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Lesson 1

Barre Alignment Rules

1. Control is the name of the game

Our job is to instruct students into movement that feels strong and comfortable to them. That means understanding which muscles to engage during each movement, which ones to relax, and how to put it all together.                                                                                       

2. Be honest with yourself about your abilities

Encourage your students to listen to their bodies and avoid comparing themselves to other students and to you as the teacher. If they need to slow down to find stronger alignment, encourage it. Remind them that breaks are okay!!! Building new strength, flexibility and  endurance takes patience and time.                                                                                                                                                                   

3. Fatigue is normal

Pushing through fatigue is absolutely normal, but don't push through pain. Barre class can have moments of feeling challenged and push you outside of your comfort zone and into the "MAGIC ZONE," but we are not here to encourage students to override their pain sensations. Pain feels sharp and fast. Teach your students OFTEN to back out of this sensation and find the burn instead.                                      

4. Remember to breathe        

 Oxygen is your fuel and helps the body control movement, especially during that last set of reps.


There are no black and white rules to alignment. Some students will come in with injuries, are healing from injury, or are pregnant to name a few, and we need to be open to understanding the principles of alignment and how they may differ for  students' individual needs. We are not creating carbon copies, we are simply strengthening and increasing endurance.

Alignment Through the Body
Build Your Foundation

Feet - During a Barre, class we often perform relevés or Demi-pointe, lifting the heel and balancing on the ball of the foot.

We want to make sure there is even weight through the mound and toes of the foot. This strengthens the ankle and calf, and protects the ankle from rolling out or in.  When lowering the heel, try not to land the heel heavily on the floor, instead, lower slowly with control.

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Legs - Let's break down legs in four different areas: glutes (back body), hamstrings, quads, and calves. We try to target all of these muscles and more.  Maintaining the safety of the knee is crucial, but we can also strengthen the muscles around the patella (knee cap). In a plié or squat, the knee generally tracks in the same direction as the toes. With the support of the glutes, we work to keep the knees from falling in, especially during fatigue. 

Yes, it's okay for the knee to move past the toes. You can find support with ankle and heel stability. 

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Hips - Hip strength, mobility and flexibility is extremely important in Barre! You will often hear students describing how they can feel fatigue in their hip flexors for the first time.  Students will discover muscles in their hips for the first time!

In your barre sequence, you will spend a significant amount of time on your supporting leg. To ensure the student doesn't dump body weight into the hip joint, students will contract  their core, engage their glutes or can try softening their knee. 

Be aware of the pelvic placement -- if the leg is in front of the body, watch for the pelvis overly posterior tilting. This can put a lot of stress on the low back and eventually causing pain throughout the body.

If pain occurs in the hip, students can try increasing or reducing turnout, bending the knee more or less, or try pointing or flexing the foot.

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Core - When discussing core, we refer to external and internal obliques, rectus abdominis  and transverse abdominis. In plank or table top, the core is the stabilizer of the spine and ensures that we don't compress our lumbar spine, which also helps to align the shoulders and hips in a prone or standing position. Our core helps us to lift legs and strengthen balance on the barre.

How do we engage core? We are bracing the muscles like you would if you were to cough or laugh. We DON'T tell our students to SUCK IN-- this promotes holding your breath. Anatomically, the rib cage will draw toward one another and down toward the hips and the hips will draw up toward the rib cage.

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Spine - The spine connects our whole body and can move in so many ways, which makes movement easier, but stabilization is a must. Injury in the back often happens when we do repetitive movements in the spine over months and years without strengthening or countering the movement. Because Barre has higher repetition, we need to be mindful of this. 


Remember, even in spine extensions (back-bends), we should still have core awareness. Encourage length through the back-bend, decompress and use the whole spine, not just relying on the flexibility of the lumbar spine and glutes!!!!!!

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Shoulders - Aligning the shoulders in a prone position like table top or plank, we want the scapula (shoulder blades) to pull apart from one another-shoulder protraction. 

In conjunction with protraction, shoulders draw down away from the ears turning on your serratus anterior.  

