In a world where there are just as many fitness trends as muscles in your body (a lot, if you weren’t counting), it’s not easy to keep track of every workout technique. That’s why, when barre workouts are mentioned at your next brunch or post-gym smoothie run, you may have to resort to the classic smile and nod whilst having no idea how to continue.
What is barre exercise, anyway? Let’s find out!
Will a Barre Workout Make you Lean and Toned?
What are Barre Workouts?
Barre fitness is a unique strategy in the world of exercise because it combines a myriad of other techniques into one. Workouts draw from a bit of ballet, some Pilates, a touch of yoga, and even a dash of strength training. Just as their name implies, these workouts utilize the same barre used in ballet practices, but yoga mats and resistance bands have their place, too.
It’s also characterized by the distinctive isometric movements that make up a huge part of each roughly hour-long class. During these movements, the body remains still while specific muscles are held in a contracted position. Dance-inspired stretches and short-range movements repeated again and again are two more staples utilized in a typical barre workout.
Barre’s recent expansion into the world of popular fitness trends has led many to believe that it’s the newest workout on the block, but that’s far from the case! It has actually been around since 1959, when ballet dancer Lotte Berk injured her back. During her recovery, she was advised to exercise in particular ways to avoid further irritation to her injury and to strengthen the muscles she would need to provide her back with extra support.
Berk combined her new strengthening strategies with her penchant for dance and created the fusion now called “barre.”
Many studios won’t admit it, but barre’s history is deeply rooted in a more secret motivation, too. Berk gleefully marketed her new development as a fun, healthy way to improve the sex lives of women. That’s right—once upon a time, the series of exercises used in barre workouts were designed to help women feel more empowered in the bedroom.
Today, the vast majority of studio attendees probably tend to be women, but the workouts are appropriate for men, too—a vast change from the time when these classes were exclusive to women!
How Barre Changes Your Body
Barre is beloved by many for its quick results. Everyone’s body is different and results are individual, but it’s likely that you’ll see some major changes after committing for only a short time!
There are several ways that barre’s techniques will begin changing your body. You will see:
Because each class utilizes similar exercises and involves isometric movements (where you remain in one position with a muscle group contracted until you start to shake) endurance is one of the quickest things you’ll gain when you stick with barre for a little while.
Endurance sometimes increases so quickly, in fact, that barre lovers often begin to see a plateau in their progress because they have grown accustomed to the workout, its movements, and its rigor. When it’s no longer difficult for you, you know that your body has changed and it’s time to up the ante with some heavier weights or resistance bands!
Despite its basis in ballet, you don’t have to be able to do a split to enjoy barre—far from it! Barre itself doesn’t require a large amount of flexibility, but it does take advantage of stretching techniques that will improve your range of motion over time. The stretching of muscles that occurs naturally will also lead to…
Once again, barre comes to the rescue by strengthening muscle groups (in the core, for instance) that will help to support joints and posture while reducing tension on the lower back and other problem areas.
More Toned Muscles
If you’re looking to firm up a body that’s desk-bound or otherwise out of use, this is the way to do it! These isometric exercises and repetitive movements will have your muscles screaming for relief (and then thanking you later).
Barre vs. Strength Training
While it does incorporate aspects of strength training into its routines and assists in toning muscle, barre and strength training are not the same thing. (Some fitness experts might disagree—this is a rather huge point of contention.)
Barre exercises are fantastic for helping you to maintain strength or tone up muscles that need some work. However, you won’t see the same results that muscle-enhancing strength training would provide. If you’re looking to bulk up, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for.
Benefits of Barre Workouts
The recent popularization of these workouts has hugely changed the way that both beginners and more advanced fitness gurus view the process of getting fit. Drawing from the precise and delicate movements of ballerinas and their stretches, barre provides excellent exercise (at varying levels of strenuousness) for just about anyone.
Here’s a cool video on barre:
Anyway, this workout system is particularly beneficial because of these advantages:
Low Joint Strain
Those with health conditions can still participate in these exercises due to the low joint strain. In fact, they’re perfect for individuals who struggle with joint problems like arthritis, because barre can actually build the muscles surrounding these joints in order to provide the problem joints with more support and lessen pain.
It’s great for beginners. Dipping your toes into the world of fitness can be a daunting feat, but barre makes it easy by providing low-intensity exercises that will improve balance, build muscle, and increase flexibility (all while burning calories).
It’s Great for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women can participate, too! (More on that later.)
You’ll Have Lots of Fun
It’s just plain fun! Because it draws so much from dance, it often utilizes aspects of music and choreography that keep class participants engaged and energized throughout the workout. Plus, the more enjoyable aspects of it make trips to the gym less of a drag—what could be better than actually looking forward to a fitness class?
It’ll Improve Your Well-Being
Your general well-being will improve when you do this on a regular basis.
