How barre workouts get you long and lean

Barre founder Cat Woods sits down for an interview to discuss how to prepare for her workouts.

Ballet-inspired workout classes are a fantastic way to get your heart racing, stretch out those muscles and tone up your whole body. Whether or not you consider yourself much of a dancer, there’s plenty to love about the barre – and your abs, legs, glutes, arms and back will all benefit.

One Melbourne barre class quickly gaining a loyal following is Ballet Sculpt. Created by pilates instructor Cat Woods, this workout focuses on small, controlled movements and challenging poses for full-body results, all in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

We asked Cat to share a little more about why Ballet Sculpt is the class everyone should try.

How did you come to create Ballet Sculpt?

I created Ballet Sculpt as a way to combine my passion for pilates with dance-style training, resistance training and yoga. I wanted it to be a class that could be done by the majority of women (and men) with modifications for the level of fitness and intensity desired.

I also needed to adapt it to be a class that could proceed without the actual ballet barre. Originally, I was teaching it in the gym crèche with chairs for support! I now teach it with a barre in most cases, ideally – but it isn’t strictly necessary.

What body parts does the class work?

Ballet Sculpt is a full-body workout. It isn’t a full-bore cardio workout, but the resistance training and intensity of holding challenging poses definitely raises the heart rate and builds and sculpts muscle.

The legs, glutes, abs, back and arms all get a thorough workout. It’s very much about balance and a focus on using our deep abdominal muscles to support ideal posture – not only for optimal training, but also to prevent injuries or even the hunched-shoulder posture that is typical of office workers.

What can people expect during a class?

We do a brief warm-up stretch to prepare the back and legs. I go through methods of engaging the core muscles and pelvic floor throughout class and basic safety and alignment techniques.

We then do series of pliés with heels together, in a wide-legged position, with or without a resistance ball (like a weightless softball).

This is followed by an arm and back session – really exhausting the triceps and biceps through small, pulsed movements combined with full-range kickbacks, curls and presses.

We then return to leg work before finally getting down to the mat to do core-focused work. This usually includes plank variations, pilates leg extensions and back extensions.

“The legs, glutes, abs, back and arms all get a thorough workout. It’s very much about balance and a focus on our deep abdominal muscles.”

What makes it challenging?

Mostly the fact that we hold the muscles under tension for prolonged periods and there is no break – we keep moving. The variety and moving from legs to arms, standing to kneeling to sitting and lying also keeps everyone mentally engaged and alert.

Depending on your pace and how deep you squat, plié and lunge, you can adjust the intensity to suit your level. That means those with a greater level of experience or fitness can advance their workout, while beginners can start off with shallow pliés and just allow their bodies to adapt to the turn-out position.

What if you’re “not a dancer”? Can you still enjoy this style of workout and get something out of it?

Of course! The majority of people who take my classes have done yoga, pilates or spin and are looking for a different way of working out, either to add to what they’re doing or as a replacement.

Some people come to my class having never done any form of group fitness before, and it’s a fantastic challenge for me as an instructor to cater to those different backgrounds and needs.

Most of all, it’s always a really fun environment. We work hard but it’s never competitive or aggressive. I have new class participants almost every week and they are always adopted by the group and encouraged.

“Depending on how deep you squat, plié and lunge, you can adjust the intensity to suit your level.”

How is Ballet Sculpt different from or similar to other barre-style classes?

Many barre classes are high-impact, with lots of kicks and lunges (and often plenty of ballet terminology thrown in for credibility). I don’t feel the need to do that. My background is in pilates and yoga, not ballet training, so it wouldn’t be authentic for me to talk that language.

I had a hip replacement as the result of osteoarthritis and a history of long-distance running in my teenage years that lead to irreversible damage. Since then, I’m back to lifting heavy weights and doing barre, pilates and yoga regularly. However, it taught me that high-impact, cardio-intensive workouts are not the only way to strengthen, feel good and look good. Small, controlled and challenging movements like a few minutes of plié pulses can strengthen the thighs and calves in a way that only hours of squats would rival.

What should people know before trying a class?

There are no leotards and tutus required – but certainly this will be celebrated if you do want to go the full Swan Lake outfit! Leggings and a tank top or t-shirt are ideal – anything you can stretch and move comfortably in. There are no shoes, though some people like to wear grippy pilates socks to keep their toes warm in winter.

Don’t be afraid to try a class you haven’t done before. Always tell the instructor that you’re new to their class and let them know if you have any injuries or conditions.

