Nowadays, there are countless numbers of ballet-style studios popping up around the country promising long, lean bodies that would make even Black Swan swoon. Fitness enthusiasts following the latest exercise trends flock to these locations, while some newbies may be a bit reluctant because they lack coordination; let alone a background in dance. Meet Pure Barre.
Unlike any ballet class that you may have taken, Pure Barre is a 55 minute class that concentrates on the problem areas that women struggle with the most: the hips, thighs, glutes, abdominals and arms. The class uses a ballet barre to perform small, isometric movements that work the muscles to exhaustion. The claim is that as long as you can hold onto a ballet barre, you can do a Pure Barre class. The moves are low-impact and joint friendly as they avoid bouncing and jumping. Pure Barre owner Catalina Lehman says “We have a vast variety of clients here. Although this is a tough work out, we see a lot of different age groups and body types. The beauty of Pure Barre is that it is high-intensity but low-impact; meaning it’s a challenging exercise but it’s very easy on your joints. Because of this, we see anyone from overweight clients, to very fit, older, younger… all of you can do this. We offer a variety of modifications to all of our clients that are at different fitness levels, have injuries, or are expectant mommies.”
Let’s talk equipment. Each participant will grab a tiny red ball, a stretchy band, and hand weights. You’ll need to wear socks for the class to avoid slipping all over the place, and the studio even sells special socks with grips on the bottom that are made specifically for Pure Barre. Two other equally important items are your water bottle and towel. The warm-up alone is enough to make the sweat start.
Following the warm-up, the class focuses on the legs, glutes, and abs during mat work. After plenty of push-ups, planks, and glute-bridges, you will graduate to exhausting every muscle in your arms with those “light” weights. Grab a quick sip of water, and wipe your face, because it’s time to go to the barre.
While at the barre, prepare to pliť, lunge, squat, and perform leg extensions with lots of tucks and pulses added in. (And don’t think that your instructor has forgotten about that little red ball, either.) The class is fast-paced and has a choreographed feeling, with the instructor in your ear reminding you to “tuck” “lift” and “pulse”. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with the term “arabesque” or any other dance lingo; the instructor will encourage you with cues and instruct where to squeeze and how to move. The concentration that is required during class is meant to block life out for the hour, allowing the participant to reap the mental benefits obtained in yoga and meditation. Every strengthening move is followed by stretching to produce those long, lean muscles without the bulk. The technique is intended to taper everything in and lift it all up. How wonderful does that sound?
Not only will you do standing work at the barre; there is a whole level waiting below for you. Sitting beneath the barre, holding on from below creates resistance to work the arms and abdominals. Who knew your legs could feel so heavy while you’re sitting down?
Finally, the instructor gives the cue that it is time to cool down and stretch to elongate those worked muscles. Lying on the mat feels like a sweet reward.
At the close of your first class, the instructor will recommend that you begin a regimen of 3-4 classes per week, and promises that although the classes will never get easier, that you’ll become much more confident in the movements and choreography. The bottom line: if you want it lifted, take it to the barre.