One of the best workout classes, barre-none

Sophia Pizzi

Walking into the studio, I had no idea what to expect. Sporting my yoga outfit and essential Lululemon headband, I timidly grabbed two one-pound weights, a neon orange exercise ball and a washcloth. I surveyed the room and planted myself in an empty spot along the ballet barre that wrapped around the entire studio. What followed in the next hour, however, was not just a workout. It was an experience. 

In the past few months, it seems as though Barre exercise classes have emerged as the latest workout trend. Remember when frozen yogurt shops took all those in the ice cream industry by storm? That’s essentially what barre is doing to the exercise class world. With no intense cardio, the barre atmosphere is providing gym enthusiasts with a new obsession: a relaxing workout that tones all areas of the body—and actually works. 

Barre3, a franchise founded in 2008, is located off of East Lancaster Avenue in Rosemont, Pa. It is an exercise class heavily influenced by ballet, yoga, and Pilates. According to its website, Barre3 “focuses on a unique combination of dynamic movement and isometric holds.” It sounded nice, but I decided I needed to experience the hype in order to best understand it. And I am so glad I did.

The one-hour session began with breathing and stretching exercises. After about 10 minutes, we ventured to the barre, looking sort of like a ballet class. It turns out that the barre was extremely useful. We gripped, let go and re-gripped it various times in order to balance in different positions, such as holding planks and squats. 

Despite how nice this sounds, the class was far from easy. In fact, it was very challenging. Between squatting, pulsing, flexing and holding various positions, the class touched upon almost every major muscle in the body.

About a half hour into the workout, we transitioned to the center of the studio and worked with small weights. We repeated numerous arm movements (forward, backward, sideways, diagonally—anything you can imagine) that had my arms trembling before it was even over—                          a good kind of trembling, though.

The concluding portion of the class was spent on mats. Here we completed ab-strengthening exercises and more stretches, seeing the bit of yoga blended with Pilates by holding certain leg positions and utilizing the small, squishy exercise balls. 

The upbeat music made each exercise enjoyable, and the instructor was extremely optimistic and encouraging. There were degrees of difficulty for each position, which made the class flexible in terms of experience. If you were having trouble, you could just modify your position a little to take some of the stress off. 

The class ended after a quick hour. As I gathered my things, another woman in the class, knowing that I was new to barre, approached me to ask how I thought the class was. We chatted for a while, and she raved about how much she loves it. On my way out, I received a healthy-living recipe card from the front desk. I noticed a poster on the wall displaying a monthly challenge going on for the members. The space was clean, modern and very well-kept. It barely felt like I was at a gym. It wasn’t until this moment when I realized that the class was more than a workout. It was a community, it was supportive, it was interactive and it was fun. 

This experience allowed me to understand why other students love it so much.

“I first heard about barre classes from my best friend’s mom who absolutely loved them,” sophomore and barre-enthusiast Valerie Tacelli says. “I figured I would give it a try but wasn’t totally into it because I wasn’t much of a ballerina when I grew up, but it ended up being one of the coolest exercise classes I had ever been too.”

Tacelli explained how it was a unique class because although it focused on individual muscles, it feels like it is working the entire body. 

“I have been to many more classes since my first experience, and it’s safe to say that I’m totally hooked,” she says.

Luckily for us barre-lovers at the University, there are several barre studios along the mainline. Along with Barre3 in Rosemont, there is a Pure Barre studio in Wayne and a Barre Focus Fitness in Bryn Mawr. Classes average around $20 each, but are much cheaper when purchased as a package of several classes. Many studios accept walk-ins but also recommend booking online in advance to reserve a spot. 

So if you’ve heard the hype and thought about going, I’d definitely recommend trying it out. I promise you won’t regret it.