If you believe barre workouts are just for dancers — or folks who have a stereotypical “dancer’s body” — think again. Barre offers an effective body-weight workout that is adaptable to nearly every body and fitness level. Plus, its low profile means you can reap its stability-building, flexibility-boosting benefits regardless of your location.
Barre blends body-weight movements from ballet, Pilates, and yoga. High repetitions of small movements build muscular endurance, and postures build isometric strength — the ability to engage your muscles without moving your body.
“One of the things I love best about barre is that it can be done from anywhere and without any props at all,” says Alicia Sokol, a Washington, D.C.-based barre instructor and studio owner. While classes typically make use of a wooden ballet barre to assist with balance, you can easily use a chair or countertop instead.
“Just a few exercises can yield immediate and noticeable benefits for anyone — elevated heart rate, muscle activation, sweat, a feeling of calm,” Sokol says.
To prove it, Sokol designed the following do-anywhere barre routine. Perform the following moves in order, focusing on form and resting only when needed.
Body-weight squats help prep your joints and muscles for the exercises to come. “Squats are a great way to heat the body quickly and send fresh blood flow throughout,” Sokol says. Plus, they strengthen your legs and glutes.
⊕ Repeat for four minutes.
- Stand with feet slightly wider than your hips and point your toes out to 11 and 1 on an imaginary clock.
- Root into your heels and bend at the knees to drop your hips toward the floor with control. Keep your knees over your ankles, shoulders relaxed, and spine long.
- Push through your heels and drive upward to return to standing. Resist the urge to push the hips forward. Repeat for four minutes.
This move builds strength and stamina in your quads, the powerful muscles in the front of the thighs, Sokol says. It also challenges full-body balance and stability.
⊕ Move up and down 1 inch for about 90 seconds.
- Stand with feet hip width apart, toes pointed forward. Have a chair or countertop nearby in case you need help with balance.
- With a slight bend in your knees, push through the balls of your feet to slowly lift your heels off the floor about 1 inch. Pause briefly to align your shoulders over your hips.
- Then, lift your heels higher, stopping when you reach a challenging height (it might be lower than you think!). Bend your knees even deeper so they shoot directly over the tops of your feet.
- Keep your shoulders stacked directly over your hips. Place your fingertips on a chair or other surface to help you balance, if needed.
- Slowly drop your tailbone toward your heels about 1 inch before pushing back up. Be sure to keep your pelvis neutral (no tucking or tipping it back). Move up and down 1 inch for about 90 seconds.
- If you feel any knee pain, try hinging forward slightly at the waist. For pain in the ankles or feet, lower the heels or flatten the feet to the ground and hinge forward at the waist.
⊕ Repeat slowly for two minutes.
⊕ To finish, hold the plank for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Start in a crescent lunge position: Step forward with one foot, ensuring feet are hip width apart and parallel. Sweep your arms overhead and bend your knees into a lunge position, front knee over the same-side ankle.
- Square your hips to the front of the room and relax your shoulders. Sweep your palms down to the floor and step your front foot back into plank position, hands in line with your shoulders.
- Tighten your core and hold the plank briefly. Then, step the opposite foot forward until you are in a crescent lunge on the opposite side.
- It’s important to move slowly and with control, allowing each part of the movement to take two counts.
- Repeat slowly for two minutes. To finish, hold the plank for 30 to 60 seconds.
- If doing this exercise on the floor hurts your wrists, elevate your hands on a chair.
⊕ Perform for two minutes before switching legs.
⊕ Perform the move for two minutes on the opposite leg.
- Begin standing with feet hip width apart and parallel to each other.
- Then, step one foot back and bend your rear knee so it’s directly under your rear hip. Bend your front knee slightly so it’s directly over your front ankle. Square your hips to the front of the room.
- Keeping your front knee fixed, drop your back knee down 1 inch, then lift it up 1 inch. Continue for two minutes before switching legs. Perform the move for two minutes on the opposite leg.
- If you feel pressure in the lower back or knees, hinge forward slightly.
Watch all the moves at “The Do-Anywhere Barre Workout (Video)“.