Barre is largely inspired by warm-up exercises done at the barre at the start of any ballet class, where dancers build up their strength and flexibility before taking to the floor. It strips away the complexities of classical ballet, replacing them with repetition and pulsing movements to tone and sculpt the body. You don’t need to be flexible, coordinated or even have any dancing experience (although it will improve those things). You simply need to loosen up, have fun and work your muscles to the backdrop of upbeat music!

Barre exercises complement all sports, strengthening core muscle groups, improving flexibility and developing controlled movement. From a young age, I experienced how ballet-based movement enhances performance in other sports. My bi-weekly ballet classes were a fantastic counterbalance to my hockey, soccer and tennis training, releasing any tightness in my muscles post the intense stop-start sprinting that such sports require. Additionally, the balance training aspect of Barre develops coordination, stability and the ability to react to quick changes of direction, thus reducing the risk of injury.

Through a blend of isometric and isotonic movements, Barre targets all the muscle groups, from abs to quads, biceps to triceps, and glutes to pelvic floor muscles. You can expect lots of variation and moves you might never explore (or muscles you might never work) in the gym. Glute work is given a particularly strong focus in Barre with lots of squat, lunge and leg lift combinations to turn on every single muscle in your seat! Similarly, core engagement (maintaining a neutral spine) is central to Barre. Abdominal muscles surround and protect the spine, facilitating good posture, balance and endurance. While this is advantageous for the prevention of back pain, anyone with a bad back should be particularly careful of the mat work segment of Barre, as some core work can really put pressure on the spine. Variations or resting positions are always available. The instructor is a guide but it is your own body that leads any class you take. It’s so important to listen to your own personal requirements and adjust accordingly.

Barre is brilliant for body awareness, developing an understanding of how the body works, improving posture and weight transfer. It stretches the brain to focus on sequences that work on different muscles (and parts of the cerebrum) simultaneously. Supplementary to this, it has a good cardio-effect, ensuring you really work up a sweat. Your Fitbit will thank you!

But best of all Barre comes with a real feel-good factor. It is an opportunity to challenge yourself, reduce stress levels (through the release of endorphins) and celebrate your body’s capabilities. Clients are allowed and encouraged to laugh at themselves and have fun with the movements, with the aim being to walk out of class proud of your workout.

 

By Ella O’Nuallain

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