Barre3, Madonna’s latest fitness fetish, is part detail work, part posture alignment so that you can high-rep and stretch your way to a longer, leaner body. Sadie Lincoln, barre3 founder and former 24 Hour Fitness executive, stopped by the Big Apple last week with instructor Amy Leclerc for a class in the inspiring space (think floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson) at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. With its calming yoga influences, barre3 is a balanced total body workout that will help you stand a little taller and move more consciously – on and off the barre.
The importance of posture, alignment, and a neutral spine comes full circle in barre3 as we began and ended class in Tadasana, or Standing pose. Unlike other Lotte Berk inspired methods, socks are not worn during class so we can re-train how we stand by engaging the core and balancing weight on both feet. Are you putting too much pressure on your heels or toes? Are you spreading weight evenly throughout your feet? Have you developed any unhealthy habits from kitten heels or stilettos? If you’ve got to wear socks, at least make them Toe Sox, so that your toes touch and interact with the ground. This foot philosophy, focused on re-training how we stand and move after developing unhealthy habits, reminds me of the barefoot runners in Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. It’s all about getting back to the basics.
After the opening standing, breathing, and ballet-inspired warm-up squats, we moved to the barre. Barre3 translates some of the essential yoga poses from Downward Dog to Plank into barre exercises. Sadie used the hour effectively, flowing from exercise to exercise, ensuring we worked just as hard during our stretch time as during our high-rep sequences. Bless the great music that was playing during our excruciatingly long push-up series on the barre (Sadie works with DJ’s to develop play lists to set the tone for exercises).
While working the legs, we moved fluidly, focusing on a small range of motion and hip position. Sadie and Amy made the rounds during class, gently adjusting our hips as we moved. Since hip alignment is far from intuitive for me, these subtle adjustments were priceless! Throughout the leg series, my legs were shaking and shivering. Being somewhat masochistic when it comes to exercise, or in Sadie’s words, a “sensation junkie,” I loved feeling and seeing just how hard my muscles were working.
We then hit the mat, armed with our Fit BALL mini to continue some back work and to begin the core series. Whether the Fit BALL was under our spine, between our legs, or under our feet, we incorporated the prop into all of the core exercises, with a special emphasis on the transverse abdominal muscles. All of the exercises felt very safe, and at no time did I need to move my hands under by rear to protect my lower back. I am constantly searching for safe and effective core routines and Sadie’s is one of the best – barre none.
After some stretching, we slowly rolled ourselves up vertebrae-by-vertebrae (hello yoga) to come back to a standing position. I became more aware of my tendency to “tuck,” rather than stand with a neutral spine. Several days after class, I am recognizing and paying attention to how I carry my bags around the city and how I sit at my computer, so that I can make subtle adjustments to move smarter and easier. Enjoying a class that helps build lean, strong muscles, while also influencing how you sit, stand and experience life is truly a game-changer.
If you want to try barre 3 but there’s no studio near you, I’d give the 40-minute barre3 DVD a try. While my bar stool and Brooklyn apartment are poor substitutes for the barre and the BAC, the workout was almost as effective, complete with the signature shakes. I’d invest in the Fit BALL, but you can also use a towel for the core exercises.
Whether you take a class in-person, fly Sadie to you (well, that’s probably just the Material Girl), or train with the DVD, the transformative effects of barre3 continue even when you put on your shoes and socks. You’ll be experiencing life a little taller, a little more confident and a little leaner too!