"I was pretty pleased with the change to my body in just six weeks, with no nutrition plan or attention paid to what I ate. Plus barre allowed me to fall back in love with exercise, learn how to actually work my glutes properly - and appreciate that sometimes, small moves can be SUPER effective. And while the burn is hell at first - after a few classes, you'll be begging for more." - Cosmopolitan Writer
Barre-style workouts have become super trendy and a firm fave of Victoria's Secret Models and A-listers of late.
Promising to tone your body and burn fat, all while improving your range of motion and flexibility, barre classes involve performing small, isometric movements, using your bodyweight and small dumbbells as well as resistance bands and holding your body in positions to 'feel the burn'. Devotees say that barre helps you tone up fast and will result in the lean physique of a dancer. But do these bold claims actually work?
A self-confessed exercise junkie, I was pretty sceptical of these kinds of classes - preferring weight training and HIIT to low-intensity exercise that I thought would have no impact on my body. But then, *plot twist* - at the end of last year, I had to give up my intense workouts, after a gruelling round of fertility treatment left me unable to exercise. For some people, being told by a doctor to stop working out would be a dream, but I lost all my energy and felt really sluggish and bloated.
After three months off exercise and injecting myself with a load of hormones, I wasn't overweight, but my body had completely changed and none of my clothes fit. And although I was told by my fertility doctor I could exercise again, I had to take it easy.
So I decided to ease myself back into working out with barre - and signed up to do six weeks of classes with Barrecore, who have studios all over London (and in various locations nationwide). Here's what happened to my body in just six weeks.
My first session at Barrecore was a private session with Emily, the instructor trainer at Barrecore's Mayfair branch (aka the master of barre classes!). She told me that with barre, it was a case of "the more the better".
I didn't want to commit to a class every day, because I was still recovering a little bit, so we plumped for 3-4 classes a week. I would be doing Barrecore Signature - the studio's combination class of ballet barre moves using your own body weight, lightweight props and high reps to exhaust all my muscles.
In my first session, Emily checked my form, because it really is crucial to seeing results with barre workouts. You've got to learn how to "tuck under" your core and keep your body still while doing small movements, so you're truly targeting the muscles you're working.
It's really easy to get lazy in class and look like you're doing the moves when actually you're not really doing anything (trust me, that was me when I was tired/hungover)!
While I had OK posture because I'd done ballet as a kid, for me it was about learning to REALLY switch my glutes on. I thought because I had done squats and deadlifts in the gym, I was a pro, but it turns out there are LOADS of tiny muscles I was ignoring.
It was worth it though, because for the first time I actually felt the 'booty burn' people talk about, and any back pain I'd previously had during exercise melted away.
Despite having had actual visible abs at one point in my 'fitness journey' (don't cringe), turns out my core wasn't all that strong! When I first strolled into class, I couldn't hold a plank for longer than 20 seconds, and doing side plank dips to tone my obliques were hell on a plate. But by the end of the six weeks, I could hold a plank for a minute, crunches no longer hurt my lower back, and those dips were easy as pie!
There is a lot of focus on 'seat' (bum) and thigh work in barre classes, and because I have relatively hefty and muscly thighs, I thought I'd find the leg workouts the easiest. In my former life, I LOVED the leg press in the gym! But give me an exercise where you have to hold your thighs in one position, without moving anything else and doing tiny pulses with your legs, and pretty soon the 'burn' got to me and I wanted to scream as my legs shook like they were possessed. I soon learned that Epsom salts were my best friend after a particularly tough class - I would take a bath in them once a week to ease my sore muscles.
You do a lot of small movements in barre, so I thought my legs wouldn't change. But these tiny, but effective movements really did make my legs feel a lot stronger, and it took me much longer to 'burnout' (collapse mid exercise because it hurts too much) as the weeks progressed. By week six, I didn't even swear when we did what I called the 'move of hell' (when you bend your knees and try to slide them under the barre - trust me, it kills).
I was worried with such a focus on legs that my arms would just kind of, sit there while my bottom half did all the work. But at the beginning of all the classes we did lots of push ups, bicep curls, tricep dips and shoulder work with tiny weights, which definitely burned more than anything else! I went from just about managing bent-knee pushups to doing full ones by the end. The tricep dips never got easy - but they definitely made my arms look more defined.
Because there's so much holding your body into positions until you 'feel the burn' in barre, you have to get used to feeling kind of uncomfortable for a little bit. At first, I HATED that moment when my legs would shake and my muscles would feel like someone had literally struck a match on my thighs, but I kind of started to like it by the end and learned to tough it out.
I started off doing 3 classes a week, but quickly progressed to doing 4 Signature classes a week - then, when I felt like I was getting a bit too used to the intensity, I swapped in a few of Barrecore's HIIT classes (which combined barre moves with HIIT training) and Sculpt classes (which use resistance bands for a deeper burn). Believe me when I say that resistance bands are the best thing EVER for building a booty - I never felt a burn like that before.
I didn't do barre to lose weight - it was to ease myself back into exercise, and I know the numbers on the scale rarely reflect how fit you are. But I wouldn't say barre classes are the one for dropping a load of weight or burning lots of fat really quickly - unless you did loads of barre x HIIT classes which would definitely speed up your results.
Also I definitely didn't eat like a ballerina - I did my six weeks just before Christmas and let's just say I had a lot of cheese and wine and boozy truffles.
What barre classes are really good at is strengthening your muscles and toning your body in a more long-term way (more muscle = a faster metabolism!). My before and after pics weren't hugely dramatic in difference, but I felt a bit more 'cinched in' and less bloated than before, and my legs definitely felt more muscular.
I'm wearing the same pants and sports bra in both pics, for reference.
What's more, after stopping barre over Christmas, my body didn't change dramatically - these were long lasting results.
Even when I did weight training at the gym, my bum was hardly what you'd call a 'booty', and after stopping exercise I'd lost a lot of muscle there. But after six weeks of barre and eating all the food in the lead up to Christmas, I finally had a bum of a girl who squats.
According to my husband it was higher, firmer and rounder - although I had to laugh when my normal knickers became wedgie tastic 24/7 and I nearly split my gym leggings. But take my word for it - the 'seat exercises' at Barrecore really work their magic.
Sometimes I didn't even break a sweat in Barrecore (ideal if you run out of time to shower before work lol), but make no mistake, the classes weren't easy. My Fitbit wasn't off the chain with a high heart rate or the calories burned (unless I did a HIIT class), but this was deceptive - I could FEEL every movement, and knew it was making a difference to my body.
If you're looking for a low impact fitness class that still packs a punch, I would definitely recommend barre. You don't have to be a prima ballerina to take part; while my brother was an actual real life Billy Elliot who went to the Royal Ballet School, I was always the dunce of my ballet class - but I still picked everything up relatively quickly, and the vibe of the classes is super fun so it doesn't matter if you aren't the most graceful person at the barre.
The classes aren't cheap - but the level of teaching in the classes is high and I felt like I was always being checked on to make sure my form was OK.
While I didn't end up with the physique of a dancer, I was pretty pleased with the change to my body in just six weeks, with no nutrition plan or attention paid to what I ate. Plus barre allowed me to fall back in love with exercise, learn how to actually work my glutes properly - and appreciate that sometimes, small moves can be SUPER effective. And while the burn is hell at first - after a few classes, you'll be begging for more.
Read the original article here.
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