5 Barre Exercises To Increase Your Overall Flexibility

Contributing writer By Michelle Duvall, PMA-CPT, RYT-200
Contributing writer
Michelle Duvall, PMA-CPT, RYT-200, is a fitness instructor and founder and creator of Barre Variations, a barre method that combines a blend of ballet, Pilates, and yoga.
Woman Stretching on a Ballet Barre

Image by Addictive Creatives / Stocksy

Barre workouts are synonymous with shaking and burning. However, something not to forget is the ability to use the barre to increase flexibility.

Just like in a ballet class, the barre is used to help stretch the muscles in an upright position. If you don't have a ballet barre, don't worry, you can use a chair or even a countertop instead.

Standing to stretch can help increase flexibility more so than sitting on the floor because spinal flexibility is taken out of the equation. Stretching on the ground requires both, whereas with standing you can isolate the legs and the spine, resulting in overall increased flexibility.

So if you're feeling burnt out, try these five barre exercises to increase flexibility:

1. Second position plié with a lateral side bend.

Second Position Plié with a Lateral Bend

Image by Michelle Duvall

This exercise helps stretch and open up the hips as well as the sides of the body.

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How to:

Start standing with the feet a little wider than hip-width apart with the legs externally rotated (this is a ballet second position). Take a resistance band (or rolled-up towel) and hold it over your head (or in front of your chest). Then bend both knees, directing the knees over the toes while bending to the right side. Straighten both legs, and repeat to the other side. Do this 8 to 10 times per side. 

Tips: 

  • Keep the knees pointing over the toes. 
  • Draw the abdominals in.
  • Keep the band taught. 
  • Tailbone points to the floor.
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2. Second position with spinal rotation. 

Second position with Spinal Rotation

Image by Michelle Duvall

This exercise increases spinal mobility in rotation, allowing the spine to become more flexible.

How to:

Start standing with the feet a little wider than hip-width apart with the legs externally rotated (in a ballet second position). Take a resistance band (or rolled-up towel) and hold it in front of your chest. Keep the right arm pointing straight ahead (only if using the band), and begin to rotate to the left. Pull the band as much as you can while looking over the left shoulder. Return to center and repeat to the other side. Continue to do this 8 to 10 times per side. 

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Tips:

  • Keep both frontal hips bones pointing straight ahead.
  • Tailbone points to the floor.
  • Keep the knees pointing over the toes. 
  • Draw the abdominals in.

3. Flexion and extension at the barre.

Flexion and Extension at the Barre

Image by Michelle Duvall

The flexion and extension also improve spinal flexibility. It also allows for increased flexibility in the later hamstring stretches. 

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How to:

Stand facing a ballet barre or chair with the legs parallel and hip-width apart. Begin by looking up toward the ceiling, arching the upper back for spinal extension. Then bring the chin toward the chest, and bend the knees to round the spine for spinal flexion. Hang back only if holding a fixed sturdy barre; if not, just lightly hold the barre or chair and round the spine. Then stand back up. Repeat these actions 8 to 10 times. 

Tips:

  • Avoid over-craning the neck in the extension.
  • Avoid overarching the lower back in the extension.
  • Keep the shoulders away from the ears.
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4. Quad stretch with the band.

Quad Stretch with the Band

Image by Michelle Duvall

This stretch is for the quadriceps, which get worked a lot in barre classes and in life!

How to:

Take a resistance band or towel and wrap it around the right ankle. Hold the barre or chair with the left hand. Begin to draw the knees toward each other, and pull the band or towel lifting the right heel toward the bottom. Create more of an active stretch in the quadriceps by pushing the right foot into the towel or band. 

Tips:

  • Press the frontal hip bones forward.
  • Tailbone points to the floor.
  • Draw the abdominals in.

5. Hamstring stretch at the barre.

Hamstring Stretch at the Barre

Image by Michelle Duvall

This final stretch combines spinal flexibility and hamstring flexibility. 

How to:

Stand parallel to the barre with the legs in a slight external rotation and the heels touching (this is a ballet first position). Take the leg farthest from the ballet barre and lift it up onto the barre so the back of the ankle is resting on the barre. Lift the same arm as leg up and begin to fold forward into the hamstring stretch. Hold for about 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. 

Tips:

  • Keep the spine lengthened.
  • If the leg cannot reach the barre, stand on a yoga block.
  • Keep the standing leg straight.
  • Breathe!

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