See You at the Barre! Five Toning Exercises to Try

Feel the burn with this do-it-at-home toning workout, inspired by your favorite barre class.

You don’t have to be a ballerina to reap the benefits of a barre workout.

Through a combination of isometric holds, small, pulsing movements, and big, sweeping stretches, barre exercises are meant to build strength and flexibility.

“If you’re brand new to working out, this is a good workout for you. It’s going to be tough. You’re going to be sore. You’re going to expect to burn,” says DICK’S Sporting Goods barre instructor Judy Elias. “There’s a lot of repetition, but go at your own pace.”

No barre? No problem. Just grab a chair with a seatback that is approximately hip height.

“Barre is really a workout that you can do anytime, anywhere,” says Elias. “Every ounce of your lower body is going to work.”

A FEW TIPS BEFORE BEGINNING

Proper form is crucial. Throughout each of these exercises, you’ll practice “the tuck,” which is a barre term for scooping your pelvis forward to flatten your lower back. This is intended to remove any sort of stress or strain from the lumbar region. Keep your core muscles engaged and maintain a straight spine.

Barre is typically practiced in a mirrored studio, which helps students practice body awareness and maintain proper form, says Elias. If you’re able to do so with a mirror at home, give it a try.

To maintain control and get the most out of these exercises, start with slower, bigger movements, then build up to smaller, faster movements. Barre is “not a cardio class. It’s a true sculpt class,” says Elias.

Finally, wear a comfortable outfit that allows you to move and stretch. You can practice in bare feet or grippy socks. If you have any foot issues, try practicing in shoes, says Elias.

BARRE TONING EXERCISES

1. STANDING SIDE CRUNCH

Turn toward the barre and rest your left hand in front of you. Begin with your right foot crossed behind your left foot, as if you were about to curtsy. Reach your right arm to the sky.

On your inhale, lift your right knee out to the side toward hip height. Extend your right arm toward your knee. On your exhale, release to the starting position.

Repeat up to 10 times. Switch sides.

Remember: Do what you can. It’s not necessary for your knee and elbow to touch in order to experience the benefits of the pose.

To modify, point and lift your toes to the side, rather than lifting your knee.

Lifting your heel and rising up onto your toes as seen here (known as relevè), is an optional intensification.

2. STANDING HYDRANT KICKBACKS

Turn toward the barre and rest both hands in front of you. Bring your chest and torso parallel with the floor. (It does not have to be completely parallel.) Squeeze your core muscles. Lift your leg toward hip height, then crunch it forward toward your elbow.

Repeat up to 10 times. Switch sides.

To modify, try the following exercise in place of this one:

3. SINGLE LEG LIFTS

Turn toward the barre and rest both hands in front of you. Bring your chest and torso parallel with the floor. (Again, it does not have to be completely parallel.) Squeeze your core muscles. Lift your leg back, toward hip height, then tap it down on the ground behind you, keeping your toes pointed.

As you move through this exercise, begin to make each movement smaller. After the final rep, lift and extend your leg, then make tiny pulses toward the sky. You should really feel the burn during those final few movements!

Repeat up to 10 times, with up to 10 smaller pulses at the end. Switch sides.

4. FORWARD LEG LIFTS

Begin with your left hand on the bar. Reach your right arm to the sky and point your right toes forward. Lift your toes, then tap them on the ground in front of you, maintaining a small range of motion.

Lifting the heel and rising up onto your toes as you see here, is an optional modification, which intensifies the exercise.

Repeat up to 10 times. Switch sides.

5. HEEL LIFTS

Begin with your left hand on the bar. Reach your right arm out to the side for balance. Rise onto your toes, soften your knees and hover with your heels lifted. Set your heels down, and lift back up to toes. Continue squeezing your thighs and glutes and tucking your tailbone forward.

Repeat up to 10 times.

6. SIDE KICKS

Begin with your left hand on the bar. Rest your right arm by your side. Cross your right foot behind your left foot, as if you were about to curtsy.

On your inhale, kick your right leg to the side and reach your right arm toward your toes. On your exhale, release to the starting position.

Repeat up to 10 times.

Again, do what you can. Work with your fitness level, flexibility and range of motion. You could feel the effects of these poses in no time!