The Complete Guide to Barre for Fitness

barre fitness

Barre is a catchall name for a variety of programs all centered on the foundations of ballet. There’s Pure Barre, Figure 4, Barre 3, and many more.

Think of it a bit like yoga. Yoga is a type of fitness program, but there are many different types of yoga. The same is true for Barre. There are many different types. However, they all have one thing in common – ballet.

In ballet, the “Barre” is the wooden bar that they hold onto when they’re doing their warm-up exercises. If you’ve ever taken a ballet class then you know these warm-up exercises can bring you to your knees. You get an exceptional leg workout and, surprisingly, you get a good arm and core workout too.

Barre is a full body workout that fuses ballet movements with Pilates, yoga, and basic sports conditioning exercises. Classes are usually an hour long and you work out to music.

The movements are low impact, but they’re often performed at a high intensity. The goal of a Barre class is to help you sculpt your muscles and transform your entire body, head to toe.

The history of Barre is a little difficult to trace. According to most resources, Barre workouts originated in London when German dancer Lotte Berk developed a series of exercises based on her dancing experience. Her goal was to increase strength and flexibility.

In the 1970’s the Barre workout came to the United States, where it has been fine-tuned and tweaked by many different fitness and dance experts. Today, it’s one of the most popular workouts for celebrities like Kelly Ripa, Madonna, Zooey Deschanel, Sofia Vergara, Drew Barrymore, Anna Paquin, Natalie Portman and more.

It’s a workout that helps you look like a dancer and have the strength of a professional athlete.

Types of Barre

While the fundamentals are the same with any Barre class, there are differences between the various types.

You might find that you prefer one type of Barre over another. Additionally, when you understand the differences, you’ll know what to expect from your first class.


Barre3 works you through a three step sequence of postures designed to shape and lift. It combines yoga, Pilates, and ballet, and sets the workout to a moving soundtrack with a vigorous pace.

In addition to low impact movements, you’ll embrace isometric holds, strength training, range of motion, and stretching. The 3 in Barre3 represents balance which is the core value of Barre3 studios.

Founded by Sadie Lincoln, Barre3 crafts workouts with a team of experts including yogis, professional dancers, doctors, and athletes. There are studio locations across the country and you can attend online workouts with a Barre3 membership.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Barre was created by the founders of Pure Yoga. It incorporates strength training and dance technique into a fast paced workout. Intervals boost your cardio output while the strength training movements sculpt your muscles.

There are different levels of Figure 4 that you can take, including a heated version called “Figure 4 Fahrenheit,” which aims to also detoxify the body. “Figure 4 Fierce” uses props like weights and bands and, unlike other Barre classes, Figure 4 does require shoes.

Figure 4 Advanced adds new movements and takes it up a level. You must have a minimum of five Figure 4 classes under your belt before taking an advanced class. Figure 4 Form emphasizes alignment and technique and can be a great foundation course to take. I

t moves at a slower pace, so you can learn the movements without feeling overwhelmed. There are also pre- and post-natal classes and shorter classes for busy schedules. Figure 4 Barre classes can be found anywhere Pure Yoga is found.

Physique 57

Physique 57 was founded by Jennifer Vaughan Maanavi and Tanya Becker, one of the leading Lotte Berk instructors in the country. Their Barre classes use body weight exercises, cardio intervals, and strength training to target muscles, overload them to the point of fatigue and then stretch them for recovery and relief.

Classes are difficult but fun, and set to an invigorating beat. There are five Physique 57 locations. You can also enjoy online workouts with the Physique 57 team and purchase DVDs to work out in the comfort of your home.

The Bar Method

Burr Leonard, the founder and creator of The Bar Method, took a Lotte Berk Method class in NYC with her sister and was immediately hooked. They opened three Lotte Berk Studios but noticed that many of their clients had physical injuries and were struggling with the classes. She began consulting with physical therapists and the Bar Method was born.

The Bar Method form of Barre works much like other Barre classes, except that their exercises are organized to produce the maximum effect in the safest way.

The initial exercises focus on alternating between the front and back sides of the body. Then they focus on aerobic cardio exercises to burn fat.

The last section works on stretching and flexibility. You can take the Bar Method classes online or at one of the 75 locations around the country.

Pure Barre

Pure Barre is the largest, most established Barre franchise in the nation, with more than 180 studios across the country. Pure Barre was founded by dancer, choreographer and fitness guru Carrie Rezabek Dorr.

The Pure Barre difference is the rapid pace at which women’s bodies are being transformed. It’s a friendly, supportive and empowering organization that creates a community for their members. Pure Barre classes become more than just another fitness class; they become a way of life.

