Thursday, March 28, 2013

Belly up to the "Barre"?

Have you heard of barre workouts?  For most of us this evokes long-legged dancers stretching at a ballet barre in a studio with a lot of mirrors.  But what are these DVDs all about, and can the average exerciser do them safely?  

In most of these DVDs, the instructors advise you to use a sturdy chair instead of a ballet barre.  There’s no need to invest money in a barre just to try out the method.  The main sections of the workouts use the barre/chair for support as you perform lower body exercises.  The focus is to do these exercises so you can get “legs like a dancer.”  But, you do not dance in these workouts.  You also don't need a lot of flexibility (although it is nice to have) to perform the exercises. 

In addition to the main lower-body work, these DVDs usually include a full-body warm up, and end with abdominal work and stretching.  It is not strictly aerobic, but your heart rate does increase, especially during the lower-body work.  In addition to the chair, you will want to have light hand weights, a mat and a small playground ball for these workouts.

“Burn at the Barre” was designed by a chiropractor and a dancer.  This is a good workout for your first time, as it has beginner, intermediate and advanced demonstrators.  In addition to the description above, it includes a decent upper body section using hand weights.  Because Chiropractor Andromeda Trumbull is co-creator of the DVD, you can be assured that they teach proper alignment to keep your spine safe throughout.
“Pure Barre” comes from former dancer and Lotte Berk Method instructor, Carrie Rezabek.  We have three of these DVDs, and each follows the same basic format.  The warm up includes push-ups, planks and triceps push-ups.  She then goes to two sets of thigh work, followed by two sets of alternating hamstring work.  Her workouts are no-nonsense, and she is very good at keeping the workout flowing with very detailed cuing.

Another developer of barre-style workouts is the husband-wife team of Elizabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito.  They also come from the dance and Lotte Berk world.  The workouts are named after their Exhale Spa in New York.  We have several of their DVDs, and they have the most variety of exercise, from cardio to Pilates to body sculpting.  These are a good option if you don’t have a lot of time, as each DVD is broken up into several 10 minute sections.

These DVDs make exercise that was only available to dancers a good option for the home exerciser.   You don’t need dance experience to give them a try.  But, you might find that there’s a dancer in you after all.

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