So what exactly *is* a barre-style workout, anyway?

With all this talk about Barre N9NE, I thought it probably made a lot of sense to describe what these classes are really like.

But before I do that, I just have to say – I LOVED reading about Core Fusion and other barre-style workouts in the New York Times this week. If you haven’t read it yet, please do – it gives a great history of where this whole “barre” craze originated from and what the high-level benefits are of such a workout.  This might be my favorite quote out of the whole story:

Which doesn’t mean barre classes aren’t as hard. Most of the moves, like squats in a grand plié position with raised heels, are so intense that they will make your muscles shake and burn within minutes. “Some of these exercises are lethal,” said Fred DeVito, a founder of Core Fusion.

“Lethal” is a great way to describe all those rounds and rounds of reps. Legs shaking. Body rocking. Love.

But I digress. So what are these classes all about?

I’ll use Barre N9NE signature class – which was, most certainly, “lethal” last night. Juliana kicked our a$$es. Royally.

Warm-up: 5 minutes of dynamic stretching to get the heart rate going and to loosen those muscles before they’re worked.

Upper body work with light (very light, 2-3 lbs, max) handweights: Not gonna lie, the first time I saw the size of these weights, I was like “pshhht. This will be a piece of CAKE!” Um yeah, maybe if we were lifting those weights for 10-12 reps. But nope, you’re lifting and lowering for at least three rounds of roughly (and I’ve never counted) 25 reps per round.  Add that up and we’re talking 75 reps per exercise. And this class takes you through shoulders, back, triceps and biceps – oh and chest (hello, push-ups!). Oy.

Lower body work, ballet barre-style:  Now this is where the word “lethal” really comes into play. If your legs aren’t shaking during/after this section of the workout, you have not worked hard enough. Legit. Most of this work involves very, very tiny up/down movements with legs in various positions:

…Facing the mirror/barre, toes lifted (as if in high heeled shoes), knees bent – up/down/up/down for a bajillion reps.

…Repeat that with feet pointed out, toes lifted (to work inner thighs).

…Repeat that with legs in a wide plie to work thighs, glutes, everything.

…And so on and so forth.

All while keeping your hips tucked under, core tight, tight, tight. This takes a lot of thinking…at least it does for me…to keep proper form. So if you saw me in class, you’d see a pretty serious expression (that would be my “thinking” face) mixed with eyes squeezed shut, trying not to stop the up/down movement until the series ends.


Core work/stretch: Who would have ever thought that five minutes of core work would hurt so much, would WORK so much?  I guess it feels far more impactful after having kept that core so very tight for the entire upper body and lower body series – you’re working your core the entire class. So having a dedicated section for core work is icing on the cake (at least for me!). No wonder it hurts so good. 😉 Depending on the type of barre class you take, this section of the workout will vary pretty dramatically. Last night’s class included a variety of core work that worked all aspects of the core. I don’t know what it is, but this just works. I think I sweat the most in this part of the series, I swear!

So yeah – for me, these workouts are body rocking, through and through. If you’ve never ever considered a class like this, I would reconsider…I’d seriously  bend over backwards to get to one if I were you. I promise, it will absolutely be worth it. <— Wow, I kinda feel like I’m talking about a cult, geez, could I be even more in love with these workouts??

With that – I’m off to Barre N9NE tonight for a lean  & tone class.  I took this one last week and loved it – it’s not “barre” so much as a really, really good toning (lots of lengthening with strengthening) class. A great companion to the barre work we’ll do the rest of this week (and throughout this challenge).

Happy Tuesday, ya’ll!