Barre workouts have become a fast trend among runners and non-runners alike. In 2020, more than 3.5 million people took part in these group fitness workouts, which feature exercises inspired by ballet, yoga, resistance training, and Pilates.
But barre is more than just a trendy workout; these classes offer runners plenty of benefits. Here’s what the workout entails and what it can do for your performance on the road.
What do you do in a barre workout?
The exact workout structure may vary depending on the studio and instructor. However, each class is typically broken into sections that focus on isolating major muscle groups (arms, thighs, glutes, core, back, chest, shoulders). The muscles are worked to fatigue through exercises that include micro-movements (like pulsing or shortened ranges of motion), high repetitions, and pausing in poses for extended periods of time.
How is barre different than other workouts?
When it comes to cross-training, runners have tons of options. So why choose barre? Well, it helps you target key areas of fitness that’ll pay off on the road—and it does so in a low-impact format.
By blending moves that challenge endurance, strength, stability, and mobility—without making you leap off the ground—you work your body in new ways, strengthening all the muscles that help you put one foot in front of the other without stressing your joints and tendons.
While barre workouts mix in principles of traditional strength training, ballet, Pilates, and yoga, the classes stand out for their total-body approach that often leads to a burn effect in each muscle group. For example, doing full-range-of-motion leg lifts right into pulses and holds helps to increase time under tension in the muscles, which helps build stamina (and might make you shake!).
“It seamlessly blends these modalities into one powerhouse class that is essentially a one-stop-shop for a complete body and mind workout,” says Amanda Jenny, a founding instructor at bande, a virtual fitness platform that offers online barre classes.
As its name suggests, you also incorporate the ballet barre into barre workouts—something you don’t see in other classes—which typically brings a focus to balance moves and exercises that target your thigh, quads, glutes, and more.
How do barre workouts benefit runners?
Barre can help fill the gaps in many runners’ training routines—namely, strength training, lateral and twisting movements, and mobility and flexibility work. “Cross-training with barre will provide a more well-rounded exercise regimen, which will improve running and reduce the likelihood of injury,” says Katelyn DiGiorgio, vice president of training and technique at Pure Barre.
While the micro-movements in barre classes target major muscle groups, they also add emphasis to small, easy-to-forget muscles that support the hips, knees, and ankles. “You’ll work muscles you didn’t know you had—and feel them for days after,” Jenny says.
Plus, the bulk of barre exercises work to strengthen your core muscles, which translates to more efficient running. “Core strength allows the pelvis and lower back to work together more smoothly, resulting in less energy expended on a run,” Jenny says.
“Barre also incorporates ballet elements that strengthen your ankles and calves, helping you run with more stability in those areas,” Jenny says. That, coupled with greater core strength, improves balance—a must for runners who basically translate weight from one leg to the other as they go.
One of the biggest perks of barre is that it places minimal impact on the joints, DiGiorgio says. This allows you to build muscular strength and endurance without adding to the high-impact stress of your running workouts.
The Barre Workout You Can Do At Home
The following exercises, recommended by DiGiorgio, offer a great introduction to barre. Sprinkle a few of these barre exercises into your at-home routine to build strength and endurance, or combine them for a quick, 10-minute total-body workout. Do two or three sets if you want to work out for longer.
How to use this list: Do each exercise below in order, performing each move for the time listed. DiGiorgio demonstrates each move so you can master the proper form.
You will need a timer, a pair of 1- or 2-pound dumbbells (canned foods, water bottles, or another light object can work if you don’t have dumbbells), and a chair, wall, or countertop. An exercise mat is optional.
Push-Up to Pike
Why you need it: Target the biceps, pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), abdominals, and glutes all in one move. This builds upper body strength and core stability, as well as endurance to improve running efficiency and help prevent low back and hip pain often reported by runners.
How to do it: Start in a plank position, shoulders over wrists and forming a straight line from head to heels. Bend elbows and lower chest to floor to perform a push-up. Press back up, then pike the hips up by sending them up and back. Head comes between shoulders like a downward dog. Lower hips back into a plank position. Repeat for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat for another 30 seconds.
