Welcome back to Is [insert workout here] a Good Workout!
Last time (okay like, two months ago…) I delved into a question I get asked ALL the time: Is yoga a good workout?
Today I’ll be tackling barre and breaking down whether or not I think barre a good workout. Get ready ‘cuz it’s about to get controversial up in here!
Let me start off by saying I’ve been real into barre lately.
Ever since Bar Method – Soho joined Fitreserve, barre has been my jam. It’s low-impact. I don’t sweat a ton during class and therefore don’t have to shower immediately after (I know, I know, I’m a gross human being) Plus it makes my triceps super sore without fail. But, is it a good work out?
I’m defining good workout as one that supports overall healthiness. This can include physical activity that:
- strengthens your core and therefore makes you less likely to suffer from back pain (also great for avoiding injury as a runner)
- teaches your body to move more efficiently so you don’t get hurt in every day life
- keeps your heart healthy
- gives you a sweet endorphin rush which helps with depression and anxiety
- supports weigh loss.
First, what is barre?
Barre workouts were created by ballerina Lotte Berk as a way to combine dance conditioning with rehabilitation movements after she got injured.
Most barre classes focus on high repetitions (doing one move A LOT of times) with light weights and isometric movements. Isometric means the muscle stays the same length. Barre classes include a ton of pulsing and moving in a teeny tiny range of motion.
It sounds easy in theory, but these teen tiny moments get painful real fast.
Also don’t worry most barre classes aren’t super dance-y. Besides using some vocabulary from ballet such as plie and releve, it’s not a dance workout.
So, is barre a good workout?
Yes, Barre Is a Good Workout
It fatigues the muscles. Don’t be surprised if you start shaking during the thigh section. Actually scratch that, you probably WILL experience shaking during the thigh section.
Shaking is a sign of muscle fatigue. Hitting the point of fatigue is good because it means the muscle will grow back stronger. My favorite studio, Uplift, uses the same theory in their strength class. You work each muscle group until it’s totally fatigued.
Awesome for cross-training. I got super into barre while I was training for my first half marathon. As someone new to running, all that pavement pounding was wreaking havoc on my feeties and knees. Whether or not you’re a runner, barre is a great low-impact option.
Barre is a great partner to running, in particular distance running. Most running injuries are due to muscle imbalances because running only works your legs in one range of motion OR injuries come from a weak core. Barre strengthens your upper and lower body while also working the core in all sorts of fun ways.
No muscle left behind. Most barre classes devote a song to a major muscle group and/or are structured so you hit a section of the body and then you’re done with it. I know that during Bar Method once we’re done with arms at the beginning of class, we’re totally done with arms.
This also means your entire body will feel the burn. Your booty will get a devoted song. The thighs will get a devoted song. And the core will probably get a few devoted songs.
My only gripe is that upper body muscles are usually clumped together instead of spending more focused time on biceps, triceps, chest, back and shoulders.
Eh, barre is not a good workout
High injury risk. Yes, barre is a good alternative for people that have certain injuries thanks to it’s low-impact nature. Surprisingly, though, I find the risk of injury during barre classes to be high.
Unfortunately I don’t have some scientific study to back this up, but I’ve heard about a shocking number of injuries, particularly in the hips, from barre classes. Those teeny tiny movements are SUPER dangerous if your form is not 100% perfect.
It’s also easy to compensate and feel exercises in your lower back, something I personally struggle with during class.
Yes, every work out has a risk for injury. But it seems that the repetitive nature of barre leads to a surprising number of injuries.
The strength isn’t functional strength. Functional strength is the strength needed to do your daily activities. Think carrying groceries home from Whole Foods (New Yorkers you FEEL me on this one?), bending over to pick up something heavy, being strong enough to carry your huge ass purse during an all day shopping spree around the city… you get the picture 🙂
Barre isn’t so great for that because it uses such low weights. What it works is muscle endurance, not exactly the most applicable strength in daily life. Like I don’t know about you but I rarely need to hold my leg straight out from my hip in daily life…
Doesn’t get your heart rate up. Unless the barre class you’re taking incorporates some killer cardio moves (which some do, don’t get me wrong!) chances are the barre is barely raising your heart rate.
I’m not a huge fan of plain old cardio, to be honest, but firmly believe it’s important to do work outs that get your heart rate up in some format. I don’t do cardio-only focused works out these days, i.e. spin, cardio dance, running. Instead I take classes that get my heart rate up while strength training either through cardio bursts or strength moves that still manage to get my heart rate up.
Not the best bet for weight loss. Guys, weight loss is NOT everything when it comes to working out. Let me repeat that, weight loss is NOT everything. This is coming from a fitness blogger who has honestly never worked out to lose weight.
With that being said, many people do work out to lose weight. It might be their #1 priority or it might be part of a few goals they have in regards to fitness.
If that’s your goal, barre is not your best bet. Weight loss is about creating a calorie deficit, you burn more calories than you consume. Because of the nature of barre classes, you’re not burning a ton of calories.
I probably sound like a broken record because I say this fairly often, but strength training is the best way to lose weight. It adds muscle which in turn burns calories more efficiently. Strength training will continue to burn calories for hours after you’re done working out. This doesn’t happen by pulsing some 2 pound weights in the air for 2 minutes.
Okay, okay. Done ranting. Because I actually don’t hate barre.
As with any work out, if you love it, DO IT! If you feel like a total badass after a barre class ready to conquer the world, don’t let anything I say stop you from getting your pulse on.
However, if your goal is weight loss and only weight loss, solely focusing on barre isn’t your best bet. You can integrate it into your fitness routine along with more heavy duty strength focused days.
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