Fitness Instructors Share Tips for Your First Barre Class

NAFFAN9, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by ballet, barre fitness classes have become increasingly popular in recent years, with so many people wanting the athletic build of a ballet dancer.

You can find these fitness classes in independent studios, big-name gyms, or even online!

Barre classes are a lower impact option than many other fitness classes, but that doesn’t mean they skimp out on the intensity.

These classes will give you a full-body workout, leaving you feeling energized and fantastic afterward.

Being prepared for your first Barre class comes down to:

  1. Dressing properly
  2. Getting to class early
  3. Developing the right mindset
  4. Being ready to learn
  5. Preparing for soreness afterwards!

I spoke with a real fitness and Barre instructor to find out a little more about how Barre beginners can get ready for their first class. We’ll also touch on the history of Barre and what makes it such a great workout for all different kinds of people.

Let’s go!

What is Barre?

Barre fitness classes first originated in 1959, when ballet dancer Lotte Berk was nursing a lower back injury.

While working with an osteopath to avoid re-aggravating her injuries, she learned how to increase her functional strength safely.

When this osteopathic knowledge was paired with her years of being a modern ballet dancer in London, the first barre fitness class started to take shape.

Incorporating ballet movements, lightweight exercises, and yoga poses these fitness classes helped increase women’s flexibility and functional fitness.

As this fitness class style started to increase in popularity, it was brought to America in the early 1970s. This was when barre started to grow into its modern form that we know and love today.

The Benefits of Barre Classes

The long and lean physique of a ballet dancer is the fitness goal of many.

With barre classes, this goal has become much more achievable for those who don’t do ballet. A good workout for any age or fitness level, these classes are low-impact and focus on slow and controlled movements.

Barre workouts focus on:

  • strengthening the core
  • increasing flexibility
  • and targeting the shoulders and hip muscles.

With a focus on the core stabilizing muscles, many barre class members notice an improvement in their posture, creating a leaner-looking physique.

There are a lot of other benefits to taking a barre class, too, including improving your balance, increasing muscular endurance, and burning calories. These classes only require limited equipment, allowing many people to do these workouts in the comfort of their home.

For more on this, check out what results you can expect from regular Barre workouts.

Studio vs Home Barre Workouts

Barre workouts only require a ballet-style bar, light dumbbells, and a yoga mat depending on the class style.

For those who choose to workout at home, you can get a little creative and opt to use something like a sturdy chair in the place of a ballet bar for support.

If you visit a studio, you will get personalized instruction that helps you perfect each movement’s form. Barre can be very tedious, and some movements require the smallest adjustments of your body to do it correctly.

If you want to get the feel of barre in the comfort of your home, there are hundreds of resources to choose from to find videos.

YouTube is an excellent resource for those looking for beginner-friendly barre workouts!

Who is Barre Best for?

Barre is best for those who want to build a functional and lean physique.

These workouts will not bulk you up or burn large amounts of calories like a HIIT class would do.

However, depending on your fitness goals, barre classes have been shown to have numerous positive benefits that will add to a healthy lifestyle. You will have less stress, stronger muscles, and better overall flexibility.

Barre workouts use slow and controlled movements called isometric exercises to build strength and tone muscles. If you suffer from joint or muscle pain, barre workouts are a great choice, as many of the exercises are stationary with little to no impact.

In a study published by the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, isometric exercise was one of the best options for those who suffered with back pain. The limited impact on the joints of barre makes it an excellent option for those who suffer from chronic pain.

(And a quick note: Barre isn’t just for women! Men can do barre, as well — barre is a great choice for anyone looking for a strength or resistance based workout that promotes flexibility and functional strength.)

For more on this, check out the pros and cons of Barre workouts and whether they might be the right choice for you.

What to Expect & Tips for Your First Class

To know what to expect and how to prepare for your first class, I had to go directly to the source.

I spoke with barre instructor Caryn Campanelli of Forged Soul Fitness to find out some things you need to know before your first barre class.

