All you need to know about Barre
About a workout that develops your body's endurance and resistance, while preserving its elegance and grace by CleanEater Nadia Savelieva from Clevlend, USA.
What is barre and what are its origins?
Barre is a ballet-inspired total body workout that incorporates ballet elements with those of pilates, yoga and dance. This method of exercise was created in Europe over 50 years ago by ballet dancer Lotte Berk, who got an idea of combining her ballet barre training with rehabilitative therapy after having suffered a back injury. Thus the Lotte Berk method was created as the first ever ballet-based workout. Similar to pilates, the method’s main principle concentrated on the idea of core stability and targeted specific areas for strength and flexibility training. Over the years the ballet-inspired workout had gained many students and followers. Later on some teachers started to branch off opening their own studios and putting new spins on the method, which nowadays is simply referred to as barre. Even though different variations of barre have been around for several decades, it has exploded in popularity and became a world-sweeping fitness trend in the last 10 years.
What to expect in a barre studio?
Barre studios are typically designed like regular dance studios with large open spaces and mirrors surrounding the room. Similar to pilates and yoga classes, shoes are not worn in barre classes. Students are either barefoot or wear ballet shoes or grippy socks.
What do you do in a barre class?
While barre has origins in dance, the rhythmically challenged shouldn’t worry, no dance background is required. Most barre classes last from fifty minutes to an hour and follow the same basic structure: you start with a mat-based warm-up full of teasers, planks, pushups, a series of arm exercises, and continue at the barre with a lower-body section to work your thighs and glutes. Finally, you finish with a series of core-focused moves at the barre or on the mat. Each class section is typically followed by a short stretching session. Classes are choreographed to upbeat, motivating music.
The main staple of the barre technique are isometric movements. Rather than larger compound movements, like squats or burpees, you will perform tiny, one-inch contractions, pulses, squeezes and presses, which will fire up your muscles to make them more elastic without tearing them. The main purpose of these exercises is to make your muscles shake, which means they have reached the point of fatigue. You will be tempted to pop out of the position if you start to shake, but you are encouraged to embrace the shake. Shake means change and leads to the transformation in your body.
What kind of gear is used in a barre class?
Most moves in a barre class are bodyweight only, but certain exercises give you options for using light hand weights (usually two or three pounds) to level up your arm workout, or resistant bands and soft balls to help engage certain leg and seat muscles.
Why should we all be in a barre class?
To answer this questions I will start by speaking from my personal experience. I first decided to give barre a try after reading through the fitness plans of several Victoria’s Secret models and learning that barre was one of the main types of exercises that they do regularly. I only had a general idea of what this workout entailed until I took my first class. I was doing pilates and dance at the time and didn't expect barre to challenge me as much as it did. The next day my body was the most sore it has been in a long time. I was intrigued by the promise of seeing results in 10 classes and started coming regularly. The claims have proven to be true, and I rapidly became an avid barre devotee. I have watched my body getting trimmer and more defined and I even dropped two pant sizes. Barre made me so much stronger, both physically and mentally. It helped me develop a new level of flexibility and made me more comfortable in my body. I was never able to do push-ups and pull-ups because my upper body was always weak. Imagine how surprised I was when after about a year of practicing barre regularly I was hanging on my friend’s pull-up bar and accidentally pulled myself up. I immediately felt so much more powerful. Aside from seeing transformation in myself, I have witnessed so many barre fellows lose several inches off their waists and thighs and become happier and more confident. It’s truly inspiring to see how their hard work pays off!
To sum this up, when regularly practiced (at least 3-4 times per week) barre truly does provide fast results in achieving a stronger, leaner, more flexible body. It improves posture, balance, challenges your core stability and brings a new level of mind-body connection. Barre exercises are low-impact and aim at protecting your joints, which means there is a lower risk of injury. Since it’s mostly bodyweight-only, you can do it anytime, anywhere. There are limitless workout variations, which prevents it from becoming boring. It is worth mentioning that like a lot of workout programs, your progress depends on your body type, your fitness level, frequency of exercise and especially your diet.
Another great thing about this workout is that it is constantly evolving. Most barre brands have recently added functional exercises and cardio blocks to their repertoire to make their student experiences more balanced and versatile.
Is barre for everyone?
Because of its low risk of injury, anyone – no matter their age, weight, or fitness level – can hit the barre and get results. Although it is ballet-based and, in most cases marketed for women to help them target their problem areas, a barre class can provide a challenging workout for the manliest of men. Dear gentlemen, it’s all about open minds! It won’t get you jacked, but it will definitely kick your butt. And I guarantee that you will have lots of fun getting out of your comfort zone. My local barre studio features Bring-on-the-Men days when ladies are encouraged to bring their male friends and significant others to experience their barre addiction. Most men initially confuse barre with stretching, but after taking the class they come to replace this misconception with a new level of respect towards their ladies and the barre method. Give it a try! There is a big chance that you will find it fun and motivating.