“Fight for your body.” – Ysabel, Physique 57 instructor.
Whilst Pilates is my first love and it’s something I know I would love to pursue for the rest of my life, circumstances made me take a break from it. That’s where Barre came in and took solace of my broken heart and soul.
At the time of writing, I have already attended 60 barre classes under Physique 57. I discovered it through my friend Yani and have tried it first through ClassPass’ one-week free trial. It was closest to where I live and work too (They are located in BGC). Prior to that, I first got to try the art of Barre last 2018 through my friend Raech, an instructor of Barre 3.
What really is barre? (French pronunciation: [baʁ])
There are different definitions you will find on the web regarding what Barre is but barre is actually a stationary handrail that provides support for ballet training and warm-up exercises. However, barre as a form of exercise started in 1959 by a ballerina named Lotte Berk in London. It incorporates rehabilitative therapy and ballet movements.
From Physique 57’s website, they have defined their method as efficient, effective and fun. Using your own body weight as resistance, the Physique 57 workout targets the muscles in your arms, thighs, seat, and abs to the point of fatigue then stretch them for relief. Their effective process, called Interval Overload, includes muscle-defining arm exercises, intense thigh and seat sequences, waist-chiseling ab moves, and fluid stretches.
Like Pilates, Barre has a common misconception that it’s just for women. It is actually contrary to that. Barre utilizes low impact movements so it’s safe even if you’re pregnant or is nursing an injury. To be perfectly honest, I recently injured my lower back with a high-intensity workout I tried (after a long time of not doing it) and for others, they’ll probably bed rest the injury for a few days. What I did though, is I continued doing barre while being cautious about my movements. The stretches in between classes helped me recover faster than if I would’ve rested it.
Enough of my stories on barre though. If you’re a newbie and you wanted to jump-start your journey but you don’t know what are the must-haves, or maybe you just wanted to try it out because you’ve been hitting a plateau in your workouts, I’ve listed some beginner’s guide in Barre.
Let’s start with the easiest, the clothing!
If you’re new to working out, then chances are you don’t own any workout clothes yet. What matters on clothing is it’s comfortable and dri-fit materials are optional. For men, you can do shorts and t-shirts and for women, sports bra, leggings or Capri pants and a t-shirt or sleeveless top. For the top, it’s actually helpful if you can wear figure-hugging clothes so the instructor can easily spot your form and correct it if needed. The common apparel that men and women of the barre should have is * drum roll please * fully covered grip socks.
Images below are samples of what grip socks look like:
They come in different brands and styles. What matters most is that it fully covers your toes. There are some variants of grip socks where in your toes and/or heels are exposed and while other studios accept that, P57 has a strict implementation of that. So don’t forget your socks! (Price range for grip socks are from P650 up in Certified Calm and P850 up in P57)
There’re also barre shoes which I really like using because it can be washed after a few uses (if I do regular grip socks I would use it once and toss it in the laundry) and its grip is really superior. I don’t feel like slipping even when doing hip dips. It’s a rare find in the Philippines but thankfully P57 exported their branded barre shoes from U.S. Reference below:
Optional for clothing includes gloves (if you have sweaty palms like me), headbands, and other fitness accessories you want to use.
Aside from clothing, I actually wanted to focus on discussing the forms and alignments needed to be a better barre-star. Being a former Pilates instructor myself, I am aware of how proper breathing, posture and body awareness goes a long way when you workout. The views/pointers below though are just some common mistakes I notice in the studio and these do not reflect P57’s teachings nor their techniques.
- Breathing – While breathing should be a no-brainer to us, there are some tendencies wherein we hold our breath when we work out or is doing something we find very challenging. It is very important in any workouts to continue breathing. A simple tip on breathing — inhale when you least exert effort and exhale when you need to do a harder rep. For example, in push-ups, you inhale when you are lowering yourself down and you exhale when you push yourself and extend your arms. That way, you have the energy to pull through. This tip can be applied to any workout (not just Barre) but it’s not applicable when you’re doing spine extensions. It’s actually the opposite of that when you bend your spine (like an upward facing dog). The explanation of that is when you inhale while bending your spine, it actually helps in the facilitation of the backbend because your trunk will expand. But the take away on this first pointer is to never ever ever forget breathing.
