This Low-Impact, Full-Body Barre Workout Is Perfect for Beginners

Infused with elements of ballet and strength training, this barre workout for beginners requires minimal equipment and works your legs, core, arms, and more.

Woman Doing Side Lunge
Photo: Getty Images

Incorporating a new workout method into your routine isn't exactly as straightforward as adding, say, a journaling practice or hair-care product. Without any guidance, you might feel confused about which equipment you actually need as a beginner, unsure of which exercises you should try, or simply overwhelmed with the intensity.

To help make the process a bit easier, Shape tapped experts to share tips on how to successfully mix barre workouts into your fitness routine. Plus, you'll find a beginner barre workout, paired with both written instructions and visual demonstrations, to test once you're ready to dive into the workout method.

How to Add Barre Workouts to Your Fitness Routine

In case you need a refresher, barre is a low-impact, high-intensity workout method primarily featuring elements from Pilates, yoga, and strength training, though it also has components of ballet, high-intensity interval training, and mobility work, says Maya Bryant, M.P.H., a certified personal trainer and barre instructor. Barre workouts are generally packed with exercises that target different muscle groups, such as squats, clamshells, planks, and biceps curls, so you'll work your entire body. And that's not the only benefit: Barre can help you build muscular endurance, improve your posture, and make the movements you perform in your daily life less taxing.

Before you dive into this mash-up of fitness modalities, however, you'll want to consider the pointers below to ensure you get the most out of barre workouts.

Invest In a Set of Light Weights

Although barre workouts can be totally equipment-free, it's beneficial to invest in a pair of 2- to 5-pound dumbbells, a staple prop that's used to perform exercises such as presses and curls, says Natalie Sanders, an IBBFA-certified virtual barre instructor in Austin, Texas. And you probably don't want to use the 10-pound set you already have on hand; barre workouts involve performing a high number of reps, so if you were to use heavier dumbbells, your muscles are more likely to tire out before all those reps are finished. "Especially as folks deepen their practice with barre, they should go out and purchase weights," says Sanders. But if that's not an option for you at the moment, "I encourage people to use anything under 5 pounds in their house — a couple of bottles of water, cans of beans or soup, a hairbrush, towels."

Try Online Classes First

As with many fitness classes, in-person barre workouts can cost a pretty penny — and feel intimidating to newcomers. That's why Sanders recommends trying an online class before you head to the studio. "There's so much content on the internet, specifically on YouTube, so you can test out the classes [for free] before investing in it," she explains. Aside from YouTube, you can find budget-friendly virtual barre workouts on Sanders' Instagram (she hosts a free monthly class on the platform), through Barre3 (which offers a 14-day free trial), and with Physique57's on-demand streaming platform (BTW, they also offer a seven-day free trial).

Work at Your Own Pace

Barre workouts are often high-intensity and fast-paced, so it can be challenging to follow along perfectly when you're a beginner. Instead of trying to keep up — and feeling physically exhausted or botching your form because of it — Sanders suggests listening to your body and slowing down or modifying the moves so the session works best for you. "You will not get a gold star if you do [the workout] all the way to 100 percent [perfection]," she adds. "That's cool if you can, but maybe you won't be able to walk at all or your arms will feel like Jell-O the next day. If you go to a studio, it can be really hard to advocate for yourself and slow it down, but do it." There's no need to feel embarrassed, either: Your classmates are likely too tuned into their own workout to notice that you've modified a lunge exercise, for example.

Ease Into Your First Few Classes

In your first couple of classes, don't feel pressured to try advanced, compound exercises (such as a sumo squat into a biceps curl), says Bryant. Instead, stick with isolation exercises (think: just a biceps curl) that allow you to focus on your form and master the movement. You may also want to modify with low-intensity variations during cardio-focused exercises. If your barre workout instructor starts performing burpees with small hops, you might want to scale back to ballet burpees, in which you do a calf raise rather than a full-on jump at the end of each rep, says Bryant. And remember: "Give yourself a lot of grace and patience," she says. "Learning the movements of the class is difficult, and there is a learning curve. But over time, you'll know how the class works and the positions."

8-Move Barre Workout for Beginners

Want to get a taste of the workout method without leaving your house? Try this barre workout for beginners, created and demonstrated by Bryant. The eight-move barre workout challenges your entire body and features aspects of ballet and strength training.

