A Kinesiologist Tells Us the Amazing Things Barre Does for Your Body

Dacy Knight
PHOTO:

Urban Outfitters

This past June, I was visiting my sister back on the east coast and she invited me to take a Pure Barre class with her. I had never before taken a barre class (and had no idea what to expect) but am usually up to trying anything once. I had heard that barre was a mix of ballet and yoga (the former, something I grew up practicing from around age three to age 13; the latter my current workout of choice) but about ten minutes into my first session I would say that barre was neither. Yes, there was a literal ballet barre incorporated into many of the movements, and yes, like yoga there was stretching fused in with strength building, but to call barre a hybrid of the two seemed an inaccurate reduction. I consider myself to be in pretty good shape but nonetheless barely survived my first barre class. For a solid four or five days after, muscles I didn't know existed were sore and tight, and I was happy knowing the hourlong workout was effective (but also dreaded my next session). By the time my sister went for round two I had to opt out because my muscles still felt out of commission.

So when Pure Barre invited me to try out their newest class, Empower, in L.A., I was equal parts curious and apprehensive. At the mere mention of barre I could feel my muscles contracting, but I figured I'd give it another shot. For starters, at 45 minutes, Empower is a bit shorter than the classic offering. The class promises total body strength training through a more cardio-centric approach that sculpts the body via low-impact maneuvers while increasing the heart rate. With more dance-like movements, kicks, and squats, and fewer tucks and esoteric subtleties, the Empower class was much more aligned with my fitness leanings. To learn more about barre—its benefits, what to expect, and Pure Barre's newest class Empower—we had kinesiologist and Pure Barre team member Rachelle Reed, Ph.D. fill us in.

BYRDIE: Can you please explain what barre is to someone who has never taken a class?

RACHELLE REED: Barre workouts are typically a blend of strength and flexibility training, incorporating isometric holds and high repetition of small range-of-motion movements. Typically free weights, resistance bands, and the ballet barre are used throughout class in an effort to work muscle groups to fatigue, followed by a series of stretches.

BYRDIE: How does barre have an advantage over other types of workouts? What muscle groups does it work to target? What are some other health benefits?

RR: Although barre workouts are fast-paced in nature, they are also low-impact, which means they’re effective and safe for almost everyone. Pure Barre systematically targets all of the main muscle groups that women typically have difficulty strengthening – the core, upper body, thighs, and seat. After working each muscle group to the point of fatigue, teachers lead the class through dynamic and static stretching sections of class to lengthen the muscles. Another big health benefit of Pure Barre Classic is the balance training that’s incorporated throughout class (think: balancing on tippie toes); balance training is important for both injury prevention and coordination!

 

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BYRDIE: Why is barre particularly beneficial to women?

RR: Pure Barre is especially beneficial to women of all ages and fitness levels because it targets the areas of the physique that women of all ages are seeking – the core, upper body, thighs, and seat. Women tend to have lower levels of strength than their male counterparts, and the small isometric strength training method used in Pure Barre helps women build strength quickly and efficiently; and, the better you become at the technique, the more you can challenge yourself each class, never reaching a plateau.  In addition, Pure Barre is safe and effective for women during both pregnancy and postpartum, with modifications available for all exercise positions! The community feel at the local studio level helps to hold women accountable to showing up for their workouts every day, and many women gain a social support network by joining a studio!

BYRDIE: How is Pure Barre different from other barre studios on the market?

RR: Pure Barre is an intelligently sequenced workout that efficiently targets each major muscle and joint group of the body using small, isometric strength training, flexibility training and neuromotor training. We use light hands weights, a resistance band, and a small exercise ball to add variety to our classes and continually challenge clients. Our technique is scientifically based and constantly evolving, based on new research, to ensure that we maintain the forefront of the barre business industry. Additionally, all of our teachers undergo rigorous training before certification, coupled with continuing education in new research on exercise science, modifications for injuries, and other important topics. And, teachers are trained to provide hands on adjustments throughout every class to provide the one-on-one feel, even while in a group exercise setting.

BYRDIE: Can you please give us the lowdown on Pure Barre's newest class Empower?

RR: Pure Empower is the latest class innovation from Pure Barre. The high intensity, low impact interval workout combines dynamic movement with weights that are worn on your ankles and wrists and a plyometric platform to elevate your heart rate, build muscular strength and power, and rev up your metabolism.

 

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BYRDIE: What are some common misconceptions about barre?

RR: That you have to be a dancer or be flexible to take barre; or that you have to be in good shape.

BYRDIE: Is barre customisable to different strengths and levels of athleticism?

RR: Yes, the low impact, high intensity nature of the class makes it accessible to those of all fitness levels. Plus, our teachers offer different options of modification, so there’s always an option to level up or level down. 

BYRDIE: What should newbies know before coming in for their first class?

RR: In addition to remembering to bring sticky socks to their first class, newbies to Pure Barre should allow themselves to have fun and be beginners their first 2-3 classes, as they learn the flow of class and become familiar with the technique. After about the 3rd class, newer clients tend to feel more comfortable with the flow of class and begin to notice the mental and physical benefits of a Pure Barre workout. Know that the teachers and studio teams are always there to help! 

BYRDIE: What Pure Barre moves are most commonly done wrong?

RR: The Pure Barre ‘tuck’ and ‘pulse’ are the two most commonly misunderstood moves. The ‘tuck’ is designed to help clients find a neutral spine (think lower spinal curve minimised by pulling the navel back and down, engaging the core), which is a safe position for exercise training. Teachers are trained to help clients understand the ‘tuck’ before their first class! And, a ‘pulse’ is a very small range of motion that only occurs in the downward direction (think: getting lower and lower each time, rather than bouncing up and down), which designed to help muscles (usually the thighs) fatigue quickly during a particular exercise position.

BYRDIE: Are there any personality types that are best suited for barre as a go-to workout? (Or, what personality types are most likely to enjoy/thrive in a class?)

RR: It’s truly a great workout for anyone looking for a challenge. You can see results in as little as 10 classes–from more tone in your muscles to being able to hold plank a little longer. It’s certainly a high-energy class, but the fast-paced workout paired with low intensity work make it enjoyable for all ages and fitness levels.

Learn more about the benefits of barre class and why you should book a session.

Explore: Fitness

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