If you haven’t tried barre yet, you are MISSING OUT! Barre studios are popping up everywhere, and for good reason.
Barre workouts target multiple muscle groups with small, isometric exercises. What does this mean? Building lean muscle with tiny incremented movements. Literally pulsing, squeezing, and tucking just a few INCHES will leave you shaking like jello, while toning your entire body. No wonder people are addicted to barre!
However, for beginners, barre can be intimidating. I’m here to debunk the stereotype that barre classes are only for dancers. Wrong wrong wrong! Barre is for every age, every background, and every level of fitness. What I love about barre is that it’s easy on your joints and is totally customizable to make it as hard (or easy) as you want it to be.
The key to a getting great results through barre workouts is to have the right form. As a barre instructor, it is imperative I correct my students’ form in order to target the right muscle groups and avoid injury. Here is a look at correct and incorrect positions and a short ‘trial barre’ workout for beginners, giving you a small glimpse of what you can expect at a barre class.
Here is a Barre 101 for beginners guide to help you barre like a pro!
When performing this thigh sequence at the bar, stand a half arms-distance away and high on the balls of your feet in a position called relevé. Then bend your knees to sink down into a seated position. Make sure your hips are stacked directly under your shoulders and your back is straight. You should not hunch forward toward the bar or lean back. Your hands should gently hold the bar, only helping to maintain your balance.
Another barre position is a chair sit with wide grip. Hold the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width and sink down as if you are sitting on a chair. Be careful not to lean back or jet your knees in front of your ankles. Notice the angle of my back in the second photo – this is correct.
The only time you will lean back in barre is if the instructor specifically asks you do to so, usually when you are in a position where your feet are directly under the bar and your hips are tucked up towards the sky, creating a diagonal with your body. That position may be referred to as a ‘water-ski’ position.
A term you may hear in a barre class is to “tuck your seat”. Tucking your seat is when you roll your hips forward, almost as if you are trying to tuck your pubic bone into your belly botton. When you bring your leg up and behind you to begin a seat/glute sequence, make sure you tuck your seat to eliminate any sway in your lower back. This position will help you target your hamstrings and your tush. It’s ok if you cannot get your leg up very high – tucking your seat to get a nice, straight back is key.
You may be asked to execute pushups at the bar. It is important to make sure you stand an arms-distance away from the bar and tuck your seat, making sure your body forms a straight line, like the third photo here.
While performing abdominal excerises during a barre class, be sure to keep your lower back cinched to the floor or mat. This is especially important when doing any ab work where your legs are off the mat. If your lower back starts to lift off the mat, bring your legs in – closer to your body.
Positions of the Feet
You don’t have to be a prior ballerina to master the positions of the feet during a barre class. The two most common positions are: First Position – heels together and toes apart, and Wide Second Position – feet wider than shoulder-width, toes and knees out to the side and heels in.
Beginner Barre Workout: Thighs
Do the two thigh sequences below and repeat three times.
Start a half arms-distance away from the bar or the back of a sturdy chair. Relevé high onto the balls of your feet and sink down into your lowest seated position. Then, gently pulse down an inch or two, and then pulse back up. Small, incremented movements. Repeat the pulse 20 times.
Stay in the same position as above and drop your seat to the lowest position you can hold. Then tuck your hips forward, squeezing your tush, then return back to neutral. Do this 20 times.
Beginner Barre Workout: Seat/Tush/Buns
Do all three seat sequences below with one leg before switching to the other leg.
Stand an arms-distance away from the bar or chair, roll up on the ball of your foot in relevé. Tuck your seat and lift your right leg off the ground, keep your hips squared to the bar or back of the chair. Pulse your right leg up 1-2 inches, then back down, keeping your knee straight the entire time. Really focus on keeping your seat tucked underneath you and squeezing your glute (butt cheek) on the way up. Do this 20 times.
Next, stay in relevé and keep your leg at the highest position you can, without arching your lower back. Slightly bend your knee just an inch or two, then flex your thigh (tighten all muscles) and straighten your leg as you stretch it long. Repeat this 20 times.
Last, bend your knee and draw your heel towards your seat, being mindful not to arch your lower back in an attempt to get your heel higher. You should still be in relevé (high on the ball of your left foot) and gently ‘kick’ your right heel towards your seat. This should be a very small, controlled movement. Repeat the kick in towards your seat and back out 20 times.
Just like any specific workout genre, taking a class from a trained professional will truly give you the best instruction on correct form, and the most accurate introduction to the world of barre.
Interested in trying barre and taking a class taught by me? Check out CarmelBarre for more info!
Have you tried barre yet? What did you like or dislike about it?
Alanna @ Alanna & Company says
This definitely would have helped if I saw this before my first barre class! I went to a small studio and I don’t think the instructor was truly prepared to be teaching a beginners class. I went to another studio later and the instructor was great at giving small adjustments like the ones you’re showing here!
Oh girl I know! Actually the very first barre class I ever took was like, “Umm what is the hype all about?”. I was underwhelmed because I wasn’t doing it right. But once you master the correct form, it’s a killer workout! The studio I work at now is great at correcting form. Glad you tried another studio that gave you the right adjustments!
