- Benefits of Barre
- It might look like ballet but it’s not!
- 7 Benefits of Barre Workouts
- Benefits of Barre Workouts
- 8 Benefits Of Barre Class That Will Make You Want To Add Some Pliés To Your Workout
- What is barre, exactly?
- What kind of workout should you expect?
- Is barre class just for dancers?
- Any form tips?
- Is this workout right for you?
- What kind of clothes should you wear to class?
- 5 Benefits of Barre That Will Keep You Going Back for More
- 5 Reasons Why Barre Is Good for Your Body
- Here’s what you need to know about ‘barre’ — a low-impact workout inspired by ballerinas
- First off, what is barre?
- Barre class can be a good option for beginners and is generally low-impact
- Experts seem to agree barre is healthy (at least healthier than going to a bar)
- Why Barre Class Is So Good for Your Body
- Thank you!
- The Secret Sexual History of the Barre Workout
Benefits of Barre
It might look like ballet but it’s not!
Barre is a wonderful fitness concept. It takes elements of traditional Ballet barre and Pilates repertoire and combines these elements with low-impact, high intensity cardiovascular fitness and functional training to make you move better. It’s a full body workout designed for all fitness levels. I was fortunate enough to train with Renee Scott, the creator of Barre Attack, who ignited a passion to bring the Barre Attack concepts to Southside Physiotherapy.
Best of all, you don’t need to be a Ballerina to enjoy the benefits of a Barre workout. Here’s why Barre workouts have become so popular:
1. Hard on the muscles, soft on the joints – the controlled movements that take place in the barre classes aim to influence how biomechanically efficient you are. With attention to technique, you will learn to move better to feel better.
2. Increased muscle tone, strength and endurance – this whole body workout will leave no muscle untouched. The repetitious movements with hand weights, resistance bands and Pilates ball will have you sweating and shaking. Some movements will work your larger muscle groups with control while others will have you working in a small range and pulsing to fatigue the muscles. It will challenge you, and change you.
3. Increased stability and core control – no matter what the exercise is, you will use your core. Whether you’re using the equipment or standing on one leg, your core needs to switch on to maintain balance and control. The benefit of doing 80% of the class in standing, you will increase your balance and core strength in a functional way, allowing you to move better and perform other activities better.
4. Improved posture and body awareness – with the flowing sequences you will feel like your body is re-aligned, balanced and centered. You will feel more connected to your body, which will bring awareness to your posture. You’ll feel taller and more open.
5. It’s for everyone – the great thing about Barre is that you can work with the movements to suit your needs by limiting or expanding the range of motion. Exercises can be modified for beginners, pregnant women and clients who have an injury, but can also be modified for those wanting a challenge!
6. Increased flexibility – most bodies will either be very flexible, but not strong, or strong but not flexible. Barre can allow you to have the best of both worlds through focused stretching and weight bearing exercises.
7. Fun and full of variety – using different equipment, changing pace, and different choreography allows you to get the most out of the workout while having a bit of fun.
To find out more about our Core Stability classes or one-on-one sessions with our Accredited Exercise Physiologist, please phone us on 9527 4099.
See you at the Barre!
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7 Benefits of Barre Workouts
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Barre devotees swear this ballet-inspired workout can help you build strength, tighten your core, and sculpt a dancer’s booty.
But if you’re used to doing high-intensity workouts that leave you dripping with sweat, you might be wondering if a barre class — with its slow, controlled micro-movements — can actually be an effective workout.
Short answer: Yes. “No other workout combines grace and athleticism like barre, and this is why so many women love it,” says Andrea Rogers, creator of the Xtend Barre workout, now on Openfit. “By combining traditional Pilates methods with ballet and high-energy cardio, the workout is designed to sculpt bodies into lean, toned, dancer-like physiques.”
And even if you can crush a round of burpees without thinking twice, don’t be surprised if your muscles are burning and shaking halfway into your first barre workout. Here are some of the biggest barre benefits — and why you should consider adding barre classes to your workout schedule.
Benefits of Barre Workouts
1. Barre Is Beginner-Friendly
If you have two left feet, don’t worry. Barre movements may have roots in ballet — think arabesque pulses and pliés for days — but there’s no complicated choreography, and you definitely don’t need to be a dancer.
“Barre classes are for all levels, with little to no impact and an option to modify every move,” says Stephanie Saunders, executive director of fitness at Openfit. “Even if you’re just getting off the couch for the first time, you can do a class without risk of injury.”
2. Barre Is a Great Core Workout
Like yoga poses and Pilates exercises, barre workouts target and strengthen your core. “All of the work at the barre contains a balance element, which will definitely fire up those abs,” Saunders says.
Not only can core exercises improve your strength and stability, they can also work wonders for your posture. “If you’ve ever wanted the posture of a ballerina, barre classes will help strengthen the muscles of the upper back and shoulders, which helps you stand up that much taller,” Saunders says.
3. Barre Increases Flexibility
We all occasionally skip stretching before or after a workout when we’re short on time. (Guilty!) But flexibility is an important component of overall fitness — and with a barre workout, it’s built right in. “Every barre class contains flexibility movements that range from an easy twist to the full splits,” Saunders says.
If you can barely touch your toes right now, that may sound intimidating — but you don’t need to be flexible to enjoy a barre workout. And if you stick to a regular schedule, you’ll see improvements quickly. “If you are consistent with barre classes, you will increase your flexibility,” Saunders adds. “Even the tin man can excel in a barre class.”
4. Barre Will Make You Stronger
There are two basic types of muscle fiber — the fast-twitch muscle fibers that help you power through a set of sumo squats or box jumps, and the slow-twitch fibers used in endurance activities. Barre targets the latter — and that can be surprisingly challenging, even for serious fitness buffs. (That wobbly leg feeling is where the barre mantra “embrace the shake” comes from.)
“You can sculpt and strengthen your entire body,” Saunders says. “Barre uses light weights, resistance bands, and a ball to increase total-body strength. These workouts will leave your muscles begging for mercy.”
5. Yes, Barre Counts As Cardio
“Cardio is defined as any movement that increases your heart rate, involving large muscle groups in a rhythmic manner,” Saunders says — and barre checks all those boxes. You’ll be working large muscle groups, and you’ll definitely feel the burn. And you can ramp up the cardio benefits by choosing a barre workout that focuses specifically on cardio by increasing the range of motion and the intensity of the moves.
6. Barre May Help You Lose Weight
If your goal is to work out for weight loss, it’s important to push yourself past your comfort zone — and a barre workout can definitely do that. It can also help you burn more calories in the long run. “In addition to burning a ton of calories, barre also builds lean muscle, which can help increase your resting metabolic rate, which can assist with weight loss,” Saunders says.
