Let’s be real—barre workouts can be tough, but compared to an hour on the megaformer or a killer spin class, they can seem like a piece of cake.
“Seem” is the operative word here, people. Yes, barre classes provide a different kind of burn than a high-intensity cardio class—but that doesn’t mean they’re a waste of time. On the contrary, one or two barre sessions a week might actually be the thing that’s missing from your exercise regimen. Improve your cardio endurance and build strong muscles in other workouts, but come back to the barre to lift and tighten every inch of your cute little bod. Just make sure that you’re getting the most out of that hour of pulsing and tucking! Here’s what you can do to make your barre class work even harder for you.
Focusing on the proper form can reduce strain on your body and improve the results of your workouts. You’ve probably heard your instructor mention this many times in class, but it’s not just to prevent injury—it’s necessary for achieving results.
When you are out of proper alignment during an exercise chances are you are putting strain on a joint. Once that joint starts to feel a strain, your body tells your muscles to stop, and you will get the feeling that your body is working against you. If we try to ignore those signals, we either choose to push through it (which is painful and can lead to injury) or our body naturally tries to cheat and make the exercise easier. In either case, you’re not going to effectively work the muscles that are supposed to be targeted in the exercise. No visible results and possible injury? No thanks.
Avoid relying on overworked muscles
Chances are pretty good that your quads and hip flexors get plenty of attention during your other workouts. In barre-style classes, we’re focusing more on strengthening and toning the smaller supporting muscles that are difficult to isolate on their own. So if you’re feeling the burn in your larger muscle groups, check in with your instructor to make sure your form is correct.
For example, during standing glute work you’re balancing on one leg and focusing on keeping your hips level. Even the slightest lean into your standing leg is going to put extra strain on your hip flexors. Try to use your deep abdominal muscles to get hips to stay in-line, to keep lower back supported, allowing you to isolate the glute muscles of your working leg. Shifting your weight into the instep (toe side) of you standing foot also helps.
Use the props to make things more challenging and targeted
Those props aren’t there to make things easier—we use them to enhance the workout. Feel free to get more familiar with them in class, or to ask your instructor for a prop to make specific exercises more challenging (They’ll be impressed, trust me!).
When I really want my clients to get in a good workout during supine (laying down) ab work, we use a small exercise ball to support the lower back and take the tension out of the hips and lumbar spine. Every time you do abdominal exercises, try to stay lifted in the waist, pull pressure off the low back, keep shoulders drawn in and back, and use your breath to pull your belly towards your spine.
Seriously, barre classes might’ve been the gateway to your full blown fitness addiction, and it’s time to give them some love! Trust me, with these tips, they’ll be way more challenging than you remember—and you’ll love the results.
Jessica Lajoinie is a Carbon38 #Team38 Trainer and a barre instructor at Equinox and Asana Charleston. Find her on Instagram and Facebook, and use her #Team38 personal link or code jessicadia50 for her discount when you shop Carbon38.