So what exactly *is* a barre-style workout, anyway?

With all this talk about Barre N9NE, I thought it probably made a lot of sense to describe what these classes are really like.

But before I do that, I just have to say – I LOVED reading about Core Fusion and other barre-style workouts in the New York Times this week. If you haven’t read it yet, please do – it gives a great history of where this whole “barre” craze originated from and what the high-level benefits are of such a workout.  This might be my favorite quote out of the whole story:

Which doesn’t mean barre classes aren’t as hard. Most of the moves, like squats in a grand plié position with raised heels, are so intense that they will make your muscles shake and burn within minutes. “Some of these exercises are lethal,” said Fred DeVito, a founder of Core Fusion.

“Lethal” is a great way to describe all those rounds and rounds of reps. Legs shaking. Body rocking. Love.

But I digress. So what are these classes all about?

I’ll use Barre N9NE signature class – which was, most certainly, “lethal” last night. Juliana kicked our a$$es. Royally.

Warm-up: 5 minutes of dynamic stretching to get the heart rate going and to loosen those muscles before they’re worked.

Upper body work with light (very light, 2-3 lbs, max) handweights: Not gonna lie, the first time I saw the size of these weights, I was like “pshhht. This will be a piece of CAKE!” Um yeah, maybe if we were lifting those weights for 10-12 reps. But nope, you’re lifting and lowering for at least three rounds of roughly (and I’ve never counted) 25 reps per round.  Add that up and we’re talking 75 reps per exercise. And this class takes you through shoulders, back, triceps and biceps – oh and chest (hello, push-ups!). Oy.

Lower body work, ballet barre-style:  Now this is where the word “lethal” really comes into play. If your legs aren’t shaking during/after this section of the workout, you have not worked hard enough. Legit. Most of this work involves very, very tiny up/down movements with legs in various positions:

…Facing the mirror/barre, toes lifted (as if in high heeled shoes), knees bent – up/down/up/down for a bajillion reps.

…Repeat that with feet pointed out, toes lifted (to work inner thighs).

…Repeat that with legs in a wide plie to work thighs, glutes, everything.

…And so on and so forth.

All while keeping your hips tucked under, core tight, tight, tight. This takes a lot of thinking…at least it does for me…to keep proper form. So if you saw me in class, you’d see a pretty serious expression (that would be my “thinking” face) mixed with eyes squeezed shut, trying not to stop the up/down movement until the series ends.


Core work/stretch: Who would have ever thought that five minutes of core work would hurt so much, would WORK so much?  I guess it feels far more impactful after having kept that core so very tight for the entire upper body and lower body series – you’re working your core the entire class. So having a dedicated section for core work is icing on the cake (at least for me!). No wonder it hurts so good. 😉 Depending on the type of barre class you take, this section of the workout will vary pretty dramatically. Last night’s class included a variety of core work that worked all aspects of the core. I don’t know what it is, but this just works. I think I sweat the most in this part of the series, I swear!

So yeah – for me, these workouts are body rocking, through and through. If you’ve never ever considered a class like this, I would reconsider…I’d seriously  bend over backwards to get to one if I were you. I promise, it will absolutely be worth it. <— Wow, I kinda feel like I’m talking about a cult, geez, could I be even more in love with these workouts??

With that – I’m off to Barre N9NE tonight for a lean  & tone class.  I took this one last week and loved it – it’s not “barre” so much as a really, really good toning (lots of lengthening with strengthening) class. A great companion to the barre work we’ll do the rest of this week (and throughout this challenge).

Happy Tuesday, ya’ll!

35 thoughts on “So what exactly *is* a barre-style workout, anyway?

  1. Love the recap sis…it’s exactly how I feel too, lethal. Shaking like mad! So good. I love the description of – put your toes into a little piece of pie shape – and of course, I always think of eating a big piece of pie after ;-P

  2. Sounds great! I’m actually terrified of barre workouts because I always think “ballet” and I am the least graceful person around. It does seem like a really interesting class.

    • Um, I am SO not graceful – totally clumsy, nevermind barely flexible! If I can take this class and learn to love it, you TOTALLY can. Trust me, there is no “ballet” involved here…just lots of hard work! You’d love it! I think you and I should have a bloggy meet-up at barre n9ne followed by a group run or something. Just a thought 😉

  3. I love this recap! Julianna always says “pie” and I want pie….I say “a slice of pizza” and then crave it! lol You ladies are the best, I am so thrilled to have you in the 60 day challenge! I can’t WAIT to see your results….and buy new bikinis for the Summer!

