The Buzz about Barre - Small Movements, Big Changes
"Tuck," "pulse," "bend," "lengthen," "point," and "turn out" are all terms much more associated with dance than with one of the most inclusive, effective, and popular workouts in recent times. And while barre does have its origins in ballet, the rhythmically challenged shouldn't worry: No tap shoes, leotards, or fancy footwork are required (unless that's your thing, in which case please carry on).
First introduced to the Northeastern United States over 40 years ago, barre finally began to trend in the early 2000s, when franchises brought the method to urban and then suburban cities across the nation. It has only grown in popularity since and continues to be on the up. So why all the buzz?
"Because it works," says Channing Azzolino, director of Absolute Barre at ClubSport Pleasanton. "Barre yields results that anyone can attain, no matter their age, weight, or fitness level. It combines strengthening, lengthening, and core work in a format that's non-impact, safe, and always challenging."
While barre appeals primarily to women thanks in large part to its ballet-infused moves and fun group fitness atmosphere, men are coming around to the notion that barre is as much of a fitness reality check as any workout.
Most barre classes follow the same basic structure. You start with a warm-up full of planks and push-ups, do a series of upper body workouts with light resistance, and continue at the barre with a lower-body section to work your thighs and glutes. Class ends with a series of core-focused moves at the barre or a short session on the mat along with breathing sequences.
Rather than large, compound movements like squats and shoulder presses, barre relies on tiny, one-inch raises called isometric movements to produce big benefits, as they allow you to hold your posture and continuously engage the muscle for longer periods of time for a much different burn than what you're used to. So don't be alarmed if your body feels as shaky as JELL-O the next day, it's just your muscles telling you they’re feeling it.
"You'll definitely be sore [the next day]!" promises Channing. "Thighs, glutes, calves, triceps, abdominals – they'll all feel the burn. But the best thing to do is to go back to class again to work through it."
Work through the soreness on the daily and you can expect to see changes in your waist size as well as in the shape and tone of your butt, legs, and abs. You'll also develop stronger back muscles and a sculpted upper body. And if that wasn’t enough, the flexibility and stability work done will get rid of any tightness and pain in the lower back and hamstrings within the first 30 days.
Because of its wide-ranging benefits, many people stick to just barre as their primary method to get or stay in shape.
"It raises the heart rate high enough and for long enough to provide cardiovascular health," says Channing. "Depending on your fitness goals, you may want to add more and longer cardio workouts to burn more calories and increase weight loss."
And let's not forget the final key aspect of barre: The music. Channing says that the right music can stimulate that part of the brain that makes someone work harder and longer during the portions of class that are intense, as well as ease them into the portions that focus on stretching and meditation.
So now that you know all the buzz around barre, you should give it a shot. Feel the burn, stick with it, and your body will soon reflect all of your hard work.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BARRE STUDIO
New to barre? If so, Channing says that there are four key things first-timers (or anyone, really) should look for when deciding where to get their barre on.
1. The environment should be welcoming and clean. The equipment and barres should be safe and in good condition.
2. The instructor or staff should properly prepare you for class. They should introduce themselves and ask you about any injuries, conditions, or limitations you may have.
3. During class, the instructor should verbally and physically guide you with clear explanations and demonstrations. They should be focused on the participants, not on their own workout.
4. The most important thing is that you feel good, comfortable, and safe while you are there.