I wanted to write a little bit about barre workouts. I may be a little bias since I'm a certified barre instructor, but it is one killer workout! There are a lot of misconceptions about barre workouts. Many think you have to know how to dance or that it's only for females. The stereotypical image that comes to mind is when thinking about barre is an image of all tall, skinny women doing spins and twirls... Right? This image is about 100% incorrect. Barre is currently more popular among females, but I really believe that is just because of these preconceived notions.
First, what is barre? You've probably seen some type of Instagram post about someone "going to the Barre" or being a "barretender", etc. I know I'm guilty of it (because who doesn't love a good pun?!). Barre is a high-repetition, low weight, small movement workout. There is a lot of holding the body in certain positions and small pulses. We use light weights because of the high repetitions. Most barre routines use a five-pound weight at the heaviest, but the majority of the time it's in the two-three-pound range. Many exercises in barre are completed by using your own body weight and/or resistance bands. If you don't think that this would do anything, or that you would see any type of results from this...think again.
What's the deal with the high-rep and low weight workout? You may be thinking that it seems like it would make more sense to use heavier weights, larger movements and less repetitions, to get the workout over with? Well, the high-rep routine will fatigue the muscles in a different way. You'll be targeting slow-twitch muscle fibers, which means that you will not only be building muscle and strength, but you'll also be working on your body's endurance a side note... barre is a great workout for the runners out there for this reason! Barre will also help to strengthen the tendons and ligaments, which will result in lowering your risk of injury during barre and other workouts as well!
There are a few different methods of barre, so depending on where you go to class, your workout will vary from other places. Either way, you'll get a great workout no matter which method you're taught. The main difference is that some places will teach with the "tuck" movement, and others will teach without the tuck, and in more "functional" movements.
The "tuck" - if you're teacher is instructing with this movement, be sure they assist you with this in person. I will explain it here, but it is something that will be easier to learn visually and should be reviewed by an instructor to make sure you don't injure yourself.
How to tuck: stand upright, with your feet about hip width distance apart. Be sure that your knees are soft, ankles over the heels, and if you're practicing in a squat position - be sure your knees do not come in front of your toes. With a neutral spine - tighten your glute muscles, and adjust yourself so you bring your hips forward and slightly up. This will tighten your core muscles by bringing your belly button to your spine at the same time as well as your quads.
The "functional" movement method - the other option will be what is referred to as functional movements. This means movements that will help you with your day to day activities. You may argue that both methods will assist with daily functions, since you will be stronger, but the functional movement method will only focus on these daily activities and you'll keep your body in more of a "natural" position.
What is a typical class like? Well, like I stated, the classes will vary depending on the studio you go to, the instructor, the method, etc. My typical class will go something like this...
Start with cardio, not a ton of cardio but enough to get your heart rate up. I'll do about 7-8 minutes of cardio, think: high knees, butt kicks, jumping jacks, jump rope, etc. After cardio we'll do our upper-body series, think: bicep, triceps, forearms, shoulders, traps, etc. Then we will move onto the lower-body series, think: squats, lunges, glutes, calves, quads, hamstrings, etc. And then we'll move onto the floor series, which will focus on the core. During this we'll have a plank series, ab specific exercises, obliques, lower back exercises.
So, by now you should be realizing that barre is a FULL body workout. Where does the actual barre play into all of this? It can be used in many of these exercises. A lot of the time I'll use it for the lower-body exercises. The barre is used for stability. It should not be a crutch, you shouldn't be using it to completely hold your body weight, but rather to assist you to stabilize yourself.
Lastly, I want to touch on your body shaking. Shaking is a good thing. I cannot express this enough. This is true in all workouts, but for me, it's so relevant with barre. I've been doing barre for a long time, and I still shake. Some days I will get through a whole class and barely shake (a rare occurrence) and other days my legs will be shaking so much they're practically jumping uncontrollably. Please, do NOT let this scare you! Your muscles shaking is a way to see that your body is growing stronger. Your muscles are being worked to fatigue, which will allow the muscle fibers to grow. Sometimes the shaking can interrupt the exercise and you can't do it in correct form because of your body shaking. If this is the case, stop for a moment, stretch out that muscle, and get right back to it! You're in total control of your own body. You're the only one who knows how you feel, use your head, if the movement is too much for your body at this point - modify. There is a modification to every move. If you don't know what it is, do not be shy to ask your teacher! Modifying moves is not a sign of weakness, but it's about listening to your body and knowing what you can handle. What you can handle today will be different than tomorrow and the next day.
I encourage you all to find a barre class near you to try. Try this full body workout - you will not regret it. I would love to hear your thoughts after you take a barre class! And this is not just for the ladies out there! I know entering into a yoga or barre studio might not be comfortable for some men, but this is a killer workout for you too! This is the only barre that I will really encourage you to attend .