12When I made the decision to become a group fitness instructor the style of teaching that most caught my attention was barre. When we hear the word barre visuals may come to mind of floating ballet dancers in tutus and pirouettes. My husbands’ male friends had another connotation of the word bar. When he told them I was taking a class to teach barre they asked him if we were going to open a nightclub! You do not have to be a ballet dancer or have previous dance experience to take a barre class, barre is not about dance it is about movement. It is low to moderate exercise that infuses ballet, yoga and strength training for a wide variety of fitness levels. The exercises can increase flexibility, strengthen the core, improve posture and balance. You can take barre classes at private studios specifically for that purpose or fitness centers and gyms. The styles and concepts may vary but the bottom line is that they are designed towards a full-body minimal impact endurance workout.

Barre targets specific muscle groups with movements at a slower pace. You might hear the words “feel the burn” or “shake” which means that you have worked the muscles to the peak that you feel your muscles shake and know that you have worked a muscle group to its entirety.

A typical barre class will include a warmup, the body of the class and a cool down.

After the warmup participants may move to the barre for exercises that target muscle groups such as hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps and calves.

An exercise example would be a set of pliés that include static holds, pulses and engage the calves with a compound

A set of exercises could include a set on one side and a repeat on the other side or facing the barre. A benefit in taking a class is a facility will have barres installed. The aid of a barre helps with stability, form and is a terrific addition for more complex moves and stretching. When a barre is not available facilities might use the aid of a chair for support. Classes may also include floor work on the mat with exercises for abdominals and core. The incorporation of light weights, stretch bands, Bender Balls and gliding discs are tools that can be used to further work the muscle groups. The end of class includes a cooldown and stretching. Mobility is a huge reason to take a barre class, especially for the hip flexors that tend to get tight from sitting. It improves postural alignment, flexibility and functional fitness for everyday life. It can improve the way we bend, reach for something on the shelf, turn to look at something or squat to pick up an object.

By attending regularly, you will be able to see and feel improvements with your strength and flexibility. If you are interested in attending a class meet the instructor before beginning the class to familiarize yourself with the format and address any concerns that you may have with class participation.

Begin with fewer repetitions or modifications and rest when needed. You will see participants with flexibility and strength levels of all ages in class. The benefits of barre are obvious in the participants that have consistently attended. Wear activewear such as leggings, t-shirt, flexible shoes, barre socks or bare feet.

Bring your mat, water bottle and a hand towel to wipe that brow because you will sweat! Attend a class, have fun and live, love, life at the barre!

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