7. Barre Isn’t Boring
Beyond building muscle and torching calories, the best workout is one you actually enjoy doing — and because there are so many different barre workouts, you won’t have to worry about falling into a rut or losing interest before you see results. “A good barre workout uses a combination of ballet, Pilates, cardio, and resistance moves, all at a high-energy pace, to challenge the body in a unique way,” Saunders says. “And there is a variety of barre classes, so you can work on your specific goals.”
Curious about Xtend Barre for Openfit? for this 30-minute cardio mix of Pilates and ballet barre proven to sculpt a lean, strong physique!
If you’re shopping around for a new workout to sink your teeth into, you may have heard about — or even tried — barre workouts. Combining elements of Pilates, ballet, and yoga, barre blew up the fitness scene a few years ago, and it still seems to be going strong. But before you dish out a hefty amount of cash for a monthly subscription (it ain’t cheap!), you might want to listen up to the information we’ve gathered about the connection between barre and weight loss.
“Barre workouts do contribute to weight loss because you are breaking down muscle and building strength within every section of class.” ADVERTISEMENT
Although the main purpose of working out isn’t necessarily to lose weight, if you’re on a weight-loss journey, you want to opt in for workouts that will help you reach your goals in the most efficient way. POPSUGAR spoke to Adrienne Richmond, Pure Barre owner in San Francisco, CA, who said, “Barre workouts do contribute to weight loss because you are breaking down muscle and building strength within every section of class.”
The point in a barre class is to “work your muscle to fatigue,” and then that muscle “requires energy to rebuild.” In order to give your muscles the energy to build back up, Adrienne says your body has to “burn carbohydrates and break down fat stores,” which can contribute to weight loss. “The most important thing is not how many calories you burn in class, but about how you are setting your body up to work more efficiently.” However, there aren’t any studies out there (yet, anyway) showing that barre has this kind of effect on the body long after the class has ended.
Personal trainer Liz Letchford, MS, ATC, agrees that barre workouts certainly have their benefits. “Barre is programmed to maximize the strength of stabilizing muscles and emphasizing balance,” she told POPSUGAR. “Is it the quickest or most functional way to meet your body composition goals? Probably not.”
“I would not recommend barre as the main strategy to lose weight.”
If you’re only doing barre workouts, you won’t “increase your metabolic rate” in the same way that a strength training program is proven to provide, according to Liz. Barre is great, but she highly recommends mixing it up with other forms of fitness, like weight lifting and “a cardiovascular training program — cycling, running, swimming, rowing — to strengthen your heart.”
“I would not recommend barre as the main strategy to lose weight,” Liz concluded. She says you have nothing to lose by doing these workouts, but don’t let them be your only source of fitness if you want to see significant changes in the body. “Just as it is important to eat a variety of foods in your diet, it is important to have a variety of movements in your workouts.”
Pure Barre kinesiologist Rachelle Reed says that barre is “important for both weight management and overall quality of life.” She told POPSUGAR, “The class is intelligently designed to ensure that each major muscle group is worked until it reaches full fatigue, which helps to strengthen and tone the body.” According to Rachelle, you will see results from doing barre regularly for two consecutive months. She says, “Any additional energy expenditure from exercise can help people to manage their weight more effectively. workouts also help to keep the metabolism higher throughout the rest of the day.”
Since barre workouts are primarily focused on strengthening and lengthening the body, if weight loss is your goal, you should take Liz’s advice and also incorporate cardio into your strength training routine, whether it’s a brisk walk outside or a cardio-based barre class.
Adrienne adds that “cultivat a deep mind-body connection” is another huge benefit from barre classes. You’ll learn about your body and its mechanics in a way you never did before, and you can take this awareness with you throughout the rest of your life.
Because there aren’t any studies proving the effectiveness of barre and its apparent metabolism-boosting properties, we can only take all the information we’re given, digest it, and experiment with it for ourselves. If you love barre and the movement and flexibility it offers, keep going to classes! But if you find that you’re not reaching your weight loss goals, you might want to add in some other workouts to help you get to where you want to be.
Image Source: Getty / Lily Lawrence
8 Benefits Of Barre Class That Will Make You Want To Add Some Pliés To Your Workout
While the ballet-inspired fitness trend has quickly taken over, it isn’t without reason that many people are heading to the barre for their workout. With small, isometric movements and a focus on the core, the many barre class benefits go to show that this popular fitness option isn’t just a meaningless fad. And with so many fitness boutiques like Pure Barre, Pop Physique, Physique 57, Bar Method, and many others, it’s easy to jump on this craze.
Although barre takes some positions and movements from ballet (as well as the signature ballet barre), a barre class is totally different from a dance class. You won’t typically find cardio in this workout, but rather a series of strengthening exercises targeting your core, arms, legs, and, of course, your butt. Pair that with a solid playlist, an enthusiastic instructor, and you’ve got a workout that — after you get over the soreness of your first class — becomes incredibly addictive. A few classes (and a few indulgent purchases of those super-cute barre socks) later, and you’ll be hooked.
Using a couple tools like a ball, light weights, and a strap, barre proves to be an effective workout, so if you’re looking for a way to rev up your exercise routine, you might consider adding some barre-inspired moves to your gym routine or heading over to a boutique class. Here’s exactly what makes barre so beneficial.
1. It’s The Best Core Workout
You read that right: barre is the best core workout. With each isometric movement, you target the tiny muscles that may get ignored if you’re sticking to crunches. Plus, by repeating these small movements over and over again, you build up endurance. That means that the more you go to class, the better you get and the longer you can hold tough positions (looking at you, plank).
2. It Improves Your Posture
Barre improves your posture because keeping a straight spine is crucial to so many of the movements in class. As Pure Barre notes, “it’s more important to achieve proper alignment of your hips, spine, shoulders and head than to lift your leg an inch higher.” By maintaining an awareness of your posture in class, you’ll find yourself aware of each time your shoulders slump forward at your desk or while lounging. A stronger core also helps you to keep your back straight, so with every barre class, you’ll be standing a little taller.
3. It Helps Your Muscles Work Correctly
Stretching prevents muscles from remaining tight, which could cause other muscle groups to not work correctly. So, not only does stretching in barre increase your flexibility, it also helps your muscles to work correctly.
4. It Increases Your Flexibility
You don’t need a dancer’s flexibility to be able to take a barre class, but the stretching interludes between strengthening exercises will certainly help to increase your flexibility. Classes focus on being both flexible and strong, rather than just pumping iron.
5. It Targets Every Muscle Group
Because barre classes use your own body to tackle different areas, you end up working multiple muscle groups at the same time. Plus, those isometric movements help you to tackle smaller muscles that often get ignored. The result is a full-body workout that will leave you sore in the best way.
