As you’re reading this, you’re probably slumped in your chair, or hunched over your phone. Your spine is compressed, your abdominal organs are squished together, and your blood flow is hindered. Your jaw might be clenched, your tongue might be tensed to the roof of your mouth, and your eyebrows might be cinched together. Bad posture is bad news for your health long term, and it's become so common in our daily lives that we tend to forget about how we hold ourselves.
The bad posture, body awareness fix-all? Barre.
What is Barre?
You’ve probably heard of Barre classes—they’ve been around since the late fifties, but have exploded in popularity over the past decade. Though it was originally developed by a dancer, Barre is made for the every day person who wants to develop muscles that are longer, leaner, and more flexible. But why should you care? Watch this video to see Barre in action:
The benefits of Barre for any age group
The best thing about Barre is that it's perfect for any age group. Sharon R., a Barre-goer, says "The girl upfront is a 63 year old grandmother who works out 2-3 hours everyday except Sunday and still wears a size 4-6 in clothes. I know, because it's me! I work out daily with a group between the ages of 25 to 60+."
Here's why it's one of the most accessible exercises there is.
It Uses Isometric Movements: Isometric contractions happen when your muscles tense but don’t lengthen. The bulk of movements in Barre classes are isometric—your body will move in inches, not in sweeping motions (think a lot of pulsing and bouncing). This not only builds strength, but maintains it, too, all while sculpting those muscles to burn off the fat around them.
It Builds Mindfulness: The smaller movements required in Barre improves mind-body connection, according to Greatist. Because the movements in Barre are more focused and intentional, the workout requires a higher level of neuromuscular connection, forcing you to be aware of your body, feel the workout more, and leave the class with a higher level of awareness about your day-to-day form.
It Targets Multiple Muscle Groups at Once: Studies have shown that full-body workouts that target multiple muscle groups at once are more effective for beginners and burn more calories. In a Barre class, you’re engaging your core, arms, legs, and upper back (and more), many times simultaneously.
It Improves Posture: Bustle calls Barre the best core workout for your body, meaning it creates a foundation for a strong spine and an abdomen that resists compression in a desk chair. That’s partially because Barre’s main goal is for you to align your body correctly (form is essential!) more than lifting your leg an inch higher. Your job is to maintain awareness of your body—which clients say bleeds over into real life as well.
It Has A Low Injury Risk: This is the ultimate reason Barre is so good for you—since it’s so low impact, your joints are safe from damage.
Barre tips for beginners
So you’re looking to start a Barre class. How should you prepare?
- Stay Hydrated: As with any exercise, you need to make sure you’re getting enough water. Not only is this just a general fitness best practice, it’s also a requirement for your muscles to properly contract and to helps your whole body function better.
- Add in Other Forms of Training: There’s skepticism out there against the idea that Barre is all you need to do to build muscle. Adding in other forms of training, like strength building and running, that doesn't use small, isometric movements is a good way to make sure you don’t plateau. Though it’s considered great cross training, like any fitness class, Barre should be part of your routine, not all of your routine.
- Be Prepared to Focus: Barre is a little like yoga, a little like dance. It builds strength, but requires you to be supremely aware of your body. Go into class prepared to leave the outside world at the door—this will help you get a better workout and prevent injury.
- Are You Shaking? Good: If you’re doing the movements right, your arms and legs are going to shake—and that’s a good thing. It’s not going to look good, and it’s going to feel pretty tough, but that’s all part of the deal in a Barre class. Focus on yourself—don’t worry about what you look like, and keep your mind on the burn.
Ready to see what all the hype is about? Try out a Barre class for free and find out if it's right for you.