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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

What Is the Barre Workout and How Much It Can Benefit You

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What Is the Barre Workout and How Much It Can Benefit You

There’s no doubt that many a millennial seems to be hitting a healthier bar nowadays, and that’s barre with a double r and an e. At about $20-30 per barre class, this fitness rage makes tall claims. Anybody can join in, irrespective of age or fitness level and can see a difference in the body in just five barre classes. Sound too good to be true? Let’s find out the truth behind this new fitness phenomenon and separate the facts from the fiction.

What Exactly Is a Barre Class?

Anyone who’s ever done ballet is familiar with the ballet barre – which is just a fancy name for a stationary handrail that gives additional support while doing warm ups. The barre class workout did originate from ballet – or rather an injured ballerina back in 1959. Lotte Berk was a German ballerina in London who hurt her back and so decided to open a rehabilitative studio based on her dance routine. Often the studio was frequented by the likes of Barbra Streisand. Lydia Bach, a student of Berk’s brought this to America in 1971 and now there are plenty of offshoots and “styles” of the original, though the original closed in 2005.

The barre class workout is ballet-inspired. You begin with some mat exercises that target your core and abs, and then move on to the barre to do a dance-inspired workout that targets your arms, shoulders, pelvis, hips, and legs. Here’s a sneak peek into what makes up barre classes:

You Will Look Great by Doing the Barre Workout

Choreographed to upbeat music and custom-made to suit a person’s age and fitness level, the barre workout can be explained as a mix of ballet, Pilates, yoga, and dance. While it’s not a workout meant to sweat you into a mindless puddle, it will make those muscles quiver like leaves in a storm. Here are the many pros of taking up a barre class:

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It works the muscles but is considerate to the joints

Barre workout strains the muscles with small, super-controlled movements known as “isometric movements”, but whilst your muscles may quiver and shake with the effort, (which you are supposed to positively embrace) it’s gentle on the joints and has a low risk of injury.

Barre workouts help increase flexibility and strength

Many strong people are as stiff as boards. (Think muscled hunk not being able to touch his toes!) A barre class gives you both flexibility and strength. Its small, quick pulse movements work the muscles but also stretch them in a focused manner, making you stronger and far more limber than before.

They help you lose weight and inches

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Since barre workouts target muscles and work them beyond fatigue, you burn calories. In fact a barre class will burn more than 200 calories for sure. Some promise to reach the golden number – 500! Coupled with a healthy diet with little to no sugar, barre can help you lose weight and more importantly redistributes the inches on your body to give you the best shape possible.

It targets muscles and builds endurance

The movements of barre are isometric in nature, targeting specific muscles and moving them without the usual expansion and contraction. The muscles will tense but not change length. This allows you work out muscles like never before – the reason why you feel like Jell-O at the end of a barre class.

It’s exercise, but with a meditative effect

The small but continuous movements in a barre class make you very mind and body aware. Since most classes keep changing their routines, the physical and mental awareness you get from doing it can nearly parallel mediation! Another plus is that once you know the moves, you can do them at home, too.

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But If You Think It Can Replace Conventional Workout, It May Not Be the Case…

Anything that makes you move is good, right? Anything that gets your blood pumping, your muscles moving, and your body grooving is healthy for sure. That said, if you are looking for a particular kind of benefit then it’s good to know what an exercise can and cannot do, so here is what doing barre will not do for your body.

It’s not a great cardio workout

While a barre class does leave the muscles begging for mercy, what it doesn’t target is the heart. A barre class does not an intensive cardio session make. While it may tone you and take off a few extra pounds, it may not make for a great fat-busting session. However, remember that all bodies are not made the same way and it just may prove to be a great weight loss workout for you.

It does not give you functional strength

If you are looking for a workout that increases your body’s functional strength – the kind that helps you lift heavy weights and run up the stairs without breaking into a sweat – then barre may not be the class for you. Isometric movements increase flexibility and endurance and so a barre class will make you a great marathoner, but not necessarily a sprinter.

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You may flat line your fitness progress

A barre class does not require lifting heavy weights or pushing beyond your endurance, so after you’ve done a few months of it that magical weight loss, muscle quivering, and increase in strength and stamina will plateau. To become stronger, you have to challenge your body constantly, aiming towards higher and higher goals and obstacles, which tends to stop after a while in barre unless you have an instructor who is constantly challenging himself or herself to make the best barre workout ever! It can get boring with the same repetitive routine.

All in all, barre is a good workout – especially if you are starting a fitness program, looking for something fun to do, or even recovering from an injury or illness. It’s also a great “in-betweener” in case you’ve just finished an intensive bout of weight training and are stiffer than a surfboard! It’s also a good idea to pair a barre class with another workout. Alternating strength or cardio training with barre will ensure that you get the flexibility of barre with the cardio or functional strength of an intensive workout, giving you the complete workout that’s best for you!