Why? Since it focuses on small, precise, and repetitive movements, a great deal of concentration is necessary in order to maintain proper form. Practicing and honing this focus will increase the awareness linking the body and mind, which has the potential to lower stress while those wonderful endorphins you love after a good workout will contribute to your general happiness and wellness.
The Class Atmosphere Can Be Awesome
The atmosphere of a group class can provide a method for accountability, motivation, and socialization. Working out can be a pain, and there are some days when it’s difficult to get up and moving. Because barre relies on a group workout environment and a class schedule, it can be all that someone needs to get an extra hop in their step and make it to class to meet their weekly workout goals.
Drawbacks of Barre
Unfortunately, nothing in the world is perfect, and that includes barre. Despite its myriad benefits, there are some drawbacks to be aware of as well. Now that you know the pros, let’s talk about the cons.
It’s Hard to Do at Home
Those who prefer to work out at home while accommodating busy schedules or avoiding time-consuming transportation to a gym or studio might be disappointed to know that it’s difficult to do barre at home. It is, of course, not impossible, but most of you probably don’t have a ballet barre hanging on one of your walls. Sure, there are alternatives and workarounds, but doing this at home isn’t as simple as grabbing a yoga mat and some weights.
Barre Fitness Classes Can be Repetitive
While barre does use music and fast-paced choreography to keep you on your toes (sometimes literally), classes can become repetitive once you’ve attended a few. This may not seem like a bad thing at all to those who crave routine, but it might not be the workout choice for you if you’re hunting for a class full of surprises, thrills, and variety throughout the week.
It Can Be Expensive
These workouts can be cost-prohibitive. Barre lovers will greatly benefit from participating in a guided class—that’s all a part of the fun! However, these classes can cost a pretty penny. So, fitness lovers on a budget may feel the urge to guard their wallets when they see the price tag on barre classes.
It Can Be Very Demanding of You
You won’t see improvement if you don’t do the work. Of course, this can be said for most workout programs, but it’s particularly easy to fall into a routine once you’ve been doing barre for a while, and routine can mean that it’s tempting to stop pushing yourself.
Barre requires a constant awareness and intimate understanding of your limits. The small movements mean that you will have to make careful adjustments to continue seeing improvement!
It’s Not the Most Intense Exercise
Finally, this isn’t the workout you’re looking for if you’re hoping to burn fat as fast as possible or log a lot of cardio minutes. Sure, it will get your heart rate up, but you’ll probably only reach somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of your maximum heart rate—that’s not enough for the famous post-calorie burn so sought after by fitness junkies.
Barre During Pregnancy?
Working out while pregnant can be a massive chore—not only is it more difficult to achieve a full range of movement, but safety comes into play, too! For this reason, one of the most common questions that arises about barre workouts is: can you safely do it while pregnant?
You’ll be pleased to know that the answer is a resounding “yes”!
Because barre is a low-impact exercise strategy that maintains a high level of intensity and physical challenge, many pregnant women find it an advantageous tool to maintain their strength and tone throughout their pregnancy. In fact, barre is more than just okay to do during pregnancy—it’s encouraged.
However, if you’re pregnant and thinking about taking up barre, clear your intentions with your doctor first. Also, let your instructor know prior to classes that you’re pregnant. As well, avoid any exercise that requires you to lie flat on your back if you are beyond the first trimester, as this can dangerously constrict circulation during pregnancy.
American Barre Organizations and Class Types
As soon as you hunt for any information about barre, you’ll be inundated with trademarks, names, and studio titles that all sound similar but have their own twist: Pure Barre, American Barre Technique, Barre3, The Bar Method, Physique 57, and Figure 4 are only some of the barre programs, franchises, and organizations you’ll encounter as you begin searching for classes in your area.
Finding Local Classes
Maybe you’ve given this overview of barre fitness a read and your heart is pumping as you anticipate giving it a shot for yourself.
First things first—you’ll need to find a barre class near you before you can dive right in!
Of course, you already know how to find the best studios around. All you’ll need is a quick perusal of the internet to get the low-down on studios in your area. Call around, price check, and ask questions about the specifics of each class. Then, decide which one will best suit your needs and help you to achieve your goals.
Importantly, pay very careful attention to the class schedules and the location of whichever gym or studio you choose. Barre workouts can do nothing for you if you’re unable to make the classes due to long drives or pesky class times. So, be honest with yourself about your need to balance convenience and functionality.
Summing It Up
While barre might not be for everyone (those who need a more concentrated cardio workout or bodybuilding routines, or those who need to regularly work out from home), it is an incredibly viable option for many men and women who are hoping to have some fun while fine-tuning their muscles and nabbing that valuable endorphin release.
Give it a shot for yourself and see what you think!
Have you ever done barre exercise? Would you try a barre fitness class?