6. It’s Low-Impact
A good barre class will leave you in a sweat, but you won’t be struggling to catch your breath. That’s because barre is low-impact, meaning that it’s gentler on your joints. Compared to high-impact workouts, like running, barre is easy to stick with, without requiring breaks for muscle and joint rehabilitation. A long-term commitment means better results over time.
7. It Has Low Injury Risk
Because barre is low-impact, that also means that it’s low-injury. Less pressure on your joints means fewer chances of hurting yourself. Plus, you can even do barre while pregnant, as long as you listen to your body and notify your instructor, so that she can provide you with move adjustments, depending how far along you are.
8. It’s Fun!
Barre may not have the high intensity of a Zumba class or the spiritual mantras of SoulCycle, but cheerful instructors, pumping playlists, and endorphin-pumping movements make this workout a pleasure — no leotard necessary.
Barre Fit isn’t just another variant in a frenzy of fitness fads, it was developed after a German ballerina, Lotte Berk, hurt her back and decided to use her ballet barre as a tool for rehabilitative therapy. She opened a dance conditioning studio in a basement here in London back in the late 50s, and even instructed the likes of Joan Collins and Barbara Streisand, before getting injured and discovering how to use the minimal equipment of a handrail to stretch and strengthen herself.
One of Berk’s students, Lydia Bach, took the method over to the USA and it evolved to new heights. Today’s workouts stay true to that function of recovery but with a bigger focus on fun; practising small, pulsing movements to rhythmic, energetic backing tracks and with sports apparatus like yoga straps, exercise balls and hand weights in tow. The aim is to perfect the form, straighten alignment and toughen the core through barre fitness routines but without a pirouette in sight. On that note, here are 5 other unique benefits of our Barre Fit classes.
1. Low impact, low risk
Working with the barre is way less stressful for your joints than pounding the pavement and sending high-impact waves through your knees as you jog. This form of exercise comes under the umbrella of ‘cross-training’, so it weaves different types of workouts into the routine, which is particularly good for targeting muscle groups you may not usually use, as well as giving the more worn out parts some recovery time. All in all, it’s low impact, and therefore low risk.
2. Focus and coordinate
Barre Fit is heavily focused on isometric strength training, which means it involves small repetitive movements that are tightly controlled and close to the body – from the horse pose to leg lifts. Like any short and intensive exercise, you will feel your core muscles burning as you engage them, however the considered nature of each contraction means awareness is key. Isometric training relies on the mind and body communicating and working together, so it makes sense that barre fitness challenges your concentration and coordination levels too.
3. Make like a ballerina…
This form of exercise includes ballet barre and floor workouts, so you could be doing a ballerina squat or holding a plank without being expected to be ‘en pointe’ or wear a tutu. Our classes take place to flowing, uptempo music – so you can emulate graceful ballet shapes as well as the more expressive, theatrical moves of modern jazz, but you don’t have to have rhythm or be able to do any fancy footwork. It’s all about reinforcing, nourishing and sculpting the body, so you’ll likely end up with a dancer’s posture, standing out amongst a sea of slouchers.
It was part of my training at the University of Ukraine to build strength as a dance student. Now as a teacher, I love Barre Fit classes because they are both effective and fun.
– Maks Shpachynskyi, City Academy Barre Fit tutor
4. Barre Fit is a fun fusion of forms
Barre Fit incorporates dance moves from ballet and modern jazz but also draws some parallels with yoga – the lunge variations you will do in class might mirror the warrior pose your zen friend did on a mountain and then of course, posted on Instagram. It encompasses the posture techniques and breathing exercises that you will find at a pilates class as well, and doesn’t shy away from sports conditioning, such as push-ups, either. Its varied nature means it is efficient, working your core strength, flexibility and posture all in one. To help with toning, at City Academy we combine barre fitness with short, fast bursts of cardio, resulting in a satisfying, all-rounded workout.
5. And finally, no more gymtimidation
Gyms can be pretty overwhelming places. You have squeezed on your workout clothes, remembered where your membership card is, walked to the gym and you are already tired out. But you are there now, and you have got to face rows of machinery and taut behinds, as their owners contort into unthinkable positions or show off their testosterone levels. Barre Fit isn’t like boot camp – it’s fun, approachable and inclusive of all ages, abilities and levels of fitness.
Find out more about Barre Fit classes at City Academy, or check out our Fitness and Wellbeing section.
If you like the dance styles that feature in our barre workouts and would like to explore them in their pure forms, have a look at our Ballet, Contemporary and Jazz Dance courses.
When I first heard the term “barre class” a couple years ago, I was immediately transported back to my days as a baby ballerina, when time at the barre meant pliés, stretches that made my hamstrings feel like they were on fire, and a whole lot of fancy footwork.
My ballet career was short, to say the least. (I tossed my ballet shoes after age seven.) So I was skeptical about a whole fitness class centered around, what I remembered as, the worst part of ballet lessons. (Just being honest here.)
Fast-forward to my first session at Pure Barre—a fitness studio built entirely around the barre—after my roommate at the time assured me it was an amazing workout. I was reluctant at first, but I left the class feeling like every tiny muscle in my core, butt, arms, and legs had been put to the test. I was completely sore the next day.
And while it was reminiscent of my ballet days of yore, it actually felt a lot more like a Pilates or sculpting workout. The class focused on cardio, strength training, and stretching, rather than perfect dance technique. Since that day, I’ve tried out barre studios across New York City—Physique 57, Xtend, Flybarre, Barre Method, Exhale–and I’ve always been impressed by how much each class challenges my entire body.
To give you a better idea of what to expect in your first barre class, I chatted with Katelyn DiGiorgio, the VP of training and technique at Pure Barre, for the lowdown.
What is barre, exactly?
“Barre class is a workout technique inspired by elements of ballet, yoga, and Pilates, that focuses on low-impact, high intensity movements designed to strengthen and tone your body in ways that few other workouts can,” says DiGiorgio.
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What kind of workout should you expect?
Each class is designed to be a full-body workout (as I’ve definitely experienced), broken into different sections that focus on major muscle groups including the arms, thighs, glutes, and core.
“The muscles in each group are fatigued via small targeted movements, high repetition, and light weight or resistance,” says DiGiorgio. Think: pulsing in a squat to target the glutes and quads, cranking out as many triceps kickbacks as possible with three pound weights, or moving through a lively plank sequence. “Sections of class are also paired with stretching to increase overall flexibility,” she explains. So if you struggle with flexibility (*raises hand*) this class is a great choice, too.
DiGiorgio says the class is also designed to boost endurance, improve balance, increase range of motion, promote better posture, and help with weight management.
