What That Shaking in Your Leg During Barre Means

Barre Shake

We’ve all been there: we are in what feels like thirty reps in– when it’s actually three– to a leg move when our leg begins to shake. In that moment, we instructors know that you love us the most amirite?

Not going to lie you guys, my leg has shaken while demonstrating before. I know I'm like one of the fittest people you know, but know I’ve also heard of NFL players taking barre before and shaking during the workout. I don’t know about you, but I would pay to see a linebacker with the face of struggle at the barre with shaking legs. Anyways, point i’m trying to make here— and a very important point— shaking does not mean you are out of shape or a wimp.

But here’s everyone’s first thought while shaking: probably “ow.” Second thought: “ABANDON SHIP!”


Very common to think these things, but should you be alarmed when your legs begin to shake? Not necessarily. In fact, it can be a very, very good thing.

Hold on you guys, because I’m about to get all scientific up in here. In case you didn’t know, and pat on the back if you did, barre utilizes isometric (holding) and small movements to activate your Type I muscle fibers, aka “slow-twitch muscle fibers” (although, as mentioned, my muscles are not slow to twitch). These fibers are what allow long, lean muscles, and when we do things like pulsing and holding, we are engaging the slow-twitch fibers. We sometimes harp on the “just-an-inch” speech because we want you to get the most out of engaging your muscles in this way. Good to know, but what does this have to do with all of that shaking? Since we employ many reps and low weight to engage these fibers, our muscles often fatigue, and begin shaking.

Seems bad, right? Nope. Pushing past this fatigue is where the muscle makes change. Okay, science caps back on: when you work one particular muscle group in this way, you produce lactate and hydrogen ions and eventually lead to a process called acidosis, which is what creates that ever-so-loved burn. It gets really complicated, so if you want to read more about it, read about it here. Long story short, this process allows more hydrogen ions to be placed in one particular muscle group instead of it being allocated all over, as it does in other exercises, granting exhaustion of the muscles aka changing the muscle.

And now for the people who like Layman’s terms (me), this is basically what I just said: shaking means fatigue in muscle, fatigue in muscle is actually where change happens. Don’t stop.

On the flipside, you still need to listen to your body and know your limits. So, if you are modifying due to any injuries or conditions, you feel like you’re going to fall, or you feel like you’re going to faint, PLEASE sit down and be humble. Shaking can also mean dehydration and some not-so-fun things, but if you’re shaking 16 reps in it’s *probably* not dehydration.

Does this mean that you need to be shaking every class, and if you’re not, you’re not doing it right or you're not being challenged? Absolutely not. Each body is different down to the very muscle fiber. You may rarely shake, or you may shake every time you get into chair pose– doesn’t mean that you are not shaping muscle either way. All it means that sometimes, if you are going beyond your threshold, you will probably be shaking. Hm, that seems like it could be an inspirational quote about life, does it not?

Sources: Self, Glamour, Giphy

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