It’s Saturday morning around 9 a.m. and you’re planning the day with your college roommate.
She’s visiting from the Big Apple and you want to make her trip fun, so you’re a little surprised when she says, “we should go to barre!” (Pronounced bar.)
“The bar?” you ask. “I know it’s Saturday, but isn’t it a little early to start drinking?”
She laughs, explaining.
“Barre! It’s an awesome full-body workout that targets every muscle in your body. You should try it!”
Begrudgingly, you agree, after much convincing. After all, you hate working out.
What is it?
Barre gets its name from its use of a ballet barre, and while some studios may introduce the dance in their classes, most simply use the foot and arm positions — and of course the barre — from ballet to give you a full-body workout.
Barre combines the best of yoga, Pilates and strength training to provide a low-impact, highly-rewarding workout that goes beyond the traditional “how many pounds can I lift?” routine.
What am I getting myself into?
Don’t worry; you won’t have a former drill-sergeant screaming in your ear. However, this doesn’t mean your instructor won’t push you (in fact, she will.) The music will pump you up, but again, this isn’t a super high-intensity, heart pounding workout.
DO expect to shake, however — that’s a sign your muscles are working their hardest. Feel like your legs are going to give out from under you? That’s perfectly normal, and even encouraged; this is a muscle workout, after all.
How does it work?
Barre uses the concept of muscle overload to achieve its results. While the workout uses small, controlled, isometric movements (squeezes, repetitions and pulses) to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and tone your body, the goal is to work every major muscle group to fatigue and then provide an immediate stretch to said group.
“This produces long, lean, strong muscles that are capable of amazing things,” said Tara Joiner, owner and founder of Pink Barre.
Your first barre class
While all studios are different (some allow men to participate, others do not), Joiner describes what you can expect at a Pink Barre location:
“Your instructor will welcome you to our studio, explain a few foundational barre concepts and ask if you have any injuries. It is normal to feel a bit like a fish out of water your first class — stick with it. You’re being asked to work your muscles in a new format, taking momentum out of the work and using small as well as large muscles, which can be more difficult.
"You will be encouraged to find your shake, meaning we want you to work your muscles so you produce visible shaking — that means the exercise is working. Many new clients think the shaking means they aren’t “good” at barre. Nonsense. In fact, the longer you take barre the better and sooner you can find your shake/work zone.
"After just a few classes you will sit up taller, stand up straighter and start to feel stronger and healthier. After your first month you will notice the inches start to get smaller around your thighs, seat, waistline and upper arms.”
Speak the language
Barre (bar): the stabilizing handrail attached to the walls that you’ll use for a large portion of your workout.
Relevé (reh-leh-vey): a position in which you raise one or both feet to tip-toe position, resting just the ball of your foot on the floor.
Tuck: a move essential to all barre classes (no matter the studio) that refers to bringing the pelvis into a slightly tilted position and rotating your hips forward, which subsequently lengthens your spine.
Pulse: the downward, pulsing movement the instructor will ask you to make to push your muscles into a deeper stretch. Often, the movement will correspond to the beat of the music.
Note: The pulse differs from the down-an-inch, up-an-inch motion your instructor will also have you perform.
Hold: a freeze in the position you’re in. Usually it’s at your lowest, most difficult stance.