The Wonders Of The Barre!

If you want to tackle your bingo wings, saddlebags and the dreaded pooch then maybe barre classes are what you need. Don't panic if you are rhythmically challenged, even though the origins are in ballet, you don't need to be a budding Darcy Bussell to benefit from the wonders of the barre.

I became hooked nearly two years ago after looking for something different to add to my exercise repertoire.  I had been a devotee of Pilates for 15 years and wanted to maintain a programme that focused on my core to combat a persistent lower back problem, but also incorporated more in the way of strengthening and toning.

I had always had strong legs from years of running, walking and climbing the four flights of stairs in our house on an endless basis but an old injury had left me with weak glute muscles and my arms lacked any definition.  Spurred on by the New Year and the opening of a new Barre studio in our area I signed up for a taster and have been a fan ever since.

Each workout targets the major muscle groups over the course of an hour with a view to improving your posture and alignment. Your own bodyweight is used to provide resistance with the occasional use of hand weights, exercise bands and a soft exercise ball.

Divided into four bursts of 15 minutes, the first section raises your heart rate with leg lifts, lunges and arm raises.  This is followed by a mat based series of planks, push ups and tricep dips.

After this it is time to move to the barre for a lower body section that targets your thighs and glutes.  Typical exercises include a diamond waterski which involves putting your heels together to form a V shape with your toes touching the wall, holding the barre with arms outstretched and shoulder width apart, you then lean back and slice into the wall at an angle in slow precise movements.

A forearm foldover with your head on the barre is not an opportunity to have a quick 40 winks but instead with the supporting leg bent, the other is at a right angle behind you, an exercise ball firmly squeezed between your thigh and your butt as you alternate between flexing and pointing your foot towards the ceiling.

All the exercises use isometric movements "up an inch, down an inch" to isolate specific muscles with the emphasis on the hold at the end of the movement which is "where the change happens".   In my case this usually involves shaking like a bowl of Jell-O but according to the instructor it is good to embrace the shakes as this shows that your muscles are feeling it.

The class concludes with a section devoted to your abs, many of which are traditional exercises, but some of which use a strap over the barre to work your shoulders and lats simultaneously.  The focus is all on strengthening and toning the smaller muscle groups, it is not about weight loss.  Generally it is said that you will notice a difference within 4-5 classes and for a significant change in your body the optimum number of classes is 4 per week. For me 3 classes a week is my limit in terms of time availability but like all exercise that you enjoy it is easily addictive.

I think what I love about barre classes is that you can do it at your own pace and level, there is always a moderated version of an exercise if you find one particularly tough.  Also because of this it is an exercise routine that crosses all ages and there are no boundaries.  My class has an age range of 18-60 year olds and everyone is encouraged to challenge their own body but within their own boundaries not those of the people around them.

I have the tightest hamstrings in the world after years of not stretching properly after a run and still cannot do a standing split without holding onto the barre for support.  But it is not about learning to be a ballerina it is about focusing your mind and connecting your body so that it is better able to cope with everyday life and the constant strain we put it under.

There are many studios in London dedicated to just barre classes and I attend Barrecore, which is local to me, but many gyms are also beginning to include barre classes in their repertoire too, so if you haven't tried it yet and fancy something different do give it a go.

Since taking it up I have certainly noticed a difference. I can happily report that my butt is firmer and more lifted.  My range of movement has increased giving me more flexibility and a nagging shoulder pain from carrying heavy tote bags for years, has disappeared as my upper body has become stronger.    Yes I still have my bug bears about my aging body but at 49 I am still under 9 stone and can generally fit into a size 10.  More important though if I feel better about myself I look better and that is half the battle with getting older.

What exercise do you enjoy?  Have you tried a Barre class?  Do let me know in the comments below.

NB: This is not a sponsored post.  All thoughts are my own.  

 

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32 Comments

  1. October 1, 2016 / 11:30 pm

    I so wish there was a Barre close to us. I’ve wanted to join one for the last year or two, but unfortunately there isnt one anywhere near us. It sounds great and I love how much detail you have shared about the class and the benefits of it in your post. Thanks for sharing it on #MarvMondays. Emily

    • October 2, 2016 / 6:44 pm

      You could try it online – although to be honest I need to be in a class – if i am exercising at home I always cheat but that’s not you check it out. #MarvMondays

  2. September 30, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    This looks and sounds fab I should give it a go! I definitely need to tone up more, and sort out my belly. I’m glad that the results are paying off for you. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x
    The Pramshed recently posted…September HighlightsMy Profile

    • September 30, 2016 / 11:23 pm

      The never ending challenge of the mum belly! Can’t say that has disappeared but here’s hoping! How do VB and the Duchess of Cambridge do it? #fortheloveofBLOG

  3. September 30, 2016 / 8:54 pm

    I’ve been looking for a barre class near me but haven’t had much luck. I’ve heard it’s good and this is the sort of exercise I would enjoy. I’m definately going to keep looking.
    #BloggerClubUK
    Kirsty – Winnettes recently posted…Pinkys Autumn/Winter WardrobeMy Profile

    • September 30, 2016 / 9:16 pm

      Hope you find one, it is perfect for toning and strengthening. If you do hope you enjoy it. #BloggerClubUK

    • September 30, 2016 / 12:13 pm

      Only if you keep at it – I am easily swayed by a walk with a friend and a piece of cake at the end! Hope the coffee morning is going well. #coolmumclub

  4. September 29, 2016 / 9:38 pm

    This sounds like a good one for me. I like that it is easy on your joints. #BloggerClubUK

    • September 29, 2016 / 10:54 pm

      Oh me too, I am at age when anything that involves excessive joint pressure is a no go, that was good in my 20’s but not now. #bloggerclubuk

