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11 Barre Moves That Sculpt Your Body

Simple and effective moves for every level.
FACT CHECKED BY Christopher Roback

Want barre movies that sculpt your body? You've come to the right place. For the last 20 years as a fitness instructor, I have taught more than 12,000 fitness classes all over the US and even as far away as Bangkok, Thailand, and my focus and specialty has been mind/body, and specifically, Pilates. For my own personal fitness practice, my go-to is Pilates, strength training; and Barre (or dance in general). Why? Barre/Dance appeals to my love of moving to the beat and it brings out my creative mind and frees up my body. With that in mind, here are 11 Barre moves that sculpt your body.

The Benefits of Strength Training

athlete in the gym with dumbbells. High quality photo

For me, strength training has always been appealing – and being in the group fitness industry for over 30 years, I love to move to music! And moving to music while lifting weights fulfills the immediate benefits of weight training. Here is a quick list of benefits of strength training: 

  1. You'll build muscle strength (helps with ability to do your daily tasks)
  2. It burns calories more efficiently (building muscle increases metabolic rate)
  3. You decrease risk of falls (ability to support your own body)
  4. It lowers risk of injury (improves overall strength and range of motion around joints)
  5. It helps with bone strength/density (weight-bearing exercises place stress on bones, which helps to build bone density and reduces risk of osteoporosis)
  6. It improves brain health (studies show improvements in cognitive function)
  7. You'll have better self-esteem and quality of life (helps you to work towards a goal and appreciate your own body's ability to overcome challenges)

And while I love a good weightlifting workout with light to moderate weights (especially if I have my favorite music playing) – there's nothing better than incorporating Barre/Dance moves and building strength with my own body weight. It also means that I can do this type of workout anywhere – outside, at the wall at home, and with or without music.

Step 1: START!

Two girls are getting ready for fitness training

While this may be the toughest step – once started and implemented into a consistent and daily routine – it becomes an easy and adaptable item to your list of daily tasks. 

Step 2: Survey Your Equipment and Get Creative

Different sports equipment and fitness ball in gym

What do you have in the way of props, equipment, and space? Survey the area (unless you are working out in a dedicated group exercise room or gym) and figure out what you've got. For instance, I do pushups at my kitchen counter while making coffee (I know a bit much right? Yet, totally true and I will use other props like a chair or table for the same thing if I'm in a hotel room).  I will also use a wall or doorway for balance and or a windowsill to bring the floor to me. For props – you can use soup cans if you don't have weights, or a filled or partially filled water bottle to add a bit of resistance. 

I fortunately have weights, plates, and a barbell so am fully equipped to take on any number of strength training options into my workouts. Other useful props for Barre and strength training are resistance bands (I prefer light and long), Pilates circle/ring, yoga blocks (I like the cork ones that have a bit of density and weight to them), foam rollers, are small stability balls are some favorite options.

Step 3: Think on Your Feet

Yoga at home exercise in living room house - woman on fitness mat training stretching legs touching toes.

Your feet…while doing Barre doesn't require shoes – you can wear them if you need support (a flexible cross trainer or dance shoe is best if you must wear shoes). I like to wear socks either with or without grip on the bottom if on a hard surface yet prefer being barefoot for carpet. For strength training with weights, it is recommended to wear shoes to protect your feet on hard surfaces and protect the foot if you drop a weight. 

Step 4: One Step at a Time

Woman walking barefoot at home, closeup. Floor heating concept

Start slow and simple – for instance, set a goal of moving for 5 mins every other day. This might seem like nothing – yet it IS something, and if you make the goal 5 minutes of 'movement' you can walk around your space, or outside for 5 minutes and that is your workout every other day. Then you can start to define with more clarity your goals (i.e.: lose weight, gain more muscle, lift a certain weight, workout for 30 mins every other day, etc). 

There's nothing worse than laying out a plan that is too "lofty" – and while it might be well intentioned, if you fail to achieve your goal in the first week, you might be too defeated to re-think or restructure your plan. If you take a break, start again, and again, and again. Life will always 'life' for us – imposing challenges as well as inspirations. Doing something is always better than doing nothing! Some of My Favorite Barre Moves That Sculpt Your Body

Plie/Knee Bend

Photo of female left leg being bent in knee

From any foot starting position, bend the knees forward over the center of the foot, keeping the heels grounded and torso upright. Only go as far as possible without lifting the heels from the ground.

