The Benefits of Barre Workouts
Barre exercises are one of the hottest fitness trends around. But they’re hardly new. These low-impact, total body workouts were developed more than 70 years ago by ballet dancer Lotte Berk to rehab her injured back. And they’re still going strong today.
Why is barre all the rage? “Barre workouts are great for everyone at any time in their fitness journey,” says Andrea Fornarola, founder and CEO of Elements Barre Fit in New York City and the Hamptons, NY. Based on a combo of yoga, Pilates, strength training, and (of course) ballet, barre has multiple benefits. In addition to better strength, flexibility, balance, and body alignment, fans swear by its ability to sculpt longer, leaner, and more defined muscles. And because it’s easy on the joints, it can also be a good fit for people recovering from injury or surgery or who are pregnant (with a doctor’s permission).
What is a barre workout like? Think lots of reps of small isometric movements that work muscles to fatigue. And you don’t need to be a dancer or have a ballet bar to do it. “At home barre workouts are great!” says Fornarola. “They require minimal equipment, many times all you need is a mat and a resistance band to get a highly effective workout.” But even without those, all you really need is the back of a chair for a bit of support.
If you’re intrigued, this 5-step workout can get you started—no equipment necessary.
Wide second position. Do you wish you had the glutes and thighs of a dancer? This foundational ballet move can help.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Then, pivot your feet so that your toes are pointing slightly outward. Slowly lower your body into a squat position, keeping your back straight and your core muscles contracted. Gradually pulse up and down 20 to 30 times.
Back dancing. You might be surprised to learn that some barre moves happen on the mat. Like this floor-based exercise, which works the core, glutes, hips, and thighs.
Lie down on a mat or the floor with your hands by your sides. Bend your knees and separate your feet so they’re hip distance apart. Keeping your upper back on the ground, slightly lift your hips up off the floor, about 2 inches. Squeeze your glutes together while contracting your abdominals, then release. Repeat for 30 reps.
Push-ups. Barre push-ups are a great way to work your back, chest, and shoulders. But when you don’t have a barre, the floor is equally effective.
Begin in a high plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders, your feet hip-distance apart, and your back flat. Keeping your abs contracted, slowly bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor. Then, using your arms, push your body back up into a plank position. If that’s too challenging, try a modified push-up instead. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Narrow V. This multitasking exercise works the inner and outer thighs in just one move.
Stand with your feet together. Slowly pivot your toes outward while keeping your heels connected so that your feet make a V-shape that’s about 4-inches wide. Bend your knees slightly and raise your heels off the ground about an inch. Aim to keep your weight on the balls of your feet. Then, place one hand on the back of a chair. Inhale, sink down, squeeze your heels together, and pulse 15 to 30 times.
Clamshells. If sculpted inner and outer thighs are a goal, clamshells are your friend.
Lie on your right side with your legs stacked and your knees bent at a right angle. Rest your head in your right hand. Then place your left hand flat on the ground in front of your waist for support. Keeping your feet together and your right hip on the mat, contract your abs and raise your left knee upward. Squeeze your glutes and lower your knee. Repeat 15 to 30 reps. Then take it to the other side. (If you’d like to kick things up a notch, repeat the exercise but instead of lowering your knee, pulse it upward.)
How does an at-home workout compare to a class? “While nothing replaces the energy of a live class, at-home barre workouts are a great way to get a taste of the exercises and the pace of a class before you visit the studio,” says Fornarola. So, grab a chair and get started!
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