About a month ago, I tried my first barre class at Pure Barre in Canton, CT (our neighbors at BodyFit)! As someone who does workouts with very few repetitions as heavy as possible in my sport, I wasn't sure how I would do with holding positions for a long period of time but I was excited for the challenge. Barre as a fitness regimen was originally created by a ballerina named Lotte Berk, who had the idea of combining her barre ballet routines with her rehabilitative exercises. Barre workouts today blend together aspects of ballet, pilates, and yoga and aim to improve strength, flexibility, posture, balance, and muscle tone. The workouts are typically done with minimal equipment, consisting of light weights, bands, the horizontal bar for support, and sometimes inflatable balls for isometric exercises.
As a personal trainer at BodyFit who works with active clients, I felt I should get to know the different local fitness classes for those who are interested in expanding their exercise routine. Since I can hear Pure Barre’s classes through the wall when I listen close enough, I thought it was the perfect place to start. After coaching my morning classes, I left for the 10 second commute over to Pure Barre for my class. I was greeted upon my arrival by the staff and shown where to get all of the equipment I would need for class and shown where to go in order to prepare for the start of class. The workout started out slow, which was a nice introduction but didn't take long to get very challenging. The workout involved a variety of movements from squats in a wide stance with pulses and isometric holds in various positions, knee raises to the side while holding the horizontal bar for support, and banded hip exercises to challenge the hip extensors and abductors, mainly the gluteus maximus and medius, and I can confirm, they were challenged. Floor based exercises consisted of a series of glute bridges and multiple abdominal exercises using both bands and an inflatable ball.
I personally found the most challenging part of the class to be the squats done while holding the horizontal bar, my muscular endurance in this position was certainly worse than I expected it to be. The positioning of the squat put significant tension on the quads and the burn I felt was more than I had felt in a long time. During similar portions of the class I did feel the need to take a short break, which; initially I was not sure if it was allowed but eventually I realized I was not the only one and nobody was singled out for taking a quick breather. This was good news for me because I had to take multiple breathers throughout the class!
During the class, the instructor gave constant instruction on the exercises and repeated cues about specific aspects of the exercises. While this might not be needed for the experienced members in class, as a beginner I was appreciative of the steady flow of cues and tips for each exercise. Immediately after the class my body felt good, I had no aches or pains, which is not the case 100% of the time, but I considered that a win for the barre workout. I would partially attribute that to the emphasis on very controlled movement and not getting into positions where your body no longer controlled. The day after the class, I certainly had muscle soreness, but not horrible. The main area I experienced soreness was the outer hip muscles such as the gluteus medius.
For those thinking about giving it a try, my first piece of advice would be to ease into your first class. It is more than okay to take a quick breather, scale an exercise to your own ability, or stay away from something if it hurts. These are things that you will gradually get better at and should not feel the need to force them to happen on your first day. My second piece of advice would be to make sure you hydrate ahead of time! Holding these positions for a long time can lead to muscle cramping and really take away from your workout, making sure you adequately hydrate ahead of time can help reduce the risk of cramping.
Being in a new group class setting really brought me back to my early days in Crossfit. I have always loved the energy of being in a group class and still do today. If you're someone who is looking for a safe workout in a group environment to work on your balance, muscular endurance, and muscle tone, barre might be a good fit for you!