I’ve been going to classes at The Barre Code for nearly a year now! I’m officially addicted to the tucking, squeezing, and lifting that results in shaking limbs and strong, strong muscles. I plan on continuing with my barre classes forever….the results are just too powerful to ignore!
I met up with Cami Kirschner, the owner of The Barre Code in Austin, to ask her about some of the most common posture mistakes she sees in class and how we can fix them. She’s taught hundreds of classes as the owner and master trainer of the Austin boutique studio, so Cami has great insight into small adjustments we can all make to get even better results out of barre class!
Here’s the thing about barre: it never gets easy. Even though I’ve taken almost a hundred classes, the instructors still manage to push me to my limit so that I feel exhausted (in a good way, I promise!) the next day. But the thing that does get easier with time is barre technique.
And although there’s a bit of a learning curve on your first barre class (I love this post that my friend Rachel wrote about attending barre for the first time!), the moves are fairly simple and repetitive. But once you’ve mastered them, take a look at these tips and see if you can make any small adjustments to work deeper and see faster results!
1. DON’T leave any space under your back when you’re in a “crunch” position.
I did this for my first few months of barre class because, honestly, it’s a lot easier! The problem with leaving space under your back is that you’re not engaging your lower abdominals the whole time…you’re basically getting tiny rest breaks in between each crunch, and only getting 50% of the work out of it. And (more importantly), you’re putting pressure on your lower back, which could result in injury. No thank you!
DO press your lower back firmly into the mat, even when your head is down on the mat.
This is much harder, which means better results. I didn’t start seeing visible changes in my abs until I started doing this. And honestly, it makes my abs reach their burn out stage a lot more quickly. It burns, but it feels so good after the class is over to know I worked my abs to exhaustion.
2. DON’T grip the barre in order to get down to a deeper squat.
If you’re grabbing the barre in order to launch your body down and back, you’re putting work into your back and shoulders instead of your thighs.
DO “karate chop” or lightly rest your hands on the top of the barre.
Cami was really clear about this. “The barre is just there for balance when you’re on your toes,” she told me. In order to get the most out of your class, lightly touch the barre, just enough to balance, and lower yourself to the lowest point that your legs can handle without the help of your arms.
3. DON’T arch your back when you’re in all all-fours position.
See how Cami is letting her belly fall? She’s not tucking her seat down, so now her abs aren’t engaged and she’s putting lots of pressure on her lower back. So many of the barre moves are designed to prevent injury, and a small adjustment will make a huge difference!
DO keep your back flat and tuck your seat when you’re in an all-fours position.
Now her back is completely flat, her tailbone is tucked down, and her core is engaged. This is the perfect starting point for being able to do seat work!
4. DON’T lean over to your standing leg when you’re doing seat work.
This is the hardest one for me to master, because it means your lifted leg won’t move very high. But that’s ok! When you’re balancing on one leg, don’t lean into that leg (see how far Cami is leaning to the left here?). That means the work will all be in the standing leg instead of getting some good seat work on the right leg.
DO keep your hips square to the barre.
Now Cami’s right knee isn’t lifting very high, but she’s actually working harder. Keep your hips square to the barre to start noticing faster results when you’re working your booty!
5. DON’T put your weight into your toes when you’re in a “hinge” position.
This pose is mostly used in barre to work on triceps, but since the Barre Code is always thinking about the whole body, you should be working your hamstrings as well. Don’t look forward and lean onto your toes. This is going to put loads of pressure on your lower back… I know, I know! I sound like a broken record! But preventing injury is one of the many beautiful things about a barre workout!
DO put weight into your heels, keep your back flat, and look at the ground 3 feet in front of you.
You’ll immediately feel the work in your hamstrings when you focus on putting weight into your heels instead of your toes. Now you’re working your triceps and your legs while protecting your lower back.
A Barre Code workout is full of isometric exercises. That means your muscles are working in opposition, so you won’t see much of a range of movement. You’re literally engaging your muscles against each other, so there’s an infinite amount of work that can be done! That’s why you don’t need to use heavy weights in class…your body is pushing against itself.
When I’m in class and working my very hardest, sometimes I’ll look in the mirror and see literally no movement at all…haha! I think it’s natural for us to want to show off a little bit in a group exercise class so that everyone else knows we’re working hard. So we try to raise our legs the highest and squat down the lowest in order to look good.
I’m gradually learning more about the internal challenge in class. In barre, it’s my mind over my body, and that’s all the matters. The results will show if I’m doing the exercises correctly, which often means no one else will know if I’m working hard or not.
I’ve taken a couple classes when Cami was also taking a class (instead of teaching it), and I always notice how her movements are the smallest of anyone’s. If you were observing the class, you might think she’s not working as hard as someone who’s lifting her leg REALLY high. But Cami is in perfect posture and contracting opposing muscles groups with all of her focus…..her movement are teeny-tiny because she’s working so hard.
Ok friends, I hope this is helpful! If you have any questions about barre, please leave a comment or send me an email at [email protected]. And if I don’t have the answer for you (I’m obviously still learning the basics of barre over here!) I’ll gladly ask one of the Barre Code instructors!
Have a happy day!