Pay a visit to the ballet barre and sculpt lean muscles, build a strong core and increase your flexibility. With names like Pure Barre, Barre3, Flybarre and Bar Method, these dance-based workouts fuse ballet, yoga and Pilates exercises and have exploded in popularity over the years.
While it’s common to visit a group fitness studio for a barre class, Seattle Bar Method studio owners and instructors Bev Currier and Maika Manning shared a barre workout anyone can do in the comfort of their living room.
“It sculpts your arms, shoulders, back, and develops a firm, lifted seat, lean thighs and calves and flat abs,” said Manning. “The Bar Method also helps develop flexibility and strengthens postural muscles, giving you confidence and grace.”
Bev and Luke Currier and Maika Manning bought Bar Method to Washington in 2009, opening their first location in Redmond, later adding a second location in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Currier and Manning bring over 20 years of combined Bar Method teaching experience to their workouts
“Helping other people believe in themselves and pushing them beyond their limits is at the core of our fitness philosophy,” said Manning.
The Bar Method traces its origin to the 1930s and dancer Lotte Burke. When Burke injured her back while dancing, she had the idea to combine her dance background with her new found rehabilitative exercises and the Lotte Burke Method was born. Years later, from the Lotte Burke Method came The Bar Method workout.
The workout’s therapeutic origins make it low impact. “It was devised in collaboration with physical therapists to protect joints and effectively target muscles”, said Currier.
And target your muscles it will. “The Bar Method is an efficient, transformative workout. This 60-minute class delivers cardio, strength training, and flexibility,” said Manning.
Plus, Bar Method workouts employ a type of interval training, where an intense session of strengthening work is followed by rest and recovery periods.
“The Bar Method exercises work the muscles that play the greatest role in body change, then keeps these muscles working intensely and safely long enough for them to change,” said Manning. “It then intensely stretches each muscle worked to make it look and feel longer and more graceful.”
Barre workouts like the Bar Method classes also feature high rep counts for each exercise, which is designed to fatigue the muscles, improve muscular endurance, and keep the heart rate elevated.
“The structure of our class uses small movements and forces the muscle to stay gripped beyond its usual workload for a longer period of time,” said Currier. “When muscles are pushed to this place of fatigue, they get stronger and more pliable so that when we stretch after each strength component, the muscle wraps closer to the student’s body, creating a more streamlined, graceful look.”
To work the upper body, classes include plenty of pushups and exercises using light weights. In fact light weights are a hallmark of barre workouts, and according to Currier, the light resistance allows students to focus on good form while isolating muscles with small precise movements.
“Small weights do the trick because some of the muscles we target with the weights are smaller muscles like deltoids, biceps and triceps, that build strength quickly without the need for heavy weights,” said Currier .
Students step up the ballet barre for a bodyweight series of plies, squats and leg lifts to target the lower body. And it should be noted that instructors frequently remind students to engage their core throughout each exercise creating a constant challenge for the abdominals. In addition, classes also feature several targeted core exercises throughout the workout.
Barre workouts also improve posture and coordination and are adaptive to all fitness levels.
“Bar Method is great for people of all ages, and our youngest client is 18 and our eldest is almost 80,” said Manning.
Manning adds that Bar Method offers a diverse community of exercisers, meaning it’s not just ladies who love the barre. She said classes feature “women and men, mothers and expecting mothers, young professionals, college students, professional athletes, triathletes, runners, cyclists, celebrities, dancers, first-time exercisers, people of all shapes and sizes, people of all fitness levels and all ages.”
To try a quick Bar Method workout at home all you need is a chair or the back of your couch to stand in for the ballet barre, and one- to two-pound dumbbells or even water bottles for upper body exercises.
Key Benefit: Enhance the teardrop shape of your deltoids.
1. Use a set of 2 to 3 pound weights (substitute with canned food items or frozen water bottles at home)
2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel to each other.
3. Soften your knees.
4. Grip your glutes, relax your lower back, and pull in your abs.
5. Lift your chest and shift your ribs slightly forward.
6. Turn your palms inwards so that they face each other.
7. Place the ends of your weights lightly on the tops of your thighs.
8. Straighten your arms.
9. Press your shoulder blades firmly against your back.
10. Raise on arm to shoulder height.
11. Begin to walk your arms smoothly, off the beat of the music.
12. Cross your arms in the middle of their range of motion.
13. Perform exercise for 2 to 3 minutes.
Key Benefit: Effective for toning your chest and arms
1. Come onto your hands and knees. You can do the pushups on the balls of your feet with straight legs, on your knees with your feet pointing straight up and ankles uncrossed, or leaning 45 degrees against a bar or kitchen counter if that works better for you.
