Barre Classes for Beginners

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Barre Classes for Beginners

Hello lovely friends!  How is your week going?  Doing anything fun or special?  Mine is busy as usual but I’ll survive.

It’s no secret here on the blog that I have an undying love of barre classes.  In fact, I’ve been not so shy about creating my own barre videos, which I shamelessly plug and which you can find here! 🙂

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I know a lot people wonder, what the heck is a barre class and what can I expect when I go to class?  It’s easy to get intimidated by a form of exercise you are not familiar with, so today I’m going to give you the lowdown on what you can expect in a barre class and how to prepare for your first class.

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What is barre?

Barre is a general term to refer to group fitness classes conducted with a ballet barre as the main piece of equipment.  Barre classes tend to incorporate principles from yoga, pilates and dance.  Some classes also incorporate strength or cardio moves.  

The hallmarks of barre classes typically are:

  • Muscle overload to create muscle fatigue.
  • Low-impact exercises.
  • Use of different range of movements: large, small (1 inch movements) and isometric.
  • Use of own body weight, although handweights, resistance bands and playground balls are also often used to assist in sculpting.
  • Focus on balance, strength and flexibility.

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What results can I expect from a barre class?

Barre classes are excellent for building strength and flexibility. Because the classes are total body, you can expect to see more tones arms and abs. Most classes will also promote thinner, shaped thighs and a lifted seat due to the types of exercises performed.  While I can’t say that you will sculpt your body in a particular way, I do think this form of exercise generally tends to lead to a nice sculpted physique. Most classes also offer some cardio benefit depending on the peace of the class but I don’t think it can replace your weekly run or spin class, just add to the benefits!

Because it is low impact, it’s perfect for all levels and is easy on the joints.  It can even be bone density building! It’s also perfect if you are recovering from an injury or are pregnant, because there are no jumping or jarring movements (although always check with your doc first!).

Better posture. Like ballet, barre classes focus on maintaining good posture and holding that posture while you work your muscles. Expect to see that muscle memory and better alignment carry over into everyday life!

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What does a typical class look like?

 Most barre classes start with a warmup to get the body ready for the workout.  This might consist of knee lifts or some lunges or plié squats. After the warmup, it’s time to get into sculpting! Most classes start with upper body (although the order may vary depending on the type of class you go to). Upper body will usually include the use of weights although the weight selection is generally lighter than a typical strength class because you’ll perform a high number of reps without rest between exercises to overload the muscles and create fatigue. Expect to see moves like bicep curls, triceps kickbacks and push-ups.

When you feel like you can’t move another arm muscle, you’ll find relief in the legs next, although the relief is temporary! Your legs will be shaking and screaming in no time. This is generally when you’ll move to the barre.  Expect to see some ballet inspired moves like plies, releves (rise up on toes), first position pulses and much more.  Your legs will probably shake as they become fatigued, which is normal.

Next we move on to the seat. This is also often done at the barre but can often also be done on the floor. Expect to lift the leg in an attitude (knee bent and turned out), arabesque pulses (leg straight behind you) or perform courtesy lunges (lunges in a courtesy position).

Finally it’s time to lie down but that doesn’t mean the work is over!  The Ab section is based on pilates and its tough!  Expect to perform moves like bicycle legs, hundreds, V-sits an more!

Although there is usually stretching throughout the class, the end of the class provides the longest and most relaxing stretch.  Now is when you finally get to relax and work on your flexibility!

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What do I need to know before class?

First, know what to wear.  There is no specific attire required for class but I would recommend something that you might wear to a yoga or strength class.  My favorite is capris with a tank top!  Most studios will require you to wear socks to class.  I love grippy socks (affiliated link) because even on carpet (which some studios have), you might start to slip. An alternative to grippy socks are shoes that can be used for barre and pilates classes that resemble ballet slippers (you could probably wear ballet slippers if you wished but I rarely see that).

Make sure you bring water with you so you can stay hydrated throughout class.  Other than that you don’t need to bring anything!  Make sure you tell the instructor you are new to barre classes and the studio (check out my fitness tips for newbies here!). 

Don’t be intimidated if the class moves at a quick pace and you don’t understand all the names right away. Your instructor will most likely demonstrate the moves and you’ll catch on the more you go.  The classes generally move quickly to keep your muscles, including your heart muscle warm and moving.  Never feel intimated to ask the instructor for extra help! Get ready to feel the shakes!

For a list of the best barre videos, check out this post!

For a list of the best barre classes in NYC, check out this post and this post!

To subscribe to my YouTube channel for *free* barre classes, click here!

Readers, have you ever tried a barre class?  What tips would you add to this list?  Do you prefer mind/body type classes or sweat-till-you-drop classes?

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