Get your body moving at home with these simple and fun barre techniques. All you need is a countertop, sink, heavy chair, or sofa and some good music to boot.

By Lisa Mozo
April 10, 2020
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Eric Jeon

As a mom myself, there are two things I can predict you're probably really good at: making sure everyone else's needs are met (you're nothing short of a superhero for that!) and having trouble finding time for you. I'd bet the latter is especially true when it comes to exercise, which often ranks somewhere near the bottom of a parent's never-ending to do list. But ahem, there's a reason airplane safety precautions tell you to place your oxygen mask on first. It's OK to take time for a little self-care—even in the midst of the pandemic—and exercise is a great way to get started.

There are so many different ways to move your body, the key is finding something you enjoy. Because the more fun it is, the more likely you'll stick with it. Barre, which is a workout technique inspired by ballet, yoga, and Pilates, happens to be my go-to, but it's not just because I teach it. Barre's mix of low-impact moves calm my brain and keeps me fit and energized without ever feeling depleted or overworked. It builds bone density, sculpts muscles with no bulk—plus anyone can do it regardless of age and fitness level.

Commit to moving your body with this 20-minute full-body barre sequence every day right at home while you're in quarantine. Just meet at the barre—well in this case it won't be the traditional ballet barre but a countertop, sink, heavy chair, or sofa—and get moving!

Move #1: Just Breathe

Engaging your core, the right way, is important. Start by creating intra-abdominal pressure (tension) by clearing your throat (or visualizing coughing). As you do so, feel your chest drop and your bottom ribs knit together and connect to your pelvis. Keep this tension while breathing in and out through your nose picturing your entire ribcage opening and closing like an umbrella. Breathing exercises are also a great way to relax and relieve stress, something we all need right now.

Works: Entire core for better control, strength, and stability

At-Home Barre Hack: Got loads of laundry to fold? Get on your feet, place clothing on a table, and get to folding while concentrating on this breathing technique. Buh-bye crunches!

Move #2: Create Some Heat

It's time to press play on your favorite playlist and start to warm up your body to get the blood flowing.

  • Step your feet wider than hip-width apart raise your arms to the ceiling, reaching through the muscles of the back rather than the shoulders, and begin with some full body swings.
  • Bend your knees and allow the torso to drop with your spine rounded. Swing your arms behind you and then swing them back to the ceiling as you straighten the legs. Do eight reps of this.
  • Next, stand in place with legs hip-width apart and bend and straighten your knees while allowing your arms to simultaneously swing from side to side, loose, and relaxed. Alternate between this and full body swings until you feel your body warming up.

Works: Warms up the muscles, ligaments, and joints without overworking

At-Home Barre Hack: Tidy up! Take 3-5 minutes to pick up toys or clothes off the floor at an accelerated pace while doing this move. Or empty the dishwasher, concentrating on putting hard-to-reach dishes away.

Move #3: The Threes

Now we start to get into the actual workout. Let's go:

  • With one hand, hold onto your pretend barre of choice. Start with feet together (but not touching), toes pointing forward. Extend the outside leg (the one farthest from whatever you're using in place of a barre) and point your foot. Next, without shifting your body weight (no sinking into the lower back) extend your leg straight out in front of you (picture someone pulling your toe as you keep your hip from going with it). Take a micro bend to the knee and then extend the leg quickly—this is called a bend-stretch on the low. You should feel the thigh muscles contract.
  • Next, lift the leg a little higher, and repeat the same move—this is bend-stretch medium. Finally lift the leg to the highest level you are able to—this is bend-stretch high. Again, make sure not to shift bodyweight (think of keeping weight on ball of foot, rather than heel of standing leg). Perform eight sets of these.
  • Then flex your foot pressing through the heel and pump leg up 16 times.
  • End by pointing foot, lower toe to floor straight leg, and perform 16 kicks using thigh muscles and not too much momentum.

Works: Quads, hips, core

At-Home Barre Hack: This one and the next few moves are perfect while waiting for pasta to boil, rice to cook, or tea to steep.