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Rima Pundir

Health, Wellness & Productivity Writer

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

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7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

Stretching is one of the most essential aspects of a healthy fitness routine. It’s also one of the most overlooked. Instead of thinking of this activity as a separate entity, consider stretching as a continuation of your exercise routine. By making stretching tips a part of your workout, you won’t neglect the attention your muscles and joints require to perform effectively.

Whether using stretching as a way to wake up, get your mind in the game, or recover from strenuous activity, your body will reap its short-term and long-term benefits. In the moment, stretching is a great way to warm up the body and prevent yourself from overextension and injury. In the long run, stretching daily can help loosen your tendons and muscles, and ultimately help you maintain a full range of motion later in life.

Taking these ideas into consideration, follow these 7 simple tips for stretching to add stretches back into your workout vocabulary.

1. Stretch and Stretch Often

Ultimately, your body can benefit from stretching daily. Many of us experience a somewhat stationary lifestyle at work, so we naturally need to warm up our bodies after remaining immobile for long periods of time.

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With only ten minutes of stretching, you can increase your strength, balance and flexibility. From working out to waking up in the morning, slow, easy movements can warm up the body. Just remember to be gentle; any jarring movements can cause injury and muscle tear.

For the best results, hold each stretch for at least sixty seconds[1].

2. Warm up Before a Workout

Similar to establishing a daily stretching routine, warming up the body pre-workout is vital for having a successful session and one of the most important stretching tips. Just grabbing your foot to stretch your calf for a couple seconds could actually harm your body, so make sure you begin slowly and take your time.

Attempting any exercise with “cold muscles” or without “waking up the body” will also hurt your body and cause muscle pulls and tendon tears. Try taking a short walk or elongating your stretches for optimal results.

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3. Gauge Your Tension

Stretching should never be painful. Monitor how your muscles feel as you stretch. Naturally, you should feel some mild tension, but don’t push yourself past the edge of discomfort.

If you’re starting to experience sharp pain or sensations that gradually get more severe, you are doing something wrong. Try to focus on one area at a time so you are only pushing yourself so far. When you begin to feel comfortable stretching, deepen your stretch, but don’t over-exert yourself.

4. Avoid Bouncing

Stretching tips don’t often mention this, but bouncing can be one of the most detrimental things you can do to your body while stretching. When your body constantly shifts, your muscles can tighten, and you can increase the risk of pulling or tearing a tendon. Find your balance or focal point, and remain steady.

When in doubt, try using a mirror to watch yourself stretch to improve your form. Don’t be afraid to consult your doctor or trainer for someone to monitor your posture and stance[2].

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5. Just Breathe

One of the main benefits of stretching is its ability to help the mind and body relax. Therefore, try to breathe normally and make sure you don’t hold your breath[3].

As you deepen your stretch, make sure to inhale and exhale slowly. Any abrupt, fast breathing or lack of breathing can cause tension in your body and increase your risk of injury. Make sure you are comfortable so that your mind focuses on the task at hand.

6. Vary Your Routine

While stretching, don’t forget to work on opposing muscles and incorporate as many muscle groups as possible in your routine for a holistic workout. Also, one of the most important stretching tips I can offer is to change your routine often so you don’t get bored.

Often, boredom can cause carelessness and a loss of focus, which, in turn, can cause injuries. Look to Yoga workouts[4] or Pilates classes, as they are great resources for finding new stretches.

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7. Always Remember to Cool Down

Stretching is also an excellent form of recovery to avoid muscle soreness. Don’t overlook this part of a workout, as it releases the tension in your body and increases blood flow to muscles that are warm and worked. Cooling down can prevent injury and decrease your heart rate after an intense workout. Do what you can to help your body quickly recover from your daily exercise routine.

Final Thoughts

Stretching tips are vital when participating in an active lifestyle. However, your body needs fuel to assist you through these daily routines. Therefore, don’t forget to eat the right foods and stay hydrated. Not only do you replenish your body with fluids and nutrients lost, but you can keep your muscles strong and ready for the next routine.

If you struggle with stress and anxiety, stretching can help you move into a calmer headspace and find both mental and physical balance. Furthermore, stretching can help you and your body focus on something else, which will help you move past the stress.

As you plan your next workout, incorporate time for pre and post-workout stretches to see how it improves your exercise experience.

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More Stretching Tips

Featured photo credit: Oksana Taran via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: The ideal stretching routine
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: Six tips for safe stretches
[3] Penn State: Balance, Breathing and Flexibility
[4] Health: Best Yoga Poses for Your Trouble Spots

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