There's always a little bit of a learning curve when starting a new workout method. Not only do you have to learn new moves and get into the flow of the class, but there are inevitably terms shouted during class that you've never heard of before. If you're new to the barre technique or remember a time when you were, you're probably familiar with one such mysterious term: the "barre tuck."
Newbies might be confused about what the tuck is while others who've been to a few classes may be more confused by what it does or is supposed to do. Haven't heard it yet? Well, barre-inspired fitness studios are popping up everywhere, so we have a feeling that once you do try it out, you'll be hooked—and there are lots of reasons it pays to be addicted to barre. Whether you're a novice or a pro, we found ways to get the most out of your workout the next time the instructor calls for a "tuck!"
At its core, the tuck is all about adjusting the position of your hips, abs, and spine, says Michelle Kluz, CEO of Pure Barre, a barre studio with more than 300 locations around the country. "Most of us naturally arch our backs, and the intent of the tuck movement is to remove that natural arch by rolling your hips forward and engaging your abdominal muscles while finding neutral body alignment," says Kluz.
This alignment might not come naturally. But before you get discouraged, make an effort to do it correctly. Ask the instructor to help fix your form until you feel like you've got it down. That's when you'll be able to tap into its benefits. "Mastering the tuck will tone your abs, lift your seat, and improve your overall posture both in and out of class," she says.
Outside of class, this combination of movements at the hip joints and lower spine is more commonly referred to as the pelvic tilt, says Kristen Briody, M.S., a physical therapist and Pilates instructor with Armonk Physical Therapy and Sports Training. It's an example of an isometric movement, which means it's an exercise that activates the target muscle without lengthening it.
Consider the tuck your default position for everything you do in barre class. The tuck might be used as an exercise on its own, where you repeatedly engage the muscles with tiny pulses, or it could be combined with other moves. During the thigh portion of class, for instance, you might hear the instructor tell you to sink down into your seat and raise your heels high while simultaneously tucking to keep your core engaged. In this case, the tuck makes the thigh exercises more challenging, says Kluz.
The burn may be less noticeable when the tuck is repeated on its own, but if you're not feeling challenged, take a second to realign. "The key to making it challenging is to first find your absolute best form and then draw your focus to the tuck, creating the movement with control and precision," she says.
Repeating the tuck motion may feel like you're humping the air. Awkward. But rest assured: Your fellow barre-mates are doing it along with you, and everyone is shaking and burning from the workout—no one has time to zero in on your form. "The classes require such concentration—often with your eyes shut—that there is little time to check out what others are doing," says Kulz. "Leave any feelings of awkwardness at the door."
As with most exercises, all of these benefits go out the window if you feel discomfort or have any pelvis or low-back issues, Briody says. "A word of caution is to really watch the alignment and not sink too deeply," she adds. That way you won't put stress on the knee joints.
The tough, isolated movement is what makes the barre tuck so useful. But it's also why barre classes should be a part of a well-rounded fitness plan rather than the only part of your routine. "It provides a limited range of motion for the muscle to work, so it would be beneficial to alternate barre workouts with other forms of exercise," Briody says. You'll avoid being injured by the tightening of the muscles and repetitive motion.
Most barre classes end with stretching, which is key to lengthening the muscles, but if you don't feel fully stretched after class, stick around for a few minutes and hold static stretches for 30 seconds each, Briody suggests. You've got it! Now go on and master the art of the tuck.