You guys. I love barre! I have finally finally found a type of exercise I actually enjoy.
For those of you that have tried barre, and think I’m a raving lunatic for speaking this way – you’re probably correct.
Barre is in no way for the faint of heart. This is one of the reasons I’m shocked that barre is what I’ve landed on for my exercise of choice. However! Barre is so great because it’s low impact, and raises your heart rate without making you feel like you’ve run a marathon – not sure how they do that…
If you’re looking for something that will help you tone and slim without bulking up, this should be one of the options you look into. Every exercise is geared toward strengthening and lengthening your muscles. But let me tell you – you will WORK for it. Basically, the theory is that you work the muscles to the point of overload, and then stretch for relief (to borrow language from Physique 57).
Now, at least for me, one of the tricky parts with any new exercise is finding a good routine/DVD/YouTube video. I’ve done quite a few over the years, and wanted to highlight some of the most popular options, including my own favorites. Keep in mind, I’m reviewing videos and DVD’s that focus on the whole body, rather than only arms or legs or abs, etc.
Let’s get started!
DVD’s to Buy
Physique 57 (~$25)
Gear: Yoga mat, 2 and 3lb weights, playground ball (see here), pillow or other bolster type item (for lower back support), sturdy chair
My favorite of the DVD’s I’ve tried is made by Physique 57. The instructor, Tonya, is super charismatic, full of energy, and throws out some really silly words of encouragement throughout. She’s definitely intense, and her personality isn’t for everyone. However, if you are able to look past some of the goofy, it’s totally worthwhile!
Of all the routines I’ve tried, her abs section is the most strenuous. A close second to abs would be the exercises to target the lower back area/side of the hip area. Goodness gracious. With just a few sessions of this DVD, I could already see a difference in that particular area.
Something I greatly appreciate about this DVD is the constant stretching throughout. This gives me the MUCH needed opportunity to rest between sets, and she also gives you a good amount of time to hold the stretches.
Finally, I also really enjoy that this DVD keeps up a pretty quick pace, with multiple types of moves for the same area. So, it’s tough to get bored or focus on the burn as much as you might be tempted to with less varied moves.
Barre Amped: Boot Camp (~$18)
Gear: Yoga mat, 2 or 3lb weights, sturdy chair
Now obviously, the term “Boot Camp” carries a certain connotation. Boy does this DVD do it justice! The instructor, Suzanne, puts the participants through the ringer. With the same intensity as Physique 57, Suzanne spends less time stretching throughout, and more time murdering your thighs. If Physique 57 is good for abs, Barre Amped: Boot Camp is phenomenal for the thighs and seat. Most of those moves are done from a lunge position, or some variant. I’ve never wanted to kick someone in the face more than Suzanne…but in a loving way. She is so soothing and calm throughout, and manages to keep a steady voice the entire time!
The other areas of the body targeted are definitely challenging, particularly the arms. Thighs and seat, though, are this DVD’s strongest areas. (Pun!)
Pure Barre (~$20-$60)
Gear: **Varies by DVD** Usually a Yoga mat, sturdy chair, hand weights of 2/3 lbs., 3lb weighted ball, exercise ring, resistance band
I know a few folks who very much enjoy the DVD’s Pure Barre produces. I’ve tried about 6, myself, and honestly don’t love them. They aren’t terrible, by any means, they just don’t WOW me – you know? I mean, if they were at least using solid gold ballet barres, fire dancers in the background, etc., that might be different…
Now, enough nitpicking. Let me tell you some of the good stuff!
Most of the Pure Barre DVD’s I’ve used, so far, include modified versions of the moves to accommodate beginners and advanced (crazy) participants. The thing with barre is it should absolutely never be easy. If it is, you’re either in the wrong position, or not challenging yourself enough.
Another aspect I enjoy about these DVD’s is the use of various equipment. Frequently seen are fitness rings, resistance bands, and a 3lb weighted ball. Now, there are pros and cons to using all of these things, but I choose to appreciate the variety they introduce.
For those of you not quite ready to splurge on a DVD or two, YouTube has some great videos by very generous folks. Some of the most challenging sets I’ve ever done have come from these ladies, so you aren’t necessarily at a disadvantage simply because they’re free.
