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Barre studios claim appealing promises: ‘Develop long, lean ballerina muscles without bulk.’ ‘Enhance flexibility and improve balance.’ Even after a mere five classes, practitioners can gain strength; toning challenging core, arm and leg muscles. Irrespective of age, weight or fitness level – anyone can get results with barre. If so, who wouldn’t want to plié their way to an awesome physique?

Barre Versus Strength Training Classes

Rather than compound movements like squats and shoulder presses, tiny, one-inch increments called ‘isometric movements’ are made. That’s why you’ll hear teachers’ voice, “Down an inch, up an inch.” For those used to HITT or CrossFit, Barre may appear lukewarm, but that’s not true as those one-inch increments are enough to fire up the muscle, making it more elastic, but not too big to tear the muscle.

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Barre Beautiful

Those Tiny Movements Advance Strength

The isometric contractions that comprise the majority of a barre class occur when muscles tense without changing length. These movements are the opposite of typical strength training moves (concentric and eccentric contractions) that occur when muscles stretch then shorten (like a biceps curl). Isometric exercise is excellent to maintain muscle might. There’s also a physical payoff from tiny pulses. Isometric movements isolate specific muscles. You can do more reps with smaller movements like these, exhausting the muscles differently. These higher-rep, low-weight exercises target slow-twitch muscles, increasing endurance. In contrast, larger, compound movements target fast-twitch muscles, increasing power and speed (think running a marathon vs. sprinting). Additionally, isometric movements boost muscle without straining tendons or ligaments, decreasing injury risk compared to more traditional strength training.

Improve Mind-Body Connection

Tiny barre movements evoke a deeper level of awareness that regular strength workouts do not yield. Therefore, barre advances muscular activation for frequently underused muscles by strengthening the neuro-muscular (mindbody) correlation.

 

Weight Loss

Depending on body type and fitness level, practitioners transform within three weeks to three months if proper diet is respected. Though making major changes and losing significant weight can take longer, students develop a natural power and grace, with a wonderful posture and perky derriere.

Scarce Functional Strength

Traditional barre classes often lack compound moves like squats, lunges, bent-over rows, or clean-and-presses, involving multiple muscle groups and joints. These functional exercises power the moves you’re likely to encounter in everyday life, like walking up stairs, picking up boxes, or carrying groceries. Also, compound movements recruit maximum muscle fibres, driving the heart rate through the roof, causing greater fat loss. Many systems nowadays are adding functional, aerobic movements to their repertoire. After challenging the muscles in isometric holds, routines follow with functional movements (full-range squats following small pulses at the barre), which also include cardio. The aim after all is to train the body for life, not for dance.

The Takeaway

Consider barre as ‘honing’ the body. If you’re doing strength training and spinning, for instance, it’s a good to add the high-reps, bodyweight-only exercises of a barre class once week. In addition to sound nutrition, combination training ultimately unveils the leanest, best body possible. If you are already into barre, on another two to three days a week, do cardio to get the heart rate up and incorporate  two to three strength training sessions. Lift, run, jump, do yoga, swim, take a barre class and it mix up, stay active while focusing the maximum efforts on work that increases overall strength and endurance.

Give Barre a quick try yourself with this 10-minute workout video.

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