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Barre Basics

Gain lean muscle and burn calories with a barre workout.

You've seen the ballerinas lined up against the wall doing plies while holding a barre. This barre, or handrail at waist level, has now become the focus of a workout program known as barre fitness. While some ballet moves are used, dance skills aren't required. Barre classes provide a low-impact workout that combines elements of dance, yoga, Pilates, and functional training, all choreographed to music. Along with the barre, hand weights and mini-balls may be used to provide a workout that's proven to build muscle and shed pounds.

Here are six reasons why you should give barre a try.

Open to Any Fitness Level

You don't have to be the size of a ballerina to take a barre class. People of all sizes, ages, and fitness levels can benefit from such a workout. The only requirement is that you can hold onto a barre.

If you're new to barre, don't sweat it. The instructor guides the class through various movements, giving instructions as you go. To make it even easier to learn, you can modify each exercise to fit your own fitness level while challenging yourself. With barre fitness, you don't need to worry about what the person next to you is doing. Rather, the focus is on improving your own performance.

While many barre classes are made up mostly of women, some classes will also accept men. Call ahead to find out.

Provides a Total Body Workout

Get into a barre class and you’ll soon see that it’s not like walking or cycling, which primarily works only the legs. With barre, you can tone your legs, arms, glutes, and abs in a short amount of time. Through the use of body-weight and free-weight exercises, you'll feel that every muscle in your body was stretched and strengthened, from your head all the way to your toes. Beginners will likely feel sore, but don't give up. You'll feel less sore as you go.

Easy on the Joints

Barre classes focus on small isometric contractions (muscles contract in controlled movements but there's no movement at the joint), so there's little impact on your joints. Those with arthritis or knee pain find barre to offer a gentle, joint-friendly workout with little risk for injury.

An Enjoyable Time

Do you have fun getting your exercise? You can when you take a Barre class. The upbeat music, motivating instructors, fast pace, and constantly changing exercises make the workout go by fast. Attend a class with a friend and make it even more enjoyable.

Increases Flexibility

One of the main benefits of barre exercise is improved range of motion, which is accomplished through a variety of stretches. Increased flexibility reduces your risk for injury, provides greater endurance for everyday activities, improves posture, and enhances performance in other sports.

See Results

Proponents of barre exercises claim they’re some of the most effective ways to slim down and tone up when done several times a week and in addition to a healthy diet. Many of the exercises combine both cardio and strength training while working the body's large muscles (the thighs and glutes). Since anything that targets large muscles burns more calories, stepping up to the barre reaps big benefits. Also, as you build muscle, your resting metabolic rate increases so you'll burn more calories throughout the day.

After a few weeks, you'll notice the scale going down, your thighs thinning, your arms toning, your posture straightening, and your abs flattening. Who wouldn't want to see results like these? Check with your community gym for barre class offerings and sign up.