Over the past few months we’ve taken our exercise regimes either outdoors or in-house (or in many cases both).
For me, online barre has proven my at-home workout of choice, being low-impact enough to keep the neighbours onside yet still delivering some serious results.
Using only a chair, a book and a towel for props, it is a guaranteed burner that makes my legs shake more than squatting with a barbell, while blasts of cardio give an endorphin high, and its chiselling and sculpting powers at notoriously hard-to-tone areas are quite frankly remarkable. I feel longer and more taught after every class.
Take Maria Eleftheriou’s (@maria_eleftheriou_ldn) 45-minute advanced Deep Burn Barre class on Psycle London‘s IGTV, and you’ll know what we’re on about – the class has been available for free on Instagram in lockdown while the studio remains closed.
And it turns out that barre is also the perfect accompaniment to my new-found love of running.
We caught up with Eleftheriou, Psycle’s head of barre and Lululemon ambassador, about why the method deserves a spot in your fitness routine.
Feeling the burn
Barre incorporates a number of ballet-inspired isometric holds and pulsing techniques which really make you feel the famous barre burn and shake.
“The shake isn’t a bad thing! It’s just a sign your body is becoming fatigued and the muscle contraction is hitting failure. It means you are making progress as the muscles are hitting overload and it’s a great way for us to aim towards a peak in class,” Eleftheriou says, adding that it’ll improve your mental stamina, too.
“The aim is to get the muscles to their tightest contraction so the muscle fibres max out and start to break down, which signals the new repair process. This will cause the fibres to grow, gain strength and lean out, the more the body goes under this style of movement.
“Although most barre classes don’t use any impact at all, [at Psycle] barre classes feel highly intensive at times due to the muscles being pushed to fatigue which pushes the body into a stronger metabolic rate,” she adds.
Benefits of barre
Like other low-impact workouts, such as Pilates, barre helps to improve your flexibility and posture, aid alignment and also help with injury prevention, though it typically uses more bodyweight to get into the burn, and the classes are usually more upbeat due to the use of music and choreography, she explains.
Barre targets the usual areas, such as your core, glutes and bum, using a high rep, low weight method “with no bulk only sculpt.” But the beauty is in how it allows you to strengthen under utilised muscles, including the gluteus medius and minimus, abductors and adductors and the transverse abdominals, she explains.
“We spend so much of our lives in one or two planes of movement – walking, sitting, running or cycling – but barre makes us move all three planes of motion which will shave into the side of the body too and make us more efficient and functional overall.”
The results? “A tighter, leaner body, lifted glutes, more definition in the shoulders, biceps and in the side, outer and front of the thighs, long lean hamstrings and calves, elegant back muscles and a whole set of abs you never knew existed” – and Eleftheriou estimates you’ll see results within just four weeks of regular classes.
Barre for Runners
If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have jumped on the running bandwagon in lockdown, barre is the perfect accompaniment to your training, according to Eleftheriou.
“Runners tend to do little strength training and often work only in one plane of the body. Barre will work the whole body, especially the sides of the body, increasing overall strength and power. We recommend it over traditional weight training because the one inch-increments are enough to fire up the muscle and make it more elastic, but not too big to tear the muscle too much, meaning you can train more frequently.
“In barre we spend a lot of time working through the arches of the feet and lifting and lowering the heels. Strong feet, toes and ankles will improve your running and prevent tightness in the calves and rolling over on the ankles. It also works all heads of the quads, hamstrings and the different muscles of the glutes, which stabilise hips and knees – essential for avoiding common running injuries.”
To any total beginners keen to get started, she warns: “Barre doesn’t ever get easier which is why we get addicted to it, but your stamina will build.
“Your body will feel sculpted, strong and tight and it gives you a wonderful sense of confidence and achievement, so enjoy every step.”
A first look inside one of London’s revamped post-covid boutique gyms