This is safer for the shoulder and causes the body to engage muscle rather than relying on the joint to stay steady.

In a supine position when the student would use forearms and shoulders to stabilize, we want the scapula or shoulder blades to press toward each other-shoulder retraction.

When reaching forward or overhead, the scapula should stay in place, thus using less momentum and is safer for the shoulders and neck.

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Neck and head - Generally, the neck should follow the direction of the rest of the spine. This means we don't want to overly compress the back (sticking chin forward or out). We often hear this cued as “neutral chin,” or “neutral spine,” or "gaze forward." Don’t be afraid to indicate where the student places their gaze.

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Anatomy + How it Relates to Barre

The Basics:

Anatomy is a lifelong journey of learning. You can always know more. As you develop your own practice as a student and teacher, you will understand why it's important to learn anatomy and how you will use your knowledge to help your students. You will gain enough tools from this training to have a well-rounded understanding of anatomy as it relates to Barre.

Types of Body Movements 

Abduction - moving a limb laterally away from the body

Adduction - moving a limb toward or across the midline of the body

Circumduction - circular motion of the arm, legs, wrist and ankle

Dorsiflexion - movement at the ankle that brings the top of the foot toward the shin

Plantar Flexion - movement at the ankle that brings the top of the  oot away from the shin

Extension - movement that increases the angle of a joint

Flexion - movement that decreases the angle of a joint 

Hyperextension - also known more as hyper-mobility, excessive extension of joint

Lateral flexion - bending to the right or left side

Protraction - anterior motion of the scapula 

Retraction - posterior motion of the scapula 

Let's Break it Down


The calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) are the large muscles located behind the shin bone on the back of the leg, below the knee, and wraps partially around the front. There is a tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone - this is known as the Achilles tendon. Calf muscles and Achilles work together to lift the heel in a relevé, demi-pointe, or to point your toes in plantar flexion. 

Dorsiflexion occurs in your ankle when you draw your toes back toward your shins. You contract the shin bones, lengthen calf muscles and flex the ankle joint when you dorsiflex your foot. 

Hamstring (Hammy)

The hamstrings are a group of muscles and their tendons at the back of the upper leg, underneath the glutes. The hamstrings flex the knee joint (fire hydrant or donkey kick) and in conjunction with the glutes and hip flexors, extend the thigh back (arabesque).

Quadriceps (Quads)

The quadriceps (quad, 4) muscles consist of four large muscles at the front of the thigh - known as the four headed muscle. They help with hip flexion, knee extension, stabilizing the pelvis when bearing weight, and help in the eccentric portion (lengthening) for both a squat and plié.

Glutes (Glute Max, Med and Min)

The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles that make up the buttock: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Glutes help to extend the hips, stabilize the pelvis and support weight of the spine.

Gluteus Maximus - largest of all three muscles, turns on in an arabesque pulse or donkey kick or other backward extension of the legs.

Gluteus Medius - often feel like muscles in the low back, used in a fire hydrant or lateral leg lifts.

Gluteus Minimus - smallest of all three muscles, located very deep and under the glute medius on the side of the hip. It's also used in fire hydrant, clams and other lateral leg lifts.

Lower Back

Erector spinae with the gluteal muscles helps to hold up the spine. Erector spinae enables the spine to flex (forward bend), extend (arching the lower back) and braces when lifting.  Lumbar spine is naturally one of the most mobile parts of the spine.

This is a common spot for students to compress, often referred to as "dumping" in the low back.

Upper Back

Rhomboids are the muscles in between the shoulder blades that allow the blades to protract and retract and help stabilize the thoracic spine. The latissimus dorsi, one of the largest muscles in the back, located under the armpit, spans toward the spine and down the back toward the hips -- think wings of your back! Conducting with the serratus anterior helps control movement of the shoulders.

Hip Flexors: 

Made up of the Psoas major and minor, the iliacus and the rectus femoris (which is part of the quadricep).These muscles with the glutes help flex the hip and lift the leg forward. Hip flexors and obliques, help to extend the hip, like in a bridge or arabesque. 