Is barre class just for dancers?
As I noted, I am far from a capable dancer (any of my friends will attest to this), and DiGiorgio agrees that barre is for everyone. “The community is made of people who have tried every group fitness class ever created, as well as those just starting their fitness journey.”
That said, as with any type of fitness, don’t expect to master it after one go. “Class moves quickly, and can be challenging, since you’ll utilize muscles you never knew you had,” says DiGiorgio. “But you’ll get the hang of it after 3 to 4 classes, and can generally see results in just 8 to 10 classes.”
Any form tips?
In your first class, “one of the more challenging form essentials to grasp is the idea of small, controlled movements,” says DiGiorgio. “When you hear your teacher say pulse, for example, that literally means just move an inch up and down.” You’re focusing on contracting the target muscle, which means your range of motion will be controlled and precise.
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While all barre studios are slightly different, you’ll likely be instructed to “tuck your tailbone” or have a “heavy tailbone” at some point during class. To do that, you need to draw your abs inward as you roll your hips under slightly to create a neutral spine, says DiGiorgio. You’ll often assume this position during class, which also promotes core engagement and toning.
Is this workout right for you?
What are your fitness goals? “If you want to improve your posture, increase core strength, become more flexible, improve muscle tone, or just break up the monotony of your normal gym routine, you should definitely give barre a try,” says DiGiorgio.
And, again, this is a great workout for anyone. “Unlike many exercise programs which require a high level of physical fitness or prior expertise, barre is very beginner friendly, and adaptable to different skill sets and ability levels,” she says.
What kind of clothes should you wear to class?
While workout outfits are totally based on personal preference, DiGiorgio recommends wearing leggings or capris that you feel comfortable in, and a workout tank or T-shirt. Wearing clothes that sit close to your body helps your instructor get a better view of your form throughout class, and give you advice on necessary adjustments. You’ll also want to wear sticky socks to prevent your feet from sliding. (Trust me, this one is essential.)
Here are a few great grippy barre socks to get you started:
Star Glitter Mesh Non-Slip Sock Shashi amazon.com $17.99 Gripper Socks Bombas bombas.com $14.00 Grippy Studio Socks Gaiam amazon.com $7.99 Valerie Slip-On Sock Lucky Honey amazon.com $18.00
Bottom line: Barre class is great for anyone—whether you’re new to fitness or you’ve danced ballet your whole life. Prepare for a total-body workout.
Kristine Thomason Fitness & Wellness Editor Kristine Thomason is the fitness & wellness editor at Women’s Health, where she edits, writes, and helps oversee the food and fitness sections of the website and magazine.
5 Benefits of Barre That Will Keep You Going Back for More
Barre-based fitness classes have risen in popularity over the past few years, no doubt influenced by those of us wanting to channel super-fit ballerinas like Misty Copeland. If you have a drawer full of leggings and keep a pair of sticky socks in your purse, know that you’re not alone. (Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Barre Class)
So why are these kinds of workouts so addictive? The positive feelings—and results—you get from a good barre class are unmatched. Research has shown that long-term ballerinas are more skilled than novices are at tasks requiring fine motor skills. But you don’t need to perform at Lincoln Center to see the benefits of barre extend to other parts of your life. Here, I share five ways I’ve seen my fitness level improve through barre practice.
1. Strength and Definition
When you work your thighs in a barre class, you target that muscle group from all angles. Three thigh exercises will work to fatigue the front, inner, and outer thighs, strengthening the muscles from joint to joint. The same goes for your butt, abs, arms, and back. By strengthening each muscle group thoroughly, you are not only creating amazing definition, but you are also strengthening muscles that are often underused and underdeveloped. (Related: The Actually Intense Barre Workout That Will Make You Sweat)
Each barre class includes different types of movements, but most are known for their use of isometric contractions and small isotonic movements. In an isometric contraction, you tighten or contract the muscle without changing its length. Think plank position or those poses where you hold completely still as your legs start to quiver and shake. These contractions utilize slow-twitch muscle fibers that can increase stamina and improve your endurance, two benefits of barre you might not expect.
You don’t need to be flexible to achieve the benefits of barre, but the amount of stretching in each class can help improve your overall range of motion and reduce your risk of injury. Tension and tightness in your muscles and the tendons around them can lead to back pain and poor posture and can make everyday tasks like bending down to tie your shoes more difficult. Stretching out your muscles will help relieve stress and allow you to move through your day with a little more ease.
Core muscles are engaged throughout the entire class, and they can be used for the primary focus of an exercise or for stability as you perform a move that targets your thighs or butt. The most common issue that clients come in with is back pain that usually stems from weak core muscles and hours spent sitting at the computer. As you strengthen your core, you will notice the benefits of barre outside of class. You’ll be able to sit and stand taller and your lower back will take less stress and tension throughout the day. (Related: Why All Runners Should Practice Yoga and Barre)
5. Mind-Body Connection
Barre classes challenge you to not only go through the motions of the workout but to focus your thoughts on each and every tiny muscle you are working. Feel your mind starting to stray? Your teacher will give you step-by-step instructions on where to position your body while also offering hands-on corrections to adjust your alignment.
Shalisa Pouw is a senior master trainer at Pure Barre.
- By Shalisa Pouw
Barre-style workouts have become super trendy and a firm fave of Victoria’s Secret Models and A-listers of late.
Promising to tone your body and burn fat, all while improving your range of motion and flexibility, barre classes involve performing small, isometric movements, using your bodyweight and small dumbbells as well as resistance bands and holding your body in positions to ‘feel the burn’.
Devotees say that barre helps you tone up fast and will result in the lean physique of a dancer. But do these bold claims actually work?
A self-confessed exercise junkie, I was pretty sceptical of these kinds of classes – preferring weight training and HIIT to low-intensity exercise that I thought would have no impact on my body.
But then, *plot twist* – at the end of last year, I had to give up my intense workouts, after a gruelling round of fertility treatment left me unable to exercise. For some people, being told by a doctor to stop working out would be a dream, but I lost all my energy and felt really sluggish and bloated.
After three months off exercise and injecting myself with a load of hormones, I wasn’t overweight, but my body had completely changed and none of my clothes fit. And although I was told by my fertility doctor I could exercise again, I had to take it easy.
So I decided to ease myself back into working out with barre – and signed up to do six weeks of classes with Barrecore, who have studios all over London (and in various locations nationwide). Here’s what happened to my body in just six weeks:
1. I needed quite a few classes per week to see results.
My first session at Barrecore was a private session with Emily, the instructor trainer at Barrecore’s Mayfair branch (aka the master of barre classes!). She told me that with barre, it was a case of “the more the better”.