How it works: Do one to three sets of the recommended reps for each exercise in this barre workout for beginners, taking breaks as needed between exercises.

What you'll need: a light set of dumbbells


A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms at sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward.

B. Raise arms out to sides and then over head, keeping arms fully extended with a slight bend in elbows.

C. Pause, then lower arms back to sides with control.

Do 8 to 12 reps.

Static Shoulder Press with Passé Rotation

A. Stand with feet together and arms at sides, holding a dumbbell in right hand. Raise left knee up so it's parallel with hips and left foot is in line with right shin. Place left hand on inside of left knee.

B. Engage biceps muscles in right arm to curl the dumbbell up toward right shoulder until elbow is completely flexed. Then, press the dumbbell directly overhead, so wrists stack directly over shoulders, biceps are next to ears, and palm is facing toward body. Keep core engaged. This is the starting position.

C. On an exhale, extend left knee out to left side, keeping dumbbell raised above head and left leg raised and bent.

D. On an inhale, reverse the movement and bring left knee back to center.

Do 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Side Lunge with Passé Balance

A. Stand with feet together, hands clasped in front of chest with a dumbbell in each hand.

B. On an inhale, take a large step out to the right and immediately sink hips back and bend right knee to lower into a lunge. Simultaneously, extend arms toward the floor. Keep left leg straight but not locked, both feet pointing forward, and back flat.

C. On an exhale, push through right foot to straighten right leg while raising arms back in front of chest, elbows bent and tucked close to sides. Quickly lift right foot up to left knee, right knee pointing out to the side and toes pointed to the floor.

D. Extend right knee and step out to the right to start the next rep.

Do 10 to 15 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Lunge Deadlift

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides, holding one or two light dumbbells in right hand with palm facing thigh. Take one small step back with left foot, keeping heel lifted off the floor and maintaining a slight bend in right knee. This is the starting position.

B. With core engaged and arms hanging straight down, hinge at waistand press hips back to lower the dumbbell(s) toward the floor, keeping the weight(s) close to body. Continue lowering until you feel a light stretch in your right hamstring.

C. Keeping core engaged and back flat, press into right foot to return to the starting position, squeezing glutes at the top.

Do 10 to 15 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Extended Biceps Curl

A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms at sides. Raise both arms out to sides, keeping arms fully extended with a slight bend in elbows with a slight bend in elbows and palms facing the ceiling. This is the starting position.

B. Keeping core engaged, engage biceps muscles to pull the dumbbells in toward shoulders until elbows are completely flexed.

C. Pause, then slowly extend the dumbbells back down and out to sides with control.

Do 15 to 30 reps.

Curtsy Lunge to Toe Tap

A. Stand with feet together and hands clasped in front of chest, holding one or two light dumbbells in each hand with elbows pointing out to sides at shoulder height. Extend left leg out to side, toes resting on the floor. This is the starting position.

B. Keeping weight in right foot and hips square, take a big step back with left leg, crossing it behind right leg. Left foot should be planted at a 5 o'clock position on the floor.

C. Slowly bend knees and lower down until right thigh is parallel to the floor and both knees are bent at roughly 90-degree angles.

D. Push through right heel to rise out of the lunge and bring left foot back next to right, returning to the starting position.

Do 8 to 12 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Attitude Lift

A. Stand with feet together, toes pointing out to sides to form a "V," and arms raised over head, palms facing one another. This is the starting position.

B. On an exhale, raise left heel in front of legs up to hip height, with inside of left foot pointing toward the ceiling. Simultaneously, lower both arms out to sides to hip height, palms facing the ceiling.

C. On an inhale, lower left foot back to the floor next to right foot and simultaneously raise both arms back over head to return to the starting position.

D. Repeat the movement on the opposite side. That's one rep.

Do 8 to 15 reps.

Arabesque Hinge

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides, holding one or two light dumbbellsin right hand with palms facing body.

B. Engage core and pull shoulder blades down and back. Shift weight into right leg and bend right knee slightly. Extend left leg behind body so toes are touching the floor.

C. Keeping arms straight, send hips back to lower the dumbbell(s) down to the floor in front of legs while simultaneously lifting left leg off the floor and extending it behind body. Continue lowering until hips are fully pushed back and the weight(s) are as close to the floor as far as possible.

D. Keeping chest up, push through right heel to lower left foot back to the floor and return to standing, squeezing glutes at the top.

Do 10 to 15 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

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