Contributors: Dawn Lorring, PT, MEd, MPT, SCS, CSCS, and Katie C. Rodrick, MS, AT, PTA, CSCS
Fitness trends come and go, and each one promises the perfect body. Yoga, tai chi and the martial arts are popular options to help achieve increased strength while maintaining flexibility and lean muscle. Today, ballet barre fitness classes – or barre for short – have become quite trendy.
The name comes from the French word “barre,” which refers to the railing used in ballet classes. Barre offers body sculpting combined with toning exercises set to music. The classes are designed primarily to give you a long, lean dancer’s physique.
How barre works
Most barre methods incorporate exercises done at a ballet barre, combined with elements of Pilates and yoga. The exercises rely mainly on your own body’s weight for resistance, and the moves challenge your core stability and balance.
Many barre programs also incorporate cardiovascular activity to increase the number of calories you burn, and some even include elements of kickboxing or slide boards.
The goal of barre classes is to improve your overall tone and strength by focusing on a high number of repetitions, core strength and control. Instead of static or isometric holds, barre classes include more movement patterns that use pulsing or high repetitions, which, while fatiguing, are essential for building endurance.
Advanced classes have more cardio and sometimes plyometric (jumping-based) activities and more frequent position changes with movement patterns. Most classes focus on core stabilization as well as ankle and gluteal/hip strengthening
Equipment includes a yoga mat, light dumbbells and, of course, a barre, which is provided at the studio where you take classes. Ballet experience is not required.
How to choose a barre class
When choosing a barre class, it’s important to select an appropriate fitness level and research the program to ensure the instructors are certified. You should be challenged by the exercises, but also be able to perform the often-complex movements with proper form and without pain.
Other things to keep in mind when you consider taking a barre class:
- Most barre exercises can be modified to different experience and fitness levels.
- Barre classes place stress on the foot and ankle, since many of the exercises are performed while standing. If you have a history of foot or ankle problems, check with your physical therapist or physician before beginning.
- Your heart rate will increase more in barre than in a yoga or Pilates class.
- Focus on proper form so you don’t strain your lower back.
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