I didn’t want to commit to a class every day, because I was still recovering a little bit, so we plumped for 3-4 classes a week. I would be doing Barrecore Signature – the studio’s combination class of ballet barre moves using your own body weight, lightweight props and high reps to exhaust all my muscles.
2. I learnt how to REALLY switch my glutes on
In my first session, Emily checked my form, because it really is crucial to seeing results with barre workouts. You’ve got to learn how to “tuck under” your core and keep your body still while doing small movements, so you’re truly targeting the muscles you’re working.
It’s really easy to get lazy in class and look like you’re doing the moves when actually you’re not really doing anything (trust me, that was me when I was tired/hungover)!
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While I had OK posture because I’d done ballet as a kid, for me it was about learning to REALLY switch my glutes on. I thought because I had done squats and deadlifts in the gym, I was a pro, but it turns out there are LOADS of tiny muscles I was ignoring.
It was worth it though, because for the first time I actually felt the ‘booty burn’ people talk about, and any back pain I’d previously had during exercise melted away.
3. And to REALLY use my core
Despite having had actual visible abs at one point in my ‘fitness journey’ (don’t cringe), turns out my core wasn’t all that strong! When I first strolled into class, I couldn’t hold a plank for longer than 20 seconds, and doing side plank dips to tone my obliques were hell on a plate. But by the end of the six weeks, I could hold a plank for a minute, crunches no longer hurt my lower back, and those dips were easy as pie!
4. My thighs hated me, every single class
There is a lot of focus on ‘seat’ (bum) and thigh work in barre classes, and because I have relatively hefty and muscly thighs, I thought I’d find the leg workouts the easiest. In my former life, I LOVED the leg press in the gym! But give me an exercise where you have to hold your thighs in one position, without moving anything else and doing tiny pulses with your legs, and pretty soon the ‘burn’ got to me and I wanted to scream as my legs shook like they were possessed.
I soon learned that Epsom salts were my best friend after a particularly tough class – I would take a bath in them once a week to ease my sore muscles.
5. But they got really strong
You do a lot of small movements in barre, so I thought my legs wouldn’t change. But these tiny, but effective movements really did make my legs feel a lot stronger, and it took me much longer to ‘burnout’ (collapse mid exercise because it hurts too much) as the weeks progressed. By week six, I didn’t even swear when we did what I called the ‘move of hell’ (when you bend your knees and try to slide them under the barre – trust me, it kills).
6. My arms changed too
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I was worried with such a focus on legs that my arms would just kind of, sit there while my bottom half did all the work. But at the beginning of all the classes we did lots of push ups, bicep curls, tricep dips and shoulder work with tiny weights, which definitely burned more than anything else! I went from just about managing bent-knee pushups to doing full ones by the end. The tricep dips never got easy – but they definitely made my arms look more defined.
7. My pain threshold got so much better
Because there’s so much holding your body into positions until you ‘feel the burn’ in barre, you have to get used to feeling kind of uncomfortable for a little bit. At first, I HATED that moment when my legs would shake and my muscles would feel like someone had literally struck a match on my thighs, but I kind of started to like it by the end and learned to tough it out.
8. And I had to adapt to keep progressing
I started off doing 3 classes a week, but quickly progressed to doing 4 Signature classes a week – then, when I felt like I was getting a bit too used to the intensity, I swapped in a few of Barrecore’s HIIT classes (which combined barre moves with HIIT training) and Sculpt classes (which use resistance bands for a deeper burn). Believe me when I say that resistance bands are the best thing EVER for building a booty – I never felt a burn like that before.
9. I didn’t lose much weight
I didn’t do barre to lose weight – it was to ease myself back into exercise, and I know the numbers on the scale rarely reflect how fit you are. But I wouldn’t say barre classes are the one for dropping a load of weight or burning lots of fat really quickly – unless you did loads of barre x HIIT classes which would definitely speed up your results.
Also I definitely didn’t eat like a ballerina – I did my six weeks just before Christmas and let’s just say I had a lot of cheese and wine and boozy truffles.
9. But I toned up
What barre classes are really good at is strengthening your muscles and toning your body in a more long-term way (more muscle = a faster metabolism!). My before and after pics weren’t hugely dramatic in difference, but I felt a bit more ‘cinched in’ and less bloated than before, and my legs definitely felt more muscular.
I’m wearing the same pants and sports bra in both pics, for reference.
What’s more, after stopping barre over Christmas, my body didn’t change dramatically – these were long lasting results.
10. And I finally got a bum!
Even when I did weight training at the gym, my bum was hardly what you’d call a ‘booty’, and after stopping exercise I’d lost a lot of muscle there. But after six weeks of barre and eating all the food in the lead up to Christmas, I finally had a bum of a girl who squats.
According to my husband it was higher, firmer and rounder – although I had to laugh when my normal knickers became wedgie tastic 24/7 and I nearly split my gym leggings. But take my word for it – the ‘seat exercises’ at Barrecore really work their magic.
11. I stopped dismissing ‘low impact’ classes – because I was pretty impressed with the results
Sometimes I didn’t even break a sweat in Barrecore (ideal if you run out of time to shower before work lol), but make no mistake, the classes weren’t easy. My Fitbit wasn’t off the chain with a high heart rate or the calories burned (unless I did a HIIT class), but this was deceptive – I could FEEL every movement, and knew it was making a difference to my body.
If you’re looking for a low impact fitness class that still packs a punch, I would definitely recommend barre. You don’t have to be a prima ballerina to take part; while my brother was an actual real life Billy Elliot who went to the Royal Ballet School, I was always the dunce of my ballet class – but I still picked everything up relatively quickly, and the vibe of the classes is super fun so it doesn’t matter if you aren’t the most graceful person at the barre.
The classes aren’t cheap – but the level of teaching in the classes is high and I felt like I was always being checked on to make sure my form was OK.
While I didn’t end up with the physique of a dancer, I was pretty pleased with the change to my body in just six weeks, with no nutrition plan or attention paid to what I ate. Plus barre allowed me to fall back in love with exercise, learn how to actually work my glutes properly – and appreciate that sometimes, small moves can be SUPER effective. And while the burn is hell at first – after a few classes, you’ll be begging for more.
Barrecore have studios across London, plus Alderly Edge, Bristol and Harrogate.
Try a sample Barrecore class yourself below.
Lauren Smith Head of Social Lauren Smith is Cosmopolitan UK’s Head of Social, and looks after the site’s social media accounts, as well as occasionally covering fitness, health, lifestyle, and travel on the site.
5 Reasons Why Barre Is Good for Your Body
When I tell people I’m a barre instructor, two-thirds of them don’t know what I’m talking about—or exactly what barre is. I tell them to imagine a class featuring a hybrid of ballet, yoga, Pilates, and some standard workout moves. Adding small, controlled movements, we use props like different stretchy bands, balls, and free weights, so you’re working your booty off (literally!).
