Go into any gym nowadays and you’ll likely see a Barre or Ballet-Fit class on the timetable. Fitness fads seem to explode into the fitness world every two seconds before suddenly fizzling away, but Ballet and Barre have been simmering quietly for years, steadily growing in popularity and increasing in fame & fortune.
What is it?
Barre is a mix of Pilates and Body Conditioning, based on the principles of classical ballet.
Each class consists of a range of exercises, each focusing on working a specific area of the body – it’s particularly great for legs and glutes!
The barre is used as a support – something to provide stability, allowing each movement to be completed to its full potential. It is not to be used as a life support! Only the tips of the fingers should rest (lightly!) on the barre, so that the majority of weight is centered through the body.
Ballet in its traditional sense will often push the human body out of the limits of what is “normal” (think of the ballerinas kicking their legs above their heads). This is because as an art form, Ballet has developed a particular aesthetic that students will be pushed towards from a very young age.
Barre, on the other hand, is more functional. Dancers that go to gym-based Barre-classes are often put out, at first, by the fact that many of the exercises are done in parallel, as opposed to in the turned-out position that Ballet uses, with the toes pointed outwards. Barre aims to provide a safe and effective all-over workout, rather than showing-off extraordinary moves.
Why is it so Popular?
It’s low impact – Barre is a low impact form of exercise, making it excellent for people with dodgy joints, as well as older learners and those recovering from injury. A good teacher will know how to adapt the class and kick up the intensity where necessary.
It Works – It may be low intensity, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t wake up feeling the burn the next day. If you’ve ever seen a ballet-dancer’s body, then you can appreciate the slenderness of their arms, the strength of their legs and the tightness of their tummy. This is what the exercises in a barre class have been specifically designed to achieve.
How will it help?
Core & Posture – One of the best things about Barre is that it really hones in on core strength and posture. Each and every exercise has to start and finish with the correct, upright and well placed posture that dancers are famous for. The back is straight, shoulders back and abdominals tensed from the beginning of the class right to the end.
Coordination – Barre exercises will often require a more coordination than other workouts, with the arms, legs and head getting involved in every exercise. This will test your brain, as well as your body!
Flexibility – Approximately 15 minutes of a good Barre class will be dedicated to flexibility, something that is often left by the wayside in commonplace workout routines. Stretching helps to encourage blood flow, and also decreases the risk of injury and pain post-workout.