A mixture of ballet-inspired exercises, yoga and Pilates, barre is a popular fitness method that uses your own bodyweight for resistance and targets specific muscle groups. Barre workouts use a dancer’s bar and a mat, and are intended to improve core strength, enhance flexibility and develop the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder and hip girdles. While barre workouts are certainly challenging, they’re also intended to be fun and engaging, incorporating upbeat music and choreography into the workouts. Depending on your fitness goals, it might be a good idea to incorporate barre into your workout regimen, so you can reap the benefits that this exercise method has to offer.
STRENGTHENING YOUR CORE
Sometimes your core muscles are the primary focus of a barre exercise, while other times they’re used for stability as you target a different area of your body, like your thighs or butt. But, your core muscles are engaged throughout the entire workout. By strengthening your core, you might be able to prevent injuries that can occur if your spine isn’t properly supported, reduce lower back pain due to weak and unbalanced core muscles, and improve athletic performance because all powerful movements originate from the center of the body out.
Fifty to 80 percent of Americans complain of back pain during their lifetime, according to the Arthritis Disease Center, and poor posture is a common contributor to neck and back pain. By strengthening your core and the muscles through your chest and shoulders in barre, you’ll feel yourself sitting and standing taller, and your lower back will take less stress and tension throughout the day. This is achieved by performing isometric exercises and small movements that work muscles at a specific joint angle within a given range of motion. These small isometric muscle movements during barre build muscle strength without putting a strain on ligaments and tendons. It’s possible that you’ll start seeing improvements in your posture after just a few sessions.
Muscles that aren’t necessarily used every day are targeted and worked to the point of fatigue in each barre session, and then stretched for relief. The combination of stretching and the focus on posture allows your flexibility to be pushed to the limit. Barre workouts can help improve overall range of motion and reduce your risk of injury. And the movements are easy to adapt for all levels since the barre method can be designed for all fitness and ability levels.
INCREASING MIND-BODY AWARENESS
Barre is a mental challenge since each move requires you to remain mindful in order to stay engaged, focusing your thoughts on each tiny muscle you’re working. Allowing your mind to concentrate only on your technique increases feelings of relaxation and decreases stress levels. And if your mind starts to stray, your instructor will be there to tell you where to position your body, while also offering hands-on corrections to adjust your alignment (if it’s an in-person class).