You don’t have to be flexible, a dancer, or even have experience exercising to benefit from barre. If you put in the effort, listen to your instructor, and have fun, barre can transform your body so quickly you won’t even believe how incredible you feel within weeks!
Debating if barre should be your next sweat session? Or maybe you’re wondering if your first barre class was worth the burn? Here are five reasons why you should join in on the barre craze because it’s here to stay:
1. Rapid Strength Gain
Barre is designed to exhaust—then stretch—every muscle group. This combo is a highly effective, low impact way to increase your physical strength super fast. Tired of getting tired going up flights of stairs? Take some barre classes and kiss that goodbye. Keep in mind your body position is essential to working the right muscles, the right way. If your instructor says “Keep your knees in line with your toes” or “Pull your left hip back and right hip forward to square your hips,” DO IT. The results you’ll feel (and see) will be worth the effort.
Pro tip: Eat some protein and healthy carb combo (yes, both!) within a couple of hours after your class to fuel muscle recovery. That—along with some before-bed stretching—will help ease any soreness the next day.
2. Injury Rehab/ Prevention
With barre, you’re working all of your muscles, especially around your knees, ankles, hips, shoulders, and spine with no impact or shock to your joints (in exactly the right body position, amiright?). By doing that, you’re giving your body the strength it needs to support you. Strong joints are instrumental in keeping your body safe from things like, let’s say, tripping over a crack in the sidewalk, lifting heavy objects, and twisting your ankle on a dog toy in the dark. Also, as someone with herniated disk problems and knee injuries for the last 21 years, I can tell you that nothing at all, ever, has rehabilitated my broken body like barre. Strengthening the muscles around your injury (like I did) is essential to healing.
Pro Tip: Stretching the muscles around the joints is also necessary. Strong and flexible will keep you safe well into your “hip replacement years”…but without the hip replacement!
3. Improved Posture
Every movement in a barre class involves working your core. This includes your back! You know how ballerinas are known to have amazing posture? There’s a reason for this—and it’s because of the core + upper back + hip strength needed at all times. So when you’re in barre class being told things like “Pull your belly button toward your spine” and “Lift up out of your standing hip,” you’re setting yourself up to walk out of class taller and poised than you’ve ever been!
Pro Tip: Remind yourself to pull your shoulder blades together and down your back while lengthening through your neck, all day long. Do it while you walk, drive, sit at your desk, have drinks at happy hour (you get the point). Practicing good posture will prevent upper back and shoulder fatigue. Plus, you’ll also look and feel more poised and confident in the process. That’s a win-win!
4. Increased Flexibility
So, maybe one of your excuses for not taking a barre class is, “But I’m not flexible at all.” Barre is so much more about correct body positions and tiny movements than flexibility. That being said, how will you ever become more flexible if you don’t try? In class, you’ll stretch what you’ve strengthened, and that combo is going to loosen you up everywhere. You have to give it some effort as flexibility doesn’t happen overnight, but you’ll feel the difference as you become looser over time. Baby steps, my lovelies, and you’ll love the way you feel.
Pro Tip: Holding a stretch for more than 30 seconds while taking deep breaths is the beginning of genuinely increasing your flexibility. But holding a stretch for 60 seconds or more is how you permanently start to change your muscle fibers, making the lengthening and flexibility really, really real.
5. Focus and Meditation Enhancement
Speaking of breathing, this last part is probably the sneakiest (and maybe even the very best) part of busting your butt in barre. The breathing you do while working your muscles in class will not only support the effort you’re putting in, it’s also forcing you to focus your attention on the air coming in and out of your nose/mouth. A great instructor is going to talk you through this for the entire class—guiding you when and how to inhale and exhale. This is exactly what you do in mindfulness meditation to focus your attention inward.
Breathing exercises are also instrumental in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. When you are fully concentrating on your breath and the precise muscle movements, you’re focused on what you’re doing at that very moment during class. Bam! You just meditated for 60 whole minutes. Notice that when you walk out of your workout, your mindset will feel entirely different (and more positive) than when you came in. Thank yourself, because you did that.
Pro Tip: When you’re about to give up the current movement because your legs are shaking while simultaneously on fire, bring your attention to your breath. Focus. And I’ll bet you $50 you’ll make it to the end of the squat-pulse series that feels like it’s killing you.
So, go kick butt in barre (you can even book a class on MINDBODY.io)! Plus, you haven’t lived until your muscles are numb and trembling during a workout, and you haven’t lived until you’ve given yourself a strong, healthy body you feel great living in!
Here’s what you need to know about ‘barre’ — a low-impact workout inspired by ballerinas
- INSIDER asks experts if barre is an effective workout.
- Experts say that three-four barre classes per week are recommended for optimal results.
- If it works for you, experts say it can be a good workout for beginners.
Taking a barre class can certainly be intimidating. Between the small pulses, bends, squats and stands, accented with two or three-pound weights, there is a lot to keep track of.
But is a 50-minute workout routine combining “little bend, extends,” “tucks” and small pulses actually healthy? INSIDER asked the experts for guidance.
First off, what is barre?
You may have heard your friends talking about barre class or tucking grippy socks into their bags, but if you’ve never been to a barre class, it can be shrouded in mystery.
Of course, every barre class will be slightly different, but generally, barre class consists of small movements, done next to or on a ballet barre, as well as a mat. The movements are designed to target and strengthen areas of your body that other exercises may not necessarily do.
The barre workout targets major muscle groups using small movements. Lily Lawrence/Getty
By design, Barre Classes, “isolate, sculpt and strengthen every major muscle group in the body through small, low impact, targeted movements inspired by dance, yoga, and pilates,” explained Rachelle Reed, barre Kinesiologist with Pure Barre.
If you don’t normally separate your exercise routine into “arms days” and “legs days” and cardio days, this all-encompassing workout can be a major plus, and Reed, points out, you don’t actually need any dance or fitness experience to start a barre routine: All barre classes can be adapted to various fitness levels, ages and shapes. The goal being to “work toward achieving a toned, dancer-like physique through simple positioning and movements.”
It can help improve your flexibility. Lily Lawrence/Getty
Barre class can be a good option for beginners and is generally low-impact
Dr. Michael Smith told WebMD that because of the small movements, this type of workout can be a good option for those who are just starting to craft their workout routine.
“Barre fitness is ideal if you’re just getting into exercise,” Smith told WebMD. “The classes will improve your balance, build strength, make you more flexible, burn calories, and improve stability through a stronger core.”
