| Belinda Gower Studio @Home

Hands down (and booties up), barre is the best workout there is. It literally uses every single muscle you have — and the ones you never knew you had, too! All the way from your pinky toe to the crown of your head, a 55-minute class doesn’t miss a muscle.  Barre lengthens your body, wakes up your core, corrects your posture, and virtually lifts your butt. When the movements flow to some really good tunes, it even masks the burn.

Many of the barre movements stem from ballet, but they are way less intimidating and a whole lot safer. For example, ballerinas are trained to tuck the pelvis so that the low back that normally curves inward looks straight. Ouch! In Barre, we allow a “neutral spine” but never a forced posture. Studies show that when you work in neutral spine alignment, you use your abdominals to their full potential. Correct activation of your deep core alleviates back pain and prevents injury.

lengthen and strengthen

If you come to my classes, you might be sick of hearing me say that Barre lengthens your body. But it’s no joke — it really does. Pilates forces you to fire up your deep intrinsic muscles like the multifidus — one of the smallest yet most powerful muscles we have that supports our spine. When you activate this muscle, you lengthen and strengthen your back so you stand taller. You are also recruiting your deepest core muscles (transverse abdominis) along with your pelvic floor muscles to help stabilize your entire body — making it a true total-body workout. Barre equally challenges your mobility and stability. For example, while you are circling one extended leg at the barre, your standing leg is calling on your obliques to jump in to stabilize your pelvis and back. There’s so much going on in your body!

it’s the little things

Barre focuses on our little muscles rather than our “bulkier” ones. We use lighter weights to tone the triceps (rather than bigger biceps), we focus on your shoulder girdle to create the sculpted look of a dancer’s back, and try to use the backs of our legs (hamstrings) rather than the bigger front of our legs (quadriceps). Not only does this make our bodies look leaner and more balanced, but it prevents stiffness and painful injuries like plantar fasciitis.

the barre shake

Have your legs ever trembled uncontrollably in a barre class? I hope so. Barre classes focus on tiny repetitive movements to isolate particular muscle groups — typically the butt and legs. Pulsing your legs up and down, inch by inch, for up to 30 reps at a time, causes your muscles to run out of its fuel reserves and go into panic mode. Your muscles start contracting and relaxing at a high rate of speed — hence the shake! But don’t worry — it’s safe and effective. You are challenging your body to reach a whole new level of fitness. Embrace the shake!

the booty lift

Barre isolates my favorite little muscle in the world — the gluteus sulcus, a.k.a. the glute fold. This little area that attaches the hamstring to the gluteus maximus is the pièce de résistance of barre. Once you tap into this connecting muscle, voila!, you get the sculpted butt that barre is all about. You literally and figuratively lift your butt.

If you couldn’t already tell, I’m barre obsessed! I never-ever get sick of it. On my days off, I travel far and wide to try out new classes and learn new cues, moves, and ways to shake. I’ve taken classes in Miami, Chicago, Carmel, Portland, Reykjavik, Paris, Barcelona, and Cape Cod. When I’m at the barre, I drink it all in. And I feel great the next day!