Barre: A Great Way to Ease Yourself Into Exercise
By: Dena Gershkovich, Lubicom Marketing Staff
If it’s been awhile since you’ve hit the gym – or your home yoga mat – then a barre workout is a great place to start. Barre is a ballet-inspired workout that combines elements of yoga, strength training and pilates to result in an exercise session that is low impact yet still high intensity. It also happens to be my favorite workout (though, as a certified barre instructor, I am definitely biased!). Most barre classes won’t leave you huffing and puffing, but if you do the movements correctly and regularly, your muscles are likely to get stronger and appear more toned.
The barre-inspired exercises outlined below are great if you’re looking for a non-intimidating, beginner workout to help ease yourself into an exercise routine. The circuits outlined here can always be repeated for a more intense workout! Also note that with barre, slower is stronger, so try to avoid relying on momentum whenever possible. These exercises can also be modified to be lower intensity – you can leave off the weights or do fewer sets, for example. I hope that you feel inspired – and not limited – by this outlined workout routine. Be sure to take breaks as you feel necessary, hydrate properly and don’t forget to breathe!
You’ll notice throughout this circuit that everything is organized in sets of eight. Play your favorite music and count along to the beat to help yourself stay motivated!
Finding the proper exercise regimen for your body is very individual. Before starting a new exercise regimen, be sure to check with a professional to be sure that the change is right for you. This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not take the place of professional, individualized advice.
1. Let’s start with a warm up:
Lay on your back, and extend your legs toward the ceiling. Keep your legs straight, and bring your feet into a first position in the air (to do this, press your heels together, and angle your feet so that your big toes are four to five inches apart from each other). Separate your heels slightly, and then bring them back together, keeping your feet on an angle. Repeat this tapping motion eight times.
Next, still keeping your feet on an angle, cross your right ankle behind your left ankle. Repeat this eight times. Now, cross your left ankle behind your right ankle. Repeat this eight times. Be sure to hold your legs as straight as possible while doing this to maximize this movement. You should feel the stretch down your leg and up your inner thigh.
For the next movement, cross your ankles once, and then open your legs up into a straddle position. Cross them again, and open again. Repeat eight times, trying to open your legs wider each time.
To finish off this circuit, bring your feet back into a first position in the air, and then open wide into a straddle. Return your feet to a first position. Repeat eight times.
2. Now, let’s transition to a standing-up position.
Bring your feet into a first position, and stand up tall, with your shoulders pressed back. Then, keeping your feet on an angle and your heels pressed into the ground, step out into a plié. Bend your knees, and position your body so that your knees are tracking over your second and third toes when bent. Go as low as you can while still keeping your back straight and your shoulders pressed back. Slowly come up, and squeeze your glutes at the top. Repeat this eight times. Though it can be tempting to speed through this movement, by slowing it down, you will be recruiting more muscles and getting stronger in the process.
Next, at the bottom of your plié, do small up-down movements (these are often called pulses in barre). Do eight pulses total.
Now, go back to full-range pliés. Do eight here.
Finish off this series by holding for eight seconds at your lowest point. Press your knees back, tuck your seat under, and position your shoulders back, in line with your hips, while you hold this position.
3. Let’s move on to some lunges!
Let’s do some full-range lunges. Stand about arm’s distance from a dresser, desk, bed or another steady surface. You can hold on using a light grip to help stabilize yourself. For an extra challenge, try bringing one or both hands off of the surface. Bring your body down into a lunge position, making sure that both your forward and working legs are positioned in 90-degree angles to maximize this movement and avoid injury. Be sure that your forward-facing knee isn’t covering your toes – if it is, then widen your stance. Do eight lunges at full range here. Switch legs and repeat.
Lay out a yoga mat for this circuit.
1. Let’s start out with some planks.
Get into a plank position on your forearms. Try to keep your body in a straight line with your hips as low as possible. Engage your abs to help your body stay steady. Hold here for three sets of eight seconds each.
2. While still in a plank position, lower one knee down to your mat, bring it back to be in line with the rest of your body, and then lower the other knee. Keep on switching for two sets of eight. Try to hold the rest of your body steady while you switch your knees.
3. Flip over to your back.
Bring your knees to a table top position, and keep them bent at a 90-degree angle. Maintain this angle as you lower your heels to the floor. Go slowly here – the slower you go, the more intense this movement will be. Do two sets of eight here.
4. Let’s finish off this circuit with some crunches.
Place your fingers at the base of your head, and lift upward, aiming to get your shoulders as high as you can off the floor. Continue for two sets of eight.
5. Now it’s time for a quick stretch:
Flip over onto your stomach, place your palms in front of your shoulders, and push up off the floor into a cobra position. Look up, feeling the stretch in your abs and back. Hold here for eight seconds. You can also place your forearms on the ground and stretch in a sphinx position if that is more comfortable for you.
You can use two to five pound weights for this circuit. For a lighter workout, omit weights.
1. Let’s start by working your biceps:
Start with your elbows glued to your sides and your palms (holding the weights) facing the wall in front of you. Raise your arms to 90 degrees, then lower back down. Repeat this eight times.
Now, at the 90-degree point, lift your arms up one inch, and then lower your arms one inch, pausing before and after each movement. Repeat this for two sets of eight.
Return to full-range bicep curls for the last eight reps.
2. Let’s move on to our goal post series:
Still holding your weights, position your arms in a goal post position (bring your arms up to shoulder level at a 90 degree angle, with your palms facing the wall in front of you). Bring your arms straight up to the ceiling, then lower back down to goal post. Make sure not to let your arms drop beneath shoulder level. Repeat eight times.
For the next movement in this series, start with your arms in a goal post position. Lower your arms halfway down to your torso, and then lift them back up to goal post. Repeat eight times.
Now, start with your arms in a goal post position. Do eight tiny circles forward, controlling the movement through your shoulders. Now, do eight tiny circles backward. Repeat for an extra challenge.
3. Let’s end with some stretching!
Cross your right arm in front of your chest, and place your left wrist over your right wrist. With your left wrist, lightly pull your right arm away from your right shoulder. Hold for 8 seconds. Repeat on other side.
Let’s finish off our workout with some glute work!
Lay on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the ground in front of you –about shoulder-distance apart from each other. Keep your upper body on the floor, and lift your hips off the ground. Start with full range movements, lifting your glutes all the way up and then all the way back down to the mat for two sets of eight. Squeeze your glutes at the top of each rep. Then, at your highest point, do small up/down movements for two sets of eight. This movement should only be about one to two inches. Finally, finish up with some full range lifts for two sets of eight.
Keep this in mind:
Remember that sustainable changes start with small steps. It can be overwhelming to go from not exercising at all to doing full-body workouts. Start with small goals and work your way up to larger ones as you feel ready. You’ve got this!
Dena Gershkovich is an American Barre Technique certified barre instructor as well as a dietetic intern, recipe developer and writer based in New York City. Follow Dena’s blog, The Artsy Palate, and check out her Instagram (@theartsypalate) and/or Facebook page (The Artsy Palate) to see more of her work!