How to Get the Most Out of Your Barre Workout
Barre is definitely one of those sneaky exercises—when you watch someone else do it, it looks pretty easy. After all, they are using 2 pound weights, how hard could that be, right?! All I’m going to say is–try it and let me know what you think afterwards.
So, whether you’ve been taking barre classes for awhile or you’re about to experience your first one, there are definitely things you can do to improve the effectiveness of your workout.
- Isometric Contractions – barre is all about those tiny muscle movements. If you’re familiar with traditional exercise classes, chances are you’ve done a lot of big muscle movements to strengthen the muscles. What are those you ask? Those are movements where the muscles get stronger by changing the angle of the nearest joint (think: bicep curl). You may do some of that in a barre class, but you’re going to focus a whole lot more on isometric muscle movements—these are moves where the muscles gets stronger without changing the angle of the nearest joint (think: plank). The key here is to make sure you’ve got your working muscle(s) engaged against the tension of the nearest working joint in its challenge zone the ENTIRE time.
- Muscle Focus & Engagement – alright so now you know the muscle has to be in it’s challenge zone related to the nearest joint the whole time, let’s talk about muscle focus. Each exercise in class has a focus muscle. You want to be sure you’re focusing on this muscle and engaging it the WHOLE This is where a little ‘mind over matter’ comes in handy because you’re going to be doing a lot of reps and it’s easy to get distracted by the burn (I’m sweating just thinking about it!), but you want to keep going. So, an example is if you’re doing a glute exercises, you’re moving the whole leg by squeezing the glute muscle first—that’s your focus.
- Form – it’s no secret that form is important no matter what type of exercise program you’re doing, and barre is no different. The thing to remember in a barre workout is that we do a lot of reps which makes it easy to lose your form when your muscles start to get tired. Trigger: mind-body awareness – when you start to feel that happening, be sure to take a quick break and do a form check before jumping right back into it.
- Be Consistent – barre can have some awesome effects on both your body and mind—improved posture, increased muscular endurance, enhanced mind-body awareness, the list goes on. The best way to benefit from these effects is to be sure you’re consistent hitting the barre. Best case scenario: 3 – 4 times each week.
- Notice if You’re Holding Tension — it’s no secret that when one area of your body is working hard, other areas try to help it out. Think: clenching your jaw or holding your breath as you try to push through that last set of ab work. It’s easy to not even notice when you’re doing this—after all, the shaking/burning in the working area can be pretty intense. Cue: mind-body awareness – in this moment, is when you want to focus your attention away from the working area and do a quick body scan to notice where else you might be holding on to tightly. Then (the hard part), consciously soften that area.
- Be Kind to Yourself – perhaps the most important tip of ALL! It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to be perfect and do everything right at the barre. While it’s important to be mindful of your form and focus on engaging the right muscles, it’s also important to give yourself a break. You aren’t always going to be perfect. Some workouts will be better than others. Some days you’re going to feel like you nailed it and others may feel like you could barely hold your space at the barre. It’s all good. Take a moment to be your own best cheerleader and say something nice to yourself!
Just when you think this workout ‘should’ be getting easier, it actually gets harder when you start to really understand the workout. Continuing to refine your technique will ensure you’re never bored at the barre. If you’re looking for more specific tips about how you can get the most out of your barre workout, you should always talk with your instructor. They watch you during class, and may have great insight into small changes you could make to be sure you’re feeling it even more.