Lean Legs Workout: 5 Barre Moves for Sculpted Legs

Start defining leg and thigh muscles at home with this Lean Legs Workout. Just 5 barre moves will sculpt long, lean legs and thinner thighs in 15 minutes. And no equipment is required!

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Barre moves for lean legs workout

I love barre workouts! While lifting weights (heavy weights!) is totally my jam, I love the completely different kind of burn from a good barre workout.

I’ll try a new barre workout any chance I get, and it’s my favorite type of class to take with ClassPass.  But sometimes getting to the class or fitting it around my schedule is inconvenient.

By the way, if you haven’t tried ClassPass, it’s a great way to try boutique studio classes at a huge discount from the outrageously overpriced drop-in rates! And you can get $30 off any ClassPass plan with this link!

Which is why I decided to start doing my own barre workouts at home. And the bonus is I can choose all of my own music that keeps me motivated to push through the burning and shaking!

Long & lean muscles

Barre studios often claim these types of exercises create long and lean muscles without producing bulk. This marketing claim is a little flawed and really capitalizes on women’s fear of getting big and bulky.

First of all, women do not have enough muscle tissue or testosterone to get bulky. So if you want  the lean and defined look, you can (and should!) lift weights without fear of becoming the Hulk.

Secondly, all muscle is inherently “lean” and you can’t change the anatomical length of your muscles. Unfortunately you can’t control your genetic predisposition of height or muscular insertion points. What you can control is the way you train and how the muscles develop.

How to strengthen, tone and define

The high rep, low weight isometric and pulsing moves in barre engage and strengthen different muscles than dynamic weightlifting exercises. So if you want to strengthen and tone the muscles without creating bulk, you can do a combination of both weightlifting and barre-style exercises like this lean legs workout to work both muscle fiber types for overall stronger muscles, improved metabolism, and fat loss.

Need some weightlifting workouts you can do at home or the gym? Check out these Workouts!

Lower Body Strength + Plyo Workout
Sculpted Shoulders Workout in 15 Minutes

Booty Workout to Grow Your Glutes at Home

What most people are really looking for when they say “long and lean” is muscle definition, which can only be achieved by reducing body fat through nutrition. So in addition to exercising, you must eat in a way that supports fat loss to reveal those sculpted muscles.

Benefits of barre workouts

Instead of using the fast-twitch type II muscle fibers which are used in heavy weightlifting, isometric holds and micromovements ultilized with barre exercises recruit slow-twitch type II muscles. These are the smaller muscles that support the joints and strengthening them will help improve your balance and stability.

Barre workouts typically use light hand weights or no weights at all. This is ideal when traveling or on medical weight restriction (like after surgery or injury) because you can still challenge your muscles and get a good workout without needing weights.

Why do my legs start to shake?

 The trembling that sets in just means the muscle is starting to become fatigued. Shaking is a result of the decreased energy available causing the muscle contraction to be interrupted. So the shake is actually a good thing because it means your muscles are becoming stronger!

So embrace the shake and push through the burn!

Shop My Look!

Before I get to the workout, I want to tell you about my amazing new Amazon workout clothes. For just $20 I got that super cute slightly cropped twist front tank.

CRZ YOGA Women’s Pima Cotton Workout Sleeveless Knot Sports Tank Top Cropped Shirt

 Check out some my other affordable activewear finds from my Amazon Workout Clothing Haul!


Lean Legs Workout: 5 Barre Moves

  • Moves 1-3 Lower/Lift + Pulse + Tuck (1 minute per move)
    • 20 seconds full range of motion
    • 20 seconds pulsing (tiny 2-3 inch movements up and down)
    • 20 seconds isometric hold with a pelvic tilt or “tuck”
  • Moves 4-5 (1 minute per move)
    • 30 seconds right side
    • 30 seconds left side

The Equipment

The best part about this workout is you don’t need any equipment. Just a sturdy chair to help keep your balance, but you could even do without that and keep a hand on the wall. 

To stay on top of time, you can use any watch or clock, or you can use an interval timer (like the Gymboss Interval Timer or the Seconds app).

The Workout 

Moves 1-3:

  • Throughout the exercise, keep your spine neutral and your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned. Engage your core and roll your hips slightly forward with your tailbone under to prevent arching the lower back or sticking your butt out. Keep your chest lifted and maintain good posture without slouching forward.
  • Lower/Lift: Use a wide range of motion to lower down and lift back up to the starting position.
  • Pulse: Starting about halfway through your range of motion, lower and lift using a very small range of motion (about 2-3 inches)
  • Tuck: About halfway through your range of motion, hold the the position and “tuck” by quickly tilting your pelvis. The tuck action should be like “scooping” your hips slightly forward from a neutral position and back. This tilting motion will seriously engage your core and activate deep abdominal muscles while the isometric hold may make your legs start to quiver.

Moves: 4-5

  • Perform each side of the exercise for 30 seconds using a full range of motion but with control.
  • Focus on making a mind-muscle connection to feel the muscles you are using.

Complete the entire circuit 3 times.

1. Parallel: Lower/Lift + Pulse + Tuck

  • Stand with your legs parallel about shoulder width apart, holding onto a chair (or the wall) for balance. Raise up onto the balls of your feet, keeping your heels high and knees facing straight ahead. Keep your spine neutral and your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.
  • Lower/Lift x 20 seconds, Pulse x 20 seconds, Tuck x 20 seconds

2. First Position: Lower/Lift + Pulse + Tuck

  • Stand with your heels together and toes facing out about 45 degrees (V position). Raise up onto the balls of your feet, keeping your heels high and knees facing 45 degrees out (without going past the toes). Keep your spine neutral and your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.
  • Lower/Lift x 20 seconds, Pulse x 20 seconds, Tuck x 20 seconds

3. Kneeling Squat: Lower/Lift + Pulse + Tuck

  • Kneel with your knees shoulder width apart and toes touching. Keeping a neutral spin and chest lifted, flex your hips by lowering your seat until it’s a few inches off your heels, then use your glutes to lift back to the starting position.
  • Lower/Lift x 20 seconds, Pulse x 20 seconds, Tuck x 20 seconds

4. Sidelying Inner Thigh Lifts

  • Lying on your side, bend the top leg to help stabilize your body and extend the bottom leg.
  • Use your inner thighs to lift and lower the bottom leg, keeping your torso still throughout the exercise.

5. Curtsy Lunge, Passé, Développé

    • Using a chair for balance, initiate the movement by shifting your weight to your inside foot and stepping your outside foot back behind your other foot, like a curtsy, while keeping your torso facing forward.
    • Descend into a lunge until your front knee is at approximately 90 degrees then push off the back leg to return to a standing position.
    • As you stand up, lift the outside leg to a passé (toes to knee) then développé (extend it out 45-60 degrees to the side) before lowering back down to the curtsy lunge.

Do you like Barre classes and Barre-inspired workouts? Or do you prefer more weights or cardio?

Photography credit: Canon Sawyer  canonelizabethphotography.com