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Hit The Barre | 3 Barre Exercises for Beginners

Hit The Barre | 3 Barre Exercises for Beginners

Ballet-based workouts have been increasing in popularity over the last few years, and with good reason. With celebrity endorsements from the likes of Victoria Secret models (Jourdan Dunn), Hollywood starlets (Natalie Portman) and pop princesses (Madonna), it’s no wonder that the craze, which began in the US, has been creeping, slowly but surely, to UK shores and beyond. But why all the fuss? You ask. How is prancing around in a tutu going to change my body? Well, it’s a lot more intense than that.

Contrary to popular belief, a ballet based workout is not all pirouettes and pas de bourrees, it’s about isometric contractions, stillness, or small movements executed while the muscle is in contraction. Far from turning the class into a collection of dying swans, it’s a way of discovering and engaging the muscles dancers use without thinking, and working them to the point of almost failure…doesn’t sound so romantic now, does it? Truth is, it works to create that long, lean, strong body, akin to a dancer’s, but not without muscle burn, shaking and a good deal of sweat. Here are a few of the ballet barre basics to get you feeling that muscle burn before you can say ‘Black Swan’.

Beginner Barre Move 1: ‘V’ Plie For Thighs

barre exercises


  • Hold onto the back of a chair, or kitchen surface, this is your ‘barre’.

  • Stand so your heels touch, but your toes are a few inches apart (no more than the width of both your fists side-by-side). This is a baby 1st position, or ‘V’.barre exercises

  • Lift your heels just 2 inches off the floor, make sure they are still touching each other.

  • Bend your knees into a demi-plie, creating a diamond shape in between your legs (check your knees are tracking over the centre of your foot, not rolling in or out).

  • Check that your shoulders remain above your hips, and your backside isn’t sticking out!

  • Drop down 2 inches, and lift up 2 inches, always maintaining bent knees and heels lifted. Repeat 10 – 15 times.

  • Sink all the way down so your seat almost touches your heels, and slowly return to standing (knees still never quite straighten), Do this slowly, maybe counting to 3 as you lower, and 3 as you lift. Repeat 8 – 10 times.

  • Finally hold half way, lift your heels a little higher, can you take both hands off your ‘barre’ and raise them above your head? Hold for 10 seconds.


Beginner Barre Move 2: Low Arabesque For Glutes

barre exercises


  • Step slightly further away from your ‘barre’ so your chest in inclined forward.

  • Start in the same ‘V’ position, as before and bend your knees, keep the supporting knee bent throughout.
  • Lift one leg straight out behind you, it won’t go very high, and you should never feel tension in your lower back, pull your belly button in to help this.

  • Lower your leg, keeping it dead straight, towards the floor and lift back up again. Imagine your big toe touching the floor but it’s red hot so you have to lift it straight off again. Repeat 10 – 15 times.

  • Keeping the leg lifted, draw small circles, working from the hip, 10 in one direction and 10 in the other. Keep your hips as still as you can and control the circular movement.

  • Finally lift the leg in tiny pulses, just 1 inch at a time, and maybe rise onto the tiptoe of the supporting foot as a challenge. Just 15 pulses and you’re done!

  • Don’t forget to repeat on the second leg. You should feel it in the leg that is lifted, but you’ll also feel it in the supporting leg to, so don’t worry if you do.


Beginner Barre Move 3: High Curl For Abdominalsbarre exercises


  • Sit on the floor, knees bent and legs squeezed together.

  • Pull your belly button in as you incline backwards slightly, rock off your sitting bones, and curl your spine.

  • Bring your arms into a curved position in front of your belly button, this is 1st position of the arms. Hold onto the backs of your thighs if it gets too hard.

  • Rock back 1 or 2 inches, and back up again, keep this movement small and your navel drawing inwards, not pushing out. You should try to get to the point that your abs shake and you think you might not be able to lift back up again! Repeat 10 – 15 times.

  • Hold your point of control, this should be inclined back, but not so far that it’s impossible.

  • Twist your body to the right, back to centre, then left, and back to centre. To make this harder, lift your arms above your head every time you come back to the centre! Repeat 20 times (10 each side).

  • Finally slowly raise your arms, still in that curl position, and look up until your find that little shaking sensation. Pull your navel in, close your eyes and hold for 15 seconds, can you lift your feet off the floor too?


This is just a taste of what you’ll find in a barre-based fitness class, and there are plenty popping up in various studios such as Pure Barre and Studio Barre.

The Benefits of Barre

barre exercises


  • Isometric exercise is low impact, strength building, and especially good for injury rehabilitation.

  • Throughout the class, you’ll be instructed to engage your core, even in the leg exercises, leading to a full body workout, improved posture and killer core strength.

  • Stretching after each major muscle group is worked encourages the muscles to lengthen, creating that long, lean, toned look.


So ditch the tutu, grab your grippy socks and get down to the barre!



Writer and expert

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