Classes are high energy and fun while also incredibly effective. If you cannot find a Pure Barre class in your community, you can find podcasts, DVDs, equipment and exercise apparel.

Keep in mind that these are just a few of the many different types of Barre classes found around the world. If you’re interested in sculpting your body in a low impact and low injury way and you enjoy dancing then Barre for fitness may be what you’ve been looking for.

The Benefits of Barre

There are pros and cons to just about any type of fitness program. Some are expensive, some are more difficult than others, and some require a special type of equipment or skill. Barre doesn’t have any of these downsides.

It’s affordable because it’s offered in so many different formats. You can find online classes, buy barre DVDs and enjoy a home fitness program, or you can visit a studio and workout with your peers. There’s no special equipment and no special skills are required.

Low Impact

One of the reasons that so many people avoid exercising is because of the potential for injury. Any exercise that involves an impact (such as running, karate, and aerobics classes) puts joints, tendons, and ligaments at risk for injury.

And if you’re already starting with an injury, then any type of impact exercise can be problematic. Barre fitness programs are low impact. Yes, you’ll get your heart pumping and you’ll strengthen your muscles, but you won’t do it in a potentially harmful way.

High Energy

One of the components of most Barre programs is what’s called interval training. This means you alternate periods of moderate activity with periods of intense activity.

This approach burns fat quickly, particularly when combined with the strength training and weight-bearing exercises also associated with Barre. You’ll get your heart pumping and you’ll burn fat long after your workout ends.

The energy level is one of the reasons so many people love Barre classes.

Strength Training

People are often afraid of strength training. However, there’s really no better way to get the beach body that you want.

Strength training burns fat long after your workout is over. It also helps define your muscles and give you that healthy look you’ve wanted.

If you’re worried about bulking up, relax. Unless you spend hours in the gym and have the genetic predisposition for bulky muscles, you won’t get large muscles by doing the strength training aspects of Barre. What you will get is sculpted and toned muscles.

Toned Muscles

Toning muscles is a process of burning fat so that they can be seen, and strengthening them at the same time. It’s accomplished through a combination of exercises designed to make this happen. “Toned” muscles are muscles that have definition and shape.

Layers of fat need to be burned away before this can happen, and Barre fitness classes are exceptional for burning fat and defining muscles.

Weight Loss

Losing weight is difficult for most people, and it’s one of the reasons is that they don’t engage in the right type of fitness program. Losing weight requires a combination of both strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Most people focus on one or the other.

You can lose weight with cardio alone, but you’ll have to spend several hours a day exercising. If you want to lose weight quickly, then a combined approach is required and that’s what Barre provides. Each class embraces both high-intensity cardio and strength training for fast weight loss results.

No Experience Required

Barre is for everyone. If you’ve danced all your life, that’s great. If you’ve never danced in your life, that’s great too. There are no requirements for getting started. You simply go to a class and follow the instructor. Classes remain challenging as your skills improve.

For example, if you’re doing an arabesque, a movement where you stretch one leg behind you, then the height of your leg can make the movement easier or more difficult. In the first class, your leg may be quite low. That’s fine.

The bottom line is that you’ll get a great workout whatever your experience level, and the movements aren’t complicated, so you’ll pick them up right away.

Easily Modified

Are you dealing with an injury? That’s okay. Barre movements are easily modified to accommodate injuries, weaknesses, and physical challenges.

For example, knee injuries can mean that a squat or plié is painful. A simple narrowing of your feet can make all the difference or you can modify the depth.

Don’t let an injury or a physical challenge keep you from trying Barre.

More Flexibility

Can you touch your toes? Do you find that a lack of flexibility is affecting your life?

Flexibility is important because it helps keep your muscles long and pliable. If you lose flexibility, your muscles shorten. This hinders your posture. It also restricts your movement.

As you age, if your flexibility isn’t addressed, you’ll find that your posture worsens and you’re unable to do simple tasks like reach up to grab a glass out of the cabinet. Barre helps you get and stay flexible. You’ll be amazed at the difference.


Sometimes exercise can be boring. It’s one of the reasons so many people give up on their fitness program.

They lose interest. Barre offers an approach that embraces variety.

You’re not performing one movement repeatedly. Over the course of an hour you’ll work your entire body, head to toe, using a wide variety of movements. And as your skills improve, so too does your ability to take these movements to another level.


Barre classes are described as motivating, energizing, and fun. You won’t want to miss a single class.

In fact, many people find that Barre becomes an enjoyable part of their lives. It’s a wonderful thing to be excited about a fitness program.