Even if you struggle at first, it will get easier, Reed said.
“After each barre class, you’ll experience some acute health benefits of exercise, like improved feelings of energy, reduced blood pressure, increased joint mobility, and a clearer mind. After a couple months of regular attendance, you’ll start to notice some positive changes in your body, including improved muscular strength, better flexibility, weight management, reduced feelings of stress and anxiety, lower risk for chronic diseases, and improved sleep,” Reed said.
She notes some clients do barre up to six times per week, though three-four days in studio are recommended, with at least one rest day per week.
“Giving your body rest between strength training is important to allow for optimal muscle recovery,” Reed said. On off days, Reed suggests going for athletic walks or finding another way of moving for at least half an hour each day.
To avoid injury, Physical therapist Jennifer Monreal also recommends ensuring you have enough time to stretch, asking instructors to check your alignment, and, of course, knowing your limits and not pushing through too much pain. Those with specific injuries or joint problems should request modified routines.
Experts seem to agree barre is healthy (at least healthier than going to a bar)
Exercise is exercise. Lily Lawrence/Getty
Several personal trainers INSIDER asked about the health benefits of barre said it was healthy, though they noted that it was a “beginners” exercise class.
While there are certainly better workouts for some people, exercise and personal wellness is determined on a case by case basis. If it works for you, it works for you.
If barre is the only workout class that’s getting you to use your yoga pants for more than binge-watching, then yes, experts seem to agree that it’s healthy.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Why Barre Class Is So Good for Your Body
In ballet training, the barre is the horizontal handrail dancers grip while perfecting their technique. Barre-style workouts take those classic ballet warmup exercises and reimagine them for a much wider audience.
While it may seen like a recent phenomenon, barre strength and flexibility training have been in vogue since the times of Louis XVI, says Ginny Wilmerding, a research professor at the University of New Mexico. The modern-day version is primarily a leg-and-butt workout; from your ankles and calves up through your knees, hips and glutes, barre movements are all about improving range of motion, strength and flexibility in your lower half by forcing one of your legs to perform graceful and precise movements while the other supports and stabilizes you, she says.
The sales pitch for all of that excruciating precision is that if you want a dancer’s body, you should train like a dancer. “I mean, who doesn’t want to look like a prima ballerina?” says Michele Olson, a professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University, Montgomery. “You’re talking about nice, lean muscle tone and perfect posture.”
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But just as going to football practice won’t make you look like a linebacker, barre training is more likely to help you achieve a ballerina’s muscle endurance and balance than her body shape.
Those are valuable assets that do not come with every workout. Unlike muscle strength, endurance determines your muscle’s ability to work for long periods of time. (Strength may allow you to lift a weight, but muscle endurance dictates how many times you can lift it.) Barre is also effective at targeting the “support and steady” muscles that run close to your bones and tie into your core and spine—the ones most of us neglect when we spend a lot of time sitting or engaged in forward and backward activities like running, says Olson. “Real 360-degree balance involves a lot of those side-to-side muscles a lot of us don’t use much, and so they become weak,” she says.
MORE: Here Are the Health Benefits of Pilates
Barre is also low impact and has a built-in handhold, making it a relatively safe form of exercise. Especially for older people at risk for falls, barre may be a good way to improve stability and avoid accidents.
But the workout is not without risks, especially for the back and knees. One example: “Ballerinas are taught to tuck the pelvis so that the low back that normally curves inward loses its curve and looks straight,” Olson says. While dancers do that for their art, tucking the pelvis can lead to back pain and injuries for the average exerciser.
Most barre classes have abandoned that sort of strict pelvis-tucking, but Olson says some classes still include extreme plié knee bends that can increase a person’s risk for knee injury. Especially if you decide to go for a run right after your barre class, the “excessive” amount of pressure that some barre moves place on your knees could lead to sprains or strains.
MORE: 7 Surprising Benefits of Exercise
“There are some things dancers do that others have no need for,” says Wilmerding, who advises to take the training slowly and to focus on form, rather than trying to get an intense muscle or cardio workout from the practice. Like tai chi, “you’re working on stability and flexibility and strength, but you have this higher goal of control and aesthetics.”
Another point to keep in mind is that even though barre class brings a good core workout, you may be torching fewer calories than you think. One of the few published studies that has looked at barre’s cardiovascular and metabolic demands found that the activity—at least in its traditional form—doesn’t burn many calories and more closely resembles walking than running in terms of its intensity.
“Like any form of exercise, I think you need some variety,” Olson says. “Do it three to five days a week if you want to get the most out of it, but do something different with a cardiovascular component on the other days.”
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The Secret Sexual History of the Barre Workout
Here’s what I remember about my first barre class: The workout was so grueling it made my muscles twitch as I lay on my back, rhythmically thrusting my pelvis to a sensual cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” Beyond the thrusting itself, I was struck by the expressions of the spandex-clad women beside me, who seemed entirely unamused by the synchronized schwing we performed. All around me, everyone was taking their air-humping very, very seriously.
Barre, a fitness phenomenon based on stretches and strength-training exercises performed at a ballet barre, has exploded in recent years. The workout is as challenging as it is effective at sculpting women’s bodies — its enthusiasts are known for being physical overachievers who are already fit but nevertheless driven to chisel themselves to perfection.
It’s the “pretty girl” workout, a friend recently told me, with nearly every woman in class covered in Lululemon, no sweatpants in sight. But the moves of the workout itself belie this prim ethos. From the pelvic “tucking,” in which you roll your groin forward, to the seated ab work, where you sit with legs spread and bent, to the “knee dancing,” which is what it sounds like, the class can feel like an hour-long rehearsal for sex.
But barre classes rarely draw attention to the workout’s sexual undertones — or to the fact that its tucks and thrusts can, as many instructors will privately admit, bring very real improvements to women’s sex lives. Sex is altogether absent from the experience. “It’s kind of like this weird elephant in the room,” my friend M., a 20-something barre obsessive who lives in San Francisco, told me. “No one talks about it. But after you’ve done barre for like four days in a row, you’re not going to lie there like a dead fish during sex. You feel like a strong woman who’s like, rawwwr, you know?” Still, barre studios sell strength — or “long, lean muscles” and a “ballet body” — not stronger orgasms.
This lack of acknowledgment isn’t an oversight. When Burr Leonard, who founded the popular national barre studio Bar Method in 2001, trained to become a barre instructor in 1990, she says she was explicitly told not to call attention to the workout’s sexiness or sexual benefits. “It was kind of a finger to the lips” about sex, she told me in a phone interview. “It was yes, but you just don’t mention it.” And when I reached out to Pure Barre, the country’s largest barre franchise, for this article, its founder declined to speak with me after learning I wanted to talk about the connection between barre and sex. But why the reticence? Why not call a Kegel a Kegel?
