Loved by A-listers, models and fitness fanatics the world over, barre is your go-to for feeling lean, lithe and supple. Combining the grace and discipline of ballet, yoga and Pilates with the power of strength and conditioning, it's the perfect way to build muscle while increasing your flexibility and mobility.

Think high rep, low impact: 50 pulses and 25 reps are the name of the game in this controlled, workout. The best part: you often don't need any equipment.

So channel Save the Last Dance and Black Swan - or the ballerinas in Kanye's 'Runaway' video - and get ready to tremble and shake your way to a sculpted dancer's body, one elegantly small movement at a time.

The history of barre

'Barre was inspired by ballet, created by a German ballerina called Lotte Berk back in the 50s,' says barre instructor, Lotty Somers. Fun fact: barre was born in the UK, in London.

After suffering a back injury, Berk came up with the idea to combine her dance conditioning with her rehab therapy to create a fitness class. She opened up her first studio in a West End basement where, rumour has it, she taught the likes of Joan Collins and Barbara Streisand.

Is barre only for dancers?

Nope – not at all. 'Many of the movements are based on ballet positions and techniques, but don’t let this put you off,' Somers says. 'Barre is very much a fitness class rather than a dance class, so you don’t need to be a prima ballerina to take part.'

The benefits of barre

1. It's easy on your joints

'Barre provides an efficient high-intensity yet low-impact full-body workout, meaning that it works you hard but without putting any unnecessary strain on your body,' Somers explains.

2. You can do it kit-free

As we mentioned previously, you'll still get a great workout with little or even zero equipment. 'Each class uses your own bodyweight or small resistance-based props such as balls or bands to sculpt and tone your body, so there is plenty of variation on offer,' Somers says.

3. Ballerina strength and function

'The method is designed to create long, lean muscles (think traditional ballerina physique),' says Somers.

But the benefits aren't all aesthetic says Corinne Naomi, programme manager and barre instructor at FiiT.

'Barre heightens your sense of control, balance and your coordination,' she says – i.e. it's all about that mind-muscle connection. 'These skills can be transferred to other modalities of training as well as day to day life.'

Somers agrees: 'It can help you tone those hard-to-reach places as the movements in class are designed to target very small, very specific muscle groups with a focus on working your core, arms, glutes, thighs and abdominals,' she adds.

What is a barre workout?

While there are different styles of barre, a barre workout is generally designed to be a full-body muscular endurance workouts – think low resistance, high reps.

'Barre's ballet inspiration is often reflected in the class programming with traditional ballet exercises such as plies, arabesques and a lot of unilateral work [training one side of your body at a time],' Naomi says.

'You'll also find yourself doing lots of moves that involve pulses and holds. That's because barre relies a lot on isometric contractions to work your muscles – when a muscle is held under tension for an extended period without any visible movement or a change in length,' Naomi says. 'Think moves like planks, squat holds, plié holds and v-sits.'

'These types of contractions are great at building strength and stability, developing control and enhancing your mind-to-muscle connection.'

These types of contractions are also the reason you'll find yourself trembling or shaking in barre classes. So yes – that's supposed to happen.

'It's a result of losing and then regaining the ability to contract your muscles, it's perfectly safe and to be expected,' Naomi says.

'It's a key indicator that you're working your muscles harder than they are used to', Somers adds. 'Isometric contractions combined with high repetitions isolate and exhaust specific muscles more quickly than in other forms of exercise.'

'The bottom line is, that if you're trying to get stronger, it's time to embrace the shake and try to get deeper into positions and stay in them for longer in order to maximise results!'

Can barre help you lose weight?

As always – sorry – it depends. Barre can help facilitate weight-loss because you'll be burning calories during your workouts, as with any form of exercise.

'If you enjoy barre, you're likely to lose weight doing these types of classes, as your ability to commit and to be consistent will be high,' Naomi says.

'However, the key factors in weight loss would be eating in a caloric deficit whilst also taking into consideration your macro/micro-nutrient balance, keeping stress levels to a minimum, getting adequate sleep each day, plus having a healthy level of day-to-day movement. Everything needs to work together!'

Does a barre workout give you abs?

Again, this depends. Visible ab definition requires consistent training of your abdominal muscles – primarily your rectus abdominis – which barre can do, yes.

However, a more important factor when it comes that chiseled look is how much tissue is covering those muscles. You'll learn more about our handy guide on how to get a six-pack (spoiler: you already have one).

