Barre Focus Fitness Instructor Kelly Swiech (@kswiech) teaches us a thing or two about how to get fit (and fabulous!) in the studio – one lift, tuck and squeeze at a time!
Welcome back, LILA ladies! In last week’s post, Meet us at the Barre, I shared a little bit about what barre actually is (for those who are considering giving it a go for the first time!) and the many benefits derived from a barre workout. Regardless of what level you’re starting at, this widely popular (and growing!) fitness trend is a complete workout designed to strengthen arms, quads, glutes and hamstrings. Plus, its addictive. Not convinced yet? Try it out!
Today, I’m sharing a few top barre moves you can do anywhere. If you can’t make it into the studio, try these moves at home or while traveling. Let’s get started!
Plank – Core, Total Body
Plank is a staple in every barre class. It works the shoulders, upper back, core, and quads. Forearm plank is a simple move that can be done anywhere. Start kneeling on the ground, lean forward and place your forearms on the ground, try keeping them parallel, not interlacing your fingers. From here step your feet back so your body is in one long line. Stay on the balls of your feet. Hold. Focus on pressing your forearms into the ground to really engage through your shoulders. Shoulders stay soft down your back, spine is long, and tailbone reaches towards your toes.
Tips: For any low back pain, walk your feet out a little bit wider so they are hip bone distance apart.
Variations: You can press your weight back through your heels just an inch, use your low abs to draw yourself back to center. Micro-bend your knees, alternating right and left. Remember, move small, keep your hips lifted at all times. Step your right toes out to the right, step them back in, alternate right and left.
Modifications: You can always drop your knees down and point your toes up towards the ceiling. Keep low abs drawing in toward your spine so your back stays long.
Advanced: Try pushing yourself up to straight arm plank and lowering yourself back to forearm plank without lowering your knees. It’s a killer arm workout!
To set up, face towards your barre (you can use a high counter, back of a chair or sofa if you don’t have a barre) and stand with your heels together, toes 3-4 inches apart. Rise up high on the balls of your feet, step your heels to touch, and bend your knees lowering down several inches. Stay at this position and lower down and inch, then lift back up to your starting point. You will feel the tops of your quads engage as you control the movements. The key is to stay low, keep your heels pressed together, and keep the movements very small, diving deep into your muscles.
Tips: The higher you lift your heels, and the lower you sink into your legs the more challenging this exercise becomes. To make the exercise slightly more intense you can add a loop band and wear it 2-3 inches above your knees.
Variations: You can vary the movements such as moving down for two inches, up for two inches, or just doing very small, controlled pulses down. You can also fan your knees open slightly to engage your outer thighs. Make the movement comes from the side of the seat, not the knees.
Modifications: You can keep your heels lower at a hover if being high on the balls of your feet doesn’t feel good for you.
Advanced: Keep heels pressed together as you lift them just to a hover, lower your hips halfway down, and then all the way down to your heels, press halfway up, and then return to your starting position. Keep heels pressing together the entire time, let your tailbone extend out slightly as you lower and zip everything back up, drawing low abs in as you lift. Use your legs to lift, don’t pull on your barre or stabilizing surface, and lift only to your baseline starting position.
Face your barre with your feet hip bone distance apart. Take a big step back with your right foot and sink down so both legs are bent to 90 degrees. Your left knee stays over your ankle the entire time. Your right knee is under your hip, shin parallel to the floor, and you’re high on the ball of your right foot. Stay aligned, shoulders, over your hips, over your back knee. As you lower down, sink your back knee an inch towards the floor and lift it back up to your starting position. Never straighten the back leg at any time. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: Keep the grip on your barre light, if you hold on too tightly, you may starting leaning forward or back, throwing off your alignment. Gentle finger tips on the barre will help you keep your alignment and encourage you to stay upright with a long spine.
Variations: You can vary the movements by lowering down for two inches, up for two inches, or pulsing down. You can engage your right inner thigh, squeezing the muscles and drawing the leg towards your midline a fraction of an inch. Alternate pulsing down with squeezing your inner thigh inward.
Modifications: Knee pain is a common problem in lunges. If this is the case, stay up higher and don’t allow your back leg to lower as far down. If you are up higher, your back knee can stay under your hip, and your stance will be more narrow.
Advanced: Lift up high on the ball of your front foot as well as the back. Bring your hands to your hips, or up overhead to try your balance. Keep your low abs drawing in towards your spine. Remember always keep your shoulders over your hips.
Stay tuned next Sunday for Kelly’s final post for LILA Loves! Learn a few more key barre moves to set you up for summer. And don’t forget – first class is free for first time visitors to Barre Focus Fitness. Meet us at the barre!