Are barre classes more than a trend? Will they truly give you a dancer’s body?In this post I’m going to tackle a topic that may alienate me from you! That’s not the goal! My goal and mission is to point out the connection between what you want and what you’re doing to help you decide if you’re on the most direct path.
You Should Know
Before I launch into the science and help you sort your own pros and cons, you should know:
- I minored in dance in college (majors in Kinesiology, BS and Exercise Psychology, MS)
- I am a certified mat and reformer instructor (STOTT)
- I am 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher
- I am a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach (NSCA)
- I am a Medical Exercise Specialist (ACE)
- I developed the first and only hormone balancing certification for trainers working with women in menopause and beyond (Flipping 50 Fitness Specialist)
- I am a certified Health Coach (ACE)
- I am a life coach (CCG since 2002) since 1996
- I’ve been to barre classes
I share all of that so that you realize, I’ve got you covered head-to-toe and ear-to-ear. You have been told things you still believe even though you have also heard new science. We cling to things we learned in formative years. You’ve got joints, muscles, and hormones that all dictate some very specific exercise needs (that you may or may not be aware of). You want things now and you want to feel a certain way right now (add colorful language where appropriate for you).
I know the value and benefit of a variety of training methods. I’ve never isolated one single type of exercise as a means for fitness. However, I’d have to argue that strength training should be a part of every adult’s fitness plan. The sooner you start the better.
If you want to play better tennis, you’ve got to play tennis. You want to play tennis when you’re 70? You want to strength train, and work on mobility and agility so you can balance the good things tennis does for you with the things it does not.
So, if you want to look into your crystal ball to change your future and the back of your closet simultaneously, it’s my job to share with you the things that are the most important, and those that are less so. That way among the need-to-have and nice-to-have you have a way to prioritize your exercise time. Barre classes may fit and keep you motivated!
A quick spoiler alert will tell you that barre classes contribute to muscle endurance, not muscle strength.
You may increase tone but not increase lean tissue required to support a higher metabolism or bone density.
Strength allows you to lift a weight – or a baby from bassinet to your arms – open a can, control the big dog, or get the bag of dog food or flower boxes from the trunk. Endurance dictates how many times you can do something.
Can you afford the time investment?
Just like doing two-a-day workouts doesn’t make you look like a football player, neither does doing a barre workout give you a dancer’s body. Not really. It’s a great marketing point, because, hey, who doesn’t secretly want a dancer’s body? [I still want a Flashdance bod. Am I alone here?]
But if you want bone density, a faster metabolism, your 10, 20, and 30 year forecast to be strong, independent, and healthy you’re going to need to connect to the activities that are scientifically proven to at least spare muscle loss, bone loss, and fast twitch muscle loss and at best to boost each. That is, doing the proper type of strength training and interval training.
I hate to tell you, but barre classes haven’t made the list.
Pros of Barre Classes
- Balance benefits from the target of “support and steady” or stabilizing muscles
- Low impact
- Body awareness
Cons of Barre Classes
- Torque on knees and lower back
- Extreme positions that can prevent proper contraction of targeted muscles
- Excessive pressure on knees during extreme moves leave you vulnerable after (both short term and long)
- Low energy expenditure
- Low cardiovascular benefits (like a slow walk)
- No bone density benefits
- Minimal metabolism boost (better than the couch, however)
What I Like
Standing on one leg working the “gesture” leg to take you back to my dancer days, is great for both cheeks (down there not your face).
Starting out, perform exercise each exercise on the right side then left side (or vice versa). As you get stronger, perform all the exercises on the Right before switching to the Left. You’ll get greater challenge on both sides that way. However, if you jump in and attempt to do all one side first? You’ll risk poor form because your muscles don’t yet have enough endurance to hold you properly. Your lower back may suffer if that happens.
Barre can be a good first step, as long as you don’t already have compromised knees and you understand how to modify. Tucking your tailbone under you and sucking your belly to your spine for instance weaken the very muscles you’re trying to tone and contract. Though it fits for a dancer whose life revolves around dance and who’s career may be over at 35 if not before (not unlike a football player who’s sustained too many injuries), for your function in daily life it could lead to problems.
A Dancer’s Body
Certain things linger for aging dancers. Discipline and posture. However, dancer’s often have injuries from years of pushing and chronic positions that the body was not naturally meant to be in. We all see the images on TV and stage, yet, behind the curtain backstage may be other realitites.
You’ll Love It If…
You’re already very flexible and mobile. That, however, could mean that as you can go into more extreme postures, you’re doing yourself more harm than good. We all love to do things we’re good at and stay away from things we’re not. Often the most flexible people love yoga. However, all the hyper- mobility makes you very vulnerable to injury if that’s you. You need to marry a fitness routine that puts you in better balance – one that encourages more strength. When you put flexibility (or mobility) together with strength, you get stability which is what will make us thrive both now and in decades ahead when you’ll still be the #youstillgotitgirl.
Booty lift? Potentially, yes. Posture improvement? Yes, most likely. Joint risk at knees and lower back? Yes, especially if you’re new and aren’t sure how to modify.
Those with knowledge of their limits and body awareness
Those who have time to include this along with 2x a week true strength training for muscle and bone
Those who are also doing 1, 2, or 3 short interval training sessions to breathless
How Can I Help?
I want to hear from you! How would you like a Barre for Flipping 50 Babes session? I know we want to feel like dancers, graceful, toned and tight again. I want you to be able to do it without injury. I would not recommend substituting this for a strength training program. However, I can add some barre moves to your strength program.
STRONGER I is open a few times a year! CHECK HERE for openings! (and a significant early bird reward)
Interested? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. And tell me … are you already strength training 2x a week to muscular fatigue (NOT tired!) in a way that is changing your body composition and supporting hormone balance?