Fans of classic ballet will be familiar with aspiring students warming up at the ballet “barre”. It’s a simple railing poised in front of floor-length mirrors that dancers use to warm up, practice movements, stretch, and perfect techniques. The barre workout, recently reimagined and rebranded as the Bar Method™, adapts these routines for use by everyday men and women who may not aspire to the lead role in Swan Lake, but who would like to experience some of the body-sculpting, fitness, control, and aerobic workout advantages enjoyed by elite dancers.
Despite the apparent airy delicacy of its seemingly feather-light dancers, ballet is a highly demanding art form that requires superb fitness, excellent muscle control, alignment, balance, and flexibility of its practitioners. According to the founder of the Bar Method™, Burr Leonard, she created an exercise approach that is intended to deliver “lean, toned and healthy bodies for life…” Leonard consulted with physical therapists and other experts to devise a series of workouts that are safe and effective for virtually anyone.
Firm Thighs and a Lifted Seat
The system combines several principles, including dance conditioning, isometrics, interval training and body sculpting. The latter receives a greater emphasis, say proponents, than traditional barre workouts were ever intended to achieve. According to a press release, “The unique, non-impact exercises target all major muscle groups, improves posture and increases physical grace. The result is a recognizable “Bar Method body” that features sculpted arms, flat abs, a lifted seat and firm thighs.”
Well, who doesn’t want a “lifted seat”? But what about heart health? Does this trendy new ballet-inspired workout, suitable for home or studio, really deliver any cardiovascular benefits? According to a meta-analysis published recently in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, dance is just as effective as other methods of aerobic exercise at improving aerobic capacity among the elderly. Furthermore, wrote researchers, “Dancing might be a potential exercise intervention for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and consequent cardiovascular risk associated with ageing.”
Aerobic Exercise is Invariably Heart Healthy
While the study did not examine the Bar Method™ specifically, this analysis of numerous relevant studies suggests that dancing in any form is beneficial. The Bar Method is not a dance class, per se, but it draws its inspiration from traditional stretches and exercises originally developed to strengthen dances’ muscles and promote flexibility. And while most of today’s Bar Method adherents are probably not elderly, it’s clear that aerobic exercise at any age is linked to better cardiovascular fitness, and a reduced risk of developing heart disease.