What is barre?
We’ve all admired the long, lean physiques, grace and stamina of the ballet dancer, so it’s no surprise that their exercise regime, called barre work, has become a mainstay of the American fitness world and is spreading rapidly throughout the world.
What can I expect of a barre class?
Most Barre classes follow the same basic format – a mat-based warm up full of bodyweight exercises, some arm work and then continuing at the bar with a lower body workout that focuses on the thighs and glutes, then core moves or a final mat session.
Some classes use light hand weights or resistance bands, and when doing lower body work some teachers give students a soft exercise ball to help engage their leg muscles fully. Some classes insist on barefoot work, others recommend socks with grip soles.
The most popular styles of barre include: Pure Barre, Barre3, Bar Method and Xtend Barre, each of which have their own specialisms.
Why is barre different?
The key difference between barre classes and other forms of strength training is the scope and scale of the movements. Most fitness classes offer broad compound movements such as squats and lunges, but during barre students perform tiny movements called isometrics that charge up the muscle and encourage it to become supple and elastic without the risk of muscle damage or tearing that occurs in more wide-ranging movements. Some barre classes also include aerobic movements to increase the heart rate, although these tend to be a minor component of each session.
The benefits of barre
• Isometrics tense a muscle without changing its length, which is the opposite of most strength training which stretches the muscle and then shortens it. So this is a great way to maintain or build core muscle strength.
• These tiny movements also increase endurance because the body doesn’t tired so rapidly, giving the barre student a better chance to train for longer without injury.
• Most barre exercises involve two or three movements such as holding the body in a certain position, pulsing a muscle and extending a limb – this multiple muscle workout doesn’t just benefit the body by building its strength but also improve mind-body connection.
• Weight loss is a strong possibility – because while barre doesn’t claim to be a weight loss method, many students find they have substantial weight loss when taking up barre alongside improving their diet.
How soon can I expect to see results?
It can take anything from three weeks to three months to see the benefits of barre work, and what many students report is not just a sense of being leaner and stronger with a better posture, but they also say they feel their body is more youthful and powerful.
Who can do barre?
Pretty well everybody. Although students of barre are predominantly female, some men do take the classes too. Older people and pregnant women can both take up barre, and in fact some barre teachers say it’s great for pregnancy as it can help with stability and balance as women come to terms with their growing baby.