This is a group of muscles we work often in Barre. Strengthening hip flexors can combat back pain and strengthen hip mobility.

Abdominal (Abs):

The abs are comprised of internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominis, and the transverse abdominis. Together these muscles act as a wall to protect internal organs, help to maintain erect posture and overall back health.

Abdominals as a whole support the body's balance and strength. 

Isolation is possible to strengthen individual parts of the abs, like obliques, but the full rectus abdominis will still be contracted even if you are isolating. 

The rectus abdominis, the core of the body, is always “on” or “contracted” or we would fall over.  If we are more mindful about our muscles, we can in fact strengthen the muscles that are already working.


Large muscle that lies on the front of the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow. This muscle is worked by flexing at the elbow.


Large muscle on the back of the upper arm.This muscle is responsible for extension of the elbow joint (straightening of the arm).

Pectoral (Chest):

Major and minor. A fan-shaped muscle, which makes up the bulk of the chest. It extends across the upper part of the chest and is attached to the bone of the upper arm. Pectoralis minor lies, for the most part, under the pectoralis major, attaching to the scapula (shoulder blade). It aids in drawing the shoulder forward.

Shoulders (front and back deltoid):

Deltoid muscles are around the ball-and-socket joint that connects the arm to the trunk of the body. The delts help to move and rotate the arm in different directions and help to stabilize the joint.

Trapezius (Traps):

Diamond shaped, located on the upper back. This muscle allows tilting and turning the neck, twisting the arms and shrugging the shoulders. It stabilizes the shoulder when adding weight.


Made up of more than 20 muscles.

In front -- extending from the base of the jaw and down to the collarbone.

The back -- extending from the base of the skull down to the shoulder blades.

These muscles support and stabilize the head, neck and the cervical spine.

Range of Motion

Range of motion (ROM) refers to how far you can move a part of your body. When you add in any previous injury or current injury, genetics, fitness levels and age, to name a few, every student will be different when it comes to range of motion. Movements will present differently in all bodies. Barre Affect Method will help improve and gain range of motion!


adduction, abduction, flexion, extension, & rotation.


adduction, abduction, flexion, extension, & rotation.


 flexion, extension, lateral, & rotation.


dorsi-flexion, plantar-flexion, eversion, & inversion.

Muscle Contractions


length of the muscle does not change.


when the muscle  shortens.


when the muscle lengthens.

Agonist & Antagonist

the muscle that is contracting is called the agonist and the muscle that is relaxing or lengthening is called the antagonist.

Test Questions

Lesson 1 Wrap up

  1. What are the Barre Alignment rules?

  2. How can we notice compression in the spine?

  3. What is the most mobile or flexible part of the spine?

  4. What is the most vulnerable part of the spine and why?

  5. How do we support the spine’s strength?

  6. What is an appropriate way to stop joint pain in the hips? 

  7. What is a way to help someone engage their core?

  8. What is a good way to stop knee pain?

  9. What are signs of pain?

  10. What causes shoulder and/or back pain in push ups and planks?

  11. What muscles are the primary driver of hip extension?

  12. What muscles are responsible for protraction and retraction of the shoulder blades?

  13. What two muscles work together to relevé?

  14. What are the 4 muscles that make up the abdominals?

  15. Strengthening what set of muscles can combat low back pain?

16. Which muscles help stabilize the shoulder joint?

17. Which muscles extend the knee?

18. To bend your knee, what muscles are shortening?

19. In spine extension, what is common to see from students?

20. What two types of flexion can the ankle perform?

21. Name three reasons why range of motion would differ from body to body.

22. What are the four different ways your spine can move?

23. What does isometric mean?

24. Name six movements of the hip.

25. What do the shoulders and hip have in common?

26. Name six movements of the shoulder.

27. Name three movements you can use an isometric contraction.

28. How many muscle contractions are there and what are they?

29. What muscle contraction is happening in a bicep curl?

30. What muscle is the antagonist in a hamstring curl?

Submit Your Answers Here

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