Trying a Barre Challenge Taught Me a Lot About My Muscle Strength
I like to do a little bit of everything when it comes to my workouts with one major exception — barre.
Not going to lie — I took a ballet class once as a tween, and I was no Misty Copeland, so I've stayed far away from ballet barres ever since. Coupled with the fact that I prefer HIIT or a sweaty cycling class, I've never been bitten by the barre bug.
But then, an email advertising Xtend Barre's workout challenge popped into my inbox, and because my 2020 is all about letting go and trying new things, I decided to give the workout method a chance.
Full disclosure: the challenge was to complete 20 classes in the studio throughout 30 days. I got about a quarter of the way there before some life events took over my schedule but also completed a few online streaming classes on Openfit, too.
Still, I learned a lot about barre and my body in that short period of time — namely that I was majorly underestimating the difficulty of barre movements and my overall strength level. Ahead, everything I learned by giving barre a spot in my weekly workout routine.
My Ankles Are Weak
In every move that required me to lift my heels and balance on the balls of my feet — which was often, by the way — I noticed I had difficulty flexing my foot and holding the position, especially during tiny pulses. In other words, I felt like my ankles were pretty weak.
Andrea Rogers, a celebrity trainer and the creator of Xtend barre, told me that I may have found an instability, perhaps from a former injury or wearing heels.
The good news? "Barre is wonderful for strengthening the smaller muscles, which will in turn strengthen your feet and ankles to aid in stability and the flexibility of them."
Light Weights Can Bring the Burn
When I was instructed to grab 2-pound weights, I assumed I'd breeze through the arm series without a sweat. Jokes on me because those high reps of light weights — a critical part of barre classes — immediately brought the burn to my biceps and triceps.
"High reps, low weight is the name of the game for our upper body series," Rogers told me. "This gives you the length and tone of a dancer without the bulk!"
Now, when all the 10-pound weights are in use at my gym, I won't walk away from the leftover 3-pound ones.
I've Been Ignoring Muscles
I consider myself pretty strong, but certain moves in barre required the use of muscles in my body that I clearly often ignore. My shaky thighs were proof. Now I know that working those muscles can aid in toning my arms and legs.
Barre Is Amazing For Posture
I can't tell you how many times the Xtend Barre instructors told me to drop my shoulders, push them back, or stand up straight. The movements in barre demand proper posture. I have a habit of slouching over my computer while I type, so the reminders to stand up straight were always welcomed.
Consistency Is Key
As I expected, I'm not the most talented barre student, but all my instructors were incredibly encouraging and helpful. Like any workout, if I want to improve, I'll have to dedicate myself to practicing.
"Consistency of workouts leads to better results. That's the benefit of a challenge — it motivates you to stay consistent and to feel supported by others in the community all working toward the same goal," Rogers says.
"Barre is a total body workout that will lengthen, strengthen, and tone without the bulk. You may notice inches lost, but more importantly, you'll notice a stronger core, balance, and increase in flexibility."