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Want long, lean muscles? Skip the bar that serves high-calorie cocktails and instead find yourself at another kind of barre—the ballet barre.

Barre classes are the latest trend in fitness—and for good reason. These ballet-inspired classes consist of tiny, repetitive movements that produce big results.

What Is a Barre Class?

Barre classes are sort of like a fusion between Pilates, ballet, calisthenics, and yoga. Don’t let the name intimidate you—you don’t need a dance background, or the grace of a dancer, to step up to the barre. Barre class is for everyone.

Barre classes incorporate a series of moves designed to target certain muscle groups with laser-like precision. The workouts have a large focus on the arms, the core and the lower body, especially the hips and butt. Barre class emphasizes form and alignment and low-weight, high-rep exercises designed to sculpt long, ballerina-type muscles.

The hallmark of barre class is small, isometric movement. Think tiny movements and repetition—lots and lots of repetition. Imagine lifting and lowering your leg behind you a mere inch or two—over and over and over. No matter how fit you are, you can expect shaking and trembling in barre class—because you’ll work the muscle all the way to fatigue. At some point, you may find yourself wishing that leg would just fall off.

The Origins of Barre Class

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Today’s barre classes can be traced back to the technique of Lotte Berk, a German dancer who developed the exercise system after a back injury. She combined her ballet bar routines with rehabilitative therapy and began offering the technique to clients to help them sculpt their bodies. Over the years, several of her students have refined and developed the method. In fact, some of these students later developed and opened their own studios with their own “brand” of barre classes. There are a variety of trademarked barre programs—including the Bar Method, Pure Bar, Bar 3, and the Dailey Method. Each provides a unique approach with similar underlying principles.

What to Expect During Barre Class

Although you’ll spend plenty of time at the barre, the class isn’t just limited to the barre. Expect to spend some time on the floor performing strengthening exercises. Some barre classes incorporate props such as squishy balls and light hand weights. Plan to go barefoot or to wear special “grippy” socks.

Benefits of Barre

One reason barre classes have become so popular is that they produce results. Barre class probably won’t give you the body of a professional ballerina (remember, they’ve been dancing eight hours a day for a lifetime), but if you consistently attend class several times a week, you can expect a toned, slimmer body and improved posture.

The tiny, repetitive movements are designed to streamline, firm, tighten, and tone muscles and realign the body without adding bulk. The total body workout will lift your seat, tone your thighs, and produce chiseled muscles. What’s more—because the class doesn’t involve any bouncing or jumping, it protects the joints.

Go On—Belly Up to the Barre

Barre class is surprisingly challenging. Observe a class and you might think it looks easy—until you try it. These tiny movements produce big results. If you’re looking for a challenging new way to sculpt and tone, give barre class a try. Expect to shake and tremble—and have fun while getting stronger.