Is bodybuilding your sport of choice? If you prefer lifting, a workout without weights might seem worthless. But some experts say that barre classes can make your body better.
For those who don’t dance, a barre is the horizontal bar reserved for helping dancers stay on balance during exercises. Over the last few years this ancient tool has morphed into a workout staple with a variety of workouts based around it. In fact, they say that classic barre movements not only enhance your weight lifting workout, but also help prevent injury and improve your overall level of fitness.
Benefits of a Barre Workout
Barre classes require stability skills that you may not have the chance to fine-tune when you’re lifting weights. In fact, trying to maintain balance to execute barre movements can help to identify areas of muscle weakness.
“When you work against the resistance of your own body weight in neutral alignment, the lines of the body and the muscles that fatigue first indicate to the body builder where their current workouts are falling short,” says Michelle Austin, founder of The Fluidity Barre System which is sold online. The fluidity barre is a mini collapsible barre that you can use in your home. Fluidity barre classes are also taught at select David Barton Gym locations around the country. “It is nearly impossible to create whole-body muscle balance through weight lifting alone,” she says.
Nicole DeAnda, National Barre Manager at Equinox also sees benefits for body builders. She says that she often sees men who are hard-core weight lifters step into class. “They enjoy the targeted movements specifically for the glutes,” she says. DeAnda recommends a combo of weight lifting, cardio and barre four to five days per week as an effective approach for maximal muscle development and to experience continuous results.
Barre Workout for Body Builders
You can check out a barre class at a local boutique or health club. But you can also try a workout at home. Grab a sturdy chair or counter top for balance. Then try these exercises developed for body builders by Michelle Austin.
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Barre Side Glute Work
Stand facing the bar with feet in a V position 2-3 inches apart. Slide the left foot behind the body keeping the knee soft and slightly bent. Now lift the left leg maintaining a neutral pelvis and strong standing leg. Perform the following repetitions with the left leg, then repeat with the right.
20x lifting left leg to the side
20x pressing left leg back
20x lifting leg to side and then pressing back
20x pressing left leg behind back
20x lifting straight leg back on “relevé” (heel lifted)
During the movements, keep your arms soft. Lower the scapulae, relax the rib cage, and draw the navel to the spine to maintain a neutral pelvis.
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Figure 4 Stretch
Hold this “ankle over the knee stretch” for 60 seconds with legs at right angles and getting as low as you can. Repeat on both sides.
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Inner Thigh Work
Stand in second position. Lower your bodyweight so that the knees bend over the big toes. Rotate the pubic bone forward, guiding the pelvis into neutral position. Lower the shoulder blades, relax the rib cage and draw the navel to the spine to maintain neutral pelvis. Then perform the following repetitions.
10x pulsing down
10x pressing thighs back
10x pressing back then pulse down
10x rotating pubis bone forward and back
10x lifting inside of heels and pulse down
10x lifting outside of heels and pulse down
Lift both heels and hold for count of ten
Lift both heels, raise arms over head, pulse down ten times
Stand approximately a leg’s length away from the barre with feet hip distance apart. Place the ball of your right foot on the barre and place your hands on your pelvis. Keeping the hips square to the barre, hinge forward as far as you can while maintaining a flat back. Breathe and relax into the stretch. Now, twist your body to the left and rotate your pubic bone forward. Press your right arm on your inside thigh with palm facing out. Raise your left arm up as you look to the ceiling while maintaining shoulders squared. Relax and breathe. Finally, slide the right foot back to its starting position. Turn the bottom foot in slightly and round the spine reaching for the calf or foot and opening up the thoracic spine. Hold for two breaths and then repeat the sequence on the other side.
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Fold-Over Leg Work
Stand facing the barre with feet hip-width apart. Place the forearms on the barre and walk the feet back to form a flat back. Bend the knees and extend the right leg back, lifting it so that it is parallel to the floor. Make sure the hips stay level. Lower the scapulae, relax the rib cage, draw the navel to the spine and extend tailbone to the ceiling to maintain a neutral pelvis. Perform the following movements with the right leg, then repeat on the left.
20x lift straight leg and pulse once
20x lift straight leg and pulse twice
20x lift bent leg with flexed foot
20x lift bent leg alternating pointed and flexed foot
In a seated position, cross the legs over each other as shown. Place both hands behind you and sit upright, then hinge forward at the hips with a flat back. To increase the stretch, extend the arms forward maintaining a flat back. Walk the fingertips forward. Do not drop the head, keep the head in line with the spine.
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Flat Back Ab Work
Sit with your back flat against the barre backboard or a wall. Extend the legs extended in front of you, then bend the knees to approximately 90 degrees with the feet flat on the floor or mat. Make sure there is no space between the wall and your lower back. Use the barre or the floor for support as you complete these repetitions.
Step the right foot behind the left and sink down into a lunge position, placing the left hand on the left thigh. Rotate the pubic bone forward, draw the navel to the spine making sure the back leg stays straight. Raise the right arm to the ceiling. For a deeper stretch, raise both arms. Lower down and repeat on opposite side. (The “psoas” is a core muscle that connects the lumbar vertebrae to the femur.)
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Maintain a plank position for 30 seconds to one minute. In plank, draw the navel to the spine and lower your shoulders, relax the rib cage, and maintain neutral pelvis. Do not drop the head.