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Barre3: Take a look at three exercises used in barre fitness classes. Courtesy of Barre3.
Ty Milford

Strike a pose: Three main components of barre

Ballet combines precise technique, musicality and both slow and fast movements to create a highly detailed, disciplined and graceful style of dance. The grace and posture of a dancer is maintained in the small, controlled movements in barre classes.

Yoga comprises a series of postures, meditation and breath work. You’ll find stretches, poses and movements that create flexibility and long, lean muscles.

Pilates is a detailed-oriented form of body conditioning that focuses on strengthening your abdomen while aligning your spine. In barre, you’ll boost your heart rate through numerous repetitions, just as in a Pilates class.


*Editor's Note: Enjoy a 15 day free trial of online barre classes when you enter the promo code 15barre3 at Barre3. Offer expires on January 1, 2013. Enjoy your workout!

Thanks to TV shows such as Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, dancers’ bodies with their long, lean muscles have become the envy of those who want to tone up, not bulk up. Enter the latest fitness craze: Barre classes combine to give enthusiasts the “grace of a dancer, the wisdom of a yogi, and the stretch ... of a Pilates [user],” says Sadie Lincoln, founder of Barre3, which has more than 30 studios nationwide.

This is not your mother’s ballet class, however. Unpack your tutu and consider the following before you decide whether barre may be a way to shake up your workout routine:

It’s not a dance class. Barre classes use postures, small, controlled movements and light, handheld weights to shape and lift the entire body. The barre itself is used as a prop to keep you aligned. “It’s not traditional ballet, and it’s not a bar with cocktails — that’s what I hear the most!” Lincoln says. Barre classes are usually set to contemporary music, too, so don't expect classical. Classes tend to be extremely stationary, unlike aerobics or kickboxing. “There’s no bouncing or jumping,” adds Kristen Zurek, owner of The Ballet Physique studio in Littleton, Colo., and a certified fitness instructor.

Easy does it. Classes are focused on improving posture and strengthening your core, which over time reduces pressure on other areas, such as your shoulders, neck and back, Zurek says. “The stronger a person’s core is, the more secure the whole body is.” The barre may be an option for you if you’re prone to shoulder, neck or lower back issues because of its low-impact nature, Lincoln says.

Each posture can also be modified by to correlate with a specific fitness level. “If someone has a shoulder injury and can’t use an eight-pound weight, they can use a 3 lb or no weight at all and still get a workout. Everything is very safe, so someone who hasn’t worked out in five years can slowly work up, to their level” she adds.

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“You’ll be going up an inch and down an inch,” Zurek says. Easy does it really is the key.

Most barre programs target familiar trouble zones. The workout’s promise is to flatten the stomach, tone arms, lift your seat and shape thighs, Lincoln says. A typical class is 60 minutes, and the deceptively easy moves may make you think you’re not working out that hard. Don’t be fooled, Lincoln says: “People are always surprised when they’re sore in the morning.”

Anyone can do it. Zurek says she has seen it with her own eyes. “We have a man in his 60s who has been taking barre classes for a while and has lost 30 pounds,” she says. “He also says he hasn’t gone to the chiropractor in months because there’s so much less stress on his back now. It’s amazing to see the progress he’s made from these exercises."

Getting started. Research local studios to see whether they offer free trials or introductory-level classes for beginners, Zurek suggests. Certification requirements vary, so look for experienced instructors. “Call and see what their class sizes are like – if they cut off at a certain number then you’re getting more one on one attention with the instructor, which is important. You want that hands-on adjustment.”

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