“Barre Burn,” “Bar Method,” “Dailey Barre,” “Power Barre,” “Pure Barre,” “VertiBarre.” The IDEA Group Fitness Trend Watch named barre classes as a top trend for 2015. What’s up with new workouts using old school ballet barres and taking over Boulder and Denver health clubs and fitness boutiques? Is it ballet? Dance? Pilates? Yoga? Turns out barre formats can be all of the above.
Many of the latest barre techniques have developed out of the teachings of Lotte Berk, a European ballet dancer in the 1950s who worked with an osteopath to create exercises focused on building core stability. Contemporary barre workouts use similar micro-movements for stretching and toning with particular emphasis on form and alignment, and generally with some infusion from kinesiology and physical therapy.
Laura Henderson, owner of The Bar Method in Denver, explains, “It’s designed to create long, lean and sculpted muscles. It’s for anyone who wants a challenging workout with attention to form, technique and safety.”
Lexi Bulich, regional group fitness manager for Colorado Athletic Clubs, adds that barre classes are rooted in the disciplines of grace and ballet. “They include small, controlled movements, isometric holds, and high repetitions that tighten and tone your entire body.”
The intentions behind barre workouts dovetail nicely with the goals women often express when seeking their ideal workout.
“Women come to their trainer or instructor and say, ‘Please help me flatten my tummy, tone my thighs, tighten the skin under my arms,’” says Dana Bennett, group exercise coordinator for Lakeshore Athletic Club in Broomfield. “Our Power Barre classes are very targeted and specific to the muscles people want to work.”
Amy Chesterton, Bar Method Boulder owner, adds, “Barre based workouts are a hot trend because it’s a low impact exercise that effectively tones the entire body in one efficient hour.”
Barre workouts tend to be accessible for a variety of ages and fitness levels, with many studios offering beginner or basic level classes.
“You think you have to be a dancer, and you think you have to be flexible, but you don’t have to be either of those,” says Mish Metz, Pure Barre Boulder owner. “If you can hold onto the barre, you can do anything we do in class.”
While the theories behind barre formats are often similar, individual class experiences can vary widely. The physical barres can be bolted to the studio walls which enable participants to work their core more intensely, or some barres are portable which can afford instructors more creative flexibility. Some studios use workouts that are scripted by corporate, while many clubs feature classes developed by individual instructors. Some classes are slow and deliberate, while others are faster paced or more interval driven. Class size can range from eight students to 40, with smaller classes enabling instructors to offer hands on modifications and adaptations.
NOT FOR EVERYONE
While most venues emphasize safety and proper form and alignment to prevent injury, barre classes may not be for everyone. Some classes may be safe for pregnant women, but some studios discourage anyone from initiating a barre routine after becoming pregnant. Most professionals agree people with neck, hip, low back or knee issues should consult their doctor for approval and seek modifications from their instructor.
“As a pilates and Barre Burn instructor, I have seen an increase of low back, knee, and hip issues as a result of some barre classes,” says Tracy Martino, a barre instructor for Colorado Athletic Clubs who has been teaching group fitness for 26 years. “People with knee injuries and knee replacement need to be cautious.”
RAISING THE BARRE
The latest trend from Vertical Method in San Francisco turns the barre on its end. At Wendy McClure’s Boulder Body Dynamics studio, barres reach from ceiling to floor for VertiBarre class.
“Turning the barre vertically with three points of spinal contact, you’re working to get strong from the basic platform of proper spinal alignment,” McClure says. “If we’re not in proper spinal alignment, the stronger muscles keep getting stronger, and the weaker muscles keep getting weaker.”
Working with a vertical bar emphasizes what she refers to as “posture fitness.”
“We have all these motions that create roundedness (of the spine,)” McClure says. “Running, cycling, computers, sitting – we’re always flexed forward. The VertiBarre workout focuses on the back body.”
In addition to vertical barres, the future also includes a new barre specific studio within a health club at the Colorado Athletic Club Union Station, opening in early 2016.
PASSION AND RESULTS
The Dailey Method’s Emma Heckman sums up the popularity and success of barre formats.
“I think people have fallen in love with the efficiency and focus of one hour on the entire body,” she says. “It’s a mindful practice that unites balance of the mind and body so well. And it’s amazing how quickly people see physical results.”
Metz agrees, saying, “The passion from all of us for Pure Barre just gets greater. It’s a formula and it works. Try it because it’s going to change your life.”