Here's what you need to know before you hit the bar(re).

By Colleen Travers
August 23, 2019
Getty Images/FatCamera

Looking to try a barre workout class for the first time, but don't really know what the heck to expect? Here's the basic 101 rundown: "Most barre-based classes use a combination of postures inspired by ballet and other disciplines like yoga and Pilates," says Sadie Lincoln, founder of barre3 fitness. "The barre is used as a prop to balance while doing exercises that focus on isometric strength training (holding your body still while you contract a specific set of muscles) combined with high reps of small range-of-motion movements." Also, don't be surprised if your barre class incorporates light handheld weights to bring the burn during all those reps, as well as mats for targeted core work.

Ahead, more on the barre workout trend, the benefits, and what to actually expect before your barre class.

When Did Barre Workouts Get So Trendy?

Wondering why these boutique studios and specialty classes are popping up all over the place? Lincoln, who opened her first studio in 2008, points to the trend toward community. "Many of us discovered during hard times that we craved smaller and more connected classes. We needed a place where we could balance our bodies and get prepared for our busy and stressful days."

Tanya Becker, co-founder of Physique 57 thinks the results are the reason for the craze (which is inspired by the retro fitness movement launched with the Lotte Berk Method). "Women see results quickly with barre class, it's a one-stop shop that includes all the essentials of a well-rounded exercise program, plus it's perfect for women who are short on time. That's a workout women will always need!"

The Benefits of Barre Workouts

Still not sold on barre class? If you're sitting slumped in your chair reading this, then you may want to think again. According to Lincoln, the major benefits of barre class are improved posture, muscle definition, weight loss, increased flexibility, and reduced stress. Plus, women at just about any fitness level can sign up for a barre class: Both Lincoln and Becker say that barre classes are perfectly fine for pregnant women because they're not high impact. They may even help with imbalance—a common issue during pregnancy due to that growing belly—and stability. (Try at-home barre workout with our starter pack of 4 tiny—yet-crazy-effective—barre-inspired core moves.)

What to Expect from a Barre Class

You've taken the plunge and signed up for a barre class. Now what? While the experience will differ studio to studio, Becker says that the typical class (such as a Physique 57 beginner session) will take you through a dynamic and invigorating workout. You'll start with a warm up and sequence of upper-body exercises, which include free weights, push-ups, planks and other moves to target the biceps, triceps, chest, and back muscles.

Next, you'll use the ballet barre and your own body weight for resistance to focus on the thigh and seat muscles. Your core will be engaged the entire class and then targeted at the end.

For the cool down, you'll go through a series of stretches to increase flexibility and allow your muscles to recover. Most classes are 60 minutes, says Lincoln, and some studios (like most barre3 locations) may even offer childcare during class. (Related: This Barre Studio Abs Workout Sculpts a Strong Core with No Equipment)

What to Wear to Barre Class

When choosing your workout attire, think yoga wear, suggests Lincoln. Leggings (we adore these more affordable Lululemon look-alikes), a sports bra, and tank will do the trick. As for footwear, you won't need it! Go barefoot or do the class in grippy socks to prevent slipping. (Related: Workout Gear That Will Make You Look and Feel Like a Ballerina)

How a Barre Workout Stacks Up Against Cardio

One of the best parts about barre classes is that they combine strength training and cardio, says Becker, so you're burning fat and building muscle at the same time. (This intense barre class at home doubles as cardio!) "Our technique focuses on strengthening the muscles, and muscle tissue burns 15 times as many calories as fat. The stronger you get, the more calories you'll burn 'round the clock."

But it's not all about the competition: Barre is actually one of the best complements to running and other high-impact activities (here's why). Time to pump up those plies!

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