What is barre? Well barre is clever. Barre is sly. But barre can also work magic. A combination of postures from ballet alongside those found in yoga and Pilates, Barre is something that I’d heard nothing but good things about. Whilst I’m used to high intensity exercise that sends my heart rate sky high and turns me into a sweaty mess by 7am, I had nothing to lose giving this new craze a try. It was going to be similar to Pilates & yoga…. So it wouldn’t feel like I was doing much, surely? Easy. Right?
I met Naomi Jade, a London based PT and Barre instructor, when filming workout videos for Aflete and between takes she mentioned she taught a Barre class on Tuesday evenings and that I should come along one week and join in. Naomi Jade is one of the friendliest and bubbliest people I’ve met since being in London so I took her up on the offer, knowing that I’ was sure to have fun.
WHAT IS BARRE?
Apart from the ballet/Pilates/yoga concept, I had no idea what to expect from Barre, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Different to most things I’ve done before, Barre focuses on isometric training (holding the body still whilst contracting a specific muscle). Using a barre as a prop to balance yourself, you combine strength and cardio training together performing a high number of repetitions of small range of motion movements. These small movements fatigue muscles in a completely different way to full range of motion exercises – meaning barre is hard on your muscles, but soft on your joints (Which is perfect for me as I seem to have the joints of someone 40 years older!).
Most barre classes are planned following a similar routine. Starting with a short warm up, you then move on to a sequence of upper body exercises with light weights. 1 – 2kg weights might not seem like much at all; and if they hadn’t have been chosen for me I’d have probably made the mistake of choosing a lot heavier. But balancing, pulsing, tensing and stretching all at the same time during exercises, your back, shoulders, chest, biceps and triceps all get a good burn. 10 or so minutes of upper body work is shortly followed by lower body work.
Using your body-weight as resistance and the barre to balance, the next section of the class you will find yourself focusing on your legs and bum. Firing up your slow twitch muscle fibres with more high rep sets, you’ll be working on your muscular endurance for sure. Bring ballet back into the equation, lunges and leg raises are now performed with pointed toes, and regular squats become plié squats. Your body will shake. Don’t believe me? Try performing a plié squat and whilst staying as low as you can, rise up and down on to your tiptoes. Or how about trying to squat to 90 degrees with a tiny exercise ball squeezed between your legs? Apparently this shake is a good sign – your muscles working up until complete failure. Compared to the others my legs wouldn’t stop shaking during this move. I could barely stay up on my tiptoes for more than a couple of seconds. (I blame this on the day before’s gym session. Note to self: Do not train legs the day before Barre!).
Your core is engaged throughout the whole class. If it’s not, how the hell are you managing to hold these positions and stay balanced for so long?! However, to end the class you’ll drop down to the mat and focus solely on abs before ending the class stretching out and letting your now exhausted muscles recover.
DOES IT WORK?
After one session, I can definitely see what all the fuss is about. Claiming it can improve posture, flexibility, muscle definition and even help you lose weight, with Barre you are said to see results. And see them quickly! Adding a session or two into your schedule will definitely help you on the way towards a more lean, toned figure, whilst also relaxing your body and de-stressing your mind.
Naomi Jade teaches her ‘Introduction to Barre’ workshop Tuesday nights in Camden, from 6:30pm – 7:30pm at an incredible price of just £6 a session. Contact her through her website, Facebook or Instagram for more details or to book yourself onto a class.