To my surprise, Barre studios and classes are increasing in popularity around the country. I thought full service clubs/gyms were the present norm in the fitness industry. But, the intimate studio environment is back with full force for several obvious reasons.
Before the large multi purpose facility/club, fitness studios were the best option for a smaller setting because of the emphasis on quality instruction from well trained instructors (usually dancers). It was also a good option for those who did not want to commit to a yearly membership since you could pay as you go. However, over the last 15 or so years, larger clubs were able to offer classes with the same instructional quality which impacted the viability of the overall small club/studio business. Interestingly, the same type of small club/studio business is making a comeback, offering programs similar to what was offered many years ago, but of course with a new twist.
Barre classes/programs/studios are popping up around the country. This type of workout emphasizes a light warm up (knee lifts and rhythmic limbering), followed by intense upper body strength training with light weights. Along with upbeat, inspiring music, there are constant direction and alignment corrections from the instructor -- so NO cheating on the exercises. A ballet barre segment is then introduced to help focus on the lower body muscles -- thighs, buttocks and core. This is why many of these classes are called “Barre Programs.” The overall workout includes high repetitions of each exercise along with intense, isometric work, followed by a more than adequate stretch for each muscle group to create a long, lean muscle without building bulk.
“A Barre class/workout is an intensive body shaping experience and very results oriented”, says Suzanne Bowen, founder of BarreAmped. The method is influenced by classical and modern dance (though it is not a dance class) and utilizes a barre to achieve optimal positioning. Insights from Pilates, yoga, and orthopedic stretching also balance the method’s unique approach.
After several Barre workouts, I found that this class truly emphasizes the areas of the body all women struggle with: hips, thighs, buttocks, abs and arms. It is a high rep workout, meaning you are executing the same movement over and over until the muscle is fatigued. It is a technique that focuses on strengthening and lengthening muscles with a pilates and yoga infusion. And, the good news, is that this type of method is less taxing on joints since low impact. Because, of the inspiring music and constant instruction and flow, I have found Barre classes almost addicting.
However, there are a few things to think about when taking a Barre class:
*Make sure you get into the proper alignment and position before executing the exercise.
* Work in a smaller range of motion before going deeper into the movement so the knees and joints aren’t stressed.
* This precision-oriented technique focuses mainly on small, isolated movements within deeply held and challenging postures, be sure to come out of the position/exercise if you lose form.
*Many Barre classes also emphasize “tucking” the buttocks. Excessive tucking takes the spine out of neutral alignment and can stress the spine and the connective tissues in the back, be careful! Seek Barre classes that focus on neutral spine and working the core from inside out.
Most of all, enjoy and search for a well educated fitness professional when choosing a Barre instructor or class.
Until next week -- Suzanne