Ballet-inspired barre workout gives big results with small movements – and you need not be a dancer

Isometric movements challenge core muscles
Ballet-inspired barre workout gives big results with small movements – and you need not be a dancer
Posted at 7:00 AM, Jul 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-30 13:42:18-04

CINCINNATI -- It’s a warm, summer evening in Oakley. After a challenging barre workout, a couple dozen women wearing capri pants and colorful tank tops are streaming out of Pure Barre on Madison Road. Others are already filing in for the next session.

In Cincinnati and around the Tri-State, the barre fitness trend is growing. Do a quick search on Yelp or Google, and you’ll see that many gyms and fitness centers now offer a variety of barre classes.

Barre is a ballet-inspired workout, designed to help people of all shapes and sizes become stronger and leaner.

Why so many barre believers? According to doctors and specially trained fitness instructors, if barre workouts are done correctly and consistently, they’re extremely effective.

“Pure Barre is the fastest, most effective way to change your body,” says Kendra Northgard, marketing manager of Pure Barre Cincinnati.

Want to try a barre workout? Check out the Fitness section on the Rewards page.

During a barre fitness class, instructors guide their students through a variety of small, isometric movements and poses designed to tone muscles in the arms, legs and abs; work multiple muscle groups at the same time; improve posture and flexibility; and build a stronger, leaner body.


Although some poses are done at a ballet barre (for balance or resistance), you don’t have to be a dancer to try it.

Tiny Movements, Big Workout

One of the keys to a safe, successful barre workout is “small” movement.

During most poses, you won’t move your body more than an inch. You’ll hear the instructor say, “Go down an inch, up an inch.” Picture the length of a paper clip.

“We keep all our movements teeny-tiny and small,” says Northgard. “We work into the muscle groups that we’re not really used to working in other sorts of exercise ... those smaller accessory muscles that are closer to the bone and closer to your joints.”

Tiny movements yield big results. They’re isometric, and they strengthen muscles deep within the body, without hurting joints.

“An isometric contraction is the contraction of a muscle without changing its length. So by having these movements be very tiny, or small, the muscle length does not change, but the muscle itself does fire and contract,” said Dr. Brian Grawe of UC Health Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. “The force that the joint sees during muscle contraction is very minimal. Thus, it’s a very safe way to strengthen your muscle without promoting injury.”


Challenging to the Core

Make no mistake — those tiny barre movements are not easy.

Sometimes, you see students sweating, with legs shaking, as they focus on their core muscles and challenge themselves to hold precise poses.

“I would imagine that … a lot of people, who are used to going to the gym, working out, and being physically fit, come in here and literally ‘get their butt kicked’ because their core muscles are not as strong as their other muscles, their biceps or quad muscles,” Grawe said. “Their core muscles get a really challenging workout, and, yes, they work up a sweat.”

The core refers to muscles in and around the abdomen and hips, and they’re vital for good health.

“These muscles are really important for promoting health for your back, your pelvis, your hips and really helping to make sure that you don’t have pain doing everyday activities,”he said.


Kendra Northgard, Pure Barre Cincinnati, demonstrates “The Tuck” and “The Chair Pose.”

Focus on Form and Safety

To avoid injury and maximize benefits during a barre workout, Grawe suggests the following:

  • Before class, talk with the fitness instructor about your goals.
  • If you have limitations in your range of motion, due to arthritis or a previous injury, tell the instructor.
  • Listen carefully to the instructor and watch yourself in the mirror to make sure that you do the poses correctly and keep good posture. (Holding an incorrect pose for too long can cause muscle strain.)
  • Consult your doctor before starting any new workout program, especially if you have heart or lung disease.



Weight Loss with Barre

A big question for anyone who is thinking about joining the barre trend might be: Will I lose weight?

Dr. Grawe said those who want to lose weight with barre should eat a balanced diet and monitor calorie intake.

“I wouldn’t necessarily tell someone that if they’re looking to lose a hundred pounds, that a few barre classes are going to do it,” he said. “But the exercises associated with barre can jump-start a healthy lifestyle and allow you to focus on things important to weight loss.”

For the people who stream into barre classes week after week, the fitness trend is about more than weight loss. It clears the mind, helps them focus and strengthens their bodies.

The bottom line, according to instructors, is that barre makes the most of the body you were born with.

“It gives you the best body God gave you,” said Lea Ranier-Warner, owner of Pure Barre in Cincinnati and Kenwood.