It all started nearly 30 years ago in 1981. Burr Leonard had actively taken Lotte Burke classes and ten years later, began teaching the classes. In 1991, Leonard and Carl Diehl opened their first studio in Connecticut. In 2000, they formed The Bar Method, Inc. The rest, as they say, is history. Now, nearly 20 years later, The Bar Method have created and franchised 32 (and counting) studios all over the United States and have also produced DVDs. Celebrities such as Drew Barrymore and True Blood hottie Anna Paquin have become obsessed with this total body workout that transforms bodies from head to toe.
MBG: How would you describe The Bar Method to someone who has never heard of it?
BL: The Bar Method is an intense, fat-burning workout that quickly and gently sculpts, aligns, elongates and leans-down the entire body. During the hour-long workout, students sequentially target all major muscle groups alternating between the front and the back of the body so that one side is always stretching while the other side is toning. This design creates a graceful, dancer-like body that is at the same time lean and defined. The Bar Method also strengthens core muscles, stabilizes joints, and improves posture.
Has being physically active always been a part of your life? When did it start?
I was always athletic in school, and I fell in love with ballet and jazz classes in early adulthood. In my early 30s I discovered the Lotte Berk Method and became a dedicated student. In my early 40s I married Carl Diehl. Two years later, Carl and I opened our exercise studio in Greenwich, Connecticut as a licensee of the Lotte Berk Method.
What made you decide to create The Bar Method?
As soon as I began teaching my own students in Greenwich, I noticed that the exercises were hurting some of their shoulders, backs and knees. I consulted with a physical therapist named Rick Stebbins who showed me how to re-think the positions so that they were safer for students’ joints. I discovered that the new alignment that we came up with made the exercises not just safer but also more precisely targeted making them more effective. Over the next decade, Rick, my senior teachers and I worked on re-creating the whole workout. I also developed a new teaching technique that contributed to making the class more efficient, fun and effective.
At the end of our ten-year term with the Lotte Berk Method, Carl and I decided that our technique had diverged from the original to such a degree that we decided not to renew. We incorporated The Bar Method in 2000 and opened our flagship Bar Method studio in San Francisco in 2001.
Is The Bar Method effective for all body types or does it work best on certain types?
The Bar Method is highly effective for all ages and body types with the exceptions of those who have not yet reached puberty who’s muscles are not developed enough to add significant muscle mass, and those who are obese who’s weight is too great to use as resistance because it presents some risk to their joints.
For the rest of the population there is no better workout for reshaping and realigning the body. It is also a great way for people who have been injured and can no longer practice impact sports to stay in peak condition. It is gentle, non-impact, and highly structured so that students can work at their own pace. The Bar Method also includes a set of modifications for those with joint issues. Many of the exercises are derived directly from physical therapy and help students who are healing to achieve the best possible outcome during their rehabilitation. At the same time, the Bar Method is ideal for sports training. It is intense and thorough enough to make anyone a better athlete at her or his sport.