Workout regimen inspired by ballet
The Bar Method offers low-impact exercises
No ballet slippers, tutus or fancy footwork are required. And no dance experience either. But you’ll still get a ballet-inspired workout at The Bar Method studio in Moiliili. Combining dance conditioning with interval training, the workouts incorporate intense isometric movements that engage and elongate targeted muscles. Many of the exercises are done at a ballet barre, a waist-high horizontal bar that is used for support and balance. “Not only will you tone your muscles and slim down, but you will also gain range of motion, flexibility, balance, coordination and tremendous stamina,” said Danielle Bouloy, instructor manager and trainer for the local Bar Method franchise. Bouloy spent the past 15 years teaching dance, theater and fitness classes. She became a certified Bar Method instructor in 2012. At last count, the fitness chain had 82 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
The Bar Method workout was developed by ballerina Lotte Berk after she injured her back. She combined dance-conditioning training with rehabilitation therapy. Ellen Burr Leonard, founder of the Bar Method, took the Lotte Berk Method and made adjustments to the exercises using input from physical therapists.
‘The Bar Method tones and sculpts your muscles to build definition, and it also burns calories and fat to create a slimmer and sleeker silhouette,” Bouloy said.
A new studio opens in Kailua next month.
A ballet barre and mirrors wrap around two sides of the 1,000-square-foot studio. Stacks of cushions are available to use as props during floor exercises.
There’s also a spacious lounge in the front and a clean shower/changing area with lockers in the back.
The one-hour workout — done in socks, no shoes — runs through a lot of small isolated movements that work the entire body. The low-impact routine focuses on proper spinal alignment, balance and engagement of abdominal muscles. My mixed-level barre class began with a warmup of planks and pushups and a series of arm movements. Next we used the barre to work the legs and glutes. We finished with a series of core exercises at the barre and on the mat, and ended with a nice stretch.
Most of the exercises are done using your own body weight for resistance, but light hand weights between 1 and 2 pounds are employed for some of the arm work. Don’t let the small weights fool you: You’ll feel muscle fatigue without any added help.
A squishy ball the size of a cantaloupe was sometimes placed between the legs to increase the difficulty of lower-body exercises. Many of the standing exercises, like squats, are done on the toes.
The instructor corrected my form more than once, which I appreciated. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for modifications. For example, if you have back issues, you may want extra cushion and support when doing some of the floor work.
Don’t be alarmed if your muscles start trembling; that’s a good thing. It means they are working to the point of fatigue — something you’ll be reminded of throughout the class.
As you build lean muscle mass, you‘ll continue to burn calories even when you’re not in class, according to Bouloy. And since the Bar Method was developed with the help of physical therapists, it may help with recovery from injuries and relieve neck, back and other joint pain, she said.
Erin Choy has been taking classes for about 2-1/2 years. “Classes are always different and an efficient use of my time,” she said. “The sequencing is the same — warmup, arm work, thigh and seat — but the moves are different and the challenge is always there.”
The 57-year-old Honolulu resident said she is much more aware of her posture and feels more toned. “My family calls me a Bar Method addict,” she said.
Onaona Thoene, a 31-year-old Kaimuki resident, spends much of her day sitting at a desk. “Since taking barre, I don’t have lower back pain from sitting at work and my posture has improved,” she said. Thoene says the strength that she gained in her legs has helped improve her hiking and running.
Jennifer Littenberg, 43, of Kaneohe, has been taking two classes each week for about a month. She said she already has noticed improvement in her flexibility and posture. “I think the most challenging thing for me has been that I have had to leave the ego at the door and just be in the moment in the class,” she said. “It is a much harder practice than I had first imagined. I am loving the challenge.”
Meghan Prout, right, works her arms during a mixed-level barre class at The Bar Method studio in Moiliili. Below, participants perform ballet moves at the bar.