Unlike some fitness fads that fizzled out soon after their brief moment of popularity, barre classes have maintained a steady audience. Aficionados would say the success is due to the fact that the classes work. These full-body sculpting and cardiovascular classes burn fat and build lean, ballerina-like muscles–which is great, if you have access to them.
If your budget doesn’t allow or you don’t live near a studio offering barre classes, you can still do the workout at home. You will need specialty barre fitness DVDs or the patience to weed through YouTube in order to find a virtual instructor. And then you’ll need the props.
Most barre classes incorporate women’s fitness props into the workout to help target all the major muscle groups in a single class. In addition to a ballet barre (or a chair, stool, or even a wall), you’ll also likely need a soft ball, light weights, and a strap.
Barre classes have a reputation for seriously blasting the booty, but you’ll get a respectable upper body workout in, too. You’ll need light weights between two to five pounds depending on your strength. Doesn’t sound very heavy, but after 100 reps targeting the shoulders, biceps, and back muscles, you’ll see why that’s plenty heavy. This series helps to sculpt those “Kelly Ripa arms” as well as enhance your postural muscles. Some DVDs mix light weights into the core-strengthening segments, adding resistance to oblique twists, for example.
Small exercise ball
Technically, you can get an intense session without the small ball, but you’ll take your dance fitness class to a whole new level with it. When used in barre, the small ball often is placed between the ankles, knees, or inner thighs. This gives you an intense seat and thigh workout while you perform what seems a bazillion plies, squats, and pulses. Those elusive muscles deep in your glutes that you never seem to be able to tone suddenly make their grand entrance when you do standing single leg work with the ball artfully placed behind the knee. If there’s a place on your body to put that ball, those instructors will find it and make you work there.
The ball also goes with you to the floor, providing support for abdominal work. It helps you work the deep core muscles by either stabilizing some muscles or providing challenge for others.
You’ll often hear some variation on “strengthen then lengthen” in most of the videos. The idea is to tone your muscles, then stretch them to keep them from getting too bulky. The fabric strap works to assist your stretches during the cool down series. Stretch your hamstrings or put it behind your back and lengthen out the triceps. There are a myriad of ways to calm your mind and your body with the help of the strap after a rigorous workout.
Some DVDs or videos will incorporate yoga blocks or folded towels, but these three are the most common props you’ll need to perform a basic barre fitness class. Good luck!
Related post: “Better Bodies With the Barre Method“