A few weeks ago I was challenged by one of my clients to take a barre class.
She often rotates between barre and coaching sessions with me. I jokingly laughed at her at first, but then as we continued out session I thought about how barre could help improve my performance.
The headline to the class says “realize the dream of the dancer’s body, raise ballet to the next level as you combine precise techniques with athletic intensity for a full body workout.“ I thought to myself, there’s no way barre could help improve my strength, but I decided to give it a try.
It was noon on a Wednesday, and I walked into a class of ten women lined up around the studio. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and all of the women were stretching and preparing for class.
I quickly introduced myself to one of the girls. She smiled and told me to grab some weights and pick a spot on the barre. I was the only guy in class.
What was I getting myself into?
Taking a new class was a great way to meet new people at the club. Plus, I was generally interested to see what the hype was with this famous barre class.
Prior to the start of the class, I grabbed a pair of 5-pound dumbbells and found a spot in the back of the room. The instructor walked in and said all right ladies, “get ready to become lean, long and lovely” and we began the class.
I started on the ground with a combination of planks, pushups, and poses to warm-up the body. From there, I grabbed the dumbbells and went to work. At first, the workout didn’t seem that bad, but within seconds my arms started to burn and shake.
And I know what you may be thinking, it’s only 5-pound dumbbells, right?
But in barre, you don’t just do a set of 8-12 reps and call it a day. You do a series of multiple lunges, squats, and weird little things called pliés.
The first few reps seemed easy, but then I began a combination of bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, shoulder presses, and lateral raises.
After about 2 minutes, I had to run over and grab a pair of 3lb dumbbells.
Soon after what felt like 100 reps, everything was shaking and I was now experiencing a different level of strength and endurance. Shortly after I was just getting the hang of the upper body moves, I was instructed to do my first plié.
I gave the instructor the deer in headlights look and she came over and told me to raise my heels off the ground in a diamond shape while holding on to the ballet barre.
Within 30 seconds my quads were burning, I was shaking vigorously, sweating, and really trying to focus and hold on. But I didn’t last.
Apparently shaking muscles meant I was doing the exercise correctly. Who would have thought?
The next part of the class was in a single leg stance. I used the barre for assistance while I moved my other leg in multiple directions. Not even 10 seconds into the pose, my hamstrings and glutes were on fire.
No wonder why women love this class, it’s all about the booty.
I thought with all the deadlifting and squatting that I do on a regular basis that barre would be easy. I was wrong.
Barre class targets focus in isometric contractions aimed increase muscular endurance, while strength training aims to improve muscular power through shortening and lengthening cycles.
The little tiny movements forced me to have a new level of awareness to my body that I just don’t pay attention to regularly when I train.
While nothing compares to strength training in terms of strength and athleticism, when the body is forced to do more reps with bodyweight exercises and own every position; little muscles that are never used begin to work hard.
Will Barre Get You Stronger?
Possibly, but I still recommend strength training as the number one thing to stay healthy and strong.
Trying something new has allowed me to recruit frequently underused muscles by forcing me to think outside the box.
If you are stuck in a monotonous routine, I encourage you to try something different as you may be surprised to what you will get out of it