- Tail bone down – this is actually something a lot of people find hard to imagine. The tail bone, or also known as coccyx in anatomy, is actually at the bottom of the spine and is there to support the pelvis. A visual of the tail bone is:
When we workout, we usually stick our tail bone out. It can be that we over arch the back or we stick our butt out. So when you hear the instructor say, “tuck your tailbone down”, it just meant stick your butt in. *wink*
3. Square your shoulders and hips – A bit hard to imagine when you hear it for the first time, eh? (Imagining I have a British accent) I see it commonly at the barre too. Actually, we tend to not square our shoulders and hips when our bodies are either not aware of the proper form or it’s compensating already because of the toughness of the workout.
I want you guys to imagine drawing a line from your left shoulder to your right shoulder and also from your left hip to your right hip. Combine the two and you’ll have a box, correct? Now squaring your shoulders and hips in simplicity meant not rotating your shoulders and hips out to one side. It takes a lot of body awareness to self-correct on this but the mirrors on the studio/gym greatly helps on this. Imagine the shoulders and hips always reaching forward and not losing their equality so the other doesn’t go above or below the other.
I’m a visual learner so I searched a photo that would best show what this actually is:
As you can see in the first photo, the shoulders are aligned. Most of the time, we don’t know this but the shoulders start to rotate more to one side when we feel tired already. The same goes for the hips. Don’t compensate for the quality over quantity. Always be mindful of the body alignment and you’ll feel the movement work through you more.
4. Neutral Spine – Since we are already in the topic of alignment, it’s a must to know what a neutral spine is. It’s actually very easy (barely an inconvenience). It’s the natural curvature of your spine when you stand up. You can also achieve a neutral spine when you’re lying down by imagining that there’s a small pea or berry at your back so you can put one or two fingers in. It’s not big enough to put your whole hand as that would mean you’re arching your back already. It is important to work out on a neutral spine when the movement calls for it as that would still make the core engaged even if you’re lying down. We have to train for a good posture and keeping a neutral spine is actually essential.
5. Proper push-up form – Oh boy, if there’s a penny for each bad pushup form I see, then I’d have thousands already. (Kidding, we’re here to educate not ridicule) A proper push up can be technical in terms of how many things you have to keep in mind when you execute this but it’s better to do so than to suffer from injuries because of wrong execution, right? So a pushup others might think is very easy to do and requires no instructions as basically anyone has heard or done it in their lifetime I hope.
A proper pushup form be it a full push up or a kneeling push up looks like this:
Pointers: You suck your belly in to protect your lower back, shoulders in line with the wrists (or a little wider as another variation) and you carry your head — don’t let your head drop down! It also helps to gaze at one fixed point but don’t look so low that your head drops. When you bend your arm, you will lower your hips with you (Don’t let it drop all the way down or pike up). You don’t want to look like a worm, right?
The same applies to a kneeling push up. Always think about being a whole unit. Your head, shoulders, hips, and feet are in a diagonal line.
Last but definitely not the least in this guide are the curls or curl-ups.
6. Curls – Curl-ups is one of the movements you can do if you want to strengthen your core. (the powerhouse of our body) One of the misconceptions I have seen when doing a curl/crunch is the lifting of the neck. This is actually bad and can cause neck strains or injuries. You maintain a neutral spine first and you lift your head, neck, and chest up. Your shoulder blades are off of the mat/floor and in doing these, you will feel your core tighten. Even if you twist on your curl, it should always be the chest/heart leading you up and not the head.
There are still a lot of movements in the barre but I’ll create another post for those fancy barre movements that we can do a guide of. I do hope you were able to get something out of this and this is applicable not only to barre training but also to other workouts.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and let me know what you think in the comments section below. See you at the barre! 🙂