Interested in barre? Grab a chair and try this ballet-inspired barre workout in the comfort of your own home!
Barre workouts have exploded onto the fitness scene in recent years, and for good reason – they are fun, fast-paced and efficient. Yet, group classes aren’t always best for the beginner which is why we created this easy, gentle 10-minute barre routine that you can do at home. You’ll sculpt long, lean muscles while protecting your joints and improving your coordination. All you need is a chair and your favorite playlist!
One benefit of the barre-style workout is its focus on strengthening and stabilizing the oft-neglected smaller muscle groups, especially those in the lower body. The majority of the movements and exercises that we do throughout the day rely on the big muscles that we all know and love – glutes, hamstrings, quads, etc. While important, our large muscles can only function properly when supported by the little guys, so it’s crucial that we also show some TLC to the supporting muscles.
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The supporting muscles that you will train in this workout include:
- Abductors and adductors (inner and outer thighs)
- Gluteus medius and minimus (side of the hips)
- Erector spinae (muscles that straighten and rotate the back)
- Psoas (hip flexors)
The back of a chair serves as the barre in this workout, which helps balance your body as you find correct alignment. That said, the barre is there as a light support only; your goal in this workout is to use your core strength to maintain balance and control, with as little assistance from the chair as possible.
What You Need To Know Before Your First Barre Workout
Barre workouts are synonymous with dozens of tiny pulses and isometric contractions of underused muscles. Since these moves may not come to you as naturally as other workouts, it’s important to keep these things in mind:
- It will feel a little awkward! You’ll be waking up some long-forgotten muscles as you learn new body positions. It’s totally normal to feel like you have two left feet the first time that you try this routine! All it takes is a few repeats of this workout, and you’ll be bending at the barre like a pro.
- Increase your repetitions only when your fitness increases: It is essential that you prioritize technique over repetitions and range of motion. Complete as many reps of the exercises as you can while maintaining your alignment and core control, but don’t be afraid to take a rest if you feel like your form is failing.
- Breathe! Funny as that reminder may sound, it’s easy for barre participants to forget their breath. This happens because you’re focused on learning the new moves while also mentally coaching yourself to get through the set, but everything about this workout becomes easier once you remember to inhale and exhale.
Easy + Gentle Home Barre Workout
Now, let’s get you moving! You’ll need a stable chair to use as the barre, and either a yoga mat or grip socks to keep you stable. Start at the beginner level, and once your form starts to improve, slowly work your way towards more repetitions. You can repeat this workout three times per week.
- Beginner = 10 reps per move, per leg as required
- Intermediate = 20 reps per move, per leg as required
- Advanced = 30 reps per move, per leg as required
Exception: warm up and cool down
Warm Up (6 reps, all levels)
- Stand with your feet parallel and knees slightly bent. Place your hands on your thighs.
- EXHALE as you round the spine, drawing the abdominals to the back.
- INHALE, arch the spine, reaching the breastbone and tailbone forward and up. That is one repetition.
Plié Step Outs
- Stand tall with your heels together and toes apart, in “first position.” Place your left hand lightly on the back of the chair and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
- Keeping a long spine, step the right foot out to the side, wider than hip distance, and bend both knees into a plié.
- Squeeze your buttocks and thighs to stand back up, squeezing the inner thighs and heels together as in the starting position.
Tip: It is essential that you keep your tailbone pointing down during this move. If you notice an arch in the lower back, you can decrease your range of motion by only bending the knees halfway to 90º. Your knees should be directly over your toes at all times.
3rd Position Switches
- Still standing tall with the left hand on the bar, cross the right heel IN FRONT of the left arch of the foot, in “third position”.
- Flex the right foot and hinge it out and then behind the left leg so that the right heel is behind the left arch of the foot.
- Repeat the move, returning the right foot in front of the left. That is one repetition.
Tip: The external rotation of the thighs must come from the hips, not the knees. Think about swiveling your thigh bone open from within the hip socket and keep your knees and toes in comfortable alignment. This movement is very small and sharp – you’re using your inner thigh muscles to move the leg.
- Standing tall with your left hand on the back of the chair, cross the right heel BEHIND the left arch of the foot.
- With a straight right knee, lift the right foot up behind you.
- Lower the foot back to the floor. That is one repetition.
Tip: This movement activates the glutes and hamstrings, but it isn’t very big. DO NOT arch the low back to lift the leg higher. To keep the knee straight, you must activate your quadricep (front of the thigh) for the entire move.
- Stand tall with the left hand on the back of the chair, feet at hip’s width.
- Keeping a long spine, engage your lower abdominals and lift the right knee to 90º or higher.
- Hold the lifted knee still for 3 counts before lowering.That is one repetition.
Tip: You’ll want to tuck your pelvis as you lift your leg, but don’t! Your job is to keep your spine completely still and only lift the thigh and knee. Perhaps it won’t get to 90º today, but that’s ok, eventually it will!
Repeat the entire leg routine on the left side, with the right hand on the barre.
Arms + Core
Single Side Mountain Climber
- Stand in front of the chair, facing sideways.
- Place your right hand flat on the seat of the chair, bend the right knee and take a step back with the left leg so you’re in a standing lunge position.
- Engage your abdominals to pull the left knee up towards your arms, then extend it back to lunge. That is one repetition. (Do the remaining reps at a relatively fast pace, then switch sides.)
Tip: EXHALE as your knee comes in towards your chest to engage your transverse abdominals. If lifting the knee is too challenging, tap your toe on the floor beneath your hip instead.
Weightless Tricep Kickbacks
- Stand with your feet at hips width with your knees slightly bent, and lean forward to 45º.
- Bend your elbows and make fists with your hands either side of your waist.
- Press the arms straight back, and hug them towards each other, hold for two counts.
- Bend the arms back in.
Tip: Bodyweight movements become challenging when you can mentally contract your muscles, so think that you’re pressing back a heavy weight and you’ll get twice the work!
- Stand in front of the chair and place both hands flat on the seat.
- Step your legs back to plank position.
- Remain here for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, focusing on engaging your core muscles.
Tip: A strong exhale will draw the navel to the spine. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
Standing Pelvic Tilts
- Stand tall with the feet at hips width and the knees slightly bent.
- EXHALE as you engage the lower abdominals and tuck the tailbone towards the navel.
- INHALE and release to find a slight extension of the low back. That is one repetition.
Tip: This movement is all about your abs, so there is no need to squeeze your backside or overarch your low spine. For bonus points, activate your pelvic floor muscles as you EXHALE.
Cool Down (3 reps each side, all levels)
Stretch To The Sun
- Stand in front of the chair with your knees bent, and place both hands flat on the seat.
- INHALE as you sweep your left arm out to the side and up to the ceiling, rotating the ribcage and looking up (if that’s comfortable on your neck).
- EXHALE to lower the arm and return the spine to neutral.
- Switch sides and lift the right arm. Do three repetitions, alternating sides.
Tip: Keep the arm completely straight to work the deltoids (outer shoulder muscle) and facilitate the rotation of the spine.
(Your Next Workout: Do These 3 Stretches to Release Neck and Shoulder Pain)