As a former dancer, the moment I graduated college and was no longer dancing five days a week, my body missed that kind of movement. I’ve been in dance since I was three years old, so there are very few other kinds of exercise that my body responds to. Luckily, I found barre classes soon after graduating. I clung to barre for some sense of normalcy as I entered the real world and reaped all the benefits. It’s a great workout for any former dancer. However, barre has a myriad of benefits for anyone looking to improve their mind and body.
What is Barre?
Barre takes its inspiration from elements of ballet, yoga, rehabilitation, Pilates and functional movement. This makes it a really dynamic, well-rounded workout experience. “Barre’s combination of high reps with low weights and stabilization hits all the major muscle groups in a single class,” says Alo barre instructor Emily Sferra. It often implements light weights or your own body weight as resistance, adds New York barre instructor Grace Freyre.
Barre aims to build “strength through a mixture of functional movements and dance-inspired shapes and alignment that exhaust one portion of the body before moving to the next,”explains Sferra. You’ll find that muscle shaking is encouraged during barre classes, as that’s the zone where real changes happen.
There are multiple kinds of barre
Barre is not one size fits all like many other workouts. Barre programming can range from therapeutic and pre-natal classes to ballet-forward and high-intensity cardio-focused classes, says owner and program director of Barre West Adriana Britton.
“While I love traditional barre, the beauty of the method is that it can be modified in so many ways,” says Freyre. “From barre cardio and barre sculpt to barre yoga and barre dance, there are so many amazing variations of the method!” Each of these focuses still has strength and flexibility training at its core.
Barre boasts body healing benefits
Freyre says barre was invented in the 60s by a dancer named Lotte Berk, who had sustained an injury and had to focus on rehabbing herself rather than performing. “This is where the barre method was truly born. Barre has many exercises derived from rehab and is extremely safe for your body,” says Freyre. Due to this, she says, you’ll often see women in their 60s and 70s crushing it in class.
“We’ve had amazing feedback from our members over the years on the positive health benefits from taking regular classes,” says Britton. A member in her late 70s has seen her Osteoporosis stop progressing. Another client who experienced a traumatic brain injury has found the practice to be a form of physiotherapy.
Barre promotes the burn, which helps build strength
If you’re looking for a workout that actually feels like it’s working, barre is for you. “The barre burn effect is created by the unique way these workouts target your muscles through high reps with low weights,” says Sferra.
“In barre workouts, we’re often targeting a specific area of the body, like the inner thighs, while using supporting muscle groups, like the core, to stabilize the movement. The combination of stabilization and endurance (high reps) creates an insanely effective workout that hits all the major muscle groups and leaves you with an incredible burn in less than an hour,” explains Sferra. Founder of Xtend Barre Andrea Rogers notes that this burn is often focused on improving strength in the core and lower body.
IG: emily.sferra via Alo
Barre can help strengthen the pelvic floor
Britton says she’s received feedback from many clients that their pelvic floor health has improved with regular classes. Some shared that they struggled with incontinence but have noticed major improvements after taking barre clalsses, she adds.
Barre fosters a strong mind-body connection
“Barre classes will also challenge you mentally by improving coordination and the mind-body connection,” says Rogers. “A focus on mind-body movement not only gets you into that challenge zone but helps maintain a sharp mind as well.”
Through matching each movement to the tempo of the music, barre helps strengthen the mind-body connection. This not only helps people become more engaged with what their body is doing through synchronization but also helps one be more in tune with how their body feels, says Sferra.
Barre leads to a long, lean body
If you don’t want to bulk up, but you’re trying to get leaner, barre is the way to go. Freyre says the exercise “helps strengthen and tone your muscles without increasing bulk for a long, lean, dancer body!”
Barre benefits flexibility
Flexibility can feel out of reach for those who didn’t grow up stretching daily, but barre can help with that. Freyre says the exercise promotes flexibility. Rogers notes that barre is especially helpful when it comes to the flexibility of the spine.
Barre helps you connect with yourself and stay present
“For me, of all the myriad of benefits of barre, the most powerful is that it brings you to the present moment and you connect with yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually,” says Freyre. “This is a stress reliever for some, an energy giver for others and a sense of community for all.”
Barre makes daily tasks easier
Primal movement is currently trending, demonstrating people’s inclination towards doing exercises that feel good to them and make daily tasks, like holding a child or picking up a pen you dropped, easier on the body. “Barre offers fluidity of movement to help perform everyday tasks,” says Rogers.
Barre boosts energy
Barre is like the matcha shot of exercise classes. The mind-body connection “creates a dynamic and motivating experience that leaves people feeling energized,” says Sferra.
Freyre says people often experience a surge of energy after barre. “You always leave a barre class feeling that endorphin high without the exhaustion,” she adds.
Barre benefits can happen quickly
If you activate the barre burn enough, you’ll notice benefits soon after starting your journey. Freyre says if you consistently do barre two to four times a week, you will quickly see the results.
Barre helps with spinal integrity, joint alignment and posture
“Yoga and Pilates usually come top of mind when people think about movement to realign joints and boost overall spinal integrity, but barre should also be in the conversation,” says Sferra. Core barre exercises promote these principles, which help positively impact our posture. “This also makes barre a great option for anyone working a desk job as it can help combat the effects of repetitive motions or sitting at a computer all day.”
IG: emily.sferra via Alo