Are Barre Workouts Really Effective?

Get the Scoop on the Benefits of Barre Workouts

a line of exercisers doing a barre workout plié squat

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The long, lean lines of the ballerina are the envy—and fitness goal—of many. Happily, achieving the strength and grace of a dancer's body is getting more accessible via modified spins on dancer workouts. This trend has spurred a host of barre fitness regimens, which are popping up in studios and online classes worldwide. But are the booming workouts like Bar Method, Barre3, and Pure Barre effective? 

The answer isn't as simple as "yes" or "no." It really comes down to the specific results you're looking for. While barre workouts are much more challenging than they might appear and are great for toning and building core strength, they're not necessarily a one-stop-shop for all your fitness needs. Cardio and weight loss goals may be less well-served by these classes.

Before you invest in a barre studio membership, consider what benefits the classes offer, what they sometimes lack, and how those features fit into your fitness goals. 

What Is Barre? 

Barre workouts are intensely focused on improving core strength, developing the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder and hip girdles, and enhancing flexibility. They can also help improve alignment and posture. This is done mostly by performing isometric exercises and small movements that work muscles at a specific joint angle within a given range of motion. Essentially, these classes focus on strengthening and tightening the hips, glutes, thighs, and core—while improving posture, which can result in greater confidence and the appearance of a longer, leaner physique.

The truth is, barre workouts are hard. The challenge is largely due to the fact that they target muscles in specific ways that aren't necessarily used in everyday movement. Rather than moving steadily through a full range of motion, as you would when performing a standard squat or lunge, you might squat down to a specific level, and hold the position, then begin moving just one inch up and down to further stress the muscles at that specific joint angle. Then, you might change your position very slightly and do it again. This is incredibly difficult. For the uninitiated, your legs may shake, you may have a hard time steadying your breath, and, internally, you might even pray for the whole thing to be over.

And when class ends, you'll likely feel amazing. It definitely feels like an accomplishment to make it through a barre series—and, if you're doing it right, you're likely to feel quite sore the next day.

Where Barre Is Lacking

Barre workouts aren't designed to improve all areas of fitness. For instance, unless you find a specialized class that's designed to include cardiovascular work, barre workouts generally won't significantly improve cardiovascular health. They also aren't heavy-lifting workouts. They can improve muscular endurance, and they will improve muscular strength to a point, but they aren't going to help you lift heavy weights or develop greater muscle mass. Depending on your goals, this could be perceived as good or bad.

The static nature of the workouts is something to consider as well. Some people will love the intense focus on specific movements that keep participants in one spot on the floor, while others prefer a more energetic class that gets you moving around in more flowing, active ways.

Are Barre Workouts Effective?

To answer the question of whether barre workouts are effective, you have to ask yourself "effective for what?" They're certainly good for improving core strength, flexibility, alignment, and muscular endurance. They help many to "lift" and "shape" targeted body parts, a feature that draws in many clients, particularly the toning of the waistline and hip area.

Additionally, depending on the particular bent of the barre class you're considering and the prowess and focus of available teachers, you'll experience a range of barre fitness styles. These specifics will impact how enjoyable and engaging you to find the classes, which is a crucial component that will influence how motivated you'll be to return and stick to your workout program—another key element to consider when weighing a program's effectiveness and your overall satisfaction.

Barre Workouts and Weight Loss

In most cases, barre workouts aren't designed to deliver a cardiovascular fitness component. They're also not designed to drastically improve muscular strength. And it's these two components of fitness—muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance—that contribute most effectively to weight loss and changes in body composition.

So, if your goal is to experience significant changes in body composition, barre classes may not be the fastest or most effective way to achieve results. Of course, that's not to say those results aren't possible. If you're already fairly fit, adding a barre workout to your routine can certainly help you sculpt your muscles and improve your posture. Alternatively, if you're relatively sedentary and you decide to start attending barre classes, you're likely to see changes in weight and tone largely due to your relative increase in exercise and strength training.

That said, there may be an upper limit to the initial changes you experience with barre unless you actively seek out more strenuous classes that incorporate cardio and strength training or other more challenging elements into the exercises.

Incorporating Barre Workouts for Maximum Results

There's certainly a place for barre workouts in a well-rounded fitness program. Specifically, barre workouts can contribute to improvements in balance, flexibility, posture, and core strength. The trick is not to rely solely on barre routines. Instead, seek out a barre studio that offers a variety of classes, including multiple levels of barre, athletic conditioning, yoga, and cardio-based classes. This way, you can add variety to your routine. Ideally, aim to complete a range of workouts each week to effectively train all five components of fitness, including cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength. 

A Word From Verywell

If you don't have a barre studio near you or your studio doesn't offer multiple class options, consider picking up a barre DVD or trying an online workout platform that offers barre classes. If you do plan on trying barre routines at home, keep in mind that most barre routines use small pieces of equipment, so it's a good idea to have lightweight dumbbells (between 1 to 3 pounds), a mat, and a sturdy chair on hand. If you don't have weights available, try using water bottles or canned goods, instead.

Aim to do the barre routine once or twice a week, and spend the rest of your week focusing on other forms of exercise, like running, boxing, swimming, strength training, or cycling. You'll enjoy the benefits of a barre workout without neglecting other areas of fitness.

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