Fitness and Training

How to Get Started With Barre Workouts

Jumping into a new workout style can be intimidating, and barre — a combination of Pilates, ballet, and yoga — is no exception. But rest assured, barre can easily accommodate anyone, regardless of fitness level or dance background (or lack thereof).

“It’s a low-impact workout that’s not overly aerobic, so it doesn’t overstress the heart,” says Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and the chief of women’s sports medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “And because it can be easily modified, it’s a good option for most people.”

In fact, many find that barre is more beginner-friendly than yoga and Pilates, as the basic poses are very simple, notes the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).

Ready to hit the barre? Here’s what you need to know to get started.Barre classes vary by instructor and studio. However, they generally last 60 minutes and follow a similar pattern: a warm-up involving dynamic (moving) stretches, a workout at the barre and on the mat that consists of poses and small movements that focus on specific muscle groups, and a cooldown focused on stretching and yoga poses, according to the ISSA.

It’s best to choose a beginner in-person barre class when you’re starting out. The instructor will explain barre terminology and demonstrate foundational movements, giving you the opportunity to learn proper form before progressing, per the ISSA.

Once you feel comfortable with the terminology and positions, you can take intermediate barre classes online or in person. “Online classes offer a convenient way to take barre, while in-person classes offer direct teaching from the instructor and the fun, invigorating energy from being in a group setting,” says Dara Driessea, a personal trainer certified by the American Sports and Fitness Association and a barre instructor with FlexIt in Barnegat, New Jersey.Fortunately, barre doesn’t require any special fitness apparel. Many people opt for yoga apparel (think performance tights and a fitted top), but wear whatever you feel comfortable exercising in.

You also won’t have to worry about shoes, as barefoot is best for a barre class, Driessea says. However, some people prefer to wear barre socks or socks with gripping bottoms so their feet don’t slip on the floor when they get sweaty.

What about the barre? You can invest in a barre if you’re doing an online workout at home, but it’s certainly not required. The ISSA suggests using a stable surface like a countertop or sturdy chair as a barre stand-in. Add a nonslip yoga or exercise mat for floor exercises and you’re good to go!

Tips for Staying Safe During BarreWhile barre is a relatively safe activity, there’s always a chance of injury. To stay safe, follow these tips:

Start with body weight. Many barre classes incorporate light weights. However, stick to your own body weight when you’re just starting. Barre uses low weight and high repetitions, which your body may not be used to when you first start taking classes, Dr. Matzkin says. If you introduce weights too quickly, you can increase your risk of pain and injury. Wait until your body has acclimated to the demands of barre before adding resistance.
Focus on your form. Correct form is crucial in every workout but even more so in barre. “With barre, you’re doing repetitive exercises, and if you’re not using good form, your risk of injury significantly increases,” Matzkin says. Taking an in-person barre class when you’re starting out is a good idea. This way, the instructor can watch your form and offer tips.

Allow for rest and recovery. Doing the same activity daily can increase your risk of injury, says Alex Higa, a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise who works with clients at Tempo in San Francisco. So give yourself at least one day off between barre classes. Do other activities like walking, cycling, or gentle yoga.

How to Warm Up for a Barre Workout
Warm-ups are a customary part of any barre workout class. For example, Driessea’s warm-ups typically include a light cardiovascular routine that incorporates foundational ballet movements like pliés (bending the knees with heels on or off the floor and toes pointed outward) and relevés (rising onto the toes or balls of the feet).

But if you’ve found an online or in-person class that doesn’t include a warm-up, make sure you take a few minutes to get your body warm, Higa says. In addition to pliés and relevés, warm-up exercises that are particularly effective for barre include side bends (from a standing position, extend one arm overhead and bend your upper body toward the opposite side) and cat-cow (kneel on the ground on all fours and alternate between arching and rounding your spine). Then use this four-week beginner routine from Driessea. You’ll ease in with two barre workouts per week and progress to three by the third week.

Barre shouldn’t be your only workout. “You need to give your muscles a break and alternate other types of workouts to engage different muscles,” Driessea says.

Plus, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise) and two full-body strength workouts per week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

For that reason, non-barre days should include low- and moderate-intensity cardio and additional strength and flexibility exercises like traditional strength training, yoga, and Pilates. You’re free to adjust the length and intensity of these cardio, strength, and flexibility sessions to suit your fitness level. However, aim to reach the minimum physical activity recommendations outlined by the HHS.

Source: everydayhealth

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