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Advice from an expert.
If you’ve read up on the ballet-inspired workout, you’ll know that there are many physical benefits of Barre, as well as mental health perks, too.
Around since the 1950s, it’s a workout that not only promises to strengthen your muscles but improve flexibility and posture, too – all from the comfort of your home, if you so please.
You all know that working out regularly is good for your heart health, mental health, and general wellbeing – but what’s so great about Barre, in particular?
It’s a celeb favourite – Jennifer Aniston, Zooey Deschanel, and Kirsten Dunst are all rumored to be fans of the low impact sweat session for precisely that reason – because it’s a great way to work and tone your muscles without risking injury (or getting a serious sweat on), as with a high intensity interval session.
We spoke to movement specialist Vanessa Michielon (FYI, she has a Masters in Dance Performance and trained for over 200 hours to get her Barre qualification) to get her take.
Don’t miss our guides to the best Barre exercises and Barre classes, while you’re here.
What is Barre?
You’ve heard of Reformer Pilates and even tried your hand at yoga poses at home – but what about Barre? If you didn’t do ballet as a child, you won’t enjoy it, right?
Wrong. Barre is basically the adult version of ballet, sure, but it’s also a really fun way to work your entire body and get a sweat on without jumping. It’s a slow burner – that is, you’ll go in expecting it to be easy but trust me – as a health editor who’s tried the lot, it’s a tough workout.
If you’re recovering from injury, for example, it could be a good way to build back up core strength. Most sessions are also focused on strengthening your core, glutes, and hamstrings.
Michielon agrees, adding that Barre is normally performed to music with a beat and uses strength training techniques, such as frequent isometric holds, to both exhaust your muscles and improve your active range of motion. That’s where the famous phrase “Barre burn” comes from, as you’ll often find your legs burning (otherwise known as delayed onset muscle soreness).
If you are keen to give a Barre workout a go at home – or want to know what to expect pre heading to a class – know that you’ll use props such as light weights, small Pilates balls, elastic bands, bricks, or gliders. Why? “These are often incorporated to add resistance, and challenge stability and coordination,” shares the expert.
Benefits of Barre: 6 to know about
1. Improves posture
As you know, Barre has its roots in Ballet, known for improving how you stand. “Barre is wonderful to improve your posture,” shares Michielon.
2. Improves quality of movement
Similarly, research has shown that Barre can improve your quality of movement, aka how you move day-to-day.
“In each position, you are reminded of creating length in your body, especially in your spine, and to move with precision and attention to the small details,” she goes on.
3. Enhance your balance
Not to mention the fact to be good at Barre, you have to consistently work on your balance with each session.
“With its fast tempo and low impact choreographies, Barre is also a great way to enhance your balance when you shift weight from one foot to the other,” Michielon explains.
4. Reduces your risk of injury
Constantly picking up injuries left, right, and centre? Then strength training in the form of Barre could be for you. That’s because Barre forces you to pay extreme attention to the alignment of your knees and toes.
“Plus, it trains your body to hit the next position with confidence, reducing the risk of injury when playing sports and performing explosive movements,” shares the pro.
5. Improves cardio endurance
Also on the fitness front – Barre improves your cardio endurance because it keeps your heart rate high for a sustained period of time, shares the expert.
“Across studios and methods, the pace of each Barre session can vary a lot, from slower and steadier ones, which usually focus more on isometric holding, and HIIT-inspired ones, which alternate between interval training and traditional Barre movements,” she explains. “This means a goal of Barre is to have us perform as many repetitions of the same movement as possible in the shortest amount of time, really employing your explosive power.”
6. Boosts mental health
And finally, one of the last Barre benefits is improved mental health. As with any sweat session that releases some endorphins, Barre is a simple – and free – way to boost yours.
Movement is good for that, but Michielon maintains that the amount of concentration needed to get certain Barre routines spot on makes it one of the best for clearing your head and boosting your mood.