The Basics Of Barre for Beginners

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Sweaty-face selfies slapped straight to my socials have become my personal brand.  If you follow me on Instagram or Strava, then you will already know that lockdown has turned me into a home workout fanatic. I’ve tackled HIIT pyramids and athletic pilates, tried rocket yoga and twerking-based dance classes.  While I can describe most as being a ‘flash in the pan fad’, one class that has stuck with me from the premature days of lockdown to today is Barre.

What is barre?

Essentially, barre is a spruced up, shiny 2020 version of legs, bums and tums.  It’s a low-intensity workout, focusing on isometric movements which are predominantly preformed at a ballet bar. The aim is to sculpt, tone and lengthen muscles while improving your posture and balance.  You are guaranteed to get a sweat on as you are urged by enthusiastic instructors to raise your heels, sink one inch lower and watch your limbs shake.  

The aim of the game is to work muscles with other muscles.  This is achieved with dynamic, combination movements such as pairing side lunges with cactus arms and squatting at the barre while performing forearm extensions.  This ballet/Pilates hybrid might sound difficult to master, but it is relatively easy to follow.  

What does barre actually do?

Barre BURNS.  Because you are honing in on tiny movements, such as pulses and holds, your body is going to often seriously shake.  This is a good thing however!  The signature barre moves quickly tone muscles thus making them leaner and longer.  You can expect to be a bit more flexible and build on your core strength with regular practice.  Working on a ballet bar also boosts your ability to balance and also straightens out your posture.  Barre can be a total-body workout and can really raise your fitness levels.  

What equipment do I need?

You don’t need a fancy ballet bar or a wardrobe stuffed with Lululemon to become a barre expert.  Simply get yourself an exercise matt (I use this one), some tins from your cupboard to acts as weights and and a chair/counter top to be your barre.  Some classes use other props, such as yoga blocks, resistance bands and balls.  If you have these things then great – but books, tights and shower towels work just as well.  Get creative – adapt your workout.

When will I see results?

Experts say 3-4 classes per week will have you seeing results in roughly 6-10 weeks.  Barre isn’t about losing weight – it is about toning your muscles and increasing your strength.  So, expect to see a higher butt, a chiseled calf and a defined tricep.  It is important not to plateau however – if barre becomes ‘easy’ you won’t see changes.  Switch up your weights, advance from entry barre classes to Intermediate, go for the advanced modifications and try new instructors.  Keep your journey and your interest in barre alive and your body will thank you for it!  

Where can I practice barre right now?

At the moment, our gyms and workout spaces are still closed.  That means you will probably be getting your daily dosage of barre virtually.  Over the past few months, I have tried and tested a lot of virtual classes from a lot of trainers across the UK.  Below are some of my favourites.  Some are on a paid basis others are free:

Ellya Sam (@Ellyasam)

Ellya is the Head of Barre at Blok London and has ran classes via IG throughout lockdown.  Her infectious energy is mind-blowing and her barre sequences are challenging enough for both intermediates and beginners.  Expect to sweat and shake your way through her compact 45 minute workouts.  You can book and pre-pay for a class via Instabook with Ellya here.  

Psychle London (@Psychlelondon)

And on the seventh day, Psychle created barre.  Ditch the gentle stretch before hunching over your desk and get the party started with Psychle’s signature 7:30am classes. Maria Eleftheriou’s (@maria_eleftheriou_ldn) 90 minute Saturday barre blitz is not fo the faint hearted, while Rod’s (@bodbyrodpt) 45 minute bonanza will leave you sweating in places you never thought you could.  Join in live classes everyday via Instagram Live.  You can sign up to Psychle’s newsletter here to get a weekly schedule sent to your email.  


Carly Bateman (@bodybybates_)

Floor barre Friday is fast becoming a religion, thanks to Carly’s barre classes.  Switching out Blok Manchester for IG Lives and now Zoom, Carly’s classes are all about elevating that heart rate, strengthening your limbs and feeling that shake deep in your core.  Her classes are great for beginners while still packing a serious punch for more seasoned movers.  Be prepared to suffer with jelly legs.  No pain, no gain.  You can book and pre-pay for a class via Instabook with Carly here.


Virgin Active Coach (@virginactiveuk)

Did you know that Virgin Active are offering all of their current members an online hub of workouts?  It’s called Virgin Active Coach.  The doors may be closed but the VA spirit lives on.  Nestled in between Grid Workouts and Boxing are quick 20 minute barre classes, focusing on upper and lower body as well as core.  These are great to use in combinations – mesh two or three classes together to create the ultimate barre workout!  Note: Virgin Active UK Coach is only available in the UK, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia and you must be a member.  Sign up here. 

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