Barre-based fitness classes have risen in popularity over the past few years, no doubt influenced by those of us wanting to channel super-fit ballerinas like Misty Copeland. If you have a drawer full of leggings and keep a pair of sticky socks in your purse, know that you're not alone.
So why are these kinds of workouts so addictive? The positive feelings—and results—you get from a good barre class are unmatched. Research has shown that long-term ballerinas are more skilled than novices are at tasks requiring fine motor skills. But you don't need to perform at Lincoln Center to see the benefits of barre extend to other parts of your life. Here, I share five ways I've seen my fitness level improve through barre practice.
1. Strength and definition. When you work your thighs in a barre class, you target that muscle group from all angles. Three thigh exercises will work to fatigue the front, inner, and outer thighs, strengthening the muscles from joint to joint. The same goes for your butt, abs, arms, and back. By strengthening each muscle group thoroughly, you are not only creating amazing definition, you are also strengthening muscles that are often underused and underdeveloped.
Related: The Beginner's Guide to Barre
2. Endurance. Each barre class includes different types of movements, but most are known for their use of isometric contractions and small isotonic movements. In an isometric contraction, you tighten or contract the muscle without changing its length. Think plank position or those poses where you hold completely still as your legs start to quiver and shake. These contractions utilize slow-twitch muscle fibers that can increase stamina and improve your endurance.
3. Flexibility. You don't need to be flexible to practice barre, but the amount of stretching in each class can help improve your overall range of motion and reduce your risk of injury. Tension and tightness in your muscles and the tendons around them can lead to back pain and poor posture, and can make everyday tasks like bending down to tie your shoes more difficult. Stretching out your muscles will help relieve stress and allow you to move through your day with a little more ease.
4. Posture. Core muscles are engaged throughout the entire class, and they can be used for the primary focus of an exercise or for stability as you perform a move that targets your thighs or butt. The most common issue that clients come in with is back pain that usually stems from weak core muscles and hours spent sitting at the computer. As you strengthen your core, you will notice that you can sit and stand taller and your lower back will take less stress and tension throughout the day.
5. Mind-body connection. Barre classes challenge you to not only go through the motions of the workout but to focus your thoughts on each and every tiny muscle you are working. Feel your mind starting to stray? Your teacher will give you step-by-step instructions on where to position your body while also offering hands-on corrections to adjust your alignment.
Shalisa Pouw is a Senior Master Trainer at Pure Barre.