Disco music, modern dance, kettle bells and gliders mean you’ll never be bored at the barre. Read on to discover the capital’s coolest offerings…
Words Sabrina Nunez
Evolved from the basic tenets that make up ballet, barre is a low-impact, full-body workout that elongates, strengthens and tones the muscles. The small, isolated movements require you to move just one inch. While that seems easy and ineffective, the moves quickly fatigue your muscles and leave you sorry to have doubted their impact.
Side effects of barre class include: muscle cramps, burning thighs and buckets of sweat, but they also produce longer limbs, a stronger body and a great comprehensive workout. While the workouts have evolved from ballet, many of them only borrow the dance’s vocabulary and a few moves. The workouts also fuse elements of pilates and yoga, with abdominal work and stretches.
Popular with models and bloggers, barre has become the fitness class of the moment. While each class is different, most incorporate a ball, mat, bands and a set of weights. A typical class begins with a full-body warmup before transitioning to arms. Here, instructors often recommend two sets of weights or no weights at all. Trust us, even the 1kg set leave our arms shaking. Next, you’ll move to the floor for press ups and planks, then to the barre for seat and thigh work almost always results in trembling legs. The shake means it’s working. Finally, the class ends with abdominals done on a mat before a much-needed cool down full of lovely stretching. The stretches are also incorporated throughout the class to ensure that the muscles are lengthened, rather than bulked up.
The first class may seem strange because there is a lot to take in, but by the second class, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. No two classes are ever the same, especially with London’s quirky, challenging and innovative offerings. Read on for the ones we like best…
If you like ballet…
This class flies by with the high-energy and pop hits that play as the motivational instructors offer encouragement in the form of gold stars and smiling faces. This is very well-suited for anyone with a dancing background looking for more of a workout without straying too far from plié, relevé and dancer arms. While that could sound intimidating for someone who has never donned a pair of ballet slippers, the moves are easy to grasp and don’t involve any additional skills. The level of difficulty is perfect for an intro class with modifications available to those seeking more of a burn.
Drop in, £27; xtendbarre.com
If you like modern dance…
It should come as no surprise that the zany and retro vibes of discobarre are celebrated at Hackney studio The Refinery. Here, you’ll find a greater emphasis on your core and legs with a medicine ball to kick up the arm section. The moves in this class are very heavily influenced by the styles of modern dance, especially during the warmup and cool down. Expect Martha Graham influence in a dark room with funky lights and groovy music.
First-time, £5; discobarre.com
If you like mastering technique…
This offering is most similar to traditional barre. The signature class is best for beginners, operating at a slower pace than the others. Slow doesn’t mean easier as the focus on technique ensures a deeper, more effective burn. There is less seat and thigh work than with the others because it’s slowed down, but that gives more time to stretching. This is a good one to slot in with the other variations like sculpt and advanced as focusing will help to prevent injuries and develop a good foundation for more progressive moves.
Locations: Chelsea, Chiswick, Hampstead, Kensington, Mayfair, Moorgate, Wimbledon, Wandsworth
£28 per class, barrecore.co.uk
If you like arm workouts…
Pulsating beats, dim lighting and industrial interiors will have you thinking you’ve stepped into a nightclub. Don’t be fooled, Gymbox is as hardcore as fitness studios get, offering a catalogue of classes from boxing to aerial yoga and ballet barre. The barrebells class is exclusive to Gymbox and incorporates a kettle ball throughout the majority of the class. The flow is a slower pace because it’s so arm-heavy, but that means the instructor is ensuring you’re doing everything right. Surprisingly full of ballet terms, this is still a good option for beginners and those looking to change up their usual routines.
Locations: Bank, Covent Garden, Farringdon, Holborn, Old Street, Victoria, Westfield London, Westfield Stratford
Non-member day pass, £20; gymbox.com
If you like core work…
Popular for their rave-like spin classes that enable you to get lost in the music, Psycle have added HIIT, yoga and barre to their menu at the new Shoreditch site. The same edge and challenge from the stationary bike have translated well to the barre, with instructors pushing you to work hard in an enjoyable way. The emphasis here is on abs, building a strong core while still providing a full body workout in the process. Even then, this is a class that’s extremely fun and immensely rewarding.
Locations: Mortimer Street, Canary Wharf, Shoreditch
1 credit, £20; psyclelondon.com
If you like yoga and pilates…
This one makes heavy use of the band for your arms and thighs, so you’ll definitely feel immediate burning. Yogis will rejoice with the amount of balance and core work incorporated here, where the barre takes a backseat to the equipment. Time on the mat makes use of a pilates ring and different resistance bands. The pace is moderate-fast and more advanced overall. Paola’s Bodybarre also offers loads of different classes, with signature for beginners and hot barre for those who really want to sweat.
Locations: Fulham, Wimbledon
Single class, £28 paolasbodybarre.com
If you like cardio…
With an ethos that’s all about having fun and listening to your body, Frame is the solution to exercise dread. For a cardio kick, try their cardio class. It uses gliders and the best playlist, resulting in loads of energy. The cardio class is vigorous and intense, but immensely rewarding. While not immensely traditional, Frame takes pride in its unique approach and celebrates the recreational. This is a good one to do with friends and a great alternative to running and cycling. Be warned: this class gets sweaty.
Locations: King’s Cross, Shoreditch, Queen’s Park, Victoria. Upcoming: Fitzrovia and Hammersmith
Price per class starting at £9; moveyourframe.com