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:
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
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.
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.
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!