How It Works
Pliés, relevés, and sauté jumps don’t just look graceful, the ballet moves also lengthen and strengthen muscles and burn calories.
Many gyms offer ballet-inspired fitness classes, and barre studios offer classes for overall conditioning as well as targeted workouts for abs, thighs, or glutes. There are even “barre light” classes for beginners.
You don’t need a tutu or ballet slippers. Instead, dress in comfortable workout clothes and show up to the 60-minute classes prepared to use the ballet barre to do the movements your teacher shows you.
Some classes also use small balls, resistance bands, and hand weights to do floor work. The low-impact workout focuses on proper alignment.
Intensity Level: Medium
The emphasis on proper alignment, balance, and core engagement means the classes move at a slower pace. You might not leave a ballet-inspired class drenched in sweat, but you’ll feel the burn after a class thanks to moves that target specific muscle groups.
Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. You'll do a combination of ballet positions and Pilates moves to target the abs.
Arms: Yes. Classes include exercises like military presses, lateral arm raises, and triceps lifts to work the arm muscles.
Legs: Yes. Expect to perform movements like pliés, dégagé, leg lifts/extensions, and other ballet-inspired moves that target the legs.
Glutes: Yes. Targeted moves like glute raises help tone the backside.
Back: No. Ballet-inspired workouts target the whole body but do not target the back muscles, except for those that are part of your core.
Flexibility: Yes. This ballet-inspired workout will gently improve your flexibility.
Aerobic: No. The barre moves are too slow to give you an aerobic workout. So unless you're in a class that includes exercises off the barre that gets your heart rate going, don't count this as cardio.
Strength: Yes. Some ballet and barre classes use weights and resistance bands, and others use your body weight to strengthen and tone.
Sport: No. It’s not a sport.
Low-Impact: Yes. There is no jumping or bouncing in barre classes, so the workout is easy on the joints.
What Else Should I Know?
Cost: You’ll need to sign up for classes through your gym or a barre studio.
Good for beginners? Yes. Ballet-inspired classes are good for beginners who want to try a new workout.
Outdoors: No. Classes are done in a studio with ballet barres.
At home: Yes. There are DVDs for ballet-inspired workouts that can be done at home.
Equipment required? Yes. Most workouts include a barre, weights, resistance bands, and balls that are provided by the fitness studio. You may need to buy some of those things for at-home workouts.
What Dr. Michael Smith Says:
Barre fitness is ideal if you’re just getting into exercise. The classes will improve your balance, build strength, make you more flexible, burn calories, and improve stability through a stronger core.
As you get more comfortable and fit, you can ramp up the intensity by adding weights and more challenging moves. If you have more experience and are looking for something new to challenge yourself, advanced barre classes can do the trick.
It's challenging for men and women alike. These moves are a lot harder than they look and can help anyone take their fitness to the next level.
Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?
Barre exercises are often gentle on the joints and can be an excellent choice if you have arthritis or joint problems. You’ll also build stronger muscles, which gives more support to your joints and lessens pain.
But certain moves can put added stress on your joints. For example, turning out your legs may not feel good on your knees, especially if you're turning out from your feet, rather than from your hips. Ask your instructor how to adapt moves that don’t feel good, and to show you good form.
When recovering from a back injury, you want to focus on building a stronger core. Barre fitness can help you do that.
If you’re looking for exercise to help control your diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease, there are better options for you. Look for fitness options that involve more cardio exercise.
If you're pregnant, barre classes are a perfect choice. You’ll burn calories and keep your muscles strong and flexible without putting unneeded stress on your body. You will need to change some of the moves as you get further along in your pregnancy. Avoid any moves that make you unsteady on your feet.