I’ve been planning to write about barre for a while now (I’ve had a draft of this post for about a year) and after having had a 3 month break and trying out a couple of different styles of exercise classes and corporate gym group fitness classes, I’ve come crawling back.
I first started barre 2 years ago, about the time that it exploded as the “it” exercise class in every fitness magazine. However, unlike every other fitness class I have taken in the past, I still love barre two years on – it has well and truly passed the fad stage. It’s never a chore for me to go to a class in my lunch break and I always feel great afterwards. Basically, the jackpot when it comes to exercise!
What is Barre?
Barre is a form of exercise class that is a fusion of ballet, pilates and often yoga. Most classes have barres around the room as well as a yoga mat and some props, most commonly balls, small hand weights and a block. Barre is not a dance class. The ballet aspects of the class are in the form of exercises that dancers practise at the barre to build strength and improve form.
I practise barre at Barre Body in Melbourne (they also have studios in Sydney and Brisbane). I have also tried Barre Fit classes at a corporate gym and Pure Barre in the U.S. and I would say the main difference is that Barre Body places more emphasis on adding a bit more yoga flow to the workout whereas the other classes have a more intense cardio approach. What I like about Barre Body classes is that they slowly build your strength and flexibility with an emphasis on correct form as opposed to slogging it out to the extent that you lose form and increase the potential for injury. Also the instructor’s at these studios are so friendly, you always feel great – the whole studio has an amazing welcoming and relaxing atmosphere!
One of the biggest pros for barre classes for women is that the workout is designed to strengthen and lengthen muscles without building bulk. But more than that, because the only weights used are light hand-weights (1-2kg) and the workout involves high reps of small movements, it tends to be more a “burn” class without involving too much sweat. This is a big draw card for me because I am lucky enough to have a studio right out the back door of my office meaning that I am comfortably able to fit in lunchtime classes a couple of times a week!
i. Strength and Tone
Barre classes work the whole body – you feel completely satisfied that you have done a solid workout at the end of each class! This is a result of the small targeted movements, which create muscle burn without putting strain on the joints. The high repetition of small movements, sometimes movements that are caused by no more than squeezing muscles, causes the muscles to fatigue to the point that you shake uncontrollably – but this is good because it tones the muscle!!
The best part of barre for me is that as well as building strength, you are also building flexibility. A lot of exercise classes end up reducing flexibility through weight lifting or intense movements. Barre on the other hand focuses on stretching each muscle immediately after using it as well as using movements that increase range of motion. The most important result of this is that by increasing strength and flexibility together, you minimise the risk of injury!
iii. Weight Loss
I suppose a big question with all gym classes will always be “how effective is it for weight loss?”. In answer I would say – I have no idea. However, what I can say it will do is make you look longer and leaner by redistributing the weight on your body as you tone up. I have never felt so consistently toned over long periods of time as when I have done these classes!
After doing barre regularly, I have noticed a marked improvement in my posture as well as my upper body strength. In the past I was never able to do a full vinyasa yoga flow on my toes which I was able to do after about six months of barre classes, two classes per week. In addition, having never been a particularly flexible person, I can now easily put my hands flat on the floor with straight legs. While my turn out could still be improved, I am more flexible than I have ever been as an adult.
So if you’re looking for something new to try, my recommendation would be to try a barre studio. Barre classes are pretty widely available at the moment and most studios will offer reduced pricing for a couple of weeks to new starters. It’s definitely worth a try and maybe you will love it as much as I do! xx