Bar exercises are one of the hottest fitness trends around. But they are hardly new. These low-impact, total-body workouts were developed more than 70 years ago by ballet dancer Lotte Burke to rehabilitate her injured back. And they are still going strong today.
Why are bars all the rage? “Barre workouts are great for anyone at any point in their fitness journey,” says Andrea Fornarola, founder and CEO of Elements Barre Fit in New York City and Hampton, NY. Based on a combination of yoga, Pilates, strength training, and (of course) ballet, the bar has multiple facilities. In addition to better strength, flexibility, balance and body alignment, fans swear by its ability to sculpt longer, leaner and more defined muscles. And because it’s easy on the joints, it can also be suitable for those recovering from injury or surgery, or those who are pregnant (with a doctor’s permission).
What is a barre workout like? Think of lots of reps of short isometric movements that work the muscles to fatigue. And you don’t have to be a dancer or have a ballet bar to do it. “Barre workouts at home are great!” Fornarola said. “They require minimal equipment, often all you need is a mat and a resistance band to get a highly effective workout.” But apart from these, all you need is the back of a chair for some support.
If you’re interested, this 5-step workout can get you started—no equipment required.
Comprehensive second position. Do you wish you had the glutes and thighs of a dancer? These basic ballet steps can help.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Then, pivot your feet so that your toes point slightly outward. Slowly lower your body into a squat position, keeping your back straight and contracting your core muscles. Pulse up and down slowly 20 to 30 times.
Dance back. You may be surprised to learn that some barre moves happen on the mat. Like this floor-based exercise, which works the core, glutes, hips and thighs.
Lie on a mat or floor with your arms at your sides. Bend your knees and separate your feet so that they are hip distance apart. Keeping your upper back on the ground, lift your hips slightly off the floor, about 2 inches. Squeeze your glutes together while contracting your stomach, then release. Repeat for 30 repetitions.
Highlighted above. Barre push-ups are a great way to work your back, chest and shoulders. But when you do a barre, the floor is equally effective.
Start in a high plank position with your hands under your shoulders, your feet hip-distance apart and your back flat. Keeping your abs contracted, slowly bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor. Then, using your arms, push your body into a plank position. If that’s too challenging, try a modified push-up instead. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Narrow v. This multitasking exercise works the inner and outer thighs in just one move.
Stand with your feet together. While keeping your heels together, slowly turn your toes outward so that your feet form a V-shape that is about 4-inches wide. Bend your knees slightly and raise your heels about an inch off the ground. Aim to keep your weight on the balls of your feet. Then, place one hand on the back of the chair. Inhale, sink down, squeeze your heels together, and pulse 15 to 30 times.
Clamshells. If sculpting inner and outer thighs is a goal, clamshells are your friend.
Lie on your right side with your legs stacked and your knees bent at a right angle. Rest your head on your right hand. Then place your left hand flat on the ground in front of your waist for support. Keeping your feet and your right hip together on the mat, contract your abs and lift your left knee up. Squeeze your glutes and lower your knees. Repeat 15 to 30 times. Then move to the other side. (If you want to kick things up a notch, repeat the exercise but instead of lowering your knee, move it up.)
How does a home workout compare to a class? “While nothing replaces the energy of a live class, barre workouts at home are a great way to get a taste of the workout and speed of the class before heading to the studio,” says Fornarola. So, grab a chair and get started!
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, changing your sleeping habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.