Thursday, June 9, 2011

Barre Workouts

I’ve been getting some questions about the barre workouts I’ve been doing. As I said before, I love barre workouts, which combine yoga, Pilates, ballet, and often orthopedic exercises that focus on proper alignment. There is a lot of thigh and gluteal work, and you often shake uncontrollably by the end of an exercise. Plus your core gets literally “attacked” from every angle. The upper body also gets a workout with lots of push ups as well as exercises performed with light weights but lots of reps. It’s hard to believe that 2 or 3 pound hand weights can cause that much agony… Every workout I have done (especially the ones I have done in person), has been a great, challenging workout. Here are what I see as the benefits of a barre workout:
  • Intense workout that works the whole body
  • Focus on posture, which makes me stand up straighter and feel taller all day long
  • Lots of exercises to strengthen stabilizing muscles as well as stretches which help prevent overuse injuries from lots of running and forward motion exercise; since I’m doing a lot more hiking, walking, and running lately, I feel I “need” my barre workouts to prevent injuries
  • Often includes a lot of balancing work, which I need more and more of as I’m getting older
  • You REALLY see results if you do the workouts regularly (at least 3 times per week)
  • Lots and lots of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) – I think that’s a good thing! Smile 
  • While the workouts are very challenging – you will shake uncontrollably during class – the yoga and Pilates elements usually make for a calming yet energizing workout
I have also been getting some questions regarding taking a class in a studio versus doing a DVD. There are lots of barre workout DVDs out there, and I have only done a few of them.

First of all, I would recommend to take at least a few classes in a studio if you can as proper technique is crucial to this workout, and I think it’s really hard to do the exercises with proper form without being corrected at first. (Barre workouts are expensive, but studios sometimes have specials. Also, there are quite a few Groupon deals, etc.; you can often save 50% or even more.) If you can’t take classes in a studio, make sure you  watch the DVD carefully before doing the exercises and make sure you focus on proper form. You really only get the benefits from the exercises if you do them correctly.

Second, while there are some excellent DVDs out there, I don’t think I get as good a workout doing a DVD as I do at a studio. The workout is very intense, and there is just something about having a live instructor who motivates you. Plus, live classes usually have great music, which also helps me keep going. The DVDs I have done have only very soft music in the background, as there are many instructions given as to how to do the exercises correctly. While the instructions are helpful and necessary, they can get a bit annoying after a while.

I like that the workouts always change in the studio, so you never do the same workout. Finally, chairs, etc. work in place of a barre okay, but it’s just not the same as having a barre, and the workouts are just not the same. Having said that, I think barre workout DVDs are an excellent addition to my workouts, help keep costs down a lot, and make doing the workouts more convenient.
Here are the classes/DVDs I have done and my thoughts on each:
  • The Dailey Method (TDM): TDM was the first barre-type class I ever did, and I’m partial to it! I was introduced to TDM through some free (modified) classes they offered at my local Lululemon store. Over the past year, I have taken classes at TDM on a regular basis. I love the way the workout makes me feel. The instructors give great cues, explain the reasons behind the exercises, and really pay attention and correct students during class. That’s why I think taking live classes is so important. I feel like I got my foundation to do barre-type workouts at TDM. In April 2011, TDM came out with a DVD. The DVD contains two workouts – a 35 minute express workout and a 55 minute workout. I like that there is a shorter version (but you have to be familiar with the workout as it is somewhat advanced). I also like that there is quite a comprehensive introduction that goes through the terminology and the moves of the class. Jill Dailey advises new students to watch the introduction several times as well as the whole 55 minute workout before attempting to do it. I think that’s very good advice. She also tells students to go back to the introduction whenever something isn’t clear. The instructions on the DVD are very clear, and Jill is making sure that students can do the moves correctly at home, but I miss the energy and music of a live class.
  • Exhale: Core Fusion - Lean & Toned: The DVD consists of five separate 10-minute workouts that you can play continuously for a 55 minute workout (including a 5 minute cool down and stretch), or you can play the workouts individually and mix and match for a shorter workout. The focus of the five workouts is as follows: upper body, thighs, flat/round back (core), gluteal tone and stretch, pretzel (core and gluteal muscles). I enjoy this DVD and like that I can do it when I’m short on time by just doing two or three of the workouts. The flat/round back workout is very difficult and could be frustrating to a beginner, but if you keep at it, it’ll get easier.
  • Pure Barre: I took several classes at Pure Barre when they offered special deals through Groupon and other sites. It’s similar to TDM, but there is more focus on aerobics with louder and faster music. A friend of mine described it as “TDM on steroids.” It’s definitely a challenging workout. Personally, I haven’t gotten the kind of feedback and correction at Pure Barre like I have at TDM. But I also haven’t taken as many classes there… While it is certainly a great workout, I miss the calm feeling I have after a TDM workout.
  • Barre3 Total Body Lift Workout: I did this  40-minute DVD several times when it was offered on Exercise TV on Demand. It’s a decent workout, but I feel it would be difficult for someone who has never done a barre-type workout to do the exercises correctly (but I’m not sure if the actual DVD maybe comes with an introduction that explains the exercises a bit more). Plus, in addition to light hand weights and a chair, you also need a small exercise ball. Alternatively, you can use a towel, which didn’t work very well for me.  However, the day after the workouts, I felt muscle soreness in my leg and gluteal muscles that I hadn’t felt in a while… So I guess it did something!
Questions: What’s your favorite workout? I love all kinds of workouts, but hiking and barre workouts are my favorites at the moment. Have you ever done a barre  workout? If so, what did you think?
Be well,