Focus on fitness: Barre brings benefits — Less weight, get more results
May 20, 2018
When many think of group fitness classes, they often have visions of heart-pounding cardio sweat sessions with explosive movements and heavy weights. The image is enough to intimidate many gym goers from participating in group exercise, which multiple studies have shown provides benefits beyond solo workouts.
This creates a separation between more intense classes and slower paced options such as yoga or Pilates. One class that can help bridge the gap is barre, a trend that has taken off in recent years. Barre is not cardio intensive, but focuses on creating long, lean muscles.
"Barre is a head-to-toe, total-body workout that focuses on building strength and endurance in your muscles," said Daphne Butas, a master barre instructor at Old Town Hot Springs. "You use very light weights, but do an extremely high number of reps. You work deep in the belly of the muscles to sculpt a long, lean physique."
The name comes from the use of a ballet barre that is incorporated into some, but not all, of the exercises. Additionally, many of the movements are similar to the positions ballet dancers assume, including flowing movements that work the arms and legs in unison as well as balancing and holding in difficult positions.
"There's a lot of floating the weight into the toes, which gets deeper into the muscle tissue for a slow, steady burn. You're just working the muscle to absolute fatigue," Butas said. "It's not uncommon to see the muscles shake and quiver. It's really a concept of less is more. Less movement, less weight but higher reps. You get more results."
And what are the results of an exercise that places so much emphasis on building endurance in the muscles through light weights and high rep counts?
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"For people who do barre exclusively, they are more lean and trim. They are toned but not bulky. There's a slimness through the hips, and long, lean legs," Butas said.
But barre is often used as a complimentary exercise to other activities and provides tremendous benefits to everyone from weightlifters and endurance athletes to those recovering from injuries.
"There's been a lot of studies that show it's good to strength-train in different ways. In order to build muscle as we age, it's most effective to do heavy weights one day, then do very high reps another day," Butas said. "Barre is a really good compliment to other exercise you're already doing."
Butas is quick to point out the barre trend is popular for endurance athletes.
"If you're a big cardio junkie, you will find barre is a very safe way to build strength without beating your body up. There's not a lot of impact on the joints," Butas said. "The biggest thing these athletes notice is instant strength. They can run for days. They can run faster and longer."
Barre isn't just for hardcore athletes, Butas emphasizes.
"Anybody can do barre. It's very safe and accessible. You can do barre eight months pregnant; if you have rods in your ankles; if you’ve had three knee surgeries; if you have a bad back; scoliosis; or plantar fasciitis. I have 16 year olds and 75 year olds. You're not pulling anything into the joints and you’re not overextending joints past their range of motion. You're not putting any harsh pressure on the joints. It's just muscle work. That's it."
As a result, barre is something people usually stick with once they start.
"I personally love barre. It's like tennis, golf or yoga. It's a lifelong thing," Butas said.
Barre is offered six times per week, Monday through Fridays at Old Town Hot Springs and is always free for members. View the class schedule at oldtownhotsprings.org/groupx.
Nick Esares is marketing director at Old Town Hot Springs.