Releve/Heel Lift

Cropped shot of female runner standing on her tiptoes for strengthen her calves. Toe stretches can help keep you healthy and prevent common runner injuries.

Lift the heels off the floor by rolling onto the ball of the feet, keeping the ankle, knee, and hip in line with the center of the foot as the heel lifts.

Tendus (means: stretched)

Barefoot woman on the wooden floor. Concept of the underfloor heating in the apartment.

A brush of the toes along the floor, both legs stay straight throughout the movement. This can be done in any direction. The toes stay in contact with the floor.


Yoga with a chair. Fit adult caucasian woman practice squat with props on a mat in loft white studio indoor, selective focus. Fitness, workout, trainer, sport, healthy lifestyle, concept.

Bend the knees and hinge the hips at the same time to sit back and down. This can be done in parallel or turned out with the feet narrow or wide.

Lunges (90/90, Tilt, Curtsy)

Fitness man doing lunges leg exercise lunge exercising legs. Male fitness model doing alternating bodyweight Lunge workout training glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.

Beginning with the feet hip distance, take a long step back with either leg and place the ball of the foot down. Continue to bend both knees while keeping the torso upright and over the back knee. Straighten and step in to switch legs OR stay down and continue onto Forward Tilt Lunge by straightening and bending the back knee to bring the head and torso in line with the back heel. Bend to come upright and either continue with more repetitions or step in to step out with the other leg and switch sides. The curtsy the bending and straightening of the legs with 1-leg crossed bend the other. The back heel stays up and the front heel is grounded throughout all variations of the Lunges.

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Across floor – a move in which 1 foot 'chases' the other – typically done with straight legs & pointed toes.


Feet of woman standing on tiptoe at home

A jump, bend the knees and push off the feet from heel to toes to straighten the legs and lift from the ground. To land, toes to heels bring each foot to the floor and bend the knees to fully absorb the landing with ease.

Port de bras

legs of young dancers ballerinas in class classical dance, ballet

The technique and practice of arm movement in ballet. This simply means the carriage of the arms, or posture and movement of the arms. Moving from en bas (in front of hips), to first (out in front), to fifth (overhead), to second (out to the side); and then back to the hips. In other words – make a circular motion (front, overhead, side, start) and this can move in both directions. Excellent way to strengthen and sculpt the arms and shoulders while maintaining good, upright posture. For additional strengthening, do the movements with a light weight (1-3 lbs) in each hand (or a soup can or semi filled water bottle).


Strong lady in pink leggins and blue hoodie exercising , lifting one knee up and looking ahead on sunny day

Bring one leg to the front of the body (lifted knee bent and turned out) – Attitude; and then sweep down and lift to the back (bent knee with a turned-out hip).  And now some Floorwork Moves


On a yoga mat, an Asian woman does a bridge abduction training. Bridge pulses are used in a fitness studio to tone glute muscles.

Knees bent, feet flat on the floor (or on the wall or stationary barre); lift the hips by articulating from the tailbone to the upper back; or lift the hips straight up keeping the lower back in the starting position. Either lower back down the way you came up, or pulse moving the hips down and up in a small range of motion. Option to lift one leg then the other while maintaining the lifted hips, or lift one leg as you press the hips up.

Press up (pushups)

Sporty Asian woman doing push-ups outdoors

From an all fours (hands under shoulders, knees under hips, torso 1-long line from head to tail), semi plank (hands under shoulders, hips extended and on the floor), or full plank position (hands under shoulders and toes under heels with the legs straight, 1-long line from head to heels); bend the elbows to bring the chest to elbow height, then straighten. 

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The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid

Man scratching his athlete's foot.Close up.

 The biggest mistake is not doing Barre at all! Here's a few others:

  1. Clenching the glutes – i.e. tucking the pelvis too far under – this adjusts the upper body out of alignment as well as overworking the glutes and under utilizing the hamstrings and quads.
  2. Not maintaining neutral alignment and posture throughout the movements – usually happens when someone is using too much resistance, and/or not paying attention to where their body is in space.
  3. Raising too high on the toes – this can cause pain in the feet and damage to the metatarsals and foot itself. Think of lifting the heels only high enough to slide a 1" platform under the heel and when coming down to the floor from a releve, keep reaching the crown of the head to the ceiling.

Portia Page is a pilates teacher and author of "Pilates Illustrated"

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