Barre classes are everywhere at the moment. Particularly in London, around every Instagram account there’s a new style of barre workout: barre-yoga, hiit-barre, cardio-barre- even barre-boxing!
There’s a simple explanation. It’s a fun, but effective workout.
It’s always a bit of a struggle getting up on a Sunday morning to go to work (#freelancelife). However, by the time I’m up, dressed and out the door, I’m completely awake and really excited to go teach my weekly barre classes.
I love personal training, and HiiT classes are always great fun to teach, but my Sunday barre sessions are special. They take me right back to the days when I never set foot in a gym because every waking hour was spent in a ballet studio.
It’s lovely to see clients returning week after week. Dancers and non-dancers alike are satisfied- if a little surprised- by how effective the class really is.
Of course, not everyone always feels that way. Barre is one of those classes, particularly in a large group, where it’s a bit too easy to cheat. It’s going through the motions, whilst avoiding the burn.
It’s called incorrect technique.
So if you’re going to a barre class regularly but you’re not quite sure whether you’re doing it right, or if you’re a first-timer who just wants to make the absolute most out of the class, here are some key points to bear in mind.
Done correctly and trust me, you’ll leave the class sweating.
How to Get Your Sweat on in a Barre Class
Little Toes on the Ground: This is the easiest way to explain foot positioning for beginner barre-goers. When stood up, think about pressing your weight into your little toes (rather than the big toe). This helps lift up the arches of the feet and avoids unnecessary tension on the ankle or knee joints. It also helps to target the correct muscles- i.e. the glutes, which should be constantly working.
Go Low: Nice and simple – the lower you pulse in a plie, the more you’ll feel the burn in the legs and the glutes. There’s a big difference between a bob and a full range plie. You wouldn’t do half a bicep curl and then stop would you?
Turn-out from the Hip: The big difference between Barre and Ballet is that barre work does lots of exercises in a parallel position, while classical ballet focuses almost completely on turn-out (heels together, toes pointing outwards). When you do go into this turned out position during the barre class, the whole leg should be nicely aligned. If the toes point out to the side but the knees still point forwards, this is a clear sign that something is wrong. Correct this by making sure that the rotation comes from the top of the leg, externally rotating in the hip joint. This will make your glutes work even harder!
Engage the Core…constantly: Barre really starts to become effective when clients begin to really engage their core muscles. Think about putting a wide belt just underneath your belly button, and cinch it in nice and tight. From there, imagine that there are two strings attached to the bottom of your lower ribs. Pull these imaginary strings down gently to close the distance between the lower ribs and the tops of the hip bones. Don’t forget to keep your back straight, chest up and shoulders back. It’s a lot to think about (welcome to barre) but the moment you achieve this abdominal engagement you will feel much more stable. Not only does this mean your six pack is working (hard) it also helps to avoid any overarching in the lower back (bum sticking out) which can cause pain and muscle tension.
Remember to Breathe: It’s the simplest technique but is so often forgotten about. Holding your breath throughout exercises raises the blood pressure and encourages unwanted tension in the neck and shoulders. Work for a controlled inhale and exhale, which will help your focus, balance and strength.
Use the Teacher: The teacher is there for you- so make the most of it! I love it when clients ask me to help their technique or correct their stance. Even just ask questions in general, because it shows your are there to work hard. If you don’t feel certain about anything, ask and you’ll get ten times more out of the class.
Do you have any tips or methods to help feel that ballet-barre-burn? I’d love to hear in the comments!