I have pregnant women in my class – some come for the first time when they are mid-pregnancy and others have been regulars long before they need to start modifying. This is a class that can be adapted, but do check with your GP that it’s appropriate if you have any concerns.

Find out more about Ballet Sculpt at Core Integrity With Cat.

Recommended reading - Tasty vegetarian recipes

Recipes

Green pasta recipe

Break away from traditional pasta recipes with this green pasta meal with pesto, basil and peas.

Read more
Recipes

No-bake pumpkin pie recipe

Love a no-bake dessert with naturally sweet ingredients? This pumpkin pie is the perfect recipe.

Read more
Recipes

Mushroom ragu pasta recipe

The flavours of garlic and olive oil will win you over in this mushroom ragu pasta recipe.

Read more
Recipes

Corsican pie with courgette flowers recipe

This corsican pie with courgette flowers is sure to impress your dinner guests!

Read more
Recipes

Easy cheesy quiche recipe

Love a dish that makes great leftovers? Try this easy cheesy quiche!

Read more
Recipes

Aubergine with black garlic recipe

For a succulent veggie dish, try aubergine with black garlic

Read more
Recipes

Mexican baked eggy tortilla cups recipe

For a Mexican recipe that's a little different, try baked eggy tortilla cups

Read more
Recipes

Spring quinoa risotto recipe

Full of the goodness of seasonal greens, this dish is a light and flavoursome refresh of a classic.

Read more
Recipes

Spicy Greek bean medley recipe

Fresh cherry tomatoes and a touch of chilli bring a zesty mix of flavours to this spring salad

Read more
Recipes

Kale, feta and pumpkin pie recipe

This nourishing pie is the perfect weeknight trick to have up your sleeve

Read more
Recipes

Shakshuka baked eggs recipe

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, this invigorating, spice-infused dish is a warming feast

Read more
Recipes

Potato and turnip gratin recipe

A creamy, comforting way to savour those wintery root vegetables

Read more
Recipes

Baked Pumpkin, Chickpea and Brown Rice Salad with Crispy Pumpkin Seeds recipe

A comforting winter salad, with an invigorating blend of textures and flavours

Read more
Recipes

Porcini mushroom and kale buckwheat risotto recipe

A creamy, comforting risotto, full of the flavoursome goodness of mushrooms

Read more
Recipes

Vegetarian laksa recipe

Fill up on colourful winter veggies in a light, creamy laksa

Read more
Recipes

Breakfast tacos with chipotle sweet potato and trumpet mushroom recipe

Put a fresh, Mexican-inspired twist on your morning with these colourful tacos from My New Roots

Read more
Recipes

Zucchini and chickpea salad recipe

A filling and flavoursome Turkish-inspired salad by Sevtap Yuce

Read more
Recipes

Beetroot and kale risotto with feta cheese recipe

This risotto dish by Rena Patten is bright with with the super-goodness of kale

Read more
Recipes

Egg, green olive and dukkah salad recipe

Fill up on the rich and tasty flavours of this dish by salad genius Matt Wilkinson.

Read more
Recipes

Pasta with zucchini, basil and lemon sauce recipe

This light, fragrant sauce goes well with thin pasta like spaghetti, angel hair or linguine

Read more
Recipes

Sunflower seed falafel balls with tahini dipping sauce recipe

Savour the goodness of these light, sunflower-and-cashew filled vegetarian bites.

Read more
Community

Vegetable samosas recipe

These tasty, veggie-filled parcels from Stephanie Alexander are always a lunchbox winner.

Read more
Recipes

Spinach, avocado and mushroom stack recipe

Create a deceptively simple feast with this spinach, avocado and mushroom stack recipe.

Read more
Recipes

Veggie fritters recipe

Veggies galore! Try delicious veggie fritters for a meal that can be be prepared in advance.

Read more
Recipes

Coconut and lime cheesecake recipe

Enjoy irresistable no-bake coconut cheesecake with zesty lime.

Read more
Recipes

Coconut quinoa with kale and pesto recipe

Nourish your body with this superfood salad of coconut quinoa, kale and pesto.

Read more
Recipes

Cherry tomato and mozzarella salad recipe

A fresh, Italian salad like this cherry tomato and mozzarella salad is ideal for everyday enjoyment.

Read more
Recipes

Quinoa sushi bowl recipe

Love sushi? Try this unwrapped quinoa sushi bowl recipe for an interesting variation.

