Cross training is a valuable fitness approach that is loosely defined as any incorporation of exercises varying from your traditional training or sports program. Most of the time, you’ll think about cross training if you want to reduce the risk of injury, increase weight loss, improve overall fitness, or just break free from the mental boredom of other activities in your routine. One example of cross training is barre. It’s not a foreign concept to most people who love health and fitness. But have you considered how barre can help you achieve these same benefits when strategically used as a form of cross training?
What is a Barre Workout?
Barre is a total-body, low-impact workout that focuses on improvements in core strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility. It’s all-encompassing and promotes a balanced body with its roots in ballet. It’s not a dance class.Instead, it incorporates principles from ballet conditioning, Pilates, and yoga to take the entire body through a full range of motions. Further, it promotes the benefits of isometric strength and flexibility.
During your barre workout, you also get the benefits of a cardio workout, as your elevated heart rate responds to functional movements with your body weight and sometimes incorporates hand weights. Other benefits associated with using a barre workout as a form of cross-training include:
- Increased strength and endurance
- Improved posture
- Favorable gains in lean body mass and decreased body fat
- Injury prevention through balance training and core strength
- Improved flexibility and lengthening
- Decreased back and other joint pain
- Better stress management
Who Can Use Barre for Cross-Training?
For the general fitness population, most people use barre to add cross training into their regular workout programs. However, a few key groups such as running and endurance athletes will maximize the benefits associated with going to a group fitness class specializing in barre.
Runners specifically put themselves at risk for overuse injuries by the nature of their sport. It’s high impact and repetitive — and people who love to run don’t want to give it up. So, when pain or injury come up, it can be devastating. It’s common for runners to use HIIT (high-intensity interval training) as part of their cross-training. Read more about those interval benefits here. While this type of cross-training is great for runners, it doesn’t help with the injury prevention side of things.
Many times, running injuries are related to tight (or overactive) hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves. Core-strengthening exercises and hip-lengthening activities can improve these symptoms. Other risks runners expose themselves to include:
- Piriformis syndrome
- Plantar fasciitis
- IT band syndrome
- Low back pain
When trying to lose weight, it’s important to stay injury free, but also to keep a negative energy balance. This means if you’re trying to decrease body fat, you’re going to want to burn more calories than you’re eating. In barre, you’re introducing a unique form of resistance training into your exercise program. This means you’ll be burning calories during your workout, but also for the next 24 to 48 hours as your muscles work to recover and restore themselves. This is critical for weight loss and allows participants to get the weight-loss benefits from the strength achieved in barre without the obvious increase in muscle size (hypertrophy). If you’re working on shedding pounds and don’t know if you’re into resistance training.
Strength Training or Advanced Athletes
When trying to put on lean body mass, you must overload the muscles to the point of fatigue. When training for goals like this, certain muscle groups start becoming overactive, thereby reducing your range of motion. As a weightlifter, if you start cutting your range of motion short, then you’re not getting what you could be getting out of each repetition. Further, training large muscle groups tends to reduce your focus on training smaller, stabilizing muscle groups. When this happens, you become more prone to injury and reduced performance.
By using barre as part of a cross-training program, strength training athletes will experience:
- Excellent range of motion while pursuing size
- Core stabilization to prevent lower back pain or the need for a weightlifting belt
- Improved symmetry and body balance
- Increased strength gains from the added support of the stabilization muscles
- Reduced risk of injury associated with heavy loads and overtraining
Yoga Participants and Instructors
Yoga is an excellent choice for improving flexibility, isometric strength, core stabilization, and overall balance. However, just like with any other form of exercise, if you do it over and over you cap out on your gains. This is just as true with yoga participants. If you love your yoga sessions, especially the mind-body connection and benefits your body realizes, barre is a smart choice for you. In barre, you’ll find you’re able to continue increasing muscle tone by performing high repetitions of low-intensity strength training. Unlike isometric strength, in Barre, you’ll be taking your limbs through a full range of motion many, many times. This overloads the targeted muscles and leads to greater adaptations in strength, performance, and overall function. It will elevate your yoga results by challenging different movements and in different planes of motion, plus you get the mental connection seen in yoga.
Common Exercises in Barre
New to barre and don’t know what to expect? Not to worry! The movements, while foreign at first, are easy to catch onto and are the common theme among various classes. Although each class might be slightly different, there’s a common focus this type of training entails. These exercises include:
- Pliés: similar to squatting motions, except both feet and knees are turned out
- Relevés: rising up and down on the toes
- Passés: a balance exercise where a leg is extended out to the side and raised toward the opposite knee
- Arabesque: raising a bent leg behind you
- Barre squats: pulse-style squats while holding onto the barre
Are you ready to get benefits from a type of workout you never thought of using before? It’s time to raise the “barre” and get into the next class. The great news is here at the Village barre is not an additional cost and you don’t have to sign up in advance. Just check out the schedule and pick a time that works for you. Don’t forget, there are different variations of the barre format, so you can introduce cross-training into your program in a variety of ways.