In recent years, a lot of people have been hitting up barre workouts. Sure, the fitness modality gets you to channel your inner ballerina, but the benefits of barre class prove that it’s not just fun — it’s a really solid workout. Whether you take a virtual session at home or suit up in your fave leggings to attend one IRL, you’re pretty much guaranteed to strengthen a bunch of muscles as you work up a good sweat.
Barre refers to the ballet barre that ballerinas use to warm up on before diving into their complicated dance moves, explains personal trainer Heather Carroll, who teaches both barre and ballet. The thing is, while barre borrows foot positions and leg and arm movements from ballet, a barre class doesn’t require you to actually dance. And you don’t have to have tons of flexibility to give it a try, either.
Instead of pirouettes and professional-looking leaps, barre workouts feature total-body strengthening exercises that target your core, arms, legs, and, of course, your butt — all of which you do while standing still. It also incorporates moves that help improve your posture and bodily awareness — all matched to fun music — for a workout that’s truly unique. A few classes (and a few indulgent purchases of those super-cute barre socks) later, and you'll be hooked. Here, fitness experts explain all the benefits you’ll experience when you add barre-inspired moves to your workout routine.
1. It Targets Every Muscle Group
Barre works every single muscle group in your body, Carroll says, for a workout that’ll leave you feeling sore — in a good way. The class uses your own body weight and small, isometric movements to target the deeper muscles of the body that are often ignored. Your instructor might also incorporate light hand weights to take the difficulty up a notch, or a small workout ball to squeeze between your thighs to work muscles even more.
2. It’s Great For Your Legs
While barre hits all your muscles, there’s a particular focus on your legs. “[As] you work through every plié, you stretch your hamstrings, your glutes, your quadriceps, your calves, the inner thighs, and the outer thighs,” Carroll says. Basically, get ready to feel it the next day up and down your legs.
3. It Improves Your Posture
If you’re looking to fix poor posture or do something about your forward head position barre is a good bet. Barre zeros in on proper alignment, and an instructor might even point out if you need to stand up a little straighter. There’s the benefit of stronger muscles that support proper posture, too. “Taking a barre class regularly can help to open up the chest so you can stay lifted through the front of your body while using the backside of your body for stability,” Carroll explains.
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 improve your body’s capabilities. Classes focus on being both flexible and strong, rather than just pumping iron or doing a million push-ups, so there’s a large emphasis on lengthening the muscles.
5. 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, but it also helps your muscles to work correctly.
6. It's Low-Impact
A good barre class will have you bending and stretching in new ways, but you won't’ leave feeling like you might’ve hurt yourself. 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 you aren’t as likely to get injured and have to sit out of your routine as you wait to heal. 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 they can provide you with move adjustments.
8. It Improves Your Balance
Barre zeros in on all the little muscle groups your body uses for support. It also incorporates a lot of one-legged and pointed toe moves, like relevé, which help improve your balance over time, Carroll says. She recommends taking two to three barre classes a week if you really want to notice a major difference in muscle strength and overall balance.
9. It Improves Your Body Awareness
Ever wonder why ballerinas seem to move with more grace and poise than the rest of us? It’s because barre encourages you to become more aware of your body’s alignment and the way it moves. You learn how to properly move through your body’s full range of motion, strengthening muscles as you go. As Carroll says, “It gives you wonderful control over the ankles and feet, too.”
10. It Counts As Cardio
While there are lots of slow, isolated movements in barre class, it totally counts as a cardio workout. According to Carroll, your heart rate will increase as you do quick footwork, like moving from a second position plié back into first position. (Don’t worry, your instructor will show you how!) There are lots of repetitions of movements and big kicks, too, that are guaranteed to make you sweat.
11. It’s A Good Time
Barre class definitely isn’t as serious or complex as it might sound. Thanks to cheerful instructors, bumping playlists, and endorphin-pumping movements, you’ll definitely have a good time as you plié — no leotard necessary.
Weighart, H. 2020. Insights on Ten Weeks of Classical Ballet Training and Postural Stability in Older Adults. International journal of exercise science, 13(1), 101–112.
Heather Carroll, personal trainer
This article was originally published on