Breaking Down Barre Class Vocab

For this week's Technique Tuesday I wanted to share a few common terms you’ll hear during a barre class. While barre is ballet based, you don’t need a background in ballet to feel the burn! Barre is a unique fitness modality because anyone, regardless of age or fitness level, can benefit from the workout. It is easy to modify the class to your ability level and challenge yourself as you get stronger. Here are a few terms you’ll hear your instructor say during class: 

  • First position: In first position our heels are together and toes are apart. We are standing tall so that our back is straight from the top of our head to our tailbone. We are opening up our feet from the hips – not the knees – and our legs are glued together. It should look like there are about two slices of pizza between your toes.

  • Second position: From first position we slide our heels apart on either side until feet are about shoulder width apart. Legs and feet are still turned out from the hip. Knees should be over the first and second toes when you bend your knees in this position.

  • Turn out: I’ve mentioned it above but lets dive deeper. “Turning out” refers to the entire leg, not just the feet. In first (or second) position while your heels are touching and toes are pointed in diagonals, you’ll want to turn out by rotating your legs to the side as much as possible. This rotation starts at the hips and continues through the toes.

  • Point: You’ll hear me constantly say “point your toes!” Feet should always be working to hold that point,  trying to never relax or flex the feet unless otherwise noted. A nice, straight leg in most moves isn’t complete without a pointed foot. When we brush our feet against the floor from our “first position” to kick, the foot should be pointed from the time it brushes off the floor until the time it comes back to first position.

  • Plié: The word literally translates to “bent.” You will usually plié in first and second position during class. Think about bending your knees straight down while keeping your back posture straight, so you don’t hinge the body forward. This ensures you are only working the leg muscles when we plié. A “demi plié” means “half bent,” so a smaller plié and “grand plié” is a “big plié,” or deeper knee bend.

  • Relevé: Translates to “raised.” To relevé, simply raise your heels off the floor.

  • Arabesque: In arabesque we are balancing on one leg (with one hand on the barre to help with balance). In this position, one leg extends straight behind you and can be touching the floor or at 45 or 90 degrees depending on the exercise. A few tips in arabesque are to keep your chest lifted and the extended leg’s foot pointed.

  • Tuck: This is not a ballet term, but rather a barre class term that helps people remember not to stick out their booty. “Tuck” means to rotate your booty under your hips, so your spine is neutral and making a straight line. Your booty and lower ab muscles are also engaged in this position.

Barre is a rewarding, fun workout but I like to say it takes about 3-5 classes to feel comfortable in the positions and understand the class vocab. You don’t see anyone plié at Planet Fitness – and that is ok – squats are great too! It is amazing how beneficial stepping out of your workout comfort zone can be for your body. 

Have any questions? Ask us before or after class!

Cheers, Michelle

Michelle Nigro