Confidence in Yourself and Your Body

Barre takes you and your body to a new level. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.

There’s a unique mind and body transformation that happens when you start Barre. You’ll gain confidence in your abilities, in yourself, and you’ll love the way your body looks in and out of clothing.

Great Fusion Workout

A fusion workout is a workout that combines many disciplines.

For example, Crossfit combines strength training with military like calisthenics. Barre is a fusion workout that combines strength training, weight bearing exercises, interval training, yoga, Pilates and more.

Fusion workouts are great boredom busters, and they’re an exceptional way to get a complete body workout.

Common Questions and Myths about Barre

By now you may be excited about Barre, but worried that it may not be completely right for you. Rather than try to convince you that Barre is for everyone, regardless of their abilities, let’s take a look at a few common concerns and questions.

What If I’m Not a Dancer?

It’s true that Barre was originally developed by a dancer. Yet the vast majority of people who take Barre classes are not dancers, and never have been.

You don’t need to have any dancing ability, grace, or fitness to benefit from a Barre class. It’s called Barre because of the ballet bar that is used in ballet classes and the format of some of the movements. Once again, you don’t need to be a ballet dancer to do Barre.

Can Men Do Barre?

The short answer is, “of course!” Men can and do enjoy Barre classes. In fact, the Figure 4 Barre classes were created by two men.

And some of the physical therapists who consulted on the Bar Method classes were men. Men have helped create Barre programs and participate in the classes.

What If I’m Not Very Flexible?

Everyone is unique and face their own flexibility and mobility challenges. Few people come to their first Barre class able to perform the movements with complete flexibility and that’s not really the goal.

You will enjoy improved flexibility with Barre. You don’t need to be flexible to start. Having flexibility at the beginning is a benefit, but not a requirement.

Am I Too Old For Barre?

Are you too old to move your body and enjoy some exercise? No, of course not. You’re never too old to move your body.

As mentioned earlier, Barre is easily modifiable to any fitness level or ability. Old or young, weak or strong, flexible or injured, Barre is a great program for everyone.

I’m Not Lean or Limber, Will I Fit In?

Like flexibility, becoming lean and limber is a benefit, not a requirement. Many people avoid taking fitness classes because they don’t like their bodies. It’s a vicious circle.

You need to exercise to get the body you want, yet you don’t want to take a class because you don’t like the way your body looks right now. It can be intimidating.

Here’s the thing, few people start a fitness class already looking great. Find a beginner program and dive in. You’ll have a great time and you’ll notice results after just a few classes.

What’s A Barre Class Like?

Barre classes are normally 60 minutes long. While not all Barre classes are alike, you’ll start your class with a warm up.

You might use light weights for this, or focus on a gentle bar series. You’ll then likely move into the strength training portion and interval portion of the class where you’ll target muscles and get your heart racing.

You’ll then move to the floor for some stretching, and in some classes you may fold into child’s pose or another relaxing yoga pose to finish the session.

Will Barre Help Me To Lose Weight?

Barre is a powerful tool in a weight loss program. One Barre class can burn up to 500 calories.

You’ll also boost your metabolism so you continue to burn calories all day long. If you combine that power with a healthy diet you can expect quick and lasting weight loss.

How Does Barre Shape the Body?

Barre combines strength training with high intensity and cardio to create a powerful fat burning and muscle building program. The results are that your waistline will shrink, your backside will lift, your thighs and abdominal muscles will lose inches and you’ll feel great too.

And if you’re worried about bulking up, please know that not only is Barre designed to create long and lean muscles, bulking up is physically impossible for most people.

Barre really is for everyone at every fitness level or ability. Man or woman, young or old, you can achieve great health and fitness results with Barre.

Ready to get started? It’s all quite exciting, and the immense popularity means that it should be quite easy for you to find a class, DVD, or online program that’s right for you.

How to Get Started With Barre

You’re ready to get your best body and to start a Barre fitness class. Before you begin, it’s important to consider a few options.

There are decisions to make so that you choose the best Barre program for you and you are able to make the most of this fantastic fitness opportunity.

Let’s begin with the most important question, what type of Barre program do you want to try first?

Choose Your Barre Type

Due to the immense popularity of Barre fitness you probably have the ability to choose from several different Barre fitness programs close to you. Couple that with the ability to take Barre classes online and to purchase DVDs, and you have some decisions to make.

When comparing studios and options, consider the history of the studio instructors. Are they dancers? Where did they learn Barre and what is their approach to the class?

What are your Barre fitness priorities? For example, do you want a class that feels welcoming and cheerful, or are you more focused on results?

