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Chasing a dancer's body: Does the Bar Method workout really work?

Bar Method
Bar Method is quite the workout. Courtesy of Bar Method
Bar Method, exericise, January 2013
Photo by Joel Luks
Bar Method, exericise, January 2013
Photo by Joel Luks
Bar Method, exericise, January 2013
Photo by Joel Luks
Bar Method, exericise, January 2013
Photo by Joel Luks
Bar Method
Bar Method, exericise, January 2013
Bar Method, exericise, January 2013
Bar Method, exericise, January 2013
Bar Method, exericise, January 2013
Marcy de Luna, head shot, column mug, November 2012

Statistics show that 45 percent of Americans usually make a New Year’s resolution and the most popular one is to lose weight. But only eight percent of these good intentions end with success.

To give you a leg up on your weight loss and fitness goals, CultureMap is taking the mystery out of some of 2014's hottest workouts. We examine Bar Method in the second report of the series.

What is the Bar Method?

The Bar Method is so named for the ballet barres utilized during class. Although the Bar Method borrows from Pilates and yoga with its subtle, targeted exercises and extended stretching poses, it’s unique in that the core of the Method combines derivations of ballet dance conditioning (thus, the barres) with rehabilitative therapy techniques.

Class begins with exercises that target the front and the back sides of your body, toning one side while elongating the other. Once you're all warmed up, the focus shifts to light, fat burning aerobic exercises.

 You'll feel the burn thanks so small, intense movements — yes, your muscles will shake.

A light aerobic workout, the Bar Method appeals to young and old alike, as well as varying body types and fitness levels. And with rehabilitative therapy as part of its foundation, the Bar Method has devised ways to offer moms-to-be and people with bad backs or other injuries the ability to lower the impact of the exercises via stretching straps, back support cushions, lower barres and more.

The overall goal of the Method is to produce a “dancer’s physique” — long, lean legs and arms, firm abs and rear and a trimmed waistline.

Motivational origin story to inspire (or guilt) you on

Lotte Berk, a German dancer, fled the Nazis in the late 1930s and settled in London. After injuring her back, Berk had the idea to combine her ballet bar routines with her rehabilitative therapy sessions as a form of exercise. The Bar Method’s routine and exercises have been tweaked over time, but they are based on Berk’s original concept.

The Bar Method focuses more on easing students’ shoulders, backs, hips and knees while improving alignment and posture.

Where to find it

The Bar Method has built a following with 75 locations in 18 states and Canada. Houston has a location in Montrose.

Hands (and feet)-on experience

I attended my first Bar Method class on a Friday morning. Impressively full, but not disco-floor-rubbing-elbows crowded, participants were female mostly under the age of 45. Classes, however, are not limited to women alone, and the studio has a small following of men.

The class was a mix of levels from beginner to advanced. There were plenty of others learning the ropes, and rather than intimidate, the more experienced students didn't hesitate to kindly give advice. The instructor offered individualized, hands-on guidance and adjustments. She also made a point to learn and call me by my first name, part of the Method's instructor training guide.

Be ready to work muscles intensely with equally-as-deep stretches after your sets. While you'll feel the burn thanks so small, intense movements — yes, your muscles will shake — there's little soreness and a quick recovery time. Do not go expecting a rapid heart rate or heavy sweat, something a lot of us associate with getting a good workout.

This workout requires a time commitment. (But then again, don't they all?) It's recommended that you attend an hour-long class three to five times per week for best results. Twice per week if your workout is complementary to another form of regular exercise.

Results are said to noticeable after a couple of months of regular attendance.


Cost: $10 for an intro class; $23 for a single class; $110 for a five class series; $380 for a 20 class series; $100 for a 30 day unlimited new client special.
Calories burned: 300 to 500 per hour-long class.
What to wear: I saw yoga pants with sleeveless exercise tops or T-shirts. Socks are required as several exercises require you to slide your feet over carpeted floors.

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