Between Barre and Mat Pilates?

If this is all sounding pretty similar to mat pilates classes, there are a few important differences you should know about. The most obvious difference is of course that barre classes need a barre! This is used for stabilisation during standing exercises as well as a point of attachment for resistance bands. It opens up a whole new spectrum of movements that you won't see in a mat pilates class.

There are however plenty of barre exercises that are done on a mat much like pilates class, and there's even some interchangeable moves within those exercises. The accessory equipment used can also greatly overlap with some pilates classes. It's not uncommon to use pilates balls, pilates rings, ankle weights, light dumbbells, sliders, step stools, or resistance bands in barre classes. However, you'll be using them in slightly different ways.

This is because some of the postures in barre class come from ballet, so you'll see movements that incorporate turnout, relevé (tippy toes), and the attitude position (a bent knee). It may feel unnatural at first, but in time, you'll be gracefully pliéing your way to sculpted legs.

This final major difference is simply the pace of class. Pilates classes have a focus on slower movements with breathing techniques and proper core engagement, whereas barre classes are slightly more free form and pace can vary.

What To Expect During Your First Barre Class

Before heading to your first barre class, you'll want to check if your studio requires grippy socks. This can give you better stability and to ensure you're able to properly perform the movements, but some studios are just fine with regular socks. Once you're set up with a spot along the barre and any required additional equipment nearby, you'll likely encounter a similar structure from class to class.

All classes begin with a warmup to get your blood flowing, and then you'll usually move into some upper body sequences and perhaps some core work. The meat of the class will then focus on the lower body with thigh and glute work. Your whole body will be working from a solid barre class, but many instructors throw in a bonus section of ab specific training at the end before leading a cool down and some stretching.

The class will likely move between your mat, the barre, and the centre of the room at times with different pieces of equipment thrown into the mix.

Barre Class Stretch
Barre Class

Now, You're Ready For Barre Class!

Don't forget to approach your first class with an open mind and remember that challenges make you stronger. You've got this! If you are ready to book your first Barre Class, we have a brand new class starting in Swansea this March 2024! Click here to book :-)

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