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Simple Barre exercises for toned legs

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Contrary to popular belief, one does not need a dance studio and pretty pink tutus in order to do ballet. All you need to do is grab a sturdy chair or table, put on some soothing music, and try out these simple barre exercises designed to train up your lower limbs.

The content of this article works best if you have a little ballet knowledge, or a tutorial video so that you can emulate the correct posture and positions.


When doing barre exercises, you should always ensure that your entire body is held straight and still, as if a strong wire attached to your head is pulling you upwards. Keep your back upright and your chin raised slightly; your pelvis should always face the front squarely. When holding on to a barre - or in this case, makeshift barre - for support, it is imperative to remember not to grip it too tightly. Your hands should be relaxed and resting lightly on it.

First position

Although there are several different feet positions in ballet, the most basic one would be the first position, which is, simply put, standing with both your feet turned out at a 180-degree angle (or as far as you can go). However, it is necessary to make sure that the “turn-out” begins all the way from your thighs; rotate your limbs till the inner thighs and calves face the front as much as possible.


Hold on to a stable piece of furniture with both hands. Facing the “barre”, stand in the first position. Push your right foot out in front of you, but do not lift it off the ground. Ensure that the movement is light and your thighs are relaxed, and keep your left foot and upper body still. Push your right foot along the ground as far as possible, then lift the heel. Next, raise the ball of your foot and move into a pointe, that is, pointing your toes outwards. Hold this position for four counts, then return to the first position by repeating the earlier steps, but backwards - drop the ball of your foot, then your heel, then drag the whole foot back to the body into the first position. Repeat with your left foot.


Stand in the same preparatory position as the earlier exercise - feet in first position, body facing the barre with both hands on it. Slowly and steadily, bend your knees halfway into a demi-plié (half-bend), making sure not to lift your heels. Subsequently, straighten your knees and return to the first position - taking your time. Again, keep your upper body and buttocks straight and still throughout. Next, go through the entire process again, but bend your knees fully this time to execute a grand-plié (full bend). Keep both heels on the ground as you plié, and only lift them when you cannot hold them down anymore. Do not sit on your heels, nor let your buttocks drop. Place your heels on the ground as you move back up into the first position, ending the plié.

Calf raises

Standing at the barre in the first position, as with the earlier two exercises, before taking eight counts to rise into a demi-pointe position (or tippy toes). Ensure that your legs and feet are still turned out, with both heels facing each other as much as possible. Hold in this position for another eight counts, before gradually returning to the first position, beginning the movement from the balls of your feet and ending by lowering both heels onto the ground. Again, use eight counts for the descent.

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