Training at the Barre pt.2

Nine months ago I wrote a blog post about my first experience doing a Barre Class. I came across the concept of Barre training in an article in Men’s Health magazine. Since that time there seems to be more and more Barre classes popping up in gyms and pilates studios across the country. I’m not surprised by the rising popularity of Barre as I’ve found the Barre workouts to be very beneficial and I’ve continued to attend classes as part of my workout routine.

I benefit from the functional movement, strength work, and stretching that Barre class incorporates. Its a core and stabiliser muscle workout like no other. One of the great things about Barre workouts is you can constantly make it harder for yourself. If you can hold yourself in a plie position with ease, why not try and hold that position an inch lower, and suddenly you’ll feel the burn again. You can constantly turn up or down the intensity to suit your level.

I like to switch up the classes I attend, so I’m only at Barre once every two weeks but I’ve seen great improvements in my Barre abilities, and overflow improvements into other exercises I do. I find it so beneficial I’d be tempted to take a break from some of the other exercises I do and take a month of pure Barre to see the effects.

Its still mostly women that attend this class, and I suppose thats to be expected. But there are so many benefits for men with a class like this. If you’re a man and you want a solid core strength workout, and your ego doesn’t mind being out-trained by women half your size, you should definitely add this to your agenda.

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Barre Training

Functionality and Movement

The July/August issue of Mens Health magazine is the Body Issue, which confused me because I thought that every issue was a body issue. Issue theme aside, it was a welcome surprise to see that when choosing which men to feature in the “body issue” they opted for ability and functionality, instead of aesthetics. Rather than cover model bodies and hollywood stars, Men’s Health have put together a list of Olympic rowers, strong men, cyclists, runners and ballerinos.  To be fair, all the men featured look good aesthetically, but all in their own way, and all very different from one another.

The men, and their training habits, featured in the current issue Mens Health seems to be part of a larger trend in mens fitness, away from free weights and bulk for the sake of bulk, and towards functionality, ability and movement. This trend has been quietly gaining momentum for years. While Conor McGregor has helped bring bodyweight and movement training more into the spotlight, fellow UFC competitor Nate Diaz commented;

“Everybody nowadays is like there is this new movement setup that Conor is bringing to the table but that was already around. That’s what inspired us to begin with…….all that movement stuff they’re trying to preach, we already got.”

A few years ago I went to my first movement based exercise seminar. At the seminar my free-weight built muscles were exposed as largely useless. It turns out my free-weight build muscles were only good for lifting more free-weights. I quit the gym and replaced it with running, Rushfit, boxing, barre, olympic rings, crawling, parallettes and more. I do still own a set of 7.5kg dumbbells, but I incorporate them into full body movements. I drop elements of my training and bring in new pieces all the time, which keeps it interesting. In the Summer months, like now, I can train outside in the sun and fresh air. Below is a video of me doing some free movement, its far from perfect and I have a long way to go, but I feel fitter and even though Im getting older, I’m becoming MORE mobile, long may that continue!

 

 

Training at the Barre

I recently tried a Barre class, which is a Ballet Barre inspired pilates class. When I arrived I said, “I’m here for the Barre class”, to which the instructor said, “you know its Ballet Barre, not bar…bar” – making a lifting motion as if lifting a barbell. That was my first clue that not many men come to this class. My second clue was the broom closet that was the mens changing room, I’m not sure it would have fit a second man.

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Athletes don’t come much fitter than this

I’m always keen to explore new exercises, especially ones that introduce new ways of moving and push me beyond my comfort zone.  Barre is one hell of a work out. There is no cardio in Barre class, its all isometric exercises where you hold your body in position, and then introduce a small range of motion. For example, a seated plié (essentially an isometric sit) with heels off the ground and one arm on the barre, hold, and then up an inch, down an inch, for 8 reps. It sounds easier than it is.

I managed to get through 99% of the exercises, even the ones with my leg on the barre, which really tested my non-existant flexibility. I did fail in a few exercises. With beads of sweat rolling down my face and my legs turning to jelly, I simply collapsed out of the positions, all the more embarrassing because the girl beside did them with what looked like relative ease. I may not have been graceful, but my quads, glutes and hips/upper legs got a great workout, unlike anything I’ve done before. The intensity of a Barre class is definitely a 9 out of 10.

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Arnold at the Barre

As I was leaving the instructor asked if I’d be coming back, but with my legs having been worked to their limits, and a stairwell between me and the outside world, it was more a question of if I’d be able to leave. I have been back, and I’m starting to see improvements. I won’t be making this my regular workout, but its a nice addition to my training and worth visiting once in while.

 

 

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