Barre has origins in dance, but no dance experience needed. Most barre classes follow the same basic structure: You’ll start with a warm-up which heats the body and wakes up the brain: usually knee marches with arm movement. Then down to the mat for a full set of planks and pushups. Followed by a few yoga stretches and we are back on our feet for a series of arm exercises using light weight or exercise bands. Continuing at the barre, with a lower-body section to work your thighs and glutes, which are the most challenging sets of the workout. Finally, you’ll finish the session on the mat with a series of core-focused moves and a relaxing final stretch set. All exercises come with options to modify.
As for gear, the moves are typically bodyweight only, but you can use light hand held weights (usually two or three pounds) or resistance bands to work your arms. For lower-body work, a soft exercise ball is often used to help engage leg muscles. And we do recommend wearing socks with sticky grips on the bottom.
So what’s the difference between barre and a typical strength training class? Rather than large compound movements (think squats and shoulder press), you’ll perform tiny, one-inch increments called isometric movements. You will often hear “down an inch, up an inch”, repeated by your instructors.
The isometric contractions that make up the bulk of a barre class occur when the muscle tenses without changing length. Isometric exercise is a great way to maintain muscle strength. What’s wonderful about the one-inch movements is that you can hold a posture and benefit from continuously engaging the muscles, but you also get a mini-recovery with each pulse, so can stay in the hold longer. Isometric movements can help strengthen muscles without straining tendons or ligaments, so there’s less risk of injury compared to more traditional strength training.
Shaking is a sign of muscle fatigue-your muscles are telling you they are feeling it. You may be tempted to pop out of the work if you start to shake, but try to embrace the shake! This shaking happens most commonly in thigh work at the barre, as you’re spending an extended period of time in a muscle contraction, while performing an isometric hold to intensify the work. Shaking is a good thing!
The smaller movements in a barre class can bring a new level of awareness to the body that you don’t get in regular strength workouts. We focus on the breath and bring the mind to focus on the sensations the body is experiencing.
This kind of functional fitness, creates long-term health benefits, that you will continue to experience as you age. Aging graceful, with strength and stamina. Why not give it a try!