Headline Health – When we heard that the latest fitness craze – something called Barre Vida® – can really tone your thighs and glutes, naturally we wanted to know more.
So first off, we learned that it’s not pronounced ‘bare‘ or even ‘barry’, but ‘bar’ – as in raise the bar!
Barre is the correct term for a horizontal bar at waist level on which ballet dancers rest a hand for support during certain exercises.
According to creator Joanna Stone:
BARRE VIDA is a total body workout open to women and men of all fitness levels.
It is a low cardio and intense toning class that works to elongate the muscles while burning fat. The class can be done with or without a barre. It utilizes small hand weights, and other props to improve posture, give muscle definition, increase flexibility, and encourage weight loss.
We turned to one of our fave (and fittest!) Headline Health readers Marla Altberg to help us get started with this promising fitness routine.
Marla is a highly regarded New York city business leader. We’ve known her professionally for thirty years and can attest to the effectiveness of her fitness-focused lifestyle.
If these instructions appear a bit long, start with one or two sections per day until you build up to the full routine. See the photos that accompany this article for results others are experiencing with Barre Vida!
Barre for Baby Boomers?*
By Marla Altberg, Certified Personal Trainer
Step up to the barre! No, that is not a typo.
Barre is an exercise phenomenon that is all the rage with millennials, but don’t let that stop you.
It is a safe and effective workout to strengthen and tone virtually every muscle in your body. Barre’s fun, energetic and addictive.
Recently I had the honor and privilege of becoming certified as a Barre Vida instructor by this method’s creator, Joanna Stone. Apprehensive that I would be the oldest one in the course (I was!), Joanna assured me that barre is suitable for all ages and fitness levels.
Barre’s foundation is to work an individual muscle group to exhaustion using small repetitive movements before moving on to the next. All exercises are done to music, so rev up that Spotify and let’s get started.
Assuming you have medical clearance for cardio and strength training exercises, let’s prepare by gathering some simple equipment:
- Exercise mat
- Playground ball or other inflatable ball
- Sturdy chair
- Light hand weights, e.g., a set of one-pound weights and/or two-pound weights
Plenty of water to drink—remember to stay hydrated
First, let’s warm up … You should warm up for about 5 minutes to get your heart rate up and running.
Start with your favorite energetic music and begin to march in place swinging your arms as high as you can.
Add on to this by doing the elbow to knee exercise–raise your hands high to the sky and bring your opposite elbow to the opposite knee as you raise it. Keep switching sides.
Move on to jumping jacks but it is certainly permissible, even advisable, do them without jumping by alternating the leg you step out instead of both at once.
When you get tired of that kick one leg straight in front reaching the opposite hand toward the shin or the toe. Wind down by marching in place again.
Moving on to the core of the work out (pun intended), keep the music flowing.
Or you could slow it down just a touch as we move on to the abdominal section.
Let’s start with some ball crunches. Lie down on your mat with knees bent; place the ball between inner thighs. Squeeze it like it’s a $1,000 gift card to your favorite department store.
Clasp your hands behind your head and do 10 to 15 crunches, squeezing the ball harder each time you lift your head, neck and shoulders off the mat.
Next drop both knees over to the left side and do 10 to 15 more. Switch sides. Now you can take a breather for a second.
OK, time’s up. Bring your knees into a tabletop position with the shins parallel to the floor, knees directly above the hips. Don’t lose the ball, but do 10 more.
Raise your legs straight up to the sky and move the ball so it’s about 3” or 4″ above your ankles. If you want an extra challenge pick up one light weight with both hands holding the round end of one weight, the other end pointing straight up to the ceiling.
Your mission is to try to touch the weight to your toes as you lift your upper body up in the crunch. It is virtually impossible, but you’ll certainly tone those abs trying.
Put all the equipment off to the side and hug your knees into your chest for a quick stretch. We’ll wrap up the abs section first with a Pilates move and then a leg-stretching butterfly crunch.
To do the Pilates single leg stretch, start by bringing your knees into a tabletop position. Put both hands on one knee; stretch the other leg long. Your elbows are wide.
Pull that knee in as much as you can toward your chest while you stretch the other leg as far away from you as you can. Now switch and switch and switch and switch. Try to do 8 sets of switches.
The end is near………. Lying on the mat open your knees wide to each side with the soles of your feet clamped together.
Place your hands behind your head with nice wide elbows supporting your head neck. Let’s try for 10 last crunches in this butterfly position.
Good job! Roll on to your side and get on all fours. Do a child’s pose stretch by reaching your arms forward on the mat and reclining your (shrinking) behind toward your heels, knees open wide.
LEGS & GLUTES
Time to get vertical!
Start by taking a wide step to the side so your feet are 2 to 3 feet apart, with both sets of toes turned out to the side. Engage your abs in and up; don’t forget that all important pelvic floor too. Start to bend your knees and straighten them in this plié position, up and down to the music.
