You’ve likely heard of barre studios like Pure Barre, Bar Method, Barre3, FlyBarre, Xtend Barre…and the list goes on.
While each has an individual sculpting method and style, all focus on small, isometric movements combined with stretches to lengthen muscles. The technique stems from The Lotte Berk Method, an exercise developed in the late 1960s by German dancer Lotte Berk, and brought to the United States in the 1970s by one of her students.
Today’s workouts incorporate moves from ballet, yoga and Pilates, and use props like lightweights, yoga blocks, resistance bands, weighted balls and Pilates rings. Fun props, but many moves can be done without the extras.
For tips on which, we asked two New York City instructors—Kara Liotta, Master Instructor and Director of Training at FlyBarre, and Kristine Storie, instructor and owner of Xtend Barre—for their favorite no-equipment moves.
1. Flybarre’s Wall Bridge Series
Lay on your back facing a wall with your feet up against the wall, toes pointed up. Make sure your knees are right over the hips. Press hand down flat on the floor beside you. Slowly lift the pelvis up and down, letting your hips come down about an inch from the floor. Perform this move for about 1 minute, then pulse at the top for 2 minutes, keeping the pelvis up at hip level and feet into the wall.
Challenge yourself: During this sequence, lift the toes just slightly off the wall, says Liotta, with the heels remaining firm into the wall to intensify the burn in your hammies.
2. Flybarre’s Inner Thigh Leg Lifts
Works: Inner thighs
Lay on your left side, resting your head on your left arm or using your left hand to prop your head up. Bring the right leg across the left, so that the right knee is pointing toward the ceiling. Flex the left foot and lift the leg, taking tiny pulses upward. Make sure you are getting the whole thighbone up off the floor when you lift. Perform this for about 2 minutes on each side.
3. Flybarre’s Rotating Side Plank
Works: Obliques, side waist
Start out in a forearm plank position, then turn your hips so they’re stacked on top of each other, facing the left side, with your right forearm on the floor and the left hand on your hip. If you’re laying on a mat, make sure your forearm is parallel to the edge of the mat. Pulse the hips toward the ceiling until you start to feel a burning sensation. Then, reach the top hand up and twist the body toward the floor, threading your top hand through the space between you and the floor, while maintaining your side plank position. Return to the starting position and pulse the hips upward, then repeat. After 2 minutes on one side, come back to a center plank and then turn to the other side.
Challenge yourself: When you’re in side plank, lift the top leg up so that one leg is higher than the other, suggest Liotta. Stay like this for the duration of the exercise.
4. The Xtend Barre Passe Press
With one hand, hold onto something for support, such the back of a chair or a countertop. Start in second position with your legs in a wider than hip-width stance and your toes turned out, then bend your knees into a deep plie, trying to get your thighs parallel to the ground. Then, come up to a figure four position, bringing the outside leg up, toe to knee, leg turned out. Keep the outside arm in ‘high fifth,’ or raised above the head.
Repeat for eight counts, moving from second position plie to figure four, then perform another set of eight with the inside foot in releve, or raised so you are on the ball of your foot. Repeat on the opposite side.
Challenge yourself: Storie suggests after performing the sequence, hold in second position plie, then raise both feet to releve and pulse for three-to-four sets of eight.
5. The Xtend Barre Back Attitude and Tendu Lift Series
Works: Glutes, quads, hamstrings
With two hands, hold onto something for support, like the back of a chair or a countertop, and face it. Bring your feet to first position, or heels together, toes turned out, and knees softly bent. Take the left leg back behind you into an attitude position, with the raised leg bent, keeping the leg as parallel to the floor as possible. Extend and bend the raised leg for 8-16 counts, then pulse the leg upward for 8-16 counts, keeping the leg out directly behind you. Finally, move to a curtsy, bringing the working leg behind standing leg, so that the ankles are crossed. Flow back and forth between curtsy and a figure four position for 2 sets of 8 counts. Repeat on the right side.
Challenge yourself: Perform the whole sequence in releve to increase thigh work in the standing leg, says Storie.