Jess @hellotofit says
Great tips! Love how you included both correct and incorrect form photos.
Thanks Jess! xo
I am very interested in barre; my girlfriend goes to weekly classes. Proper form is so important, and your pictures really help. This might sound stupid, but is there a way to do this at home if you don’t have a barre?
Not stupid at all Linsday! YES definitely. Just grab a sturdy chair and use the top of the back part for your ‘bar’. I hope you give barre a whirl and find a great studio. Thanks!
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
Great tips! I’ve done Barre3 and Pure Barre before (just not my kinda workout)!
Thanks Rebecca. There are so many great varieties of barre, but I think ultimately finding a GREAT studio will really make or break your experience!
I love barre! They just started offering this locally and I’m ecstatic and very very sore, great workout!
That’s awesome! You will love it Jackie. Thanks for stopping by! xo
I had to click this post when I saw the title in my BlogLovin feed! We don’t have a PureBarre nearby, but my parents have one down the road from their house. I’m going to stay with them for five weeks in a couple months and was considering signing up for a month’s membership! I’ll be five months pregnant and that Barre would be a great low-impact workout!
YAY! So glad you did Erica 🙂 I hope you give it a whirl – maybe the studio by your parents’ house will offer a deal for a new student membership? It is a great workout for prego momma’s too. I have a few students that have ‘lil buns in the oven. Thanks for checking this out!
These are great tips! I have always wanted to try a barre class but I haven’t been able to find one where I live yet!
Oh I so hope you get a studio near you soon Emily. I love barre (obviously). Hopefully this at-home version will suffice for you until you can try an actual class.
Alisa @ Go Dairy Free says
What a fabulous guide Chrissa! And your photos are so helpful in this. They actually put a barre in our building just recently, I may have to try!
Thank you Alisa. Oh my gosh, YES! GO! Every workout is worth a try, right? Plus it’s right there. That’s so awesome.
I love Barre. Its such a great workout. I haven’t been in a little bit so this post is great for a little at home prep before returning to the studio. Thanks!
Glad you agree January! Seriously, SUCH a great workout. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy this ‘refresher’ workout.
Paige @ An Uncomplicated Life Blog says
Great tips! I’m a barre pro and a yoga instructor – I can’t tell you how important proper form is! Actually, it’s important for all exercise, but when you’re doing high repeats of small movements, if you don’t get it right, you don’t target the right muscles. And look at you, with your long lean muscles! Looking good, girl.
Fellow barre instructor! YAY! (fist pump). Totally agree Paige. Form is so so important. A whole workout can potentially be a bust if you aren’t targeting the right muscles. Thank you so much for the sweet compliment! xo
I absolutely love barre! In fact I’m headed to a workout at Pure Barre right now. 🙂 I agree that form is key, and one of the reasons I love barre workouts so much is that they are sticklers about form. I have never had any sort of pain or injury once (despite sore muscles) during years of barre workouts.
LOVE IT Alyssa! Your comment makes my little barre-loving heart sing!!!
Heather with WELLFITandFED says
Your pictures are super helpful and by the way, you look amazeballs. I really love the layout of the post too! You are doing really good work here Chrissa.
Heather with WELLFITandFED says
Totes forgot to mention I have never done bar and you have inspired me! Thank you.
Awwww Heather! That makes me so happy! I hope you have an amazing experience at your first barre class. Please reach out to me if you have any questions!
I’m so glad I’ve come across this! I’ve been looking at some barre classes here in LA that look super fun. I’ll take these proper form tips with me when I go!
Stephanie – The Tangerine Desert
I’m so glad Stephanie. You should definitely try barre – hopefully some the studios near you offer a free first class or locals deal. Thanks for checking this out!
Jessica @ Nutritioulicious says
The photos are great – so helpful for seeing what the correct positioning should be. And love the exercises too. I need to find time to get to a barre class!
Thanks Jessica. Of course positioning is important with any fitness class or routine but in barre it’s super duper important since so many of the movements are so small and targeted! I hope you are able to carve out some time to get to a barre studio!
How fun! I’ve been wanting to try a barre class. I’ve heard such great things about the results, plus that it’s fun! This is such a cool post – love that you show how to do it all properly.
Barre is totally the most amazing workout (but of course I am a ‘lil biased). I so so hope you can take a class Jenn!
Chrisy @ Homemade Hooplah says
This is all new to me, but I’m seriously interested – it looks low impact and very focused, both of which are qualities I can never seem to find in most workout plans. You did a wonderful job with the pictures – left to my own devices, I would totally be doing every pose incorrect, so it’s nice to have a thorough guide. I’m looking forward to trying Barre this week 😀
Chrisy I am so happy this post resonated with you! Seriously, my entire goal was to showcase barre and what a great workout it is for everyone. Please keep me posted if you were able to take a barre class and let me know if you have any questions. You may be VERY sore after your first class, so hydrate a ton! Thank you for stopping by!
Christine @ Love, Life, Surf says
This is such a great post! I love all the correct and incorrect photos – super helpful! I’ve only taken a handful of barre classes and they always leave me with the shakes! Definitely on my list to take more.
