Want a long, lean physique? We give you permission to head straight to the barre. These ballet-inspired movements have been shown to flatten abs, sculpt thighs, tone arms, and lift your rear. Even better? These fat-blasting moves can be done just about anywhere — no ballet barre required.
To get started, we talked to Sadie Lincoln, author of Love Your Lower Body, and founder of barre3, a workout that combines ballet barre work, the wisdom of yoga, and the strength of Pilates. And since Barre3 workouts are often done in 10-minute segments, you can put the lid on that “I don’t have time” excuses jar — we’re not having it!
“Every workout includes an isometric hold, small one-inch movements, and a dynamic, functional range of motion,” says Lincoln. Try one of all of these moves while cooking dinner, watching your favorite TV shows, or as a quick break at the office. It’s time to raise the barre!
Do-Anywhere Barre Exercises
1. Firm Arms
Where: The office
Targets: Arms, chest and back
How to: Place your hands directly on your desk or a sturdy chair that can support your weight, shoulder-distance apart, and step back so you’re on the balls of your feet. With the arms extended and spine long, engage your core. (a) Bend your elbows and draw your chest towards the counter. (b) Next, press through your palms and extend the arms bringing you back to the start position. (c) Continue for 60 seconds while maintaining solid form.
2. Sculpt Your Seat
Where: The kitchen counter
Targets: Glutes, core
How to: Stand tall and lightly rest your palms on the counter. (a) Bend your knees slightly and draw your right foot behind you. (b) Lift the leg directly behind you a few inches and hold. The standing knee should be soft, hips squared towards the desk. Make sure the core is engaged, spine is long and you’re leaning slightly forward. (c) Next, lift the right toe up one inch and lower, then slide the same leg out to the right one inch and pull it back to center. (d) Perform this L-shaped move for 30 reps, then repeat on the left side.
3. Tone Thighs
Where: The living room
Targets: Inner thighs, legs
How to: Facing the back of your couch or a sturdy chair, rest your hands on the support and plant your feet wider than your hips. Bend your knees slightly and hold, making sure the knees aren’t locked. Your toes should be turned out, knees tracking over the middle toes, hips squared, and core engaged. (a) Drag the right heel towards the left foot until feet are together and you’re standing tall. (b) Next, step out with the left foot until you’re back in the wide straddle position with your bent knees. (c) Draw your left foot back towards your right foot until you’re standing tall. (d) Then, step the right foot out to the right until you’re back in the straddle pose. (e) Repeat the back and forth exercises for 60 seconds. For a more advanced move, work on your balance by trying this exercise without the support.
4. Flatten Abs
Where: Living room or bedroom
Targets: Core, obliques
How to: Sitting on a mat, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, lean back and place the barre3 core ball or a rolled up towel between your shoulder blades on the mat behind you. (a) With your backside rooted into the mat and spine long, engage your core and rest the weight of your head into your hands. (b) Inhale and slightly open your chest over the ball or towel. (c) As you exhale, draw your low belly down while lifting your head, neck and shoulders up and taking a small cinch to the right by angling the right elbow towards your right waist. (d) Inhale back through center, then exhale and repeat to the left. Be sure to focus on the belly and rib cage drawing down and in towards your hips to target all layers of the core. Continue for 60 seconds.
Boost Your Barre Benefits
Have a need for speed? Remember that rushing through the movements won’t get you far. To maximize your time at the barre (or support), follow these essential tips to reap the most benefits from your workout.
1. Embrace the shakes!
Quivering muscles are a good thing with these isometric movements. An isometric hold strengthens your muscles since you aren’t taking breaks for muscle recovery. As you engage your muscles to stay in a posture, you’re taxing both the large and small stabilizer muscles. Holding your muscles during a contraction helps to increase your strength and endurance without having to add weight. Remember to always stop if you feel sharp pain or any other discomfort.
2. Listen to what your body needs.
Customize the workout to your needs and fitness level. At barre3, they say, “Work smarter instead of harder.” Sometimes the most simple and basic exercises are the most challenging and effective. “Those who listen to their body’s wisdom get better results faster,” says Lincoln. When you’re starting out, feel free to modify the moves, do fewer reps, or take a break whenever you need to. It’s better to do fewer repetitions correctly than to sacrifice form and try to muscle through the recommended reps.
3. Stretch out.
Incorporate at least five minutes of stretching at the end of each session or class to safely bring the heart rate down and release tension in the muscles. We guarantee you’ll be feeling it the next day, so make your recovery count. Lincoln also recommends rounding out barre workouts with cardiovascular activities like brisk walking, swimming or cycling.
4. Hydrate and refuel.
To make sure you’re adequately hydrated, weigh yourself before you work out so you’ll be able to tell how much water weight you’ve lost, suggests The American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM recommends drinking 8-12 ounces of water 15 minutes before any workout, 3-8 ounces every 15 minutes during exercise, and 20-24 ounces of water afterwards for every pound of body weight lost. Lincoln also suggests having a post-workout snack that includes fat, fiber and protein, like a handful of raw nuts.
Need some extra motivation to commit to your new workout routine? Enlist a friend — or find support online — to help you stick to a program you’ll love all season long. For added incentive, put a few dollars in a “bathing suit” jar (or whatever reward you set) every time you complete a workout. Before you know it you’ll be cashing in on your hard work.
Originally posted April 8, 2014.