8 Ways to Know if your Barre Class is a Good Investment
Taught and executed properly, barre classes are known for building strength, flexibility, endurance, lean thighs, lifted seats, toned abdominals and sculpted arms, backs and upper bodies. There are very few muscles a barre class does not engage. But not all barre classes are created equally.
Like any exercise that has gained- and sustained- popularity over the years, derivatives of the original Lotte Berk Method (established in NYC in the 1970’s) can be found. Of course, the science of exercise has shaped the Berk’s method over time to make it more effective, and safer in areas where the original exercises or positions may not be as beneficial for the body as originally believed. Many of the higher quality barre methods and classes are based on the grounding principles of the original exercises, and those that have been improved upon, to maintain a commitment to proper form and exercise safety.
But many others have been created in a weekend of workshop trainings, rely heavily on moving quickly to elevate the heart rate instead of getting deep into the muscular work, or hire young instructors with little to no fitness experience, simply because they resemble the perceived ideal of a barre instructor (i.e. think college co-ed) or the “girl next door”.
These classes are taught using predetermined choreography and often sound like they are “scripted”. You will recognize them because you will likely get the same exercises, same cues, and perhaps the same music in every class…for a week, for a month or until their corporate parents tell them that it’s time to change. The reason? The instructor likely does not have the qualifications to teach a multi-level class to a room filled with different shapes, sizes, ages and physical abilities.
So we ask, how can you be sure you are getting the highest quality barre class for your time and financial investment? We share some of the top tips from Fred Devito, Co-creator of the esteemed Core Fusion method originating in NYC, and a few of our own. Ask yourself about your current barre practice:
• Do the instructors know you by name and are familiar with your body and its possible limitations? It’s easier “perform” a scripted class …but the ability for an instructor to identify and address what you as an individual student needs while at the same time motivating 20 other students, demonstrates a deeper level of expertise, wisdom and compassion.
• Is form and alignment a priority? It should be. Working in misaligned form is ineffective; you simply won’t get the most out of any exercise if done improperly. Worse yet, it puts undue pressure on the joints, and can lead to injury.
• Do the instructors use hands-on adjustments not only to provide modifications, but also to push you out of your go-to zone to realize elevated results to your work. New students, AND veterans, should be continuously pushed to achieve their next fitness level – working beyond your comfort, but not to the point of pain, to build muscular strength and endurance.
• Does the class offer holds in positions, and strength is stillness? When we move too quickly in our positions, or bounce, we detract from the beneficial work in the muscle and rely too heavily on the momentum that moves us higher and/or lower. Positions that challenge stillness allow the muscle to contract in a deeper way, and are important core stabilizers.
• Does the class offer varied ranges of motion? It should. While tiny repetitive movements, like pulsing, are known to build muscular strength over time, incorporating multi range motions in more than one muscular group without resting will help build muscular endurance. Both endurance and strength building are crucial, especially as we age, and they fortify your ability to move in an intelligent, functional way all day long, in real life.
• Does the class offer ample time to stretch to promote flexibility and keep the muscles malleable? Stretching is strengthening. Some stretches should occur at the beginning of an exercise series – as in preparatory, others occur at the end of a series – as in recovery. Both are equally important to your health and well-being, reducing injury and maintaining your flexibility as you age.
• Does the class and program promote a healthy spine? The safest position for the spine is the neutral spine for most the exercises. A neutral spine best mirrors proper alignment and how we should carry our posture throughout our daily lives. An occasional use of the pelvic tuck – to prevent taking an exercise into the lower back – and back arching when combined with mostly neutral spine will give you the healthiest and best result. The foundational curl exercise, is a great example of working the core AND encouraging a flexible and healthy spine, while minimizing the possibility of injury found in some other core exercises.
• Is there an emphasis on building stability and balance? This happens in the position holds – for example, on the floor (i.e. plank) or at the barre. Balance makes up one of the four pillars of a well rounded fitness routine, in combination with cardio, strength training and flexibility. All elements should be found a barre class worthy of your money.
• Finally, do the instructors remind you what NOT to do, either through words or touch? This may be the most important differentiator in barre programs out there. Why spend your good money negatively impacting your body, and dimensioning results, when you can do that on your own for free?
Take a step back if you are in a regular barre routine, and evaluate if your program meets most of the criteria above. Be honest. If it’s not, assess what you are trying to get out of the class. Are you there to build friendships and have fun, then maybe the nuances of a quality program don’t resonate with you. And that’s ok. But if you are looking for something more to sustain you safely now and in the future, it maybe be time to take a closer look at your practice and decide if there is something better out there for you.
Barre Evolution subscribes and promotes the deep seeded principles of the proper barre practice, and are the only studios in SC backed by the Exhale barre certification, recognized by ACE, NASM and AFAA.
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