Secrets from the Training Room: Bar Method benefits more than dancers
October, 24, 2011
By Brooke Ward | ESPN.com
Courtesy of Aaron StiggerBar Method classes are designed to elongate the form, strengthen the core and leverage the body's own weight to build stability.When every other magazine ad touts a quick fix in fitness training, it’s tough to tell which ones are worth your time and which are a complete waste. So we’re sneaking behind the scenes with the experts — the instructors, coaches and professors who make it their job to know what works vs. what you should ignore.
This week? We’re heading into the studio to take a look at the Bar Method.
What It Is: In the 1950s, when German modern dancer Lotte Berk injured her back, she combined a series of ballet-bar moves with rehabilitative techniques in order to keep fit. Twenty years later, after falling in love with Berk’s classes, Burr Leonard started her own version of the practice, reworking it to lessen the impact the exercises had on the knee, back and shoulders, and officially called it the Bar Method.
How It Works: Similar to the Dailey Method, Core Fusion and Pure Barre, the practice combines using light weights for bursts of high-intensity aerobic moves (designed to wear out the muscles) with deep yoga-like stretches and, of course, a heavy reliance on the ballet bar. Classes typically last about an hour and are designed to elongate the form, strengthen the core and leverage the body’s own weight to build stability.
When To Do It: Any time of day is fine, but in order to experience the best results, instructors recommend practicing at least three times a week.
Who Does It: Original followers of the Berk technique included 80s icons Joan Collins and Brooke Shields, but more recent devotees include actresses Drew Barrymore and Ginnifer Goodwin.
Does It Work? The sheer number of studios and spinoffs that have opened across the United States would indicate people love the results. But like any training routine, it depends on the individual and the end goals you have in mind.
And while a method popular with celebrities may seem targeted to adult women, Michelle Pretekin, instructor and owner of Fit Girl Studio in Evanston, Ill., says it appeals to other demographics, too.
“High school girls love (it),” she says. “It mixes up the regular routine offered in their sport of choice and keeps things fresh and interesting.”
So which athletes would benefit the most from this method?
Dancers may be the most obvious, but Tamara Cain, the JV drill coach at Hononegah (Rockton, Ill.), says a variety of teen female athletes could benefit.
“Any activity that combines conditioning with fun is key to keeping the girls engaged outside of practice,” Cain says.
As an added bonus, with such a unique combo of lengthening and resistance moves, the classes allow for mental agility as well.
“Body form is absolutely crucial during class,” Pretekin says. “It invigorates a higher sense of awareness during workouts.”
And that mental edge may just be what you need to beat the competition.