What is Barre?

Barre, or ballet barre, is a total body exercise technique that is a unique fusion of borrowed elements from ballet, Pilates, and yoga. It strengthens the body through low-impact, slow, controlled movements with high repetitions.

Some may initially get barre confused with Pilates and Yoga, due to a shared low-and-slow philosophy. So what makes barre so different?

Here are five things that make barre so unique!

Ballet Roots

Some are surprised when they hear that barre is inspired by the foundations of ballet in addition to Pilates and yoga.

Borrowing from a heavily French-influenced dance form, you will hear some French jargon.

Barre may use ballet terminology for this reason. You may hear terms such as ‘turn out’, describing outwards rotation of the legs, or ‘plié’ to describe bending at the knees.

These unique words will be a surprise for some, and these pave way for a really unique workout experience. For those who are interested in ballet, it will bring out your inner dancer! However, even for those with no experience or interest in ballet, barre is a perfect opportunity to explore exercise in fresh light. 

The Barre

With respect to barre’s ballet roots, ‘barre’ means ‘bar’ in French.

When you walk into the Leap studio, the first thing you’ll notice is the barre aligned against the walls and mirrors. The barre is the most unique equipment and defining feature of the barre exercise technique.

The barre is a stationary handrail, fixed at around waist height, that offers support during unstable body movements.

The barre is mainly beneficial two fold. Firstly, it gives the user a chance to focus on the movement in a safe manner without compromising form and risking injury. Secondly, this support grants the user more creative freedom to safely explore challenging positions that can condition the body in different ways than, for instance mat work.

Low Impact and Low Injury Risk

The presence of the barre, and the slow and controlled barre technique philosophy, allows for a low impact workout.

The barre provides physical support for people who may struggle with balance or high-impact forms of exercise, such as jumping. This makes barre extremely joint and impact friendly.

As barre focuses on slow, controlled technique, it becomes a unique way to challenge the body without excessive stress and demand and risk of injury.

This makes it suitable for most people, even benefiting pre-natal/post-natal and rehabilitative circumstances.

Unique Total Body Conditioning

Low impact and minimalism by no means makes it an easy workout though!

Ballet dance is famous for high physical prowess, beautiful body lines, and elite body control. These elements, while may look easy, require total body conditioning and control. This means, the functionality and control of muscles you probably didn’t even know existed!

This is a philosophy that has been adopted by barre technique.

The barre gives people the freedom to explore unique movements that you otherwise cannot do in Pilates or yoga alone.

For example, the arabesque, is the unique backward extension of one leg at 90 degrees. During this, you must engage the core, stabilisers, and lower and upper limbs to maintain an upright torso. This single barre movement engages all the fine motor muscles in your body while challenging balance, coordination, flexibility, and stability.  

Challenging Muscle Endurance

Despite looking easy, your muscles will be burning before you can even say arabesque three times! But barre challenges the body more than simply feeling the burn.

Barre movements are precise, intentional, slow, and sometimes held at the peak of movement to challenge muscular endurance. Muscular endurance describes the ability for your muscle to continue to perform at its peak over long periods of time.

It not only is a great muscular workout, but it builds mind-body endurance and mental resilience. In a barre class, almost at all times, your body is making micro adjustments and this challenges muscular endurance and body awareness the entire time. This builds a unique mental fortitude that isn’t easy to achieve.

Here are 3 things you can expect from your first barre class:

  1. It’s beautiful but deadly – If this is your first time, your body will realise pretty quickly that barre is deceptively difficult! Your body may be slightly sore in places you didn’t even know existed! Delayed muscle soreness is completely normal, and encourages muscular growth.
  2. It isn’t all about ballet and dance! – Many think that the ballet roots means that you need a sense of rhythm or dance to succeed. This is untrue! Barre is after all infused by Pilates and yoga as well. Like any other exercise, it can be made to suit your unique fitness demands. At Leap, we prioritise the safety and wellbeing of everyone, and barre is no exception.
  3. It is so much fun! – Don’t fret if the new words and new positions are a bit difficult in your first class. At the end of the day, the uniqueness and variety is what makes people fall in love at first class! Everyone, even pros, all start somewhere. Like anything in life, practice makes progress!

What might a Barre class look like at Leap?

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