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The Best Barre Exercises You Can Do
Tricks for bringing the body-transforming workout into your living room
If you thought barre was an exercise trend that would fade away like jazzercise or step aerobics, think again. In the United States last year, the number of participants in barre workouts clocked in at 3.67 million, and that number has been steadily rising over the past decade. The reason for its cult-like popularity? It actually works.
“Even though barre doesn't look like much on the outside, it’s hard!” says Kara Liotta, co-founder of KKSWEAT. “It’s a low impact, highly effective workout that doesn't require a lot of equipment. You can hone in on smaller muscle groups and achieve a burn-out feel by exhausting the muscles with many small reps.”
With many studios and gyms closed this year, it’s also an exercise routine that can easily be modified for an at-home workout. Here’s the best barre exercises you can do (and why).
Why It Works
Barre exercises rely on isometrics, which is a fancy way of saying holding a position without moving. Doing so ignites the body’s muscles, causing them to fatigue more quickly than they would running or doing CrossFit. According to a Mayo Clinic study, isometric moves maintain muscle strength by giving you time to connect your mind to your body.
“The use of the ballet barre as a training tool has always been popular in the dance industry,” says Brookelin Gottlieb, Master Trainer for Pure Barre. “The small isometric movements mixed with just the right amount of flexibility training provides a safe and effective way to build muscle definition, strengthen your core and lengthen your entire body. The barre exercises taught in class target the muscles that support and stabilize the body.”
Expect Major Results
But millions of people wouldn’t be doing barre exercises if they didn’t yield major results. In addition to transformative physical benefits, barre exercises help with some mental health hurdles, as well. And can’t we all use that type of relief right about now?
“My clients have improved balance, increased strength, weight loss and flexibility,” says Gottlieb. “But they also have healthier mindsets and a huge reduction in stress levels. When you practice consistently, you see not only physical results, but in every aspect of your life. A barre class is able to connect your mind to your muscles, and that helps your awareness to expand.”
It’s Okay To Improvise
Just because you’re not going to a barre class IRL anymore doesn’t mean you can’t replicate one at home. Gottlieb recommends using a windowsill, countertop, couch or sturdy chair as your barre. A mat or towel can be used to protect knees and lower back while working out on a hard floor. A ball, yoga block or even a stuffed animal can be used as a prop to take exercises to the next level. Finally, a set of 2-4 lb. hand weights can be helpful, but you can also sub in a water bottle or even cans of food for those.
As for clothing, think comfortable, tight-fitting clothes. Invest in leggings and a tank top you love, as well as some grippy socks and maybe an oversized sweatshirt for cool-downs. The beauty of an at-home barre workout is that it’s not a fashion show. You’re the only one who will see you (and maybe a nearby pet) so go for function over fashion.
Ready to Start Moving?
First off, find a playlist that will get you going. Gottlieb says a fast-paced remix fires her up, while Liotta likes to mix up genres throughout various barre exercises. “A consistent beat sets the tempo, but then I put in recognizable sing-alongs to help people have fun and forget about the pain.”
Now for the workout. What you do is important, but so is the order of the barre exercises. “Barre warmup usually includes traditional Pilates mat movements to ignite the core and upper body,” says Gottlieb. “Then the thighs, seat and core are the main focuses for the rest of class. The amount of repetition is what creates results.”
For a quick ten-minute barre workout, Liotta recommends the below:
For the Shoulders:
Grab one light set of weights (1-3lbs) and stand with your feet wide apart, toes pointed forward. Lift your arms in a straight line to the sides of your body, arriving at shoulder height, palms facing forward. Slightly bend your elbows so they are soft and not locked and place your hands 2 inches in front of your shoulders. Begin small upward pulses for 1 minute, making sure not to lift your shoulders or strain your neck. Next, draw small backward circles for 1min. Last, flip your palms to face the floor and repeat the pulses for 1 minute.
For the Booty:
Step your feet wide apart, outside of your hips and turn your knees and toes out to 45-degree angles. Bend your knees and drop your hips low, aligning your knees over your ankles. Be sure your feet aren't too close together. Keeping your chest up and spine long, begin small pulsing movements downward by dropping your hips straight down the center line. Hold the pulses for 1 minute. Next, slow down to a deep lower and lift, not quite allowing your legs to fully straighten at the top. 30 seconds. Last, repeat 1 minute of pulses, keeping your head stacked on top of your tailbone.