1. Bring the Essential Gear

Your attire in most group fitness classes will come down to one thing: comfort.

The clothing you wear should never feel restrictive, allowing you to do all the movements during the class with ease.

Campanelli added to this by saying:

“When participating in a barre class, clothing can be similar to any other fitness program. A low-medium impact sports bra is typically appropriate as well as yoga pants or any other comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing.

“The important things to bring to a barre class if you don’t know exactly how the class is run are:

  1. Barre socks (grippy socks that help prevent sliding on the floor or plan to be barefoot)
  2. Water
  3. Sweat towel
  4. Yoga mat (depends on the class format)”

With these essentials in-hand, you can take on practically every barre class and be prepared for whatever comes your way.

For classes that require other gear, such as dumbbells or resistance bands, they will supply them for you in most cases.

If you aren’t positive that the studio will provide you with a piece of equipment, call them beforehand to ask what you need to bring.

2. Arrive Early to Class

If you’ve never been to a barre class before, it is always a good idea to show up 10-15 minutes early.

By giving yourself time beforehand, you can start to feel more comfortable and meet the instructor.

Campanelli stressed the importance of this by saying:

“A new participant may benefit from arriving early and letting the instructor know they are new to class so the instructor can pass on any class-specific tidbits for them.”

Showing up early will also let you choose your spot in the class that gives you a clear view of the instructor to follow their lead.

The instructor will also have added focus and look to see your form once they know you are new to barre to ensure you are doing it correctly.

3. Develop the Correct Mindset

More than just the movements of the barre class, you should also develop the correct mindset to get the most out of your class. Campanelli mentioned that everyone attending a barre class for the first time should know that:

“The best mindset to have is to walk in planning on having fun. Barre was founded by a dancer who believed in making fitness fun and playful. It’s too easy to make exercise a chore when you can choose to enjoy the music, movement, and maybe a couple laughs instead.”

This advice is universal for all group fitness classes, as many beginners get intimidated when attending classes for the first time.

When you focus on what the other more experienced students are doing, you can start to feel intimidated and discouraged.

By walking into the barre class with the only goal is enjoying yourself, you are much more likely to stick with it.

4. Accept There Will be a Learning Curve

When attending your first barre class, you may be a little lost, and that’s OK!

This style of fitness class is unique, with many movements being specialized just for the class. There will be terminology you’ve never heard before, such as:

  • Plié
  • Relevé
  • Tuck

While the terms will differ between each studio and instructor, you should pick things up quickly. By your third class or so, you’ll know all the moves and terminology.

If you get lost, instructors will always help and instruct you on what you should be doing.

However, many times barre classes will be moving at a fast-pace. If you want to get an in-depth explanation of something, speak with your instructor after class to understand why you do certain things during the class.

5. Prepare for Soreness

During your barre class, you will be pushing your muscles to their limits. Even though Barre isn’t a muscle-building workout, your muscles will get extremely fatigued.

If this is your first experience with barre, you’ll find you’re moving your body in ways you never have before.

These intense workouts will most likely result in muscle soreness the next few days while your body recuperates and prepares for the next class.

During this time, you should try incorporating some stretching and maybe some active recovery like foam rolling.

Your barre classes should always be paired with a healthy lifestyle with adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and drinking plenty of water. All three of these things are the key to getting the best out of your body.

Wrapping Up

Barre is a truly unique style of fitness class that takes a lot of its inspiration from modern ballet dancing.

Filled with a high-energy atmosphere and encouraging instructors, these classes are a blast to attend.

If you are looking for a fun full-body workout, barre is a great option to choose.

While you may not gain large amounts of muscle or burn a ton of calories compared to other classes, don’t let that fool you — Barre class is an excellent workout that’s extremely well-suited to developing a lean and powerful physique.

All you really need to do for your first class is dress the part and be ready to learn. You might be a little lost during the first class or two, but you’ll be a pro before you know it.

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Hope this helps!