It wasn’t always this way. The secret most barre studios don’t promote— and one many instructors don’t even know themselves — is that barre’s origins are deeply sexual. Barre’s creator, Lotte Berk, a free-love revolutionary who began teaching the regimen in 1959, specifically wanted to advance what she called “the state of sex” by encouraging women to pursue sex for their own pleasure. And in the post–sexual revolution 1970s, women’s magazines pitched the workout as a way for women to do just that — or as Cosmopolitan put it, to “build sexual confidence and competence.” What today has become a mass commercial fitness trend — a straitlaced subculture in which butts are called “seats” — was once a radical, decidedly erotic practice.
Lotte Berk. Photo: Courtesy of Esther Fairfax Family
Berk, a German-Jewish dancer who fled the Nazis for London after they forbade her from performing, originally invented the workout that would become “barre” to recover from a back injury. Over time, she found that her special combination of ballet moves, yoga, and rehabilitative exercises helped her not only to heal and hold onto her dancer’s figure, but also to get more pleasure from sex. And sex was important to her. As her daughter, Esther Fairfax, told me in a phone interview: “Sex came into everything she did. You know, you felt sex from her.” (In her 2010 memoir My Improper Mother and Me, Fairfax writes about Berk’s passionate, tumultuous, decades-long open marriage to her father and her many lovers. “She had such a natural instinct to flirt, to play the coquette … How quick she was to bed them. How quick she was to throw them out. She was a natural predator with a killer streak.”) After refining her workout, Berk opened a small basement studio on Manchester Street and soon attracted a celebrity clientele, from legendary Irish writer Edna O’Brien to Bond girl Britt Ekland.
From the start, Berk’s classes and her sex life were intertwined. She talked about her love affairs while she taught. She named her exercises “The Prostitute” and “Naughty Bottoms.” One move was simply called “The Sex.” Perhaps most famously, she is rumored to have told clients, “If you can’t tuck, you can’t fuck.” And her clients loved her for it.
This was nothing short of radical. In the 1960s, the modern fitness industry was still in its infancy and the few regimens that existed prioritized finding and pleasing a husband, explains historian Shelly McKenzie, author of the book Getting Physical: The Rise of Fitness Culture in America. Berk encouraged women to please themselves — an attitude that complemented and contributed to the brewing sexual revolution. “This was very, very different,” Fairfax, now 83 and living in Berkshire, England, told me of her mom’s studio, “It liberated women to show them, ‘I can be sexy as well. It’s not just the men that want sex.’”
Lotte Berk in her studio. Photo: Courtesy of Esther Fairfax Family
Then, about a decade after the studio first opened, a plucky Midwestern globetrotter named Lydia Bach found her way to Berk’s studio. Bach became hooked and saw the potential in bringing the workout to America. She bought the rights to franchise, and in 1971, opened the Lotte Berk Method studio on 67th Street and Madison Avenue in New York City. Her client list included a slate of the era’s stars — Love Story actress Ali MacGraw, Candice Bergen, and famed book editor Nan Talese.
In New York, Bach carried on Lotte’s legacy of sexual frankness into the workout. In a 1972 New York Times article about the studio, Bach described the method as “a combination of modern ballet, yoga, orthopedic exercise and sex.” In her 1973 exercise book Awake! Aware! Alive! — Bach devotes the entire last chapter to sex. “All of the exercises in this book are important for sex,” she advises. The press was all over this angle. In a feature on Bach’s book, Cosmopolitan gushed in the headline, “Exercise Your Way to a Better Sex Life!”
Cosmopolitan magazine feature on Lydia Bach’s book.
So what changed? Eventually, as the wider culture shifted, so did barre. From the mid-1970s into the ’80s, with the rise of women’s liberation, the idea that women enjoyed sex became less revelatory. For entrepreneurs, selling visible muscles and physical perfection became lucrative. Jane Fonda brought aerobics to the masses, and co-ed gyms became more popular. Americans started to view their bodies more like machines. “ did make women strong, very fast,” says Burr Leonard, who began taking classes at the studio in the early 1980s. And so the studio doubled down on that. In a blog post about barre’s history, Leonard explains, “By the ’80s the innocent idea that sex could be a path to freedom and enlightenment had run its course. Women had tasted strength and realized there was more to exercise than sex.”
Bach says that throughout the ’80s, the workout lost some of its sensual flavor and became more sleekly standardized. “It’s a business to a lot of people — it wasn’t a business to me,” she told me. In the decades that followed, she would help train nearly all of the women who’d go on to open today’s biggest barre franchises, from Exhale and Physique 57 to Pure Barre and Bar Method. By the time Burr Leonard became a certified instructor in 1990, barre had gone from subversive to staid.
Today’s barre enthusiasts, who range from college-aged to grandmothers and are willing to pay $20 to $40 per class, say they don’t always want to feel sexual while working out. “I know if, during training, I had been told to behave like a prostitute at any point, I would probably have never become an instructor,” one New York City barre teacher who has taught at two different studios told me. “I bristle at the idea that sex would be the end goal simply because I want to think of myself as more than a sexual being.” Burr Leonard agreed. “To make too much of the sexual aspect — frankly, it becomes boring,” she told me. “People want to go into class and they want to focus on form. I don’t think they want to really be told again and again how good it is for your sexual health.”
And of course, even without being an explicit sex-workout, you can still reap the sexual benefits of barre — from increased pelvic floor strength to increased stamina —even if no one’s talking about sex during class. “I think if we were all pelvic thrusting, holding onto the barre, and the instructor was like, ‘This will be so great when you’re having sex later!’ everyone would immediately get uncomfortable,” my friend M. told me. When Lotte Berk first introduced women to her workout in the ’60s, the class’s sexual openness felt thrilling, and empowering, because it was taboo. Now, more than 50 years after the sexual revolution, women seem to feel that turning a rigorous strength-training workout into something overtly sexual is gratuitous. “I want that hour to myself for my peace and my well-being and my mental health,” Leonard told me, echoing the feelings of other women I spoke with. “I think that’s what it does most powerfully.”
Still, at least one franchise owner is actively working to bring the sex back. Pop Physique founder Jennifer Williams told me she laments that barre studios today feel “beige.” She wants her studios, based mostly in Los Angeles and New York, to feel more electric. Unlike other franchise owners, she makes a point of teaching her instructors about barre’s sexed-up history. Indeed, Pop Physique’s first ad campaign was inspired by the photos in Awake! Aware! Alive!, and the brand’s website is the only one to directly promote barre’s sexual benefits. “A hotter sex life …” the site coyly promises. “Well, that’s what we’ve heard.”