Tried and tested: the ballet barre workout

We all know you’re more likely to stick with something if you love it – but finding a workout that can hold your attention and keep you coming back week after week is a challenge in itself. Convinced exercise doesn’t have to be all long runs and sweaty gyms, we sent our editor – a self-confessed unadventurous exerciser – on a mission to find the class for her. And give us a little insight along the way, of course.

This week, she tries Ballet Barre – a complete body workout incorporating ballet moves, using the barre for support. Here’s the verdict.

Despite common preconceptions, no one is too heavy or stiff for ballet. Thankfully, adapted workouts like Ballet Barre have made this elite sport available to the not-so-bendy: i.e. me. I was five when I hung up my tutu –convinced my feet would snap if I stayed more than a millisecond en pointe – and I haven’t done ballet since, but I’m excited to give it another shot.

The class experience

Tonight’s class is 100 percent female (although this isn’t always the case), with ages ranging from 25 to 65. Everyone seems friendly, but I have to admit I do feel a little awkward in my socks and pajama-like leggings (in my defense, it is close to bedtime)! Will I break a toe? Twist my knee? I hope not.

Before we begin our teacher, professional ballerina Sophie, gives a few pointers on posture: “if your spine isn’t properly aligned you’ll lose your balance and fall. Keep your back straight by tucking in your pelvis and engaging your core.” I just need to pull in my tummy and stand up straight, then. Sounds easy…

We warm up with a series of pliés; it turns out making crouching look graceful is downright tricky. Things are moving fast and I’m a little lost, so I start mimicking my two barre buddies to keep up – they remain admirably unfazed and concentrated, and don't seem to mind.

There’s a mathematical precision to each move, and spinning, bending and kicking while your muscles are burning is actually really hard. Luckily, the upbeat classical music is extremely soul-soothing, and according to Sophie you’re burning a ton of calories.

Things start to feel more intense as Sophie moves us on to battements kicks – which need you to throw your legs up as high as you can – followed by gravity-defying pirouettes requiring stability and strength. If I lose focus for even a second I’ll crash gracelessly to the floor. But I make it through, and by the end of the class I feel steadier, sprightly… And spent.

The following morning I wake up with achy legs (you really work your inner and outer thighs) and, as I go to wash my hair, my arms are still shaky from all the balancing. I also feel a tugging sensation deep in my belly, pointing to a serious core workout.


All in all, Ballet Barre is a dizzying, full-body workout – and I loved it. It made me feel fierce and poised. Plus, it lengthens the muscles, tones the core and improves flexibility – helping you develop a dancer’s silhouette. But it does require the ability to bounce around on the tip of your toes, which isn’t for everyone. I won’t be investing in a new (adult-sized) tutu just yet, but I’ll definitely be back to try it again with a friend.