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Get Back To Fitness Basics At The Barre

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 10:23 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:59 p.m. CDT

With more people than ever embracing fitness, new videos, workouts, and other various up-and-coming methods have emerged to get women in tip-top shape. Despite all of the new workouts coming out, there is one technique that is taking it back to the basics—barre.

When most people think of barre, they think of teeny tiny ballerinas reaching for the sky in toe shoes and tights. And while today’s barre fitness classes have roots in dance and they use the barre for the workout, they also make use of Pilates techniques for core conditioning. 

What Barre Is The German-born dancer Lotte Berk is credited with creating the basic bar method, or Lotte Berk Method, in the 1950s. Since then, it has morphed into various different techniques, including licensed methods like Pure Barre, Booty Barre, The Dailey Method and Xtend Barre.

Barre often is considered to be a sibling of Pilates, with a focus on body control and small, isometric movements. Yet all of the various barre methods, as indicated by the name, utilize the ballet barre in one way or another.

“During each Pure Barre class, clients utilize their own body weight to work imperative muscles to fatigue and then stretch them back out while warm and malleable, which creates long, lean and strong physiques,” Molly Cashman, director of marketing for Pure Barre says.

Sheila Grace, co-owner of FIXE Studio in Hinsdale with partner Jenifer Zeno, liked the concept of barre, but wanted to put their own spin on it. Both had heavy backgrounds in Pilates, and wanted to incorporate barre exercises from Lotte Birk as well as the core Pilates principles from their own backgrounds. The result was Demi-Barre, their very own take on the popular barre phenomenon.

“We use a lot of different props, including short body bars, weighted bars, and Pilates magic circles, all of which are on the light side,” Grace says. “We also do arms, a planking session, push-ups, and other slowly controlled moves. We try to stretch as much as we can, as the typical barre work is small isometric movements, which are just crazy burners.”

Although it may sound intimidating at first, no prior dance experience is needed for barre classes.

“Pure Barre was designed to work for women of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels,” Cashman says. “as long as you can hold onto the ballet barre, you can do it.”

Why It’s Popular One of the reasons barre has risen in popularity with women in particular is that it addresses the areas of the boy with which women typically take issue.

“In just 55 minutes you will achieve a full-body workout concentrating on the areas that women struggle with the most: hips, thighs, seat, abdominals and arms,” Cashman says. “Each strength section of the workout is followed by a stretching section in order to create long, lean muscles without bulk.”

Barre workouts often utilize small rubber balls to focus on tightening the body and eliminating cellulite. A similar element that draws from the Pilates foundation is the core work during classes, which focuses on improving back, hip and shoulder alignment.

“What keeps clients coming back to Pure Barre is the fact that it truly works,” Cashman says. “The technique changes women’s bodies quickly and safely.”

Essentially, women regularly participating in barre classes are obtaining a dancer’s body without ever sliding into ballet slippers.

“It’s so fun and we get to see so many people transform their bodies,” Grace says. “Although 3/4 of the people here are here to look good, it’s also great for keeping their bodies and their spines healthy.”

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