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Barre and ballet-inspired classes are popping up all over the country. Devotees love how the precise, muscle-targeting (and grueling!) workouts tone their bodies, improve their posture and give them the graceful gait of a dancer. We picked out the best classes and at-home DVDs—click through to see yoga hybrids, cardio blasts, and enough total body workouts to make your legs quiver from here to eternity.
Best Full-Body Workout: Figure 4
Location: Pure Yoga in New York City
Most barre classes follow the traditional sequence of arms, legs, glutes, core, but in Figure 4 classes the sequence is mixed up. You wouldn't think that was a big deal, but not having the legs and glutes sections back to back cuts down the fatigue factor, which means you have more energy to make it to the end of class without wanting to die.
Best Yoga Hybrid: Core Fusion Yoga
Exhale Core Fusion classes are the granddaddy of barre classes (and we highly recommend them), but the secret weapon at Exhale is the suberb yoga program. They've somehow managed to infuse barre class elements into flow sequences, without losing the mind-connection integrity of yoga. If you like your workouts to be challenging but appreciate a touch of zen, these are for you.
Location: Your living room! Try live stream classes or at-home DVDs (including full body workouts).
You'd think an arm-strenghtening workout that doesn't include weights would be easy, but dang is that not true. For 15 minutes you move your arms like a swan—up and down, up and down. Professional ballerina Mary Helen Bowers looks like a beautiful bird. You start to look like a limp scarecrow after about five minutes. But don't give up—keep doing the video until you too have the superior, graceful back muscles of a dancer.
Here's a little tip: As you get tired you'll have the tendency to scrunch up your shoulders. Do everything in your power to keep them away from your ears.
Best Cardio: Formula 57
Location: Physique 57 in New York City and Los Angeles
Oh man, if you want a challenge, this class is for you. Formula 57 is fast-paced, which makes it the best cardio version of a barre class, and the advanced poses (think high leg lifts) are not for the faint of heart. If it sounds scary, just think of it this way: doing this class three times a week would likely give you your best possible body.
If you're not ready for such craziness, try P57's regular barre classes first, or the at-home DVDs, and make it a goal to work your way up to Formula.
Best Inner & Outer Overhaul: Bari Studio
Location: New York City
Bari is taking barre classes to the next level. Yes, there's a barre, but there are also resistance bands, influences from martial arts and gymnastics, and unpredictable sequences that prompt the muscles to wake up. Your first visit to Bari involves a personal consultation—you discuss your fitness goals, get measured and talk about the best fitness plan for you. Bari also offers nutrition counseling so you can attack that fat from the inside out.
Best For Beginners: Graceful Dancer
Location: Dancers Shape in Austin, TX
Even though barre classes don't require you to have a dance background, if you have two left feet (or if you've been out of shape for awhile, or are coming off an injury), the classes can be intimidating. Graceful Dancer is a modified version of the studio's regular barre class, which allows students to safely build their strength and improve flexibility until they are ready for more advanced positions (see picture!).
Best For Loosening Up: Rockin Models Workout
Location: At home with the DVD
Overlook the funny name and focus only on the benefits you'll get from this fusion workout. The video starts with yoga flow to build strength and improve flexibility, and then moves into a challenging barre series that incorporates hip-swishing moves borrowed from burlesque. If you've been feeling a little blah lately, this workout is a good way to tone your muscles and get in touch with your sexy side.
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