What is the Barre workout?

Physiotherapist at Bupa UK
06 January 2017

For many of us, a new year represents new beginnings, a fresh start and new adventures to look forward to. January can be a fantastic time of year to set goals and think about the year ahead. So this year, instead of making a list of the things you resolve to stop, why not focus on some of the things you want to achieve instead? Starting with shaking up your exercise routine.

A ballet dancer en pointe

For the next five weeks, we’ll be straying from our normal exercise routine to try out some unusual fitness classes. Can an exciting and out-of-the-ordinary new workout give you just the kick you need this January? We’ll be reporting back to you on what we thought. 

Forget spending hours on the treadmill – this New Year, think Hula Hoops, trampolines and pedalling in the pool.

The drapes and the barre in an alternative fitness class

What is barre?

Barre is a ballerina-inspired workout which combines movements from ballet, yoga and pilates. Classes are low-impact, and claim to target your core, arm and leg muscles. By using small, controlled movements, barre works on those hard-to-reach muscles and is thought to improve strength, balance, posture and flexibility. Depending on the class, you might use a mat, hand weights, resistance bands, an exercise ball or a barre (a traditional handrail used in ballet for support).

The class - here’s how it went

The barre studio had a lovely calm atmosphere. It was a simple room complete with dimmed lighting, candles and a waist-height handrail spanning mirrored walls. Our instructor gave us a run through of what to expect, and told us to grab a mat and set of light hand weights each (0.5kgs, 1kg or 1.5kgs).

The class started with a challenging warm-up, which incorporated lots of planks, side-planks, downward dogs and very slow mountain climbers. We then progressed onto shoulder presses, squats, push-ups and balance work.

After an intense session on the mats, we moved to the barre. Using this for support, we pliéd, stretched and pulsed, working deep into our legs. Each move was slow and controlled, using light weights and high repetitions to work deep into the muscle. There’s no doubt about it – our shoulder, tummy, back and glute muscles were working very hard.

We returned to the mat to finish off the class (and our abs!) with a session of sit-ups, Russian twists, leg scissors and leg raises. Apart from modern music (we were anticipating a Swan Lake style playlist), the class definitely achieved what it claims to and met our expectations.

The verdict

Alternative fitness classes - barre summary card

The class was very challenging and definitely a great core workout. I’d recommend it to anyone with a medium to high level of fitness who is looking to really challenge and improve their core strength.

But please avoid this class if you’re new to exercise, don’t include core work in your usual routine, have irritable lower back pain or shoulder problems. Would I try it again? Absolutely!

Coming up next week, aerial slings!

Hannah Zreik
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK

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