I started taking barre classes consistently a few weeks after my mom passed away. I needed a new hobby, preferably one that could double as a mental escape. I'd taken a few barre classes before, but because the method and structure of class was largely new to me, it required my full attention and therefore was a great way for me to put my sadness aside for an hour. I focused on my body, zoning in on the instructor's words and my movement. Unlike SoulCycle, which was like second nature to me by then, this workout actually forced me to think of nothing else but pulsing, tucking, and lengthening. Exercise was a form of therapy. I went to Soul to chase my thoughts. I went to Pure Barre to get away from them.
I've been a trainer now for almost two years and I've had the privilege of connecting with lots of different types of people in that time. I meet a lot of women who have a very similar idea of beauty: the elusive "barre body." A tall, lean frame with muscles that are defined without being "bulky."
I met a young woman once who asked me to do a workout together. I asked her what she was doing currently for exercise, and what her goals were. At the time, she was taking barre classes several times a week, and her primary goal was to lose weight - probably about 50 pounds. Now, I happen to love mat-based workouts - barre, Pilates, yoga, etc. - but I never recommend them exclusively to my weight loss clients. EVER. These types of workouts are a great complement to strength training and regular cardio. However, if you want to lose fat and keep it off, you need to build muscle. Simple as that. I was very honest with her and told her she wasn't going to lose the weight if she kept her exercising exclusively to barre. To my delight, she was open-minded and excited to lift weights with me.
We got to work and I challenged her at every corner. When it came time to hold planks, I was surprised to see that she was struggling, considering planks are typically an integral part of barre class. Then I realized she must've fallen into the trap that so many group exercise participants do.
Well, it's actually several traps. The first being you might not know how to properly hold a plank because no one's ever taught you. In my experience, planks require tons of cueing because actually achieving and maintaining proper form is tough! The second is that when we go to the same class over and over and over again, it tends to become second nature and our brains zone out while our bodies go through the motions, whether we mean to or not. I see this a LOT in barre classes. Women who are clearly not paying attention to their form or the instructor for one reason or another, and in return they're not getting the most out of the exercise. I did this at SoulCycle back when I was taking it 3-4 times a week with the same instructor. I prided myself on always being one step ahead. It was almost like I knew what was going to come out of their mouth before they did.
The next time you hit a plank in a group exercise class, don't zone out! Listen to the instructor's cues and if you can't hear them or they aren't giving you enough or you are struggling, remember that a bad plank is worse than no plank at all, and similarly, it's better to hold a true plank for a shorter amount of time than a subpar plank for two minutes. Here's what I always tell my clients when it comes to (forearm) planks:
· Stack your shoulders over your elbows. You can have your forearms in sphinx position; I typically have my clients stack their palms (face-up) because I find it to be more comfortable.
· Pull in your belly button.
· Squeeze your tush.
· Glue your feet together and press your heels back.
· Think of pressing your elbows and toes into the ground while simultaneously pulling them towards one another. This mental cue is like a little "ON" switch for the abs. Try it!
When it comes to planks, I'm all about intensity over duration. I'd rather you hold a hard-as-hell plank (see last tip above) for 30 seconds than stay in the position for a few minutes without actually activating any muscles.
TO MAKE A PLANK EASIER:
· Plant your feet wide.
· Put your elbows on an elevated, stable surface like a bench or step.
NEED A CHALLENGE?
Bear Crawl (a personal fav)
Plank Walk Back (I personally keep my feet a bit closer together than this dude)
I don't take barre classes as much anymore; my workout focus these days is mainly weight lifting and strength training. My dad won a pack of Pure Barre classes at a charity auction recently so I do take one once in awhile, and it's always great fun (and a challenge!)
YES, that's me above circa 1989 at Beth Am ballet class! To my great disappointment (and horror) my dancing skills are absolute garbage but day-yum Lil' Teds sure thought she had the MOVES!