    • You and Juliana rock! Seriously. I can’t say it enough – this challenge came at just the right time for me and for my sis so thank you thank you thank you for this opportunity. We are clearly loving every (painful) minute of it!! Trust me, I can’t wait to see the results either!! 🙂

  4. Such a great intro to barre workouts! My reviews always assume that the reader knows all the terminology. This is perfect for the novice who’s curious about taking class. I’m going to forward this to friends who are always asking me what it us about these classes that’s so addictive.

    Also I totally have a thinking face during the lower body work, althhough mine involves a frown too!

    • Wow, thank you, Sam! I was trying to make this whole barre “thing” seem less intimidating. I know I felt totally out of my element the first few times I tried a class. But it truly is worth the time spent getting over the discomfort of something “new” like a barre class. So cool that you’re going to share it with some of your friends, thank you!
      PS. I’m usually too scrunched up in the face to make a frown at that point LOL

  5. Lethal is definitely an accurate description. And I loved the cult reference because I am totally aware I sound like I belong to a cult when I talk about Core Fusion to my non-Core Fusion friends. But it is So. Worth. It.

    Also – loved Jobo’s comment about pie. We have an instructor here that says “like a little piece of cheesecake” so I always think of cheesecake during that part.

    • OMG Amber, you crack me up. I was dying at the cult comment – because you’re right, anytime I try to tell one of my friends about a barre class, they (most of them, anyway) look at me like I’m crazy. They don’t get how much of a life-altering experience a class like this can have. Even just saying those words makes me sound like a crazy person!! LOL so yes, I’m glad you “get” where I’m coming from here. Love, love, LOVE it.
      PS. now I want cheesecake, gee thanks 😉

  6. SO well described!! I really enjoyed reading this post, you are spot on. I love how much you love this type of exercise now. EVERYONE thinks the same as you when they hear 2-3lb weights at first. I love seeing how shocked they are when they have to drop down from the 5lbs they insisted on taking.

    Yet we do improve and eventually work our way up to that!

    The shaking though… that never stops.

    I have the most SERIOUS, intense, focused face when I work out. People have laughed at me for it. I never notice anyone or anything around me!

    • Thank you, my friend! It’s crazy just how much I’ve fallen in love with this style of workout -it’s totally NOT something I’d normally gravitate to (see what I mean about the “cult” thing??) but I am SO GLAD I gave it a chance. I love every single thing about it – shaking included!!

      LOL – my face is NOT pretty when I’m trying to hang on those last few seconds of that umpteeth rep of whatever up/down plie, toes up/down move we happen to be doing. I’m glad nobody takes pictures 😉

  7. Just reading this post has convinced me to take out my Core Fusion dvds which are just sitting neatly in their dvd boxes!! I’ll have to give them a go.

  8. such a good workout! its totally deceiving at first! i think this is similar to the bar method which i used to do…i remember sitting in those squats on our toes for like a minute…shaking! haha its a great workout though!

  9. Circuit style workouts burn like hell, even with the tiddly pink weights! I think moving to this kind of training, where you are really concentrated on posture, keeping things tight, your core and hips, etc is probably a really good complement to running. It’s learning to keep good form when your muscles are burning that helps you in those final miles when you’re dog tired (and hence keeps you injury free!). So here’s to some great workouts *and* some great halves this season 😉

  10. I’ve yet to try a barre style workout, but I have access to it through lululemon, and I need to take advantage asap! I know people see amazing results and really fall in love with it.

    • Honestly – you would LOVE it. The fact that you have access through lululemon means you have NO choice but to give it a shot and tell me how you like it! 🙂

    • It depends. There are Core Fusion studios around the country (At Exhale Spa). They also have a slew of DVDs you can buy and use at home (these are great options if you can’t get to Exhale).

      Barre N9ne is a local barre studio to me – though I wish they were everywhere, these ladies who run it are A-mazing. Best group of women I’ve ever met. Love it 🙂

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    • I know – I literally just canceled my gym membership since I’m not even using it any longer. Running and barre is my life now. LOVE!! (PS thanks for stopping by!)

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