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What's Up Magazine

Belly Up to the Barre…and Maybe Lose Some of it!

Dec 07, 2016 02:00PM ● By Becca Newell
By Becca Newell // Photos by Tony J Photography, taken at Pure Barre in Annapolis

The quintessential ballerina physique—tall and slender—is envied by most, particularly in combination with the dancer’s muscle tone and flexibility. And, thanks to a nationally trending fitness class, those qualities might not be as unattainable as you think. Ballet-inspired workouts can be found at a host of boutique fitness studios and traditional gyms, all promising a full-body workout that will create long, lean muscles. Tutus not required!

What is it?

Contrary to the dance form on which it’s based, these low impact, high-intensity workouts don’t incorporate ballet positions or movements in the traditional sense—don’t expect to see any pliés and pirouettes worked into the routines. Instead, exercises focus on different sets of isometric motions, targeting a specific area—mainly the arms, legs, core, or glutes. Occasionally, free weights are used in arm exercises to further tone those muscles, but, for the most part, your body weight is the only form of resistance. With limited, if any, rest periods, classes are set to fast-paced music to keep the heart rate up and the energy going. If the fitness trend’s name was any indication, ballet barres are also used in class. Typically spotted lining the walls of the studio, barres are integrated into various exercises, often as a tool to help with balance or with isolating certain muscle groups.

What to expect?

In one word: sweat. The term “high-intensity” describes a workout that combines intense aerobic exercises with short intervals of rest. From the moment class begins, it’s a nonstop, heart-pumping, fat-busting workout, focusing on various muscle groups that promise a trimmed, toned, and transformed body. (Even the warm-up period is fast-paced and challenging—not like more traditional workouts where you ease your way into the harder stuff.) In order to fully exercise the specified muscles, the maneuvers often require a dedicated focus to ensure control over the muscle group and to keep the core engaged. After each set of targeted exercises, participants engage in a series of stretches to increase flexibility. Most classes run between 50 minutes to an hour and, since sneakers and bare feet aren’t allowed in most classes, participants should wear slip-resistant socks to prevent feet from slipping during the workout.


Why you should try it?

Anyone interested in stretching and strengthening muscles (without adding any bulk!) should consider barre classes. Similarly, if you’re looking for a workout that requires the focus and concentration often found in yoga and other disciplinary regimens—with the added benefit of a high-intensity aerobic routine—barre classes are certainly worth consideration. Another perk? The routines are low impact, meaning classes are joint-friendly—ideal for those recovering from an injury or suffering from a chronic condition that requires exercise to be gentle on joints. Most places offer complimentary introductory classes, in which you can try a class for free, so what’s to lose? Perhaps it’s time to trade in those sneakers for some sticky socks and dance your way into better shape!

Isometric vs. Isotonic

Isometric refers to small muscle contractions with very little movement or change in muscle length, whereas isotonic refers to generating force by changing the muscle’s length—for example, lifting an object. According to the Mayo Clinic, isometric exercises have been shown to help lower blood pressure. They’re also thought to be helpful in maintaining strength after an injury, which might inhibit a person’s regular fitness regimen.

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