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Fitness 101: What You Need to Know About Barre

We investigated the ins and outs of today’s most popular, slow-burning workout

Elisabeth Halfpapp’s first experience with barre was in 1980 at the “infamous” Lotte Berk Method in NYC—the first barre studio in the United States. She loved it so much that she pursued a career in teaching just one month later.

My biggest draw to barre was that it related to my ballet and Martha Graham dance training with the use of the ballet barre for legs, glutes, and core,” she says. “I loved the mind-body connection, that is similar in dance and athletics, along with the balance of strengthening and stretching exercises. It also includes the mindfulness and breathing of yoga.”

Barre itself does resemble yoga in that you stay in the same place throughout the duration of class—minus the transition to a spot on the ballet barre. It’s also not a cardiovascular workout—although studios, like Exhale Spa and Pure Barre, have started to incorporate cardio moves into fusion barre classes. Aside from stretching and mindful breathing, the movements in barre are much more rigid and in my opinion: more painful than in yogaI myself was completely shocked at the foreign discomfort during my first ever barre class, taken at Pure Barre. But by the time I hit my third week of taking class: I was hooked. Results are elegant and lean, and because of that, by your third or fourth week, the “burn” of barre becomes one of the workout’s most alluring qualities.

Below, we speak with Exhale Spa’s EVP of Mind Body Training Elisabeth Halfpapp for the top tips, tricks and need-to-know information about today’s most popular, slow-burning workout.

What do students need to bring to class to be fully prepared?

A pair of grippy socks, focus, and an open mind especially for the abdominal exercises.  This class works more with stabilizing and bracing the core muscles instead of momentum movements such as crunches and sit ups.

Should they do anything to prepare before class? After class? (i.e. stretch etc.).

Hydrate. We recommend for our guests to hang on a stall bar (in our classroom) before and after to help elongate and stretch the back muscles which helps to avoid compression of the vertebral bones on the discs.  When the spine is flexible you get into the positions better. Taking class on a regular basis, along with a consistent basis of 3 classes per week, is the best way to approach this class. The barre fitness classes are taught in progression from most basic position to the most advanced in each class, with proper alignment and position.  This enables the student to work at their own level of intensity.

Barre derives from ballet—can you please explain what kind of movement people should expect?

The movements in barre class are well aligned with correct posture, thus you only do reps and push a stretch keeping alignment and posture priority, which is similar to a ballet class.  They are controlled muscular movements focused on working the mind and the body together instead many repetitions compromising form.  We move full range, mid range, and small range of muscles…  thus getting the maximum movement length of the muscles.  We use a supported ballet barre for the thigh, glutes, and some abdominal work.

Why is the workout itself so effective?

This class is effective because the priority is form, position, and alignment with a balance of strengthening and stretching exercises.  This creates long lean functional muscles without injury.

How long does it take to see results?

We see results within a month when a guest attends class 3x per week regularly and sometimes within a couple of weeks if they are taking more classes per week.

Is this something people can/should do at home?

Yes this easy to do at home, since you need minimal space and you can use a counter or heavy chair as a barre for the thigh and glute exercises.

What do you recommend in terms of mixing barre with other types of exercise?

It is a well-rounded fitness program when you combine barre with yoga, cardio, and HIIT type classes. At exhale, we offer all these styles of classes, so our guests have a balanced variety of classes to choose. We also offer hybrid classes such as Barre +Yoga and Barre +Cardio.

Main Image: Getty Images/Caiaimage/Martin Baurraud

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