Forearm Side Plank With Knee Drive
Why you need it: Strengthen the internal and external obliques (sides of the torso) and improve overall core stabilization for better balance while running.
How to do it Lie on your side with hips stacked and legs extended. Prop up your upper body on bottom forearm. Press into bottom forearm and lift hips off the floor so body forms a straight line from head to heels. Keep neck neutral and avoid shrugging shoulders. Extend top arm up and overhead so it rests by ear. This is your starting position. Without dropping hips toward the floor, float top leg up and slowly bend top knee toward chest. At the same time, bend elbow, bringing it down by side. Bring elbow and knee to touch. Then, extend both limbs. Repeat for 30 seconds. Rest 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Hundreds to Roll-Up
Why you need it: Work several major joints of the body through their full range of motion, while strengthening the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis muscles (your six-pack muscles, as well as the deep core muscles that wrap you like a corset). You’ll also target the internal and external obliques—talk about one serious core exercise.
How to do it: Sit on the floor with a light dumbbell in each hand, knees bent with feet planted on the floor. Tuck chin toward chest slightly and slowly roll down and back, stopping when shoulder blades are a few inches from the floor. Extend legs and let them hover at a 45-degree angle off the floor. Squeeze them together and point toes. Hold this position and reach your arms forward. This is your starting position. Slowly alternate lifting and lowering the arms four times. Then, hold the arms in place as you slowly roll up and bring knees to chest. Slowly roll back as you extend your legs again. Repeat the roll-up one more time. Then repeat the hundred. Continue for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat for another 30 seconds.
Standing Hip Abduction
Why you need it: Builds the glutes and hamstrings and takes the hip joint through its full range of motion.
How to do it: Stand perpendicular to a chair, wall, or countertop, facing left. Lightly grip the chair, wall, or countertop with your right hand. Reach left arm out to the side at shoulder-height. Flex left foot and extend left leg straight out to the side so it’s in line with hip (or close to it). Softly bend right leg. This is your starting position. Slowly reach left arm up and overhead, bending slightly from waist to the right. At the same time, bring left foot to meet right foot. Then, slowly sweep left arm back out to the side at shoulder-height. As you do, lift left leg to the side as high as you can. Repeat for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
How to do it: Stand perpendicular to a chair, wall, or countertop, facing left. Keeping back flat, hinge forward at the waist and place right forearm on chair, wall, or countertop. Place left arm behind head with elbow wide. Bring feet hip-width apart and parallel. Extend left leg behind you, flex foot, and then pull heel in toward your glute. Softly bend right leg. This is your starting position. Without moving the rest of your body, lower left knee until it’s in line with right. Then, press heel back up to glute. Repeat for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Wide 2nd With Shoulder Work
Why you need it: Strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and shoulders, as you improve hip mobility.
How to do it: Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly out, holding a light dumbbell in each hand. Reach arms out in front of you at shoulder-height, palms facing each other. Stack shoulders over hips. This is your starting position. Bend knees to squat down. As you do, open arms to a “T.” Then, return to standing as you bring arms back in front of you. Squat down again, this time keeping arms in front of you and bending elbows 90 degrees. Straighten the elbows as you stand up. Continue alternating the arm moves, while performing a wide squat each time. Repeat for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat for another 30 seconds.
Leg Extension With Biceps Curl
Why you need it: Work your joints through full ranges of motion, while strengthening the abdominal wall. This improves posture while sitting, walking, and running.
How to do it: Stand perpendicular to a chair, wall, or countertop, facing left and holding a light dumbbell in left hand. Lightly grip chair, wall, or countertop with right hand. Place heels together and toes apart. Then, extend left leg in front of you, point toes, and let foot hover just above the floor. Extend left arm in front of you at a low diagonal with palm facing up. Softly bend standing right leg. This is your starting position. Keeping left leg straight, slowly lift left foot as high as you can while simultaneously performing a biceps curl with left arm. Then, slowly lower left foot and straighten arm. Repeat for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Courtesy of Pure Barre (workout moves)