Consider stopping by a few different Barre studios to talk to the owners, instructors, and members. Some studios may offer a free class, and that can be a great way to decide if a particular studio is right for you.

At Home or at a Studio

Let’s start by saying that you don’t have to choose between home and studio. You can do both. You can create a fitness program that allows you to go to the Barre studio and also lets you practice at home.

The approach is entirely up to you and there are definitely benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. Let’s explore those so you can create your perfect Barre fitness program.

Working out at home is great. You can work out in your pajamas. You don’t have to find a class that fits into your schedule and it costs absolutely nothing.

It’s free. The downside to working out at home is that you may miss the positioning and guidance of an instructor.

You may not work out as hard alone as you would with a group and you may miss the community and camaraderie of a group class. Additionally, if you live with others then there may be the distractions of people watching or interrupting your workout. That doesn’t happen in a studio.

If you work out at home you may also have to improvise. For example, instead of a bar you’ll have to use the back of a chair. You may also have to purchase equipment that Barre studios provide, like straps and weights.

Benefits/Downsides of Exercising at a Barre Studio

The downsides of exercising at a Barre studio are few. Barre classes cost money, of course, and you’ll have to fit the class schedule into your available time. Additionally, you may not like all the instructors at a studio, which can make scheduling more complicated.

Conversely, instructors can help you get the most out of your workout by helping you improve your form. They can be exceptionally motivating and can provide the variety that a home program generally doesn’t provide. You may find that your Barre classmates become your friends.


The equipment for a Barre fitness program is minimal, and if you work out at a studio you won’t have to purchase equipment. They provide it for you. If you work out at home then there are some basic necessities that you’ll have to invest in.


Barre classes require clothing that permits movement. If you cannot bend over and touch the floor in your clothing, then it’s not the right clothing. That means it has to be loose enough to allow flexibility and movement, but not so loose that it exposes you, gets in the way, or falls off.

Some studios require you to keep your legs covered. This is so the muscles stay warm and limber.

You can wear leggings or tights to keep your legs covered or you can invest in some leg warmers. Yoga pants, workout pants, and tights are all acceptable.

If you are female and busty you may want to invest in an extra supportive bra, like a sports bra. It is a low impact program so sports bras may not feel necessary.


Check with the studio to see what they require. Some studios require socks. Others allow you to go barefoot. Still others require shoes.

There are dance shoes that you can invest in or you can check out some of the studio shoes made by mainstream manufacturers like Nike and Puma.

Hydration and Extras

You’ll also want to make sure you have some sort of water bottle and perhaps a towel and a gym bag, depending on your schedule and needs. Barre classes are a great workout and you’ll be sweaty and thirsty afterwards.

Home Barre Workout Equipment

The rest of the equipment on this list is for those who are practicing at home.

• Chair – This will be your bar and you’ll need it for balance during your workout. Find one that doesn’t tip when you put your weight into it. A kitchen chair may work well.
• Ball – Some Barre workouts use small balls to help with form. For example, the Pure Barre DVDs use a 5 inch inflatable ball.
• Straps – Straps are often used for flexibility movements and stretches.
• Light Dumbbells – Some Barre programs use light weights to add a strength component to the workout. You can probably begin with body weight and transition to weights as you need to.
• Mirror – A mirror isn’t necessary, however it’s nice to be able to check your form in the mirror to make sure you’re performing the exercises correctly.

What to Expect From a Barre Workout

Let’s be upfront here and let you know that for the first few weeks you’re going to be sore. Whether you do Barre at home or in a studio, you’re probably using muscles that you’ve not used in a while, and you may be using other muscles new ways. This causes muscle soreness.

That’s okay. It means that you’re burning fat and calories, and that you’re strengthening your muscles. This soreness will go away. You might want to start a little slowly at first by only taking two or three classes a week.

As your body becomes accustomed to the movements, you’ll be able to add more workouts and increase their intensity. You can expect to have fun and to see fairly rapid results.

It’s not uncommon for someone to see their body change after a month or two of classes. You’ll notice that your jeans fit you differently.

You’ll notice that your posture improves and that you have more energy and vitality. You may also sleep better and see an overall improvement in your outlook.

Barre fitness classes and programs provide a well-rounded and fun approach to exercise. Exercise with peers or on your own, the results are the same. You get to discover and enjoy the body you’ve always wanted and you get to have fun doing it.

Find a Barre fitness class in your area, sign up for an online program or grab a DVD and get started today. It may be the best decision you make for yourself this year.

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Last Updated on October 27, 2023