And now for another installment of “this is what I think about this type of exercise class!” Today’s review looks at the world of barre classes, which can probably be loosely defined as exercise classes based on the work and methodology of Lotte Berk. Berk’s style of fitness glory was heavily influenced by her background as a dancer (hence the use of a ballet barre); it’s been described as a combination of pilates, hatha yoga, and resistance training.
Berk seems like she was my type of cray-cray; she used exotic names for her exercises like “the prostitute,” “the peeing dog,” and the “French lavatory.” So while we can clearly give her at least a qualified pass on the Ridiculous Human Meter, do the classes based on her methodology measure up the Serious Fitness Meter? I’m so fucking stoked you asked!!
Let’s review the IMHO qualifications, shall we?
– I only took a few classes, so I can’t claim to be an expert. For today’s article, I took classes at Physique 57, FlyBarre, and CoreFusion at EXHALE Mind Body Spa.
– I’m TOTALLY open to have a dialogue with folks who have dissenting opinions. “Trust those who seek truth, be wary of those who’ve found it.” If you think I’m full of shit or way off base, I would love to hear your thought process. Please note I would be curious to hear your “thought process.” This means “well, I know my body, and it works for me” is not gonna be a useful conversation. What I would love to know is if there are physiological principles in play here that I’m missing.
– Lastly, please know I don’t think you’re a bad person if you take or teach the classes I review. This is just my perspective on the safety and efficacy of various fitness modalities, based on my years of intensive study of all things movement-related, and my experience getting people healthy and hot. I can fully disagree without disliking you! (Hat tip to Coach Mike Boyle for that little nugget.)
Mark Fisher Fitness’s thoughts on Barre Classes!
Things I Liked:
– The studios were beautiful and well maintained. The design was excellent and I dig the clean, Zen design of most of the spaces where I took class.
– The instructors had a warm and inviting energy to them. Although they pushed the class to work, there were no bootcamp-screaming-in-my-face shenanigans. (To be fair, I wouldn’t have expected there to be any in this style of class, but even so, I still appreciated it.)
– Although there are things I don’t love about bazillions of reps of exercises, I DO think there could be some application here for getting the ass to work properly. Most of the society suffers from what is often called “gluteal amnesia”; your ass doesn’t remember how to work. This style of training could get the glutes to work a little better in some cases for some people some of the time (QUALIFICATIONS DOT COM).
Things I Didn’t Love Quite As Much
– How do I say this nicely?… I don’t think there’s much validity to this style of training whatsoever if one is looking to be healthy and hot. It’s a borderline waste of time.
Thanks for reading, have an awesome day!!
Ok, ok, I’m kidding. Strong statement, so let me do some unpacking of my thoughts, then feel free to email me to tell me what an asshole I am.
My main issue with this style of training is that it represents the biggest mistake made by humans seeking health and hotness: equating the acute sensation of the workout and its relative level of difficulty with the desired result. “Feeling the burn” in your ass does not mean you’re getting the desired effect. If your goal is for your ass to cramp, rad! Go nuts. High five, you are NAILING your goal of ass cramping. Strong work. If your goal is a hotter ass, you need to either burn fat or build muscle, usually both. Trust me guys, I know asses. I’m totally thinking about your ass right now (please note this isn’t weird because I’m a professional).
To burn fat, you need to eat less food than you need to maintain your current bodyweight and, ideally, create a calorie-burning effect with your workout. To build muscle, you must choose exercises with the appropriate loads and rep schemes to stimulate growth and provide the proper nutrition to allow for the creation of new muscle tissue. This style of exercise provides neither stimulus. It’s CERTAINLY not the best way to burn maximal calories. Doing bazillions of reps with your heart rate slightly elevated is probably the other end of the spectrum to doing Olympic lifts to failure, vomit, and the Red Pee (I just made up that term, it means urinating blood). While the latter will possibly fuck you up for life, it WILL burn a lot of calories. Sadly, the former, though arguably safer, won’t provide much of a stimulus for fat loss.
Not really doing what you think it is. Hard and tiring is not the same as effective.
Again, dear reader, this is NOT your fault. Once again, the body’s counterintuitive-ness rears its ugly head. Not only do you FEEL THE BURN, but you’ll often be sore the next day. You know what else often accompanies soreness? Inflammation. This will leave your ass slightly swollen and possibly even feeling firmer to the touch. But it’s not a good long-term solution for health and hotness.
Now barre classes ARE pretty inspired from a marketing perspective. Some of the single classes are over $40 an hour (HOLY SHITE), and they really target the experience (website, color choices, facility design, etc.) at a certain type of affluent NYC female with a background in dance or pilates.
Their ad copy also tends to employ the time-honored fitness industry tradition of outlandish claims that defy all known human physiology. It’s not really accurate to say you’re not doing “waist-chiseling ab sequences” because ab exercises don’t “chisel” your abs. Getting leaner does that. You’re not creating a “longer, leaner physique.” Your physique is NOT getting longer, I assure you, nor are you getting leaner with this style of training. More mobile? Maybe. But not “longer” or “leaner.”
I will say the overall vibe of the studios and the aesthetic elements of the “methodology” itself probably make it less intimidating for their target demographic to dip their feet into the waters of fitness. And believe me, I DO understand the value of making fitness less daunting. I’m also certain they’re probably wonderful places to work filled with people legitimately trying to improve the lives of others. And I love that!
I’m not saying barre classes are “wrong,” and if it’s the only thing you’re willing to do because you just LOOOOOVE barre classes, I’d prefer you go that route than just do nothing. And if you go from doing nothing to taking these classes 5 or 6 days a week, you will definitely see some changes in your physique. And if you start eating better at the same time, you will DEFINITELY see some progress for a while.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know that I think all humans need to incorporate movement into their life, and that we never want to make “perfect” the enemy of “good.” So in that broad sense, I think barre classes are, of course, better than watching TV (unless you’re watching Game of Thrones, which burns 1000 calories per episode). And there’s something to be said for spending at least some of your fitness time doing stuff purely because you enjoy it. But in my humble opinion, barre classes are not going to be very effective for dramatic hotness results. If your goal is feeling good about wearing a thong in public, I just think there are better, faster, cheaper, and more enjoyable ways of making your fitness dreams come true.