Move #4: Bend and Extend

  • Standing in the same position as above, lift the toes off the floor shifting weight to heels, and then place the foot outwards, without going beyond your own natural turnout. Next, step the outside leg out into what we call a "wide second," which requires you to bend both knees making sure they track with your big toes and are in line with the shins. (Think of a squat but with external rotation. And as you bend your knees, you should be able to see your ankles, if you don't, shift hips back slightly.) Then, bend both knees (known as a plié), and pulse down keeping spine straight (as if in a toaster) and tailbone is to the floor. Hold the outside arm in a rounded shape at chest level (as if holding a giant beach ball with one arm).
  • Remaining in the deep plié, pop the outside heel off of the floor, keeping ankle locked. (The leg closest to the barre will remain in the deep plié position throughout the entire movement.) Straighten the outside leg, coming to the ball of the foot and pushing into floor (it's OK if your foot slides out a little, while torso side-bends and extends towards the barre, and the outside arm extends with torso while bicep is by the ear).
  • Return to starting position and repeat 8-12 times. The key is to lock the inside leg so that the knee remains in line with the shin the entire time and doesn't shift over the toes—and you will feel the burn in the inner thigh in no time.

Works: Inner thighs, obliques, glutes, core, coordination

**Make sure to repeat Move #3 and Move #4 with your opposite leg!

Move #5: Good Puppy

  • Face the barre standing a forearm distance away, elbows soft. Gently press down on barre with both hands to engage the core deeper. Extend right leg to back diagonal (5 o'clock position) with the knee facing out. Engage in a pelvic tilt to help isolate the glutes and lift the leg off the floor with a 45-degree bend at the knee. This is the starting position.
  • Next extend the leg away from the hip, foot pointed, then bend the knee back to the start position. Make sure to squeeze the butt as you extend the leg. (Tip: you should feel this where the hamstring and glutes meet.)
  • Repeat 8-12 times. End with leg bent and pulse leg up eight times, and then straighten leg. Opt for some small pulses with the straight leg too.
  • Repeat with your other leg.

Works: Glutes, hamstrings, core

Move #6: Inside Out

  • Place one hand on the barre facing forward (picture your body as a clock with your body facing 12 o'clock, the inside arm and leg holding the barre is 9 o'clock, and the outside arm is 3 o'clock). Now let go of the barre and lift that arm so fingers point to sky and bicep is by the ear. Have the outside arm reach across the torso and hold onto the barre.
  • Extend the outside leg while making sure the knee points forward. Side bend the torso toward the outside lifted leg making sure to lengthen leg out of hip and squeezing the muscles around the hip.
  • Perform 8-12 slow leg lifts tapping the floor. On last lift remain at your high point and pulse up eight times. Flex the foot and pump leg up eight more times.
  • Repeat with your other leg.

Works: Hips, outer thighs, core

Move #7: Weight-Free Arms

  • Take a step away from your barre and place feet hip-width apart, engaging the core. Extend the arms out to the sides at shoulder height, flex the wrists, fingers pointed to the ceiling while keeping elbows straight. You should be able to see your hands in your peripheral vision. (If flexing wrists is uncomfortable loosen up the flexion or make loose fists but keep wrists flexed.)
  • Then get ready to start moving your arms in circular motions—a great way to help sculpt the arms. With arms extended (no flex in wrists) perform tiny, very quick arm circles in both directions. Start 30 seconds each direction building up to a minute.

And why not make it a family competition? Whoever drops their arms first loses!

Works: Biceps, triceps, shoulders

At-Home Barre Hack: Running out of creative things to do with your kids? Turn on one of their favorite tunes and get the whole family in on the arm moves.

Lisa Mozo is master trainer and owner of London Barre studio in Roslyn, New York. She was one of three people selected in the U.S. to certify in the original Lotte Berk technique as taught by Lotte’s only daughter in London, England. Mozo’s mission is to teach others to move with intention and have fun doing it.

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