Read more
Recipes

Nutrition bowl with beetroot hummus and guacamole recipe

Boost your energy at any time of the day with a fresh, healthy and wholesome nutrition bowl.

Read more
Recipes

Spiced tempeh recipe

Need an interesting vegetarian idea? This spiced tempeh recipe will surprise with its versatility.

Read more
Recipes

Eggplant and sweet potato pizza recipe

For a healthy and interesting take on an old favourite, try this eggplant and sweet potato pizza.

Read more
Recipes

Spicy pumpkin and lentil soup recipe

Spice up your soup ideas this winter with a pumpkin and lentil soup inspired by Indian flavours.

Read more
Recipes

Corn fritters with tangy tomato salsa recipe

These cajun-flavoured corn fritters with tomato salsa will freshen up your weeknight routine.

Read more
Recipes

Zucchini and sweet potato vegetable slice recipe

This zucchini and sweet potato vegetable slice will keep the family happy and well-fed.

Read more
Recipes

Raw mint chocolate mousse recipe

Feel like a healthy dessert? Try this raw chocolate mousse recipe with surprising fruits and herbs.

Read more
Recipes

Sweet potato rice paper rolls recipe

Try this delicious combination of vegies parcelled in rice paper rolls.

Read more
Recipes

Fresh vermicelli salad bowl recipe

Looking for a salad with a difference? Try a salad with vermicelli noodles.

Read more
Recipes

Light pumpkin soup recipe

Looking for a lighter alternative to traditionally creamy pumpkin soup?

Read more
Recipes

Zucchini noodle and coriander salad recipe

Try zucchini noodles with pineapple chilli dressing for a salad with a difference.

Read more
Recipes

Roast veggie medley with chickpeas recipe

Looking for a new vegetarian favourite? Try this roast veggie medley with chickpeas recipe.

Read more
Recipes

Trio of dips recipe

Try this beautiful and fresh homemade trio of dips for an alternative to supermarket dips.

Read more
Recipes

Quinoa sushi hand rolls recipe

A recipe to master the art of sushi at home!

Read more
Recipes

Fennel with goat’s curd recipe

If you're looking for a tasy side or light meal, Maggie Beer has the recipe for you

Read more
Recipes

Pumpkin fritters recipe

These pumpkin fritters are so simple, yet so delicious

Read more
Recipes

Mexican party cups recipe

Brighten up any fiesta with these spice-infused, protein-rich, deliciously flavoursome parcels.

Read more
Recipes

Spring asparagus and egg recipe

Nothing says spring better than fresh, deliciously sautéed greens

Read more
Recipes

Zucchini and avocado fritters with lemon coconut yoghurt recipe

Deliciously fresh and light, these fritters make the perfect brunch

Read more
Recipes

Spiced tofu and beetroot salad recipe

The gluten free, vegan spiced tofu in this dish is packed with intense flavours.

Read more
Recipes

Butternut pumpkin and parsnip soup recipe

A rich and creamy pumpkin soup, infused with a blend of cumin, paprika and chives.

Read more
Recipes

Ultimate roasted vegetables recipe

Roast those root veggies with the perfect infusion of herbs and spices

Read more
Recipes

Mushroom pâté with crispy bread sticks recipe

This pâté is high in fibre, potassium and iron – and it's pretty delicious, too!

Read more
Recipes

Curried cauliflower soup with toasted chickpeas recipe

The nutty goodness of chickpeas takes this creamy soup to delicious new levels

Read more
Recipes

Healthy vegetarian nachos recipe

Lee Holmes of Supercharged Food shares a mouthwatering vegetarian recipe from her new book

Read more
Recipes

Lentil soup recipe

Lentil-based dishes like this red lentil soup are not only delicious but are packed with goodness.

Read more
Recipes

Bruschetta with asparagus and cherry tomatoes recipe

Try this satisfying recipe for rustic Italian bruschetta with asparagus and cherry tomatoes

Read more
Recipes

Vietnamese salad recipe

A fresh, healthy summer salad that’s perfect for lunches.

Read more
Recipes

Tomato, pumpkin and beetroot frittata recipe

Love vegies? Try a tomato, pumpkin and beetroot frittata for a delicious and visually-tempting meal.

Read more
Recipes

Green veggie slice recipe

Zucchini goodness with a nutty twist, perfect served warm or sliced up cool for leftovers.

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.