The Model Method: The Workout That Is The Best Barre None


Unless you’ve been hiding under a yoga mat somewhere, you will not have escaped the current lust for barre and ballet-based workouts among fitness enthusiasts. Always on-trend, House of Coco was eager to muscle in on the action and get flexing.

We sent our very own gym bunny Biz Pears to Barreworks in Richmond, south London, to take the first steps in getting the body of a ballerina.


‘It makes perfect sense: ballet dancers are petite but powerful people who can, literally, balance their own bodyweight on their toes. If that’s not #fitspo I don’t know what is.

Though it has been around for a while, Instagram snaps of supermodels like Jourdan Dunn and Miranda Kerr graciously flexing their lusciously long limbs in ballet studios have thrust the classes into the spotlight and now everyone and their granny is doing it.

Jourdan Dunn Barre

And that’s the fabulous thing about barre workouts – everyone can do it: all ages, all abilities and you can even do it when you’re pregnant.  How well you do it  – and I’m warning you now – is another matter entirely. Think you’ve got the stamina of a dancer? Think again.

Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing so it was with some naivety that I booked a session at Barreworks in Richmond, south London. Its classes are based on the Lotte Berk and New York City Ballet Methods and is said to be one of the best in London.

I opted for the one-hour Barreworks WorkOut with Zhivka Slavova which you can do in regular workout gear and barefoot or pilate socks.

For someone who lifts some pretty competitive weights in Les Mills BODYPUMP, a workout that says you won’t break a sweat didn’t exactly have me shaking in my sticky socks, but by the end of the class, my muscles certainly were.

Barre is low-impact but high-intensity and promises to delivers quick results by focusing on smaller muscle groups with tiny, torturous movements comprising one-inch pulses.

The devil, after all, is in the detail – an appropriate turn of phrase, considering some of these moves will have your body burning like hell.

As Zhivka took us through the warm-up, it was a case of so far, so good. Barre encourages you to focus on the movements so the exercise becomes more mindful: you can feel exactly which muscles working as well as becoming more conscious of your form, forcing you to stand a little straighter and extend those legs a little higher.

We started with arms before moving to the barre to work on legs which is where things got a little challenging and technical but Zhivka was very attentive; walking around the class and adjusting our posture where necessary.

Our session ended with some hardcore core work using a resistance band and then some additional work squeezing a tiny ball between our legs to work the inner thigh. It sounds easy, but I’ve never known pain like it. 

I came to the crushing realisation that I’m not as flexible or as strong as I thought I was, but it’s easy to see how with regular classes that would quickly improve. I also left with a newfound respect for dancers. Less is definitely more. 

After the class, I could really feel all of my muscles – they were tingling – so the fact that I got an incredible workout was instantaneous. The next day confirmed it. Ouch. 

The verdict was clear: if you really want to tone up, it’s time to raise the barre.’

To book a session, visit



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