Over the past couple of years, the Barre workout has gained considerable following. The women are lining up to join the classes. So, what exactly is Barre workout? Does it actually work or is just another hyped-fashion workout style?
To put it in simple words, the Barre workout is a ballet inspired physical routine. The typical workout routine will have plies and pirouettes here and there. However, it isn’t limited to ballet elements only. The Barre workout also has elements of Pilates, dance, yoga and functional training. And, they are all clubbed together and choreographed to a motivating music. In the workout, the barre is used as a prop to balance while doing exercises that focus on isometric strength training (which means, holding your body still while you contract a specific set of muscles) combined with high reps of small range-of-motion movements.
The Barre workouts are a great way to develop lean and strong muscles while improving your balance, flexibility, and range of motion. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that A-Listers such as Madonna, Natalie Portman and Kelly Ripa are huge fans of this unique workout style.
What to expect in a Barre class?
Although, it does have origins in dance, but still those who have never been any good in dancing shouldn’t be worried at all. You don’t need any prior dancing experience or expertise to complete a Barre workout without any mishap. No leotards, no tap shoes and no fancy foot work is needed. A typical Barre session will take you through series of invigorating and dynamic holds, exercises and movements.
Usually, all the Barre workouts follow same structure. You will start with a mat based warm up, which will have sequence of upper-body exercises including free weights, push-ups, planks and other moves to target the biceps, triceps, chest, and back muscles. The next target is the thigh and seat muscles. For this, you will use the ballet barre for support and balance, and your bodyweight for resistance. The core muscles are engaged throughout the session and will be targeted towards the end of the workout. At the end of the workout, to cool down, you will go through series of stretches that will increase your flexibility and will help your muscles to recover. Usually a Barre session will last for 60 minutes.
Although most of the moves are typically bodyweight, you can still use some gear to make the workout more challenging. For instance, the light hand weights (usually two or three pounds) or resistance bands can be used to level up the arm exercises. Then, you can use a soft exercise ball to better engage your leg muscles.
What to wear to the class?
The typical yoga wear will do the trick. Leggings, sports bra or a tank top are all well suited for the workout. Ensure that the clothes you are wearing doesn’t interfere with your workout session. And, avoid wearing thick fabric and heavy clothes. Your clothing should be conductive for different range of motions. As for the footwear, you don’t need it. You can go barefoot or can do the workout session in socks. Most studios usually have carpets, so it is advisable to wear grippy socks to prevent any instance of slipping.
So, as you now have a brief about the Barre workout, let’s move on to the important aspect. Let’s take a look at the benefits it does offer and that would justify spending $20 to $30 on each class.
- Tiny movements make you stronger
The Barre workouts are loaded with tiny muscle movements known as isometric contractions. This happens when the muscle tenses without changing length. These movements are opposite of the typical strength training moves (known as concentric and eccentric contractions), which occurs when a muscle shortens and then stretches.
What is great about strengthening your muscles through the isometric contractions is that you can continuously engage the muscle, but at the same time you get a mini-recovery with every pulse, which means you can hold the pose for longer duration. Also, isometric movements help in isolating muscles. With such small movements, you can do more reps. The high rep and low resistance exercise make bulk of a Barre workout target slow-twitch muscles, which helps increase your muscle tenacity. Additionally, the isometric movements allow you to strengthen the muscles without placing strain on the ligaments and tendons, which in turn minimizes the risk of injury.
- Work multiple muscles at the same time
It is a well known fact that more the number of muscles you engage for a particular exercise, the better will be the calorie burn. And, since you are doing two to four movements such as holding, pulsing and stretching in a single move, you will get a great calorie burn from a Barre workout. Also, as most of the moves in the routine engage multiple muscles at the same time, the overall stamina and strength is also improved. For example, in some Barre routines, you have to do a pose called ‘diamond waterski.’ In this pose, you hold the bar with one hand, while your legs are bent in diamond shape with heels raised and your torso is angled. Although, this move mainly targets your quadriceps, you are still engaging your calves, hamstrings, glutes, abs, and upper-back muscles. And, this involvement of the multiple muscles elevates the heart rate, which along with burning more fat enhances your endurance.
- It is challenging
Probably, when you read that the muscles don’t make big movements in the workout, you would be forgiven to believe that Barre workout isn’t challenging at all. But, you are wrong here. Believe me, you are going to see your body shake like a bowl of Jell-O during the workout. This most commonly happens when doing the thigh work at the barre. As you are going to spend long duration of time in quad contraction, you will feel the slight shaking of the thighs due to the exertion. The shaking means your muscles are feeling the effect of the workout. Now, you might be tempted to move out of the hold. However, try to embrace the shaking and get on with it.
- You will lose weight
So, here comes the most important benefit of the Barre workout. Yes, getting stronger and fitter is good. But, when a considerable chunk of the population is struggling with obesity and weight gain, the biggest selling point of any workout routine is the ability to torch fat. Of course, losing weight can’t be solely achieved with the help of the workout. You will have to eat right and would have to be disciplined enough to avoid the fattening food items. Having said that, the Barre workout can be extremely effective in helping you get the weight off your body. The high reps in the workout hit your cardiovascular system hard, which forces your body to turn to fat stores for the energy needed to get everything going.
Also, you build lean muscles by doing this workout routine, which in turn increases the resting metabolic rate. The increased resting metabolic rate helps you produce more energy and expend calories. You will start noticing changes within two to three weeks of joining. The Barre enthusiasts claim that it makes you appear (and feel) longer and leaner.
- Better Flexibility
The end of the workout stretching drill in the Barre session works wonders for your flexibility. Usually, either a workout will make you strong (cue strength training) or will make you flexible (cue yoga). However, the Barre sessions teach your body to be both at the same time. Working your muscles to failure is different piles and movements, takes care of the strength aspect and the cooling down process improves the flexibility. And, the importance of the both can’t be stressed enough.
- Core Training
Often, the core isn’t targeted enough in the other type of workout routines. However, that isn’t the case with this type of workout. In a regular Barre session, your core will be engaged in almost every exercise and movement. And, to top it all, there is a special core training segment towards the end of the workout session.
The presence of a strong core is very important. Not only it makes your posture perfect, but it can also do wonders to your overall appearance. A taut and trim midsection can make you appear taller and leaner. It is also a key to achieving a much priced dancer’s body. Other benefits of having a well-defined midsection include improved self-confidence, better performance in sports and wearing the swimsuits without a shred of insecurity. What more do you want from a fitness regime?