woman in bar class
Photo Credit:
Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Step Up to the Bar Workout

You don’t need to be a dancer to benefit from this ballet-based exercise
Written by 
Canyon Ranch Staff
Updated on: 
October 7, 2014

While there are plenty of unique fitness classes that can give you a good sweat and help strengthen your body, a bar-based class is one that combines several types of workouts. A blend of ballet movements (like an arabesque—raising and extending your leg behind you), yoga, Pilates and weight training, the small and controlled movements in this conditioning routine strengthen your core, upper and lower body, and improve your flexibility. A bar routine also raises your heart rate, making this a comprehensive workout that can also boost your energy and help you lose weight.

No need to feel intimidated by this ballet-based class: You don’t have to be a dancer, have any ballet experience or don a leotard to reap its benefits. Thinking about giving it a try? Here’s what you can expect from this effective, low-impact workout:

You’ll work in intervals. Instructors will have you alternating high-intensity movements and reps with deep stretches and static poses. For example, you may transition from performing multiple pliés (a well-known ballet move where you bend at the knees and lower your body) in a row to holding a plié with raised heels while facing the bar holding on with both hands and leaning back.

You’ll burn calories. The combination of movements can burn close to 450 calories per 60-minute session for a 140-pound woman who’s at a beginner or intermediate level. You can burn even more calories at an advanced level, where you’ll be able to challenge yourself by reaching deeper positions, holding static poses longer and completing more reps. Men and women who weigh more will most likely burn more calories.

You’ll strengthen and shape your muscles. The isometric and isotonic exercises, which require you to tense your muscles or hold them in a static pose, help strengthen and shape your abs, butt, legs and arms. Imagine holding an attitude (a ballet position in which your leg is raised behind, in front of or to the side of your body, knee bent and toe pointed): By fatiguing your muscles without moving them through a full range of motion, they’ll appear sculpted and leaner (similar to a ballerina’s) over time.

It’s a full hour or so of constant movement. But if you’re struggling at any point, just remember…

You can move at your own pace. Although your instructor is guiding the class through a routine, you can adjust your movements according to your fitness level. Don’t worry about squatting as low as your neighbor or lifting your leg to waist level—listen to your body and follow along at your own pace.

The equipment is there to help you. You’ll find a variety of tools in a bar-based class, including the ballet bar (the main piece of equipment), mats, stretching straps, hand weights, exercise balls and Pilates rings. Depending on the instructor, you may use some or all of them. You may find that those you do use not only enhance your workout but also help you hold proper form as you move through positions. If you use weights, be sure to choose a set that’s appropriate for you.

You will see and feel the results. With continued effort, this workout can improve your posture, better define your muscles and, like any type of exercise, help you feel better overall. Because a bar workout is designed to work several muscle groups in different ways, it shouldn’t surprise you to feel a bit sore the day after class—that’s the “good kind” of soreness that proves you’ve awakened your body and are starting to change it in a positive way.

Reference(s) 
American Council on Exercise
IDEA Health & Fitness Association
Mayo ClinicDa