Although it seems like a workout for prima-ballerinas, this week’s grobby (Greatist lingo for hobby) requires no dance experience. Originally developed to strengthen the spine and core, barre combines dance stretches with strength and cardio training for a fat burning, muscle toning workout. It’s the perfect way to get a dancer’s body without the injuries, blister-filled feet, and the whole turning into a swan thing.
Leave the Leotards at the Door – The Need-To-Know
Practiced by people like Madonna and Kelly Ripa, barre is an intense exercise that uses the body’s weight to strengthen and stretch all major muscle groups. Created by German dancer Lotte Berk in the 1950s, barre began as an exercise exclusively for women. Eventually one of Berk’s students, Lydia Back, brought the barre workout to the United States. Even though the barre involves breaking several sweats, it requires little to no impact and can be tailored to fit anyone’s needs.
At its core, barre seems similar to pilates and yoga. Each hour-long class focuses on enhancing muscles through a series of exercises. The ballet-inspired stretches elongate the muscles, increasing flexibility and relieving tightness. Participants then go through a series of isometric exercises, which sometimes incorporate weights or kettlebells, in order to strengthen and tone the muscles.
The main difference between barre and its toning counterparts is the aerobic aspect. The classes include several sections of interval training, some of which consists of contemporary or modern dance movements. The short (but intense) section burns body fat and increases stamina... not something that typically happens while chanting “om.”
But not all barre classes are the same. While every class uses the methods of founder Lotte Berk, not every class uses the same style. The Bar Method and Core Fusion, for example, incorporate exercises commonly used in physical therapy. Another well-known option, Ballet Beautiful, takes the exercises back to basic ballet techniques and does not incorporate balance balls or free weights.
Time to Start Paying. . . In Sweat – Your Action Plan
No matter the method of barre, people with back problems should check with a doctor prior to participating in a class. However, since barre was invented to improve spine strength, people with back problems may benefit from taking a class.
It is also important to research classes prior to signing up. Finding a class that meets your experience level and exercise needs makes the class more enjoyable. And, of course, one that doesn't smell like feet.
So why not breathe, stretch, plié, and get to a nearby barre class this week?