Is there a quintessential barre move?

Is there a move that stands out to you as an essential, exemplary barre movement? In ballet it might be a plié or in Pilates the “hundred”. What is the move for barre?

I would like to argue that it’s Pretzel (or as Lotte Berk called it “happy sailor” 😄). It’s an incredibly challenging move that relies on body weight to work pretty much the entire body. It’s the one barre move that I still struggle with and one that I only teach every so often in class because it isn’t only difficult to execute, it’s tricky to teach.

A participant needs to have a certain amount of hip flexibility to get the most out of the full version so I find myself teaching standing or kneeling pretzel in classes.

Set up pretzel by:

  • bending both knees in the same direction
  • aligning front knee with the hip and drawing the other knee out to the side
  • lean forward from the hips, fingertips to floor

My best tips for pretzel are:

  • engage the core
  • keep a long spine (avoid rounding back or dropping chin)
  • keep the movement incredibly small – it should be difficult to lift and lower
  • modify as you build the strength and flexibility to get the most out of this!

You guys, this move is TOUGH. This is not a move that you can do for long. I think that is why I feel it is quintessentially THE barre move. It’s deceivingly simple (no props needed), it’s a small movement, but it burns 🔥!

Here’s a video that will help you sample pretzel if you’ve never tried it:


When I first learned pretzel, two books really helped: Barre Fitness by Fred Devito and Elisabeth Halfpapp and Physique 57 Solution by Tanya Becker and Jennifer Maanavi. I wrote about these books in my post about essential reading.

Do you have a barre move that you think is essential? Let me know in the comments!

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