Lauren Rosella Fitness
Gear: Yoga mat, 2 or 3lb weights, bolster for lower back support, sturdy chair
Remember that time I said some of the most challenging sets I’ve ever done have been on YouTube? This is the lady I’m referencing, specifically.
The video I always use is a 57 minute routine and very strenuous. Of all the barre exercises I’ve tried (DVD’s+YouTube), this one makes me sweat the most, and practically debilitates me for the next two days. My word of advice is to ease your way into this one!
As barre is rooted in ballet, I expected more of the workouts I’ve tried to utilize ballet lingo, positions, etc. However, this video is the most overtly ballet-esque of everything I’ve used so far. Most of the arm workout is done by holding your arm in first, second, and fifth position practically all throughout the video. Most of the leg work is done in first and second position, with heavy use of plié and relevé.
Interested participants will appreciate this exercise video when they want to challenge yourself that week. I typically pull this one up twice a month, just to really rev up my workout.
Biggest strength in this one: Calves!
Barre3: Body Burner
Gear: Yoga mat, 2 or 3lb weights, exercise ball, sturdy chair
First of all, I’ve only done this routine once, so maybe it would grow on me if I tried it again. It wasn’t a bad routine, it just isn’t my favorite. The pacing is much slower in this video than most of what I’m used to. That being said, here are some elements that do make this a good option:
-The slower pace is actually better for those who are just beginning, and/or have injured themselves in the past. Very low impact with a focus on safety!
-This one had some fresh moves that I’ve not seen yet, which is always a fun change. One that stands out to me is pelvic tucks with your feet up on the chair! Definitely a challenge.
-Each of the three ladies in the video takes a turn leading. This helped break up the feeling of slow and kept me engaged
-Super clear images. Some of the drawbacks from other videos are that the rooms are too dark, or the trainer’s clothes are too dark. This keeps the viewer from being able to get the positioning just right, which is crucial to safely working out.
As I said, this one wasn’t my favorite, but it is honestly more to do with style than quality of the exercise. She may be perfect for you! And, as I mentioned above, if you’re just starting out, this is a great place to begin!
Gear: Yoga Mat, sturdy chair, 2 or 3lb weights
Hokay. Here’s another one that I’ve tried, but didn’t totally love. I’m including it on here because she has SO many videos, and you might really like them!
- Way too fast. Barre3 was too slow, but this one is like putting a video on fast forward.
- Uses voice-over, rather than live coaching. This means that there are some instances where the counting is way off, and there’s very little talk of correct positioning
- Little to no breaks in between exercises. Even when there is a stretch, it’s held for all of 3 seconds before moving on
- Definitely gives you some cardio! I was sweating like a pig, and huffing like a…me doing cardio
- Intense! You literally do over 400 squats by the end of this thing. Not kidding. She has a section called “100’s” and you do it twice with your feet parallel, and basically twice in wide second.
Summer Girl Fitness: Total Body Barre Class
Gear: Yoga Mat, sturdy chair, 2 or 3 lb. weights
I tried this video (and there are plenty more on her YouTube channel!) a few months back. It’s not terrible, for being free. It’s a little imprecise when it comes to correct positioning. I would only recommend following along if you’ve done some more reputable routines, and know how to keep the right form. Otherwise, as I’ve said before, you can risk injuring yourself. Also, if you don’t use the correct form, the results won’t be the same!
Be aware that you work one side at a time in this routine. What I mean is that you do all of the different moves and sets on one side, and then switch to the other side. This is different from a lot of videos, which have you work both sides back to back. Psychologically, this way of exercising messes with me! I get through one side, and am super not looking forward to the other since I now know what’s coming.
The arms and legs sections of this video are pretty good – lots of variations on moves, and you really do start burning pretty quickly. That’s always a good sign! Barre is supposed to fatigue your muscles!
Overall, I’d give this a B. Good effort, just make sure you try it a little later in your barre journey.
Okay everyone. I think I’ll call it a day at this point. Hopefully this will be somewhat helpful, and pointe (pun!) you in the right direction!