Do this at least 10 times if you can before lifting one heel off the floor doing 10 more; repeat on the other side. Finish with both heels on the floor, 10 more reps.
Straighten it out; shake ‘em out. We’re moving on.
Stand upright, and lift one knee in front of you to waist height. Hold on to your sturdy chair. Here we go…Try to concentrate on engaging the inner thigh of the standing leg, keeping abs in and up, all of which will give you stability and added strength.
While the leg is in the air straighten and bend it 10 times. Keeping the knee bent now lower that leg so both knees meet, with your foot now behind you. Pulse that leg back 10 times. Next lift the bent leg out to the side of your body 10 times, just like your favorite pooch does.
On the last rep keep it high, straighten and bend again 10 times.
Finish that leg off by putting the foot back on the floor but turning the toes out to the side. Lift the leg out to the side as high as you comfortably can repeating 10 times.
Finally returning to this most recent starting position, strongly engage the inner thigh of this leg as you move it out in front of the other leg. Keep your foot flexed, with the lifted leg crossing over the grounded leg as much as you can. After 10 reps hold it in the crossover position to do 10 little pulses in an upward motion.
Aren’t we glad we have another side to do? Enjoy—it gets easier from this moment forward.
We’re starting to wind down now but don’t forget you are still working out. Let’s finish up the body parts with the arms. Soon we can relax and cool down.
Begin with holding a light weight in each hand. (Start with the lightest ones the first time you do this work out.) Elbows should be by your waist with each palm facing up.
Start doing bicep curls out to the side both arms at the same time. Do at least 10 to 15 then migrate your arms to the front of your body. Keep going 10 to 15 more reps.
Now turn the palms facing each other with the heads of the weights pointing up and down. Keep going for 10 to 15 more.
Moving on to triceps, glue you knees together, bend down slightly and lean a little forward. Put your weighted hands by your waist with elbows bent behind you.
Hope the tunes are still flowing so you can extend one arm back at a time in a kickback to the beat of the music. Do at least 15 with each arm.
If you can do more—good for you! Next bring arms down by your sides, weighted palms facing back. Keep arms as straight as an arrow and pulse them both straight up behind you at the same time until you feel the triceps engage.
This exercise is much harder; so shoot for 8 to 10, but do more if you can handle it.
We’ll end the arm section by working our way around the shoulders. Stand up straight and tall with abs pulled in an up. Put your weighted arms in front of you by your thighs with palms facing your body.
Pull them up at the same time as though you were shrugging your shoulders, elbows naturally bend out to each side. Do 10 to 15 reps.
Stop at the top of the move, now push them right out in front of you, straightforward out and in about 10 to 15 times. Rest if you need it. If not, move directly to a goal post shape with your arms; after all it is football season.
Now lift and lower your goal posts into a shoulder press exercise. You can take it easier on this one, shoot for 8 to 10 reps.
Ready for more? If this workout was too light for you, either do it again or next time double the repetitions. If it was too challenging, next time reduce the reps. In any case, give yourself a break now and cool down.
BACK & COOL DOWN STRETCH
Finally, time to take it a bit easier. Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
Curl your spine up to the ceiling like a cat making sure to hold that belly button in tight. Yes, you are allowed to breathe.
Then reverse by arching your back, belly now tilts toward the floor and look up in the cow pose position.
Repeat a few times until you feel your back loosen up.
Back to the original starting position reach your right arm straight forward while extending your left leg back with toes pointed down. Reach out with both these limbs to lengthen the body. Now pulse both up 5 times slowly. Switch sides. Repeat the sequence once or twice more.
Lie down on your back and hug your knees to your chest, giving yourself a well-deserved stretch. Put one hand on each knee and stir them toward each other, then away from each other.
Return feet to floor, knees bent. Drop both knees to the left and twist your torso to the right. Reverse directions.
Still lying on your back starting with knees bent and both feet on the floor, cross your right ankle on to your left knee. Push the left foot strongly into the floor and lift up your hips for a bridge stretch on one side. Reverse sides and repeat.
Now lying all the way flat on the mat raise your hands over your head, peel up your spine one bone at a time and reach toward your toes in a forward fold position.
Next sit up straight and clasp your hands behind your back, reaching them up toward the sky.
End by gently stretching however you like to feel a sense of accomplishment and relaxation.
Congratulations for making it through! You deserve a toast at a real bar. But please… take it easy and drink some water first!
Written by Marla Altberg (left) —Have Fun with Fitness, New York, NY (CREDENTIALS: Athleta Flatiron Studio Community Instructor, Certified Personal Trainer, Senior Strength, Conditioning & Flexibility, Power Pilates Mat, YogaFit Level One, Barre Vida. Email your questions to: [email protected])
*(Disclaimer: The exercises above are safe and effective, but depend on the health of the individual. Check with your physician before embarking on any exercise program. This workout is representative of the “barre” theory but is not the exact order or methodology of Barre Vida which is proprietary and owned solely by Joanna Stone.)