  5. September 29, 2016 / 8:00 pm

    I love Barre exercises and use them in my Taekwon-do classes. They are awesome for getting a butt you can crack nuts with 🙂 Alison x #coolmumclub
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    • September 29, 2016 / 10:52 pm

      Ha ha now that is something to inspire even the worst couch potato!!! #coolmumclub

    • September 29, 2016 / 2:48 pm

      Oh good, let me know if you like it! #bloggerclubuk

  6. September 28, 2016 / 4:28 pm

    Hi Jo! Barre workouts sound punishing but rewarding! I love that feeling when you can feel your muscles actually working and toning, though I know it takes a lot of dedication to get to a shape your happy with and STAY there! I’m always fretting about that extra 10-14lbs that I’ve always battled. I’m the same age as you and I feel that it’s harder to lose weight now but at the same time, I’m also getting more comfortable with who I am and my shape. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give my right bingo wing to a fairy godmother who promised she could give me Elle McPherson’s figure in a wave of a magic wand 🙂 Lovely review and I will check out that link!! #MarvMondays

    • September 28, 2016 / 9:33 pm

      Ha ha, I am not sure I have that much dedication but I recognise as I get older that it takes so much more hard work, it’s so unfair isn’t it? If you find that magic wand, please hand it over…..#MarvMondays

  7. September 27, 2016 / 10:51 pm

    Never heard of this… Looks like it is a good work out though! #marvmondays

    • September 28, 2016 / 9:31 pm

      If you do see one near you go for it! #MarvMondays

  8. September 27, 2016 / 10:31 am

    Wow, this sounds brilliant. You can pretend to be a ballerina too!! I think any exercise class that strengthens you without putting pressure on your joints is a winner. I shake terribly doing anything involving arm strength! Thanks for joining in with the #bigpinklink
    Louise Pink Pear Bear recently posted…Becoming a blogger. Contains humour!My Profile

    • September 27, 2016 / 11:10 am

      I have to confess to having been a pretty rubbish ballerina and it probably shows in class too but I keep persevering. Thanks for commenting. #bigpinklink

  9. September 26, 2016 / 1:00 pm

    Being a dance teacher I know the benefits of a class such as this one! I’m so jealous that you have one in your area. We don’t have anything like this where I live! I struggle to get out to classes (my husband works shifts) as I’m mostly indoors with a child and no one else to watch him. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some classes via YouTube, I think I need a kick up the bum to do them though!
    #MarvMondays

    • September 26, 2016 / 9:31 pm

      Oh that must be so frustrating for you. There are some great online classes, my local one does them (www.barrecore.co.uk) it is not the same I agree but it is sometimes better than nothing. I hope you find something that works for you. Thanks for commenting. #MarvMondays

  10. September 26, 2016 / 11:34 am

    The Thought of working out makes me want to hind under my quilt and hibernate forever!

    Before having a baby I was your average gym bunny, yet nearly eight months after parting with my little cherub and I still can’t muster up the strength to head back to the gym!

    After reading your post I think booking into a class might be a good way to reintroduce exercise into my life. Iv been inspired!!! Xxx

    #MarvMondays

    • September 26, 2016 / 9:22 pm

      Oh Becky I know what you mean, to be honest I have a love hate relationship with exercise, I am either all or nothing. I have just enjoyed 2 months off over the summer and put on a couple of inches around the waist and have been moaning to my husband who just raises his eyebrows and tells me to do some exercise! I am glad you are inspired. Go for it! #MarvMondays.

  11. September 26, 2016 / 10:56 am

    OH God I’m so jealous. Every new trend/fitness regime whatever, just EVERYTHING takes about 10 years to reach Malta, it’s just so behind here! I’d love a class like this. I’ve not been to the gym in 5 years as childcare issues etc meant I had to find other ways of exercising so I turned to running and yoga. I’m now considering returning to the gym as the running is too punishing to do several times a week and anyway, I need to exercise other muscle groups because yes I’m getting bingo wings now I’m in my late 40’s but the classes are limited and there’s nothing like this, oh woe is me. Maybe I should just suffer the bad weather and move back to the UK 🙂 #bigpinklink
    absolutely prabulous recently posted…What Really Happened at the MAD Blog Awards 2016My Profile

    • September 26, 2016 / 11:10 am

      Fret not you can do it at home with just your computer for company. My local barre does classes online (checkout the website at http://www.barrecore.co.uk) but sure there will be others too. Thanks for persevering with the spam filter! x #BigPinkLink

  12. September 26, 2016 / 9:45 am

    I do need to try this! Everything is beginning to sag i the wrong places! #MarvMondays

    • September 26, 2016 / 10:45 am

      If you do let me know, would love to know how you get on. #MarvMondays

  13. September 26, 2016 / 9:16 am

    Oh I’m a huge pilates devotee too but have also been interested in barre – read so many rave reviews – including yours – I’m going to see if there is anything locally as would love to add this to my routine to combat the ageing body! Thank you of sharing #BigPinkLink
    justsayingmum recently posted…The Teen Years Interview Series: Kate OrsonMy Profile

    • September 26, 2016 / 10:46 am

      If you like Pilates you will love this as the focus on strengthening the core is still paramount. Let me know if you do. #BigPinkLink

  14. September 24, 2016 / 11:15 pm

    I have seen a few articles about Barre workout, but have yet to try one. At the moment I go to the gym and swim a lot. I am looking for a class to join as well, I haven’t decided which one yet though.
    #fortheloveofBLOG

    • September 25, 2016 / 11:42 am

      You sound like you have an already hectic workout schedule, but if you fancy something a bit different do give it a go. I was put off for ages as I assumed it was more of a dance workout which is not for me at all but was pleasantly surprised. #fortheloveofBLOG