Still, it's worth noting that building core strength and stability is often a major focus in barre, which – while it may not result in cheese-grater abs – is infinitely more useful, anyway.

What equipment do you need for barre?

Your own body weight is more than enough for an effective barre workout. Trust us, that infamous shake will come.

However, if you do want to commit to doing barre regularly or want to up the ante, it might be worth investing in a resistance band and some light (we're talking max 2kg) hand weights. The barre necessities, if you will.

Who should avoid doing barre?

As with any forms of exercise, 'It's best to seek medical advice if you have any injuries or niggles, or if you're pregnant', Naomi says.

'Every class is unique to the instructor, so its appropriateness would vary depending on what has been programmed in each workout. Generally, barre classes are a safe zone and can be adapted or modified to suit everyone and everybody.'

Best barre classes in London

1. Barrecore

Get the famous 'Barrecore shake' at the UK's original and largest barre destination. Improve strength and sculpt your body with these expert-designed isometric movements at 10 London locations and three more in the north of England. From BarreSCULPT, which features resistance bands, to BarreGLIDE, where gliders challenge your body with instability, there's a workout for everybody.

  • Price: £28 per class, packages available
  • Locations: Chelsea, Chiswick, Hampstead, Islington, Kensington, Mayfair, Notting Hill, St. Mary Axe, Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Leeds, Alderley Edge, Hale

2. Psycle

A modern take on traditional barre, Psycle will take you through a series of challenging combinations to strengthen muscles, helping you feel stronger and leaner. Reduce stress and burn body fat in any of the four class styles - Signature 55, Glide & Sculpt, Deep Burn, and Abs & Arms.

  • Price: 3 classes for £45 intro offer; £25 per studio credit; offers and credit packs available
  • Locations: Oxford Circus, Clapham, Shoreditch, Notting Hill, Victoria

3. Frame

At Frame's intimate barre class, the burn is anything but slight. Controlled-movement choreography is changed every eight weeks to make sure you're always targeting different muscles for a total-body workout. Bonus: focusing on such small, precise movements is great for your memory and mental clarity, too.

  • Price: 2 classes in 2 weeks for £20 intro offer; £16 per class; memberships and class packages available
  • Locations: Shoreditch, Kings Cross, Victoria, Hammersmith, Angel


Work out in award-winning studios where design and art meet fitness. Combine rhythm, strength and coordination in BLOK's barre offering, where dance and fitness merge to leave you feeling lean, creatively stimulated and connected to your centre.

  • Price: £75 for 10 classes intro offer; £15 per class; memberships available
  • Locations: Leyton, Clapton, Shoreditch, Manchester

5. Danceworks London

Simran Sehmi's Barre Fitness workout class at Danceworks will leave you feeling energised and centred. Her high-intensity, low-impact class challenges and improves your balance, alignment and flexibility to music's upbeat rhythm. Start with a dynamic warm-up and wind down with a balletic sequence.

  • Price: £12
  • Location: Bond Street

Best barre workouts to do at home

There are plenty of ways to make barre a part of your home fitness plan. Here are a few of our faves.

Barre apps and websites

1. Psycle at home

London spin, yoga and barre studio extraordinaire Pyscle is offering studio quality classes online, both live and on-demand.

  • Price: 14-day free trial; £29 monthly membership; £240 annual membership

2. Barrecore

Not just limited to in-person, this OG studio is taking over the online space, too. Claudia Schiffer, Pippa Middleton, Rita Ora and Poppy Delevingne all love Barrecore – and with good reason. You can do their live or on-demand sessions for £25 per month or live streamed classes for £60 per month.

  • Price: £15 3 for 2 intro offer for live-streamed class; £7.50 per class; £25 monthly on-demand membership; other memberships available

3. FiiT

This workout app, beloved of the WH team, has recently added a barre programme to their extensive offering.

  • Price: Free (yes, really), or £5.32 or £7.49 per month

4. Paola's Bodybarre

PBB on-demand always delivers that muscle-trembling goodness. Download the app to access everything from Floor Barre to Burn and Sculpt, and unlock your full potential.

  • Price: 7-day free trial, then £20 per month

Best barre workouts on YouTube

1. BarreTutorial with Sarah Gorman

2. 35-minute at-home sculpting barre + Pilates workout

3. 30-minute power cardio barre workout

4. 10-minute barre fitness workout

5. 18-minute barre workout: booty and core

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