Welcome to the Barre.
After over a decade of training with HIIT, sports conditioning, weight training, dance fitness, and various types of cardio, I was ready for a new challenge. Specialising in one type of training or fitness style can create repetitive movement patterns and the dreaded plateau. Yes, you can excel at one particular skill, but cross-training is much more beneficial - keep the body constantly guessing and you'll never plateau. I was starting to look beyond traditional fitness, and was ready to explore "The Wild" of the alternative training jungle...
I felt ready to go back to a haunting place of my childhood: the dreaded Barre.
Back to the Future
When I was a child, I had a love-hate relationship with ballet. A natural aptitude had pushed me to attend one of Milan's most prestigious ballet schools at age 7, but my career in ballet was cut short after a year of tears. No matter how much I'd try, my knees didn't squeeze together and my gaping thigh gap was not a desirable feature to become a ballet starlet. Every class involved me being shouted at for my inept anatomy. That sadly put an end to my days of ballet (though there was also a brief stint in high school). Spending some time in Richmond Upon Thames in 2019, I had some time to explore a new style of training and The Barre Collective (a pioneering Barre studio in the UK) offered me the perfect opportunity to broaden my horizons. I was a keen yogi and Pilates enthusiast already, and a former cheerleader and fitness coach, for Pete's sake. How hard could it be? Turns out, THE HARDEST DAMN THING I have ever done in my life. Of course, I was hooked. There's nothing more challenging than being humbled and finding another mountain to climb.
Barre has become a trend in the last few years, but is it a FAD? Let's delve deeper into the method and its origins to find out.
The Science & The History
ORIGINS OF BARRE: Peter Martins created the NYC Ballet Workout, a collaboration between New York Ballet Company and New York Sports Club. The DVD workout package included 21 exercises in their Vol.1 and 2 series.
Today, Barre is far beyond a trend. This careful method with a foundation in ballet and Pilates helps develop proprioception, eccentric strength, and joint stability - in entirely different movement patterns than with yoga and traditional Pilates. Why is it so useful to CHANGE THE WAY YOU WORK OUT?
By the time I first approached the Barre, my body had become so adapted to a decade of similar training that it had reached a plateau. When your body becomes so efficient with what it knows (in sports science, this is known as the "SAID principle" - Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand), the only way to challenge the body is by adding a new stimulus and type of load or movement.
The Barre Collective, with origins in New York City Ballet Workout and Lotte Berk original Barre technique, is a thorough, traditional Barre training program. Once qualified, teachers can then adapt the classes to their preferred teaching style and format.
With yoga, Pilates, and dance in my repertoire, I thought I had this. Boy, was I wrong! The challenge was so much for me, it honestly was the hardest thing I had ever done - and this included team acrobatics, and throwing and holding people in the air.
Barre is not just challenging physically, but mentally, too. You'll have to consciously negotiate and challenge your body to move out of its comfort zone and abandon bad movement habits. So, aside from a full body-burning, mind-bending challenge - what can you expect as a result of Barre training? Training Barre for just three months (at least twice a week) will develop a whole array of benefits you won't see in traditional fitness or other mind/body classes.
What you'll get from Barre:
Increased proprioception/physical awareness
Improved joint stability
Energy expenditure with minimal sweat factor
Long muscle gains through eccentric loading and endurance
Development of ACTIVE flexibility
A lean body with a booty. Oh yes, the booty is part of the package!
Enhanced grit. Oh yes, you need serious GRIT to get through a full class!
VARIETY: Barre, though it stems from a blend of traditional techniques, can come in many flavours. Instructors will often put their own "spin" on classes, from more traditional, to more ballet-based, contemporary, traditional Pilates, or their very own approach as you might find in a Booty Barre or a Disco Barre class.
Evolution of Barre: Instructors add their own twist while staying true to the original techniques. This is what makes a Barre class truly special!
Burn, baby, BURN!
I have come to learn, however, that not all Barre training was created equal. After working with The Barre Collective intensively for over a year, I now understand the clear difference between instructor training courses that will teach you how to get "on-trend" with Barre and instructor training courses that teach you to approach Barre with a strong methodology in mind. The results between the two? Incomparable. BARRE is far beyond a method, it's a SCIENCE and a precise training recipe: messing with the foundations doesn't create the same results. Sure, you move and that's important. But the real results come from movement isolations and stabiliser muscle fatigue, creating the unmissable BURN & SHAKE effect. Remove this aspect, and the workout ceases to serve its intended purpose.
I came to learn about Barre. I left with a Barre addiction, enhanced teaching confidence, and the ability to pace my classes seamlessly, develop my presentation skills, and strengthen my capabilities to blend technique and creativity.
Now, BARRE has become an essential component of my personal teaching approach and features regularly on my teaching schedule. I also love to incorporate some techniques in our workshops and fusion classes to FEEL THE BURN with no equipment needed other than your body and the mat.
Thank you to The Barre Collective: to the Barre and beyond. Interested in taking a real instructor Barre course and revolutionising your approach to teaching classes? Read on and head to Richmond, UK, to get the real deal!
The Instructor Training
Interested in training as a Barre Instructor? Here is a review of my experience with The Barre Collective instructor training course.
I went in with no intention of actually teaching Barre - I was just super fascinated with the technique. I came across a training course that was only a week away, so in the name of research, I eagerly registered. After all, it would only take a weekend... OR SO I THOUGHT.
Barre then became my life for the next 4 months. I thought I was getting a two-day insight into an elegant technique that I learned while attending classes. Little did I know I was about to embark upon a 3-month teaching boot camp! Upon registering, my expectations were relatively basic: learn more about a technique I knew very little about, and expand my knowledge in another field of movement exercise. Pretty standard in the world of fitness training.
The workshop weekend was fascinating, full of exciting new techniques and exercises, and I loved every second. The real work, however, begins after the workshop. Rather than preparing for a standard teaching assessment, The Barre Collective really puts you through more of a mentoring phase to develop your teaching skills to the highest standard.
This intense learning commitment was not something I had expected - and perhaps future trainees should be fully aware that you need to plan this phase into your life because it will take some space. From start to finish, from Barre newbie to getting certified took nearly a full year - with ongoing dedication to improve my skill. Everyone will have a different approach, based on their teaching and training experience, but this is how it went for me:
4 months of personal practice training as a Barre student
1 month for workshop + learning the teaching principles/format/exercises
1 month of designing and practising my class format
1 month of weekly video submissions during my mentoring phase. A total of 3 videos were submitted before taking the final exam.
THE VERDICT: The instructor course definitely took me much deeper than I had ever expected to go, and certainly took more time and energy than I thought it would... but coming out of it, I can honestly say it was one of the best and most useful learning experiences to date - an experience that has taken me TO THE BARRE AND BEYOND!