The question: I am thinking of trying a ballet barre class. What do you think of it as a workout?
The answer: I always felt awkward in ballet classes growing up, so I thought I would hate ballet barre.
I was pleasantly surprised – the classes are fun! I find the classes useful because they promote flexibility and joint mobility. We all tend to sit too much. When we do move, it is often in set forward movement patterns (walking, biking, running, etc.). Lack of movement or repetitive patterns can cause stiffness, and often results in certain muscles becoming stronger than others.
If you sit a lot, or your current exercise routine includes repetitive activities like running (like me, hence why I benefit from the class), this class might complement your lifestyle.
If you already do mobility-based classes like yoga, or you participate in sports that require you to move in multiple directions (think soccer), traditional strength workouts might be a better complement to your current fitness routine.
Another thing to consider is that ballet barre classes don’t have a large amount of potential for long-term progressive overload. Progressive overload is the training theory that states, to continue to progress, you have to constantly challenge the body. The class relies on small weighted balls, the resistance band and your body weight. A ceiling of possible overload exists, but unless you wear a weighted vest, or bring dumbbells to the class, the overload that the balls, band and your body weight can provide is limited.
The limited overload is fine if you are a beginner, or if you plan to mix in other activities. Just don’t make ballet barre your sole method of training for a sustained amount of time.
Lastly, if your goal is muscular strength, you need to do additional weight training. The class may initially make you stronger, relative to where you start, but since it requires high reps of a light weight, you will develop muscular endurance, not pure strength.
Trainer’s tip: If you have trouble committing to exercise, make a date to attend class with a friend. If you are meeting someone, you are less likely to skip it, plus the social aspect will make the experience more fun. Part of why I enjoy ballet barre class is that I go with one of my best friends.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.