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What exactly is a barre class all about?

With so many different types of classes out there (from your Zumba and Clubbercise to Insanity and orangetheory), it’s a) difficult to choose which to go for and b) to understand what the hell they actually are. The name Insanity tells you that the class isn’t going to be a walk in the park, but what exactly does it involve? One other such class format is that of a barre class. You may know what a barre is and equate it to ballet, but do you know what a class would entail? Probably not. So here’s a quick run down of what you may do in a class, the benefits of attending and who it’s suitable for.

What’s it about:

This is a format that’s been around since 1959 and was created by Lotte Berk, a German ballerina who was injured and came up with this as a rehabilitative conditioning routine.

It’s gained massive popularity over the years, especially in the States and it’s getting bigger here in the UK, although you generally don’t see much of it on the usual class timetables outside of the big cities. I can foresee it becoming more mainstream though!

It claims to improve your flexibility and strength and develop long, lean muscles and give you more of a dancer’s physique. It’s done through isometric moves which are exercises that don’t change the muscle length, but you’re still strengthening the muscle through slow controlled movements.

A class is usually broken down into 3 sections – 3 body parts, so you’ll start with an upper body workout, often with small hand weights, you then move to the main legs/bum section done holding the barre (or any surface will do – chair, kitchen table if you re-create it at home!), and end on the floor with some core work.

It can be intense as you’re really working those muscles to exhaustion (you will feel the burn after pulsing for what seems like hours!), but there generally isn’t any impact work so you don’t have to worry about jumping or extreme cardio work.

Who’s it for:

Anyone! It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you weigh or your fitness level – everyone can get something out of the class.

As long as you’re clear to exercise, it’s also fine for pre/post natal (with some modifications to the floor work for pregnant ladies).

If you want any of the benefits below then, go give it a try.

What are the benefits:

The small incremental moves are great for building up your strength, but without bulking you up (just giving you some tone!) and without the associated injuries you can get from regular strength training. You will be isolating specific muscles and recruiting the slow-twitch muscle fibres that also increase endurance.

It’s a great core strengthening class. Yes you work the core specifically at the end on the mat, but you’re utilising your core the whole time to keep you in position. So even when you’re doing a bum exercise, you’ll generally be in a position that is recruiting your core to stabilise you for example.

You’ll get an over workout. You’ll be working all muscle groups and not just the big ones, but also with those isometric moves, we’ll get into those smaller muscles you don’t work so much.

It’s low impact, so gentler on your joints and because of that, you’re less prone to injury.

Greater body awareness and posture. You want that dancer’s physique then you have to hold yourself like one and this class requires you to get into that nice elongated position to properly perform the moves. If you’re slouching you aren’t going to feel the effects, so you need to really think about where your body is and where it should be. The instructor will of course cue you to get you into the right alignment.

Improved flexibility. Through the stretching done between moves, you’ll begin to improve your overall range of movement and alleviate the tensions and stresses in your body.

Muscle fatigue. Possibly not something you’d associate with a ‘benefit’ as such but the fact that you’re holding/ pulsing in a position for a long period of time, you are going to get that lactic acid firing up and you will feel the burn. This is a good thing as it shows the muscles are working and being challenged.

What do you need for a class:

  • Water to keep hydrated

  • Grippy socks or bare feet. No regular socks unless the room is carpeted

  • Sportswear, ideally close fitting so the instructor can see you moving (and correct you if needed)

  • A positive attitude :-)

Is there a class in Enfield?

Well, as it happens I am starting a new class on the 28 February!

It will be every Wednesday at 8pm at the Vineyard on Brigadier Hill, Enfield

How to book your class:

Go to my website to pay for your class and then book your place:

Don't forget to book your place if booking a package, as there are only limited places and if you forget, I can't guarantee you'll get a spot if you drop in.

Special introductory offer: if you join my Facebook group AND say you’re attending my event, you can book in for a cheap first class (£5, but usually £10). The code is on the event page.

There are of course plenty of classes in central London that you can attend too.

*my current class location requires us to use chairs rather than a barre, but don’t worry, you will still be worked in the same way!.

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