Look closely enough at the Bar Method’s technique and you’ll find a second Bar Method technique inside of it. This auxiliary Bar Method is similar to the original with the exception that it’s tailored to students with physical limitations or injuries. If you’re someone who is lucky enough not to have issues, you might be surprised at how many of your fellow students do.

Students have come to me about how to deal with inflamed joints, torn ligaments, strained muscles, exercise headaches, diaphragm cramps, bunions, vertigo, carpel tunnel syndrome, IT band syndrome, compressed disks, numbness in certain positions, diastasis split, plantar fasciitis, scoliosis, pelvic floor disorder, MS, whiplash, frozen shoulder and varicose veins. Others have consulted me about recovering from surgery and having immune diseases that cause weakness and pain.  Don’t underestimate the frustration these students feel! They didn’t chose to have these problems, and I commend them for seeking an exercise routine they can do safely.

The first advice I give those who ask me how to adapt the class so that it works with their health issues is to consult a medical professional. I also let them know that most doctors recommend exercise to patients with most medical conditions since it’s an activity that strengthens both the immune system and the skeletal joints. By all measures the Bar Method would seem to an ideal choice for many of people with special conditions. It’s non-impact, rehabilitative and gentle — not to mention tremendously effective at strengthening the muscles around joints – and it comes with a comprehensive set of modifications designed for students with a wide range of physical limitations.

physical therapyTake for example one of the most common physical problems that students encounter while exercising: sensitive feet. Due to fashion’s enduring fondness for putting women in super high heels, many students have beaten up their feet by wearing them, and I’m no exception. I have legs that are on the short side, so throughout the 70s and 80s while living in Manhattan I stuffed my feet into high heel boots, clogs, pumps, strappy sandals, skin-tight jazz shoes – whatever made me feel taller. By the early 90s I was hobbling and in 1994 had to have a bunion operation. This experience finally wised me up, and I switched to wearing medium heels. People with foot problems didn’t necessarily get them the way I did. Students have been injured by falling down the stairs, being run over by a bicycle, spraining their ankle, rupturing their achillis tendon, running marathons on pavement, or simply stubbing their toe really badly.

In whichever manner students came to have their foot conditions, my own past experience gives me a personal reason for making the class totally doable for them. Here’s how I’ve tailored the workout, exercise by exercise, so that such students can do it with minimum stress to their feet:

— During heel lifts, you can either raise both of your heels just an inch up and down, or alternate your heels.

–During thigh-work:

thigh workout• If you’re a student who takes in a studio: do “chair” in place of parallel and legs-together thigh-work. “Chair” is a thigh-work position during which the feet stay flat on the floor (the teacher will show you how to do it).

• If you’re a student who does the Bar Method DVDs, simply keep your heels low and bend your knees less than the DVD instructor is doing.

• If you simply have sensitive feet, try standing on a small Bar Method mat (shown at right), which you’ll be able to buy on our website starting this week.

• Whichever Bar Method workout you’re doing, feel free to substitute leg lifts for any other thigh exercise.

Whatever your foot issue, I hope these guidelines enable you feel the burn in comfort!

In the coming weeks: modifications for your knees, hips, back and shoulders. Stay tuned for the release of our new DVDs!

Click here to read how exercise can function as preventative physical therapy.

Find Bar Method exercise classes near you.

Sample and buy Bar Method exercise DVDs.

12 replies
  1. cindy
    cindy says:

    I like this article, thank you. I will say that with some of the classes running back to back and everyone in a hurry to get in and out it’s really hard to talk to an instructor prior to a class about something that might be of an issue, whether it’s an injury/modification or just plain asking if something i’m doing is correct. The classes can be crowded during prime time. Thanks for reading:)

  2. kathy link
    kathy link says:

    Would love to see the similar article on sensitive knees.One of the younger girls I work with gave up on your method soley beause it hurt her knees(played soccar from 5 until highschool)I recently hurt my knee and find many parts of the workout are not knee frienly. One positive, doing push ups on my feet.

  3. Kim
    Kim says:

    Just started doing the DVDs and noticed I get an instant headache in my left temple when I’m doing the thigh work (heels up, thighs together). Has happened each of the three times I’ve done the DVD. Have you heard of this before? Has never happened to me before and I’m a pretty regular exerciser. Thanks! Love the DVD!

  4. Mimi Fleischman
    Mimi Fleischman says:

    Dear Kim,
    Watch for a list of conditions like exercise headaches and how students can deal with them. Good information about coping with exercise headaches can also be found on the internet.

  5. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    I will definitely keep an eye out for the knee modifications. As a runner I already have various knee issues and find many of the exercises aggravate my knees!

  6. Jackie Andre
    Jackie Andre says:

    After doing Bar Method for 4 years, I was glad to read that I could still reap the benefits of the Bar Method with modifications. I’ve been increasingly suffering from pain in my first metatarsal joints and can no longer tolerate holding a high position on the toes anymore. Even push-ups and plank position on the toes have gotten too painful. I was thinking that I needed to look elsewhere for fitness

  7. Connie
    Connie says:

    I am fairly new to bar method dvds and am loving them! I too have bunions and am wondering if the heel raises cause them to get worse. I sure don’t want to stop heel raises if possible because I love all the exercises in BM!

  8. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Hi Connie,
    When you do heel lifts, lift your heels all the way up and then lower only 1 inch. We hope this helps!
    Thanks for your inquiry,

    Bar Method HQ

  9. Emily
    Emily says:

    I *think* a Bar Method class helped my long term foot problem for a day or two. I live far away from a studio, so I want to continue at home to try and permanently fix it. How can I recreate the combo of carpet and padding – I think it allowed me to use my feet in ways I usually can’t. Thanks

  10. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I love the Bar Method, but my feet are extremely sensitive. Even using a padded mat on top of the already padded carpet isn’t enough. The minute my heels are raised higher, my feet really hurt. I have been told that Chair, “narrow V,” and Wide Second are the best options for following along in a studio class, no matter what is being taught. I know leg lifts are an option, but honestly, it seems that the teachers don’t want to teach these that much because I have suggested this before and they rarely teach them. I also already feel like I’m disrupting the order of things by doing something different, and I feel like leg lifts call a lot of attention to me.
    Will there ever be other low heeled or flat footed exercises offered in the Bar Method?
    If not, what muscle groups am I missing if I do everything with my feet flat on the floor? I’d like to be able to “make up” what I’m missing in some other way!


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