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The fitness world is changing. Classes offering more and more specialized types of exercise are popping up across the country. New, exciting, and focused, they can be a great way to stay engaged when it comes to your exercise regime.

Barre, a ballet-inspired workout designed to improve strength and flexibility, is one type of class that’s been growing in popularity. Just about every major city has seen a barre studio pop up.

Barre is a style of exercise that was inspired by ballet, but also shares similarities with yoga and Pilates. It’s called barre because several movements are done using a ballet barre. During a session, the instructor guides students through strength and endurance exercises using your own body weight and light hand weights.

The workouts are appealing for many because they’re done in a small group setting and don’t involve high-impact moves. Barre uses small, targeted movements to improve strength, muscle tone, and flexibility. This makes injuries less likely than when you’re doing other activities, such as weight training or cardio exercises, like running.

“The very small movements, called isometric movements, are usually done in one-inch increments, shifting from upward to downward,” says Gisela Bouvier, RDN and certified barre instructor through American Barre Technique. “Isometric movements make muscles more elastic, helping the body maintain muscle strength.”

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity per week, and muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week that work all major muscle groups.

Barre training is a muscular endurance exercise which works the whole body, says Tricia Madden, barre instructor and faculty member with the American Council on Exercise. So a couple barre sessions per week could count as your muscle-strengthening workout.

The technique also helps develop toned muscles.

“It’s effective because it strengthens and immediately stretches to create long, lean muscles and avoid the compression in the joint if you don’t stretch after,” says physical therapist Dr. Karena Wu, owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City.

Madden says she used barre to help get her back in shape after having her daughter and saw results after around a month after starting. “Typically, new participants begin to see results within one to two weeks,” she says. “They often feel stronger within an even shorter amount of time because muscular endurance is so unique for most people.”

However, Madden also stresses the importance of combining different workout techniques into your regular routine. Your body can stop responding after a while if you only do one type of exercise. For best results, she recommends rotating cardio, weight training, and light stretching with barre.

Getting to a barre class is not always practical for everyone. Classes can be pricey or hard to fit into a busy schedule. If you can’t commit to regular classes, you can put your own at-home barre studio together pretty easily. Read on for how to get started.

Barre equipment

Supreme toning tower

The Toning Tower is ideal for Pilates or barre exercise. The frame is made from steel, while the bar is wood. It comes assembled, folds for storage, and includes two DVDs.

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Beverly Hills fitness supreme

This portable design supports Pilates, yoga, and barre workouts and holds up to 300lbs in weight. The product also comes with five instructional DVDs, including one for barre.

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Softtouch ballet barre

The Softtouch Ballet Barre is a portable ballet bar that measures 4.5 feet wide and adjusts from 31 inches to 49 inches. The bar’s surface is coated with bronze powder for easy cleaning.

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Adjustable height ballet barre

This 5-foot portable ballet barre is designed for small studio or home use. Spring-loaded pop pins allow for easy adjustment from 35-45 inches. The frame is made from steel and the bar is hardwood.

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Fluidity fitness exercise barre

Fluidity Fitness exercise barre was designed to go with Fluidity founder Michelle Austin’s workout videos, but you can use it with any barre routine. The bar itself can support up to 300 pounds, and folds down to four inches for portability and easy storage.

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Yoga mats

Jade harmony professional

Jade yoga mats are made with open cell, natural rubber for cushion and slip prevention. The product is made in the U.S. and contains no synthetic plastics.

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Spoga premium

This ultra-thick memory foam yoga mat is designed to protect the joints while still offering good grip and balance. The mat also comes with its own self-strapping system.

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The combo yoga mat

The Combo Mat is made for absorbing sweat. Available in several vibrant colored patterns, it combines natural tree rubber with a microfiber towel in one product. The mat is made with eco-friendly materials and is machine washable.

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Aurorae synergy

Another mat/towel combo, this mat is made for anyone who sweats a lot during yoga practice. It does not contain latex, silicone, rubber, or phthalates and is designed to be odor-resistant and easy to care for.

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Gaiam print premium reversible yoga mat

Gaiam Reversible Yoga mats have a colorful pattern on each side of the 68-Inch long by 24-Inch wide by 5mm thick mat. A textured no-slip surface covers both sides. The mat also comes with a free yoga workout download.

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Handheld weights

AmazonBasics 20-pound dumbbell set with stand

This AmazonBasics set includes three pairs of dumbbells in 2lbs, 3lbs, and 5lbs. Weights are covered with a neoprene coating for grip and the set comes with an easy-to-assemble stand.

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Neoprene body sculpting hand weights

If you’re just starting out and don’t’ want to splurge on a whole set quite yet, these 2lbs neoprene hand weights are a good pick. Cast iron is wrapped in a thick neoprene coating for easy grip, and their size and shape makes them easy to store.

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j/fit dumbbells set

This heavy-duty weight set is designed to not chip or peel easily. The three pairs, in 3lbs, 5lbs, and 8lbs sizes, are double-dipped in neoprene coating and come with a storage rack.

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Tone fitness 20-pound hourglass shaped dumbbell set

These three pairs of dumbbells are designed in a unique hourglass shape for better grip, and come with their own storage rack.

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Gold’s gym dumbbells weights set

The Gold’s Gym neoprene weight set includes a flat storage tray with three pairs of dumbbells. Also included with the weight purchase is a workout DVD and exercise chart.

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