2. Open your legs to hip-width apart.
3. Place you hands under your shoulders and turn them slightly inward towards each other.
4. Grip your glutes and tuck under so that your abs draw upward.
5. Press your shoulder blades apart to widen your upper back from shoulder so shoulder. "Dome" your upper back across your shoulders. (This action locks your shoulder blades in place, thereby stabilizing them.)
6. Slightly bend your elbows and aim them 45 degrees behind you way from your ears and down toward your waist.
7. Keep your tuck and your abs drawn in and up throughout the pushups!
8. Perform 20 to 30 pushups.
Legs Together Thigh
Key Benefit: According to Currier and Manning this exercise works to firm your thighs in one move
1. Face your bar or a stable piece of furniture. Stand about a half an arm's length from it and hold onto it with both hands.
2. Stand with feet and legs together.
3. Raise your heels to a comfortably high position. Maintain a vertical torso and relaxed lower back.
4. Bend your knees forward and come and about a thigh of the way down in height from your standing position.
--Important: Keep your head, neck and back vertical and lined up with each other.
5. When you start to bend your knees a little more and a little less, maintain the high-heel position of your feet!
6. Do 50 small down-ups at medium speed (move one inch down and one inch up by slightly bending and unbending your knees).
Key Benefit: Works quads, glutes, abs and inner thighs
1. Take a small mat or folded towel, place it's long edge at right angles to the wall and about a foot away, and kneel on it.
2. Open your knees slightly wider than the width of your hips.
3. Point your feet and place them directly behind your knees.
4. Tuck your glutes firmly and bend forward at your waist, contracting your abs.
5. Hinge back from your knees as much as you can.
6. Bend forward at your waist again.
7. If you can let go of the bar.
8. Hold for three sets of 20 counts with the option to add small punches with both fists.
Key Benefit: Sculpts your glutes and outer leg muscles
1. Face the bar and stand an arm's length away from it.
2. Place your feet in a parallel, hip-width apart position.
3. Soften your knees.
4. Hinge forward at your hips.
5. Either rest your elbows on the bar with one hand over the other with your forehead on top of your hands, OR place your hands on the bar and point your elbows down.
6. If you're petite, step farther away from the bar so that your head can be level with it.
7. Extend your right leg behind you, point the foot of that leg, and rest it on the floor.
8. Pull your navel in and exhale a few times.
9. Keep your abs pulled up and raise your leg until you feel a catch in your seat. Ideally lift your leg to horizontal or almost horizontal.
10.Straighten your back so that it is in a neutral position.
11. Bring your head, neck and shoulders into one straight line.
12. Lift your straight leg up an inch and hold-up hold, up hold and repeat 30 times. Then lift one inch and down one inch up one inch and down one inch and repeat 30 times. Then lift up faster for 20 times to finish.
Key Benefit: Work you abs while toning your glutes and hamstrings
1. Come down onto your elbows, and open your legs and feet to hip-width apart.
2. Turn your palms towards each other and relax your fingers so that your hands make loose fists. You can keep your lower arms raised up or resting on your mat.
3. Grip your glutes, and press your lower back into the floor.
4. Press your ribs as far forward towards your hips as you can.
5. Inhale, exhale and tighten your abs downwards.
6. Elongate your neck by pressing your shoulders down.
7. Shake your head to release any tension in your neck.
8. Curl and hold for ten slow counts and then curl faster for twenty counts with the option to lift your arms in 90 degree angles. Repeat for three sets.
Back Dancing (legs zipped together):
Key Benefit: Sculpts your glutes and hamstrings while toning and sculpting your inner thighs
1. Roll over onto your back, lie down on your mat, and move your seat to the front edge of it.
2. Bend your knees, place your feet flat on the floor and press your legs tight together from our hips to your feet.
3. Press your ribcage down and tilt the rest of your torso up off the floor using your glutes.
4. Relax your back so that your hips can move freely.
5. As you lift and lower your seat, keep your front ribs pressed against the floor.
6. Do 40 big full-range lifts up, down, up, down.
Key Benefit: Helps to increase flexibility and re-energize your body
1. Take your strap (at home, you can use a belt or a towel) and loop it over the arches of your feet.
2. Straighten both legs and pull them towards you as far as you can with your ups firmly on the floor.
3. Take one foot out of the strap and lower your leg down to the floor in front of you. When your leg reaches the floor, flex your foot and firmly press your calf and ankle down to the ground. Straighten your upper leg again and keep it straight as you stretch. Keep your lower leg straight and pressed down into the floor.
4. Draw your upper, extended leg closer to you by bending your elbows outwards to the side. Relax your neck, and press your shoulders down into the floor. Breathe deeply. As you hold this position, moment by moment your hamstring muscles are relaxing and extending.
5. Switch legs and repeat stretch.
For more info on Bar Method:
The Bar Method-South Lake Union
124 Westlake Ave N
The Bar Method-Redmond Town Center
7551 166th Ave NE