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A Beginner’s Guide to Barre…

You know that surprise that comes when someone has no clue what you are talking about? Or, it happens to you that you are clueless on a topic that seems to be totally obvious to the person you are conversing with? It happens, to all of us, at some time or another.

Barre classes and Barre as a fitness option seems TOTALLY obvious to me. I fell in love with Pilates several years ago and its been a little over 2 years since I found a passion for the craze that has already taken bigger cities by storm–that craze is Barre classes. Yet, I am continually surprised and thus reminded that SO many people have either NEVER heard of it, or have heard of it and yet still have no idea what it really is! What is it? Why is it called Barre? Do you need dance experience to do it? What do you wear? How and what does it work? Who is it best for? Can guys do it? Is it too hard for most people? Is it too easy for those who are already active and fit? These are just some of the many questions and comments that I feel like we Barre instructors answer on a weekly if not daily basis. So, I’m going to hopefully answer some of your questions and dispel some of the myths. There will still be myths. There will still be questions. However, just like with any type of fitness, you’ve got to start SOMEWHERE, so let’s start here…

Barre…what is it?

It is a fusion of yoga, Pilates, and ballet. Contrary to what many believe, barre isn’t only for dancers. Many people want to know if they need dance training or if they need to be flexible? The answer is no. Coming to classes can actually help with coordination and flexibility, so even if those are your weaknesses, this type of class may be perfect for you. But, if barre isn’t a full-on dance class, what exactly is it?
A combination of ballet poses, core training, and hand weights, barre targets the four major muscle groups—the thighs, arms, abdominals, and glutes. The workout was originally invented in 1959 by German dancer Lotte Berk. After injuring her back, she decided to create an exercise program that combined her physical therapy exercise with ballet technique to give people the sculpted body of a dancer without the injuries. Zero impact is one of the major principles behind the method, as in using your own body weight and lots of isometric repetitions to create the lengthened muscles we all want. It is referred to as a Barre class because most often a ballet barre is utilized for balance for some of the exercises and several body and foot positions for the various exercises are borrowed from ballet.UnknownUnknown

What are the benefits?

After only taking a few classes, you can see the benefits. It’s because the poses use every muscle in your body. You are using your own body weight as resistance, and targeting the ‘core’ of each muscle. This is what keeps you from bulking up, and trains your muscles in a long, lengthened (and lifted!) way. Precision of body position and form, along with the controlled speed of the exercises will train the body and challenge the muscles to the point of fatigue. You can expect focused stretching to assist in elongating the muscles and increasing flexibility. This workout is not cardio, the goal isn’t to burn significant calories, though you will burn quite a few! The goal is to develop leaner muscles that in turn allow your body to burn more calories throughout the day. However, you can expect some increased heart rate (some classes are more”cardio” than others) and it is possible to burn between 300 and 500 calories within a 50 min Prime Pilates Barre class. Because the classes are anaerobic, your metabolism will be boosted for hours after.

What do you wear for a Barre class?

You aren’t required to wear anything specifit–any comfortable clothing you can move in works. Wearing something body skimming or tight fitting will help the instructor see your alignment and form. Tight comfortable clothes allow you to be aware of your body alignment and posture. It will assist you in finding just the right body position and form of the exercise and ensure that the instructor can guide you there, too, thus allowing you the very best workout. The room is lined with mirrors so that you can see the shapes the instructor is making and check your own form from all angles. NO SHOES are worn during class–you can work in bare feet or in special Pilates/yoga socks that have grippy bottoms for comfort and to keep you from slipping on the wood floors.

 So, just how hard is it?

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You know the saying slow and steady wins the race? This is true unless you are a sprinter! There is certainly value to an workout with burst of intervals, but that is more cardio and we’ve already discussed this workout is not a cardio workout, but a muscle endurance/anaerobic type of work. A barre class is a constant burn, whether at the legs, core, arms, or glutes. It’s a muscle endurance workout where you are challenged to stay in the exercises as long as possible in order to fatigue and sculpt the muscles. One thing first timers can expect (and even experience after four or five classes) is shaking. First-time barre goers often experience their muscles shaking or vibrating, which may be a new experience for them. This is a good thing. It means your deepest core muscles are fatiguing. So don’t let the shaking discourage you. During their first session, many are surprised at how weak they feel. Even those who run every day, will likely be surprised at how quickly their muscles fatigue from the extremely focused, yet zero impact exercises. Even those who are fit and exercise often are using muscles in a completely different way. For those who are new to fitness or aren’t as strong to begin with, there are modifications offered throughout to meet you where you are at YOUR level of fitness–whether experienced or not at all. The idea is to stay in the exercises with little to no weight for a high number of repetitions. You can expect to work through all muscle groups using various props such as the ballet barre, a ball, bands, small hand weights, and a mat. Throughout a session, one muscle group is targeted at a time. The thighs are pushed to the limit with plies, the core with focused work on both upper and lower abdominals and planks, the arms with two or three-pound weights and hundreds of reps, and finishing with kicks that target the bum. However, after each muscle group the body gets rejuvenated with muscle-lengthening stretches.

 

How soon can I expect to see results?

Generally, we suggest three to five times a week, depending on what else you’re doing. The more you come, the better it feels. So taking more than two days off in between sessions can actually make it seem harder. Many people take classes several days a week, but I would suggest working up to that. Although results will be different for everyone, you can expect to see changes in your body within 10 classes. You may lose inches, see your muscles become more defined, your butt get perkier, and/or gain flexibility. The focus on the core and using your own body weight really strengthens your support muscles that keep you moving around healthily all day. Many report almost immediate changes in posture, and in 2-4 weeks of consistent attendance, muscle definition is visible.

Can guys do Barre classes?

Yes! These days, lots of guys are learning to appreciate the stretching and toning workouts that women have been using for years to sculpt their bodies. Unlike the old-school regimens of hard core lifting, exercise-studio routines give you more slim shape, greater muscle endurance, protection from injury, and increased flexibility. There are countless A-listers and professional athletes who are touting their studio based workouts for their improved performance. Barre classes are for guys who want to look like swimmers, not UFC fighters. And they get quick results while increasing flexibility—the side of physical fitness that men most often overlook. Look for “Bring the Men” classes at the studio on occasion.

Hopefully this clears it up a bit? I’m sure there is something I’ve missed, so I’ll check back in if there seem to be additional glaring questions or omissions from the topics we’ve covered above. Now, it’s time to come check out a class. Any and all levels can participate in the same class–again, those modifications will be suggested to amp it up or tone it down. You will need to register in advance to reserve your spot at the Prime Pilates barre–class size is limited to 10 to ensure you get the personalized attention from the instructor and don’t feel like you got lost in the crowd. Register online at www.primepilateswaco.com What are you waiting for? Even if you already have a favorite fitness format, it’s SO good for our body to be challenged in a new way. Come try a Barre class to shake up your routine and see your muscles SHAKE! First class is free, just register to reserve your spot at the barre.

Let’s meet up at the Barre this week!

–Ashley