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Hello, it’s Friday and a long weekend!! Do you have anything fun planned?
Our kids are still in school and have finals so there will be studying…
Maybe it will be a quiet holiday…
Good news though – my doctors told me that at 6 months post-transplant, I can start core work again. That will be the end of June. Woo hoo!
So, my hunt for an exercise regimen is in full swing. I know yoga/Pilates will play a role, but I have to figure out what cardio I will incorporate. I still have time…
Today’s exercise discipline is one that I find intriguing. I took ballet as a kid, so I had some exposure to the ballet barre. But this is a whole new game!
What is the Barre Workout?
Barre fitness is something you may have seen advertised in local papers, online, or at the local gym. It’s a workout that combines ballet poses with yoga and Pilates. There may also be some other dance moves incorporated as well.
Barre workouts were first developed by a ballerina, Lotte Berk, who had injured her back. She had wanted to meld her dance conditioning with her rehab therapy. A student of hers, Linda Bach, brought this workout to the US in the 1970s. From there, different instructors have branched out and created their own styles like Physique 57, Core Fusion, Cardio Barre, and The Bar Method. Over the past 10 years, this exercise form has exploded in popularity.
With barre workouts, you aren’t going to a ballet class, but a fitness class that is unique and provides a lot of excellent benefits. The goal of barre is to give you flexibility, improve range of movement, and provide a nice calorie burn. Here are some different reasons to consider doing barre workouts—either at home or at the studio.
A Full-Body Workout
If you think barre workouts are just for your lower body, you are in for a surprise. These sessions are actually perfect for entire body workouts. A lot of emphasis is placed on lower body muscle groups like your legs and buttocks, but there is also a lot of work on your abdominal muscles, back, shoulders, and arms. Many of the movements are incremental and utilize small isometric movements (like small pulses).
While most of the workout is bodyweight-based, light hand weights and resistance bands may also be used to even out the work during the upper body portion of the session. Exercise balls may also be included to help work the core. By the end of a barre workout, you feel the burn from shoulders to toes, so it may be a good choice if you want a single workout that focuses evenly on all muscle groups.
Easy on Your Joints
Another benefit to barre workouts is that they often are easy on your joints. While your muscles will feel the burn, the discipline itself isn’t difficult for your joints. The movements are subtle and help to strengthen your body without putting too much pressure or strain on your joints, tendons, and ligaments. This means you can do barre regardless of your weight, how in or out of shape you are, and even if you have conditions causing joint pain, such as arthritis. Some moves may need to be altered, but for the most part, anyone can do the workouts.
Good for Beginners
Don’t avoid trying out barre workouts because you’ve never taken ballet or dance before, or because you’re out of shape. You don’t need any sort of experience to do this workout. The moves are taught slowly, and each move is done several times before moving onto the next. This prevents you from having to “learn” the moves ahead of time. Just pop in the DVD and get started, following along with the instructor the best you can. Many people at studios are also beginners, so you don’t need to feel intimidated there either.
While not advertised as a weight loss workout, many people do end up losing pounds with barre workouts. You will burn calories, so if you’re also watching what you eat, you just may lose a few pounds. You can also choose one of the fat-burning barre workouts if you want a more intense experience.
Examples of Barre Workouts
Here are some classic moves often done during a barre class, whether you do it at home or in a studio.
This is a standing barre movement that works on your lower body muscle groups, primarily the thighs, hips, and buttocks. It is a simple extension workout where you stand with your thighs and knees touching as close as possible. You place a small exercise ball behind one of your knees and pull up that leg by lifting the heel toward your buttocks. Do this for 10-15 reps, then move the ball and switch to the other side.
For the relevé plié move, you’re going to work on your abdominals, abs, and thighs. It teaches you first position, which in ballet is when your heels are together, and your toes are turned out. You start with your legs straight and put your hands on a ballet barre or the back of a chair. Tighten your abs and lift your feet until you are resting on the balls of the feet. A plié is then done when you squat down—with knees turned out– with your knees over your toes. In the beginning, you typically will only squat about halfway down then release. You have to keep you back straight throughout the movement. This combination is repeated 15-20 times.
This is a barre-version of a traditional arabesque position. For the exercise, you stand in first position as mentioned earlier, then place your right hand on the barre or whatever furniture you are using. Bring your left leg back horizontally and point your foot; this creates an arabesque position. Your other arm will be extended in front of you– palm-down– from your shoulder. Bend your left knee to the side while it is still raised; at the same time, lift you extended arm above your head, near your ear and slightly curved. This is all one rep and can be done up to 20 times. After 20 reps on one side, you can alternate feet and do it again on the opposite side for another 20 reps. This exercise tightens your buttocks, hips, and obliques.
This exercise uses small dumbbells. Stand in first position with your arms above your head with a dumbbell in each hand. Then bend your elbows out towards your ears as you lower the weights behind your head. Then, lift your heels until you are on the balls of your feet and lift your arms overhead while keeping your abs tight. Lower your heels and bend your elbows again – which consists of a complete repetition. Do 20 reps.
These are some of the simpler movements you’ll learn during your barre classes. As you have noticed, you do learn some traditional ballet techniques and positions, but they will then focus on strengthening your body. Some of the workouts like the triceps shaver involve hand weights that also work your arms, shoulders, and upper body muscle groups. While these movements are all done while standing, many barre workouts also do floor work, like some of the traditional yoga and Pilates movements.
Things to Remember
While this is a great form of exercise, there are a few things that it can’t do.
You Won’t Get Functionally Stronger
Because of the types of muscle movements, you employ during barre workouts, you aren’t going to become functionally stronger. Functional strength means you are working against resistance, and the strength improvements help you with your tasks in everyday life. With traditional barre workouts, that doesn’t happen. However, some of the other extensions of the discipline are trying to add more functional movements into their workouts to address this.
You Still Need Cardio
While you do get some calorie burning with a typical barre workout, it generally doesn’t raise your heart rate as cardio exercises do. Therefore, you don’t get the post-exercise calorie burn (commonly called afterburn). Not enough cardio – you will need to add cardio like HIIT to your exercise regimen.
This really sounds like a fun workout. I think I have found too many choices now?
Have you ever taken barre classes? Tell us about it in the comments.
Loving Life–The Reboot!