When I was a young girl, I took ballet lessons with my best friend — she was always the more coordinated one, and I’d find myself a few steps behind as the teacher shouted encouragement. At university, I picked ballet back up and found that my fitness levels were not the same as they were when I was a child. It was around that time in my early twenties, that I saw friends and colleagues picking up barre classes, and I became intrigued.
Barre is an effective low-impact workout — it’s inspired by ballet but fuses classic ballet moves like pliés with elements of strength training, mobility, and Pilates to create a dynamic and fun full-body workout. When I tried my first barre class, boy did I feel the burn — I fell in love with how the classes felt like I was getting all the good parts of ballet, without too much emphasis on the timing of each second.
According to Jo-Leigh Morris, barre instructor and coach at fitness app, WithU, while barre is a low-impact workout that uses a lot of small, controlled movements, we shouldn’t underestimate its power. “In a barre class, you’ll perform high reps of moves like barre squats, lunges, leg lifts, and more, all of which are compound movements that when performed at high rep ranges fatigue the muscles, building strength and muscle endurance, and giving you that satisfying ‘barre burn’”, says Morris.
Morris explained how barre is effective for building muscular strength, particularly in your legs, glutes, and core. “It’s also great for improving posture, thanks to its ballet and Pilates roots, and also boosts flexibility and range of motion. Additionally, as barre is a low-impact workout style, it has a lower risk of injury and is a great option for those recovering from injury, or in need of an effective but low-stress way to exercise,” she says.
After a hard few months of pretty much no exercise due to having surgery on my core, I felt the challenge of doing barre workouts every day for a week to be quite a fun one, hoping that it would get me to fall back in love with that post-workout dopamine hit.
I did barre workouts every day for a week — here's what happened to my body
How I did my barre routine
Knowing that I needed to be doing a workout every day for a week, I weighed up the practicality of heading to a workout space when I was having a busy day at work or it was cold and opted for online classes instead. Online training is great for people like me, as I have endometriosis, and there are often days or weeks when I don’t feel like heading out to exercise.
One of the websites I used was Alo Moves, and I was able to filter the barre classes based on what I wanted to focus on. Here’s what I chose:
Day 1: Barre Body Foundations
Day 2: Slider Sculpt 53
Day 3: Barre Glutes 101 — Side Lying
Day 4: 5-Minute Focus — Upper Back
Day 5: Barre Body Nourish
Day 6: Barre Core 35
Day 7: Barre Body Strong
Here’s what I learned:
I’m not as strong as I thought I was
In the last ten years or so, I've taken going to the gym and working out semi-seriously. Sometimes I have periods where I'm really into it, and others, I just can't find the motivation. Having said that, I've always loved yoga, and have dipped my toe in and out of ballet and barre, so I didn't expect anything that felt too strenuous during this week.
So when I began my workouts I was really surprised to find that my limbs struggled a bit. I’ve always found barre classes quite core-heavy in the past, but purposely picked a range of workouts for this week to test the spectrum of what barre offers — and it stung. I found my legs and arms quivering quite a while before my core wanted to give way, which surprised me given that I’ve had recent surgery.
I dipped after day 3
I began my week with workouts that included the whole body, which I enjoyed, but after the third day, I felt really tired. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself, as this all came about six weeks after my surgery, and by my standards, I was doing pretty well. So following that, I went for a short class and then one that included a lot of stretching, so I was able to recharge and nourish myself.
I woke up feeling sore, but it was great
It has to be expected to a degree, that after a full-body workout, the muscles will ache and feel tight. Morris explained to me that “during a barre class, you’ll perform a lot of moves within a small and controlled range of motion, such as squat pulses. This targets the smaller muscles that aren’t used as much in everyday movement, which is what makes a barre class so challenging and why you’re likely to feel sore the next day. Working these muscles helps give your muscles an elongated look, and improves your overall stability and mobility.”
Towards the end of the week, the soreness felt sort of good. I found that my neck was less tense when I woke up and that although my legs were quite sore, they felt well stretched and I felt a lot more energized than I usually do when I wake up.
My posture looked a lot better
At first, I thought I was kidding myself — my posture can’t have improved after only a week of workouts, right? But it did. The classes were really helping me work on my form, and I found that I was slouching less and not hanging my head as much as I usually would throughout the day. I wanted to sit down a lot more in the first few days, as I was standing better when I was upright. I’ve seen a chiropractor a lot in the last few years because of how I hold my shoulders and neck, and for a slight curve in my spine. With these workouts, I was constantly reminded to lengthen my spine and pull my shoulders downwards.
Would I do it again?
I enjoyed this week doing barre, it feels both refreshing and like it’s giving my body an intense workout. After doing the workouts every day for a week, I noticed just how quickly my body can feel a lot better after giving it some more care. But, it was pretty exhausting to do a class every day — both on my body and mind when I just wanted to rest.
How often should you do a barre workout?
Depending on what you want to get out of practicing barre, you can feel the benefits with just a couple of regular sessions. For example, if you’re doing barre to support high-impact training such as weight training, then one or two classes per week is a good place to start, as you build the muscular endurance in your smaller muscle groups that help boost your weight training performance.
However, if you want to work on your form, make progress with barre, and take on more advanced barre moves or longer classes, then three or more barre classes per week will have you progressing towards your goals at a good rate. It’s just about figuring out what works for you and your lifestyle and giving yourself flexibility when you need it.
Is doing a barre workout every day for a week too much, or is it okay for a one-off?
As with any form of exercise, it’s really important to give your muscles the time they need to repair. Whilst barre isn’t high-impact, if you’ve ever done a barre workout, you’ll know that barre DOMS is a real thing. Due to the nature of barre, it’s highly fatiguing on your muscles, therefore you need to give your body a break to repair your muscles as they become stronger.
As a rule of thumb, give yourself at least one day of recovery time per week, in a way that suits you. Whether it’s going for a light walk instead of doing a workout or taking some chill time for yourself at home, your muscles will thank you for it, and you’ll have a better workout after some rest.
What kind of things can you expect when you do frequent barre workouts?
As you do more barre workouts, you’ll find that your flexibility will increase, your core strength will improve and you’ll notice a considerable improvement in balance and posture. You’ll also notice that whilst you’ll get the barre burn, moves that felt incredibly challenging at first will feel much more manageable and the barre burn is something you actually look forward to!
There’s also the important impact on mental health that comes with frequently working out. Barre is such a fun way to exercise and release those important endorphins that promote better mental health.
More from Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.