Barre Fit isn’t just another variant in a frenzy of fitness fads, it was developed after a German ballerina, Lotte Berk, hurt her back and decided to use her ballet barre as a tool for rehabilitative therapy. She opened a dance conditioning studio in a basement here in London back in the late 50s, and even instructed the likes of Joan Collins and Barbara Streisand, before getting injured and discovering how to use the minimal equipment of a handrail to stretch and strengthen herself.
One of Berk's students, Lydia Bach, took the method over to the USA and it evolved to new heights. Today's workouts stay true to that function of recovery but with a bigger focus on fun; practising small, pulsing movements to rhythmic, energetic backing tracks and with sports apparatus like yoga straps, exercise balls and hand weights in tow. The aim is to perfect the form, straighten alignment and toughen the core through barre fitness routines but without a pirouette in sight. On that note, here are 5 other unique benefits of our Barre Fit classes.
1. Low impact, low risk
Working with the barre is way less stressful for your joints than pounding the pavement and sending high-impact waves through your knees as you jog. This form of exercise comes under the umbrella of ‘cross-training’, so it weaves different types of workouts into the routine, which is particularly good for targeting muscle groups you may not usually use, as well as giving the more worn out parts some recovery time. All in all, it’s low impact, and therefore low risk.
2. Focus and coordinate
Barre Fit is heavily focused on isometric strength training, which means it involves small repetitive movements that are tightly controlled and close to the body - from the horse pose to leg lifts. Like any short and intensive exercise, you will feel your core muscles burning as you engage them, however the considered nature of each contraction means awareness is key. Isometric training relies on the mind and body communicating and working together, so it makes sense that barre fitness challenges your concentration and coordination levels too.
3. Make like a ballerina...
This form of exercise includes ballet barre and floor workouts, so you could be doing a ballerina squat or holding a plank without being expected to be ‘en pointe’ or wear a tutu. Our classes take place to flowing, uptempo music - so you can emulate graceful ballet shapes as well as the more expressive, theatrical moves of modern jazz, but you don't have to have rhythm or be able to do any fancy footwork. It's all about reinforcing, nourishing and sculpting the body, so you'll likely end up with a dancer's posture, standing out amongst a sea of slouchers.
It was part of my training at the University of Ukraine to build strength as a dance student. Now as a teacher, I love Barre Fit classes because they are both effective and fun.
- Maks Shpachynskyi, City Academy Barre Fit tutor
4. Barre Fit is a fun fusion of forms
Barre Fit incorporates dance moves from ballet and modern jazz but also draws some parallels with yoga - the lunge variations you will do in class might mirror the warrior pose your zen friend did on a mountain and then of course, posted on Instagram. It encompasses the posture techniques and breathing exercises that you will find at a pilates class as well, and doesn’t shy away from sports conditioning, such as push-ups, either. Its varied nature means it is efficient, working your core strength, flexibility and posture all in one. To help with toning, at City Academy we combine barre fitness with short, fast bursts of cardio, resulting in a satisfying, all-rounded workout.
5. And finally, no more gymtimidation
Gyms can be pretty overwhelming places. You have squeezed on your workout clothes, remembered where your membership card is, walked to the gym and you are already tired out. But you are there now, and you have got to face rows of machinery and taut behinds, as their owners contort into unthinkable positions or show off their testosterone levels. Barre Fit isn't like boot camp - it's fun, approachable and inclusive of all ages, abilities and levels of fitness.