Lately, I've been checking out all the barre classes available here in NYC. I have to admit it though, it's a love-hate relationship I've got between me and that darn barre. I actually can't recall thinking barre work was that difficult back when I was a little one in ballet class, but then again, I wasn't working muscles to the level of exhaustion at the age of five either. But it's no wonder dancers have an AMAZING body. A weekly date at the barre will guarantee to you definite body perfection.
Last week I stopped by Pure Yoga in Manhattan's Upper West Side to take Kate Albarelli's new Figure 4 class. Kate's focus in Figure 4 is on "the graceful moves of ballet, the flexibility of yoga, and the energetic beats of contemporary dance." Like most barre classes that are so popular right now, this style of working out avoids building muscle bulk and helps women achieve that long, lean physique of a dancer (I say, "sign me up" every time, then the love-hate relationship hits me when I line up at the barre). Because whoa, I was hit with a definite body shock in the beginning of Kate's class as I stood at the barre and attacked my leg and butt muscles. Other classes I've taken save the legs for last, but I kind of liked doing the hardest part first (and getting it over with!). However, Kate's class was even better than I had suspected it could be. I knew I'd get an awesome workout, but I didn't know that Kate would slip in so many helpful—and important—reminders about working out and using proper form. Here are a few form pointers that I picked up (along with my derriére muscles!) during my sweat-session with Kate.
When doing pushups. . . Always keep your chin lifted enough for a tennis ball to be placed underneath. This keeps the neck in its correct postural alignment. Also, your hands should never be in front of the body. They are slightly wider than shoulders but in line with the shoulders, and not in front.
When doing tricep dips. . . Roll your shoulders back and open your chest. If you do this wrong and roll your shoulders forward, you're building muscles that promote hunching (and you don't want that). When doing the Dip Kick in our May Express Workout, as you bend and straighten your elbows, always shift your weight back over the heel of your hands. Maintain your weight back as far as you can. If your weight comes too far forward, the inside of your shoulder joint is forced to carry too much weight.
When doing bicep curls. . . Arms should always curl and straighten all the way up to your chest. It is the last inch of extension that is the most difficult. People often stop short on fully extended arms in bicep curls and this inhibits the muscle from lengthening all the way, therefore, it doesn't lend to long and formed muscles. When the arm fully extends, you're able to curl and work through the entire position, which means working the insertion of the muscle as well (this is the portion of your muscle that's attached to a movable bone). For more chatter about the barre, check out yesterday's New York Times article on Kate and ballerina Mary Helen Bowers from Ballet Beautiful.