A Guide to the Fitness Benefits of Barre Classes

Barre fitness is not new. Developed in 1959 by German dancer Lotte Burk, she needed an exercise routine to supplement her physical therapy sessions she was taking at the time to help her recover from an injury. While based on ballet technique, it is not only for dancers.

This form of exercise use ballet poses, a stationary handrail called a barre, and abdominal core training to target the thighs, arms, abs, and glutes. The routines focus on using your own body weight as resistance in addition to the isometric exercises that work muscles deep within each major muscle group trained. In certain routines, light hand weights may also be used. Due to its low-impact, Barre classes are great if you have pain in your joints.

The theory behind Barre exercises is different from most other fitness routines in that its major goal is not burning calories while performing the exercises (although you will burn about 500 calories per one-hour session), but to develop and tone your large major muscle groups by lengthening and strengthening muscle fibers deep in each muscle core. A toned muscle will naturally burn more calories each day than one not developed.

It is this deep core muscle development that increases daily calorie burn, yet keeps you from getting the “bulked up” look that other strength training exercise programs can produce. And because the exercises are anaerobic, you’ll keep burning calories for hours after a Barre session.

A typical routine might include working the abdominal core with crunches, the arms with light hand weights, the thighs with pliés (basic ballet moves), and the glutes with kicks. Each major muscle group is worked until it burns. Uncontrollable muscle shake is very common after doing many repetitions of an exercise designed to target just one muscle. That muscle is then finished off with a group of exercises designed to lengthen it. It is the continuous toning and lengthening that gives you the long lean ballet-dancer look.

Unlike other exercise programs that take a lot of time before you see any results, many Barre participants report results in as little as ten sessions. Beginners should try and work in Barre sessions at least three to four times per week, depending on what other exercise programs they participate in, with an eventual goal of doing a one-hour Barre session every day.

While you most likely will not see results on the scale, you will see it in lost inches, increased flexibility, and a more toned, defined look. Look for Barre classes in your area and try something different. Your body will thank you.

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