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Feel the burn with barre

Hint: There's no ballet required

She doesn’t have a background in dance, but Muriel Hyndman, a health fitness specialist at Wellmark’s Well for Life Center, loves teaching barre. Her main reason? “You get to play fun music,” she says. “But it’s also great to try something new and refresh your workout routine.”

Contrary to popular belief, barre is not just for 20-somethings. In fact, it’s a great workout for any age. Barre can improve your balance and coordination, plus it can enhance hip mobility. Inspired by ballet, yoga and Pilates, barre is a full body, low-impact workout that builds core strength, endurance and stability. It’s a great exercise for the prevention of falls, and injuries that result from falls.

According to Muriel Hyndman, health fitness specialist at Wellmark’s Well for Life Center, barre can be adapted to any fitness level. “This isn’t about having perfect dance technique,” she says. “Every instructor takes a different approach. My class happens to be less dance-inspired than others.”

Why barre workout moves help you build muscle

  1. Small, controlled movements mean you’ll feel the burn.

    “With barre, you’ll do a lot of repetitions and pulses in a small range of motion,” says Hyndman. “It’s a different type of weight training than you may be accustomed to, so give yourself time to adapt.”

  2. If your body starts shaking a bit during a movement, that means you're doing it right.

    “Shakes and quakes are okay,” says Hyndman. “It means you’re building up that muscle.”

  3. You will challenge your body with new moves.

    “You’ll be balancing on one leg, or using your tippy toes,” says Hyndman. “So, like anytime you try something new, just watch the instructor and learn. It’s easy to pick up the moves quickly. The main thing is to go into it with an open mind.”

Workout equipment you'll need

You don’t need any special equipment to try barre at home. With most barre workouts, you will want to hold onto something for balance. This means having the back of a sturdy chair, table or a secure railing nearby.

If you like barre and decide to stick with it, you may want to invest in a yoga mat, non-slip socks with grips on the soles, and a pair of light dumbbells.

Try these barre-inspired workouts at home

To get a better idea for the kinds of moves you’ll do in barre, start here. Focus on each exercise for about a minute. Repeat the entire circuit three times, if you can.

5 barre workout moves to try at home
  1. Chair

    With feet hip-width apart, balance yourself near a sturdy chair, table, desk or railing. Push your hips back and down, with the weight in your heels, like you are going to sit in a chair. Come back up to standing. Repeat 20–30 times.

  2. First position

    Press heels together, toes pointing out, using a chair or railing for balance. Tuck your hips in and pull your belly button in toward your spine so your lower back is protected. Lower your hips down so they trace right over your heels. Your heels can be on the ground or lifted. Return to standing position. Repeat 20–30 times.

  3. Second position

    With feet shoulder-width apart (a wider stance), toes pointing out, send your hips down with your weight pressing into the heels. Return to standing position. Repeat 20–30 times.

  4. Bridge

    Laying with your back on a mat, walk your heels in toward your bottom, leaving your arms rested and palms down in a “V” formation. Lift your hips off the ground, hold at the top of the movement and lower back down. Keep your core tight by drawing your belly button in toward the spine. Repeat 20–30 times.

  5. Plank

    Hold this pose (pictured) with hands (or if you prefer, your elbows) placed directly under your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line from your heels to the back of your head. Avoid dropping or raising your hips or head. Engage your core by sucking your belly button into your spine. Hold for up to 20–30 seconds. If you can, work your way up to a minute or more.

Bonus tips: Two more barre workout moves

  1. Leg lift with abduction

    Facing the left side with your right hand on the chair or railing, place your feet at hip width apart and a slight bend in both knees. Lift your outside leg away from the stabilizing leg, feeling a squeeze in your outer hip. Repeat 20–30 times and then pulse. You will feel this exercise in both legs — the working leg and the stabilizing leg.

  2. Leg lift to the back

    Place your fingertips or forearms on the chair or railing you're using for stability and walk your feet away from it, so your spine is long with a slight hinge at your hips. Pull your belly button inwards toward your spine, and lift and lower your right leg. Hold at the top and pulse. Complete all on one side before moving to the other side. 

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