Thank you Christine! We always encourage the shaking in class. Gotta love the jello legs!
Thanks for the pictures!! I have always wanted to try Barre!!
You are welcome Brittany. Definitely go out and try it. It’s like nothing you’ve probably ever done before!
Blair @ The Seasoned Mom says
Pinned! I’ve been so curious about Barre since I’ve heard a lot about it recently. Thanks for the info and the workout! 🙂
Thanks Blair! I hope you have the opportunity to take a barre class from a great studio. You might be addicted! Just a forewarning 😉
Rebecca Renfrow says
I have heard so many amazing things about Barre. But we don’t have a studio in my area just yet. I bet it will come soon though. Now I am definitely excited to try it out. Thanks for sharing this!
Oh I so hope a studio comes to you soon Rebecca. It really is a great workout and it flies by. Thank YOU for stopping by!
Paige @ Your Trainer Paige says
I’ve never been to a Barre class, but these seem like great tips!
I hope this post inspires you to try a barre class Paige! Thanks for stopping by.
Love this post and love having you teach at Carmel Barre! 🙂
I’m actually about to teach the 6am now!!! ????
Love you girl! xo
As an iron pumper I cant imagine doing any workout WITHOUT my beloved weights, but I can only imagine how much this would burnnnn the calves! I mean sheesh, Im cramping just looking at these pictures! Ive heard nothing but fantastic things about these workouts too, so I know that they are tough and effective. Great job at showing the correct form too – thats such an important part of ANY workout!
Well good news Kat, you actually do arm circuits with hand weights during barre class (just not at the barre). WIN/WIN! I have so many cross-fitters and spin-addicts and marathon maniacs come to my class and are amazed at how much they are shaking during the class and sore the next day. I hope you are able to try it out for yourself!
Alexandra @ My Urban Family says
I haven’t taken many fitness classes, but I’ve heard so many good things about barre! Thanks for the introduction – it always helps to see photos to know what type of workout it is!
You’ve probably heard good things for a good reason Alexandra! 🙂 Barre is for every level of fitness, so give it a whirl! I hope you love it as much as I do!
This looks like so much fun! I’ve always wanted to try barre class but haven’t gotten around to it… now I can try it at home 🙂 🙂
So glad it’s helpful for you Sagan! Definitely try this ‘lil trial workout. There are so so so many move moves at a barre class in studio so if you like doing the trial, you will love an actual class!
Joscelyn | Wifemamafoodie says
I keep hearing about this workout and I must admit, it has both intrigued and intimidated me! Isometric exercises aren’t typically my favorite, but I know they’re very effective. I love how you included photos for both the incorrect and correct body positions, as I’m sure they’re very easy to do wrong. I’m going to check my gym to see if they are offering these classes yet so I can try it out! I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂
I feel like you nailed the hammer on the head with most perceptions of barre – intriguing and intimating! Good barre studios will make you feel welcomed, have a great (motivational) playlist, and have smooth transitions to take your focus off the burn and push you to do the best you can. Please do let me know how it goes if you are able to take a class! Thanks Joscelyn.
I am SO glad I read this post before purchasing a package for some barre studio classes!! I can get my poses right before going. I’ve heard such great things about barre workouts and you look amazing!!
Oh I am so glad you found this too Evi! Keep me posted if you have any questions when you check out your first class. I’m more than happy to help!!
Ashley @ Fit Mitten Kitchen says
Wow great post Chrissa! I have not taken barre (surprisingly enough since I grew up dancing) but it is definitely something I would try in order to change it up! I don’t think we have many classes nearby though.
Oh Ashley! If you grew up dancing you HAVE to try barre! You will be great at it! I love my traditional HIIT workouts and running, but barre gives me that extra workout that really help tone and sculpt. I hope you are able to find a class or studio near you to give it a whirl!
Barr classes are no joke! They really isolate your muscles and is a great workout!
So true Kate! They look like such easy moves, but looks can be deceiving! Thanks 🙂
This is fantastic. Thank you for sharing! I have been invited to try a local barre class and I was so nervous. 🙂
You should totally go Rachel! Don’t be nervous – the instructors should give you guidance and help you with transitions. I hope you love barre!
Lyn @MidMichiganMom says
I have never attempted barre and I see myself doing all of your “Incorrect” forms. Thank you for showing the correct form and for motivating me to give it a try sometime. Thank you for linking up with us at Welcome Home Wednesday!
My pleasure Lyn! I’m so happy to hear this motivates you to give barre a try. It’s a really amazing workout for any level, any experience level!
Natalie @ Obsessive Cooking Disorder says
what a wonderful and informative post! I like the photos – makes it easy for a newbie to understand 🙂 Thanks so much!!
So glad this is helpful for you Natalie. I figured photos were sort of imperative for a post like this!
Jill @ RunEatSnap says
I just went to my first barre class last weekend for a Minneapolis blogging get together. It was definitely not what I’m used to for a workout but I enjoyed it and felt the burn!
Minneapolis?! I used to live there! Such a fun city. Where did you take the class? I am looking for a studio when I go back there over the holidays!