There’s lots of hype around this relatively new hybrid fitness technique, which may leave you thinking—what’s so special about barre?
Barre is a workout that was designed by a former dancer, Lotte Berke, after a lower back injury. As the story goes, her doctor recommended physical therapy, but she quickly grew bored with it. Being the creative that she was, Lotte took what she learned in PT and combined it with some of the dance strength training she had become accustomed to…and, boom modern barre was born. It has changed some since then, but the basic principles of muscular endurance, isometric contractions, and tiny movements still very much apply today.
So, 5 few things that make barre different than any other workout you’ve done before:
Barre is NOT ballet – many people (mistakenly, but understandably) think that barre is like ballet. They begin to have flashbacks of preschool dance class and are reluctant to attend a classs. For the record, barre is NOT ballet. Not even close. You may recognize some of the similar moves – turnout, parallel, lifted heels. But, most modern barre classes do not even use common ballet terms and there’s a strong focus on functional movements.
Focus on Muscular Endurance – modern barre classes focus on a strength training principle called muscular endurance. This means the muscle gets stronger by enduring longer periods of repetitive movements. This is in direct opposition to traditional strength training which focuses on becoming stronger by using a percentage of your one rep max for a shorter period of time. Both forms of training are valid—it just depends on your goals.
Isometric Contractions – in traditional strength training, the focus is on usually on larger muscle action using concentric and eccentric muscular contractions. What this basically means is the muscle gets stronger as it shortens and lengthens against resistance. The isometric contractions we use on in barre class focus on isometric contractions which make the muscle stronger in a static position. Which basically means the muscle doesn’t move against resistance. A great example of an isometric move is a plank – you can definitely feel your body working and getting stronger when you plank, but no part of the body is moving.
Tiny Movements – the tiny movements in a barre class are closely related to those isometric contractions we just talked about. In barre class, we work in 1-inch increments to focus on those tiny intrinisic (deep) stabilizer muscles that help to support the larger muscle groups. This is one of the main reasons barre is such a great cross-training activity for just about any other type of fitness. Most traditional fitness activities focus on the larger muscle groups, while barre focuses on the the smaller, deep muscles that literally make you strong from the inside out.
Mind-Body Connection – very much like yoga, barre focuses on marrying movement to breath while maintaining form. This helps your body to develop strong proprioception, which is just a fancy word for mind-body awareness. Essentially, your body is more keenly aware of it’s own place in space without much thought (or need to check in with a mirror) from you. Another great thing about this is it helps you get out of your head and into the moment.
Time to get up and get yourself to the barre to see what this workout is all about for yourself. I promise you won’t be sorry.