Barre-Barmethod-leg workout

Diamond Thigh: The Leg Workout That Can Change Your Entire Body

The diamond is the traditional birthstone of April, and as the saying goes, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend!” But we’d like to change the slogan to “Diamond thigh is your body’s best friend.” It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Diamond thigh is so much more than just a thigh exercise.

It’s THE thigh exercise that has the potential to change your entire body! It sculpts your quads, inner thigh muscles, glutes, outside glutes, and abdominals. It essentially works your entire body in less than 2 minutes! This position also stabilizes your knees, burns away fat, and improves your posture and alignment. This barre exercise is quite a beauty!

However, “nothing worth having ever comes easy.” So, why is the form in diamond thigh so difficult to get right? Let us break it down:

First, our glutes are big lazy muscles. Most people (aside from sprinters, professional dancers, gymnasts, or athletes) haven’t been taught how to effectively engage their glutes. Or more importantly, keep them engaged. Most of us are familiar with running, jogging, swimming, lunges, squats and nautilus machines at the gym. The problem with these exercises is they all bend the body forward at the hips, letting the glutes lose their contraction with every repetition. They are not tapping into the glutes true nature and full potential. In diamond thigh, you learn how to keep your glutes engaged and every time you perform a rhythmic tuck, those muscles get even stronger.

Second, most of us have weak posture muscles. We spend our days hunched over computer screens or slouching in the car while driving. We rarely pay attention to our posture unless someone is there to remind us to lift our head and pull our shoulders back and down. In diamond thigh, we teach you to enlist your stabilizers, namely your abdominals and erector spinae (a bundle of muscles running vertically up your vertebrae) to keep your spine upright. The more you do Bar Method, the more practice you’ll get recruiting your stabilizers to improve your posture, not only in class but also in those daily activities or “non-activities.”

Lastly, many of us suffer from tight hip flexors. Having tight hips makes the turn out in diamond thigh especially challenging. Don’t give up hope if you have sensitive hips!. Start small to begin to feel the catch in your gluteus medius and the stretch in your inner quads. Little by little open up your turnout by taking class consistently and notice your diamond thigh begin to sparkle!

Use these four tips to achieve better form in diamond thigh:

 

1. Place your feet in a wide turnout

Students often miss this cue, as it’s the first thing mentioned by the instructor in the set-up. This is important because good form starts from the ground up. Your feet are your foundation. Double-check your knees are turned out the same degree as your feet then lift your heels up to get started.

2. Relax your low back and drop your tailbone

By doing this you will instantly activate the stabilizers we mentioned above and begin to notice the work in your thighs become more intense and effective. The minute you do the opposite of that (flexing your back and sticking your tailbone out), you divert the attention away from your quads and glutes while moving it up to your low back. Not to mention, this improper form shifts you out of alignment and puts added stress on your hips and knees.

3. Bend slightly forward at your waist to engage your abs

Keep your abs cinched in as if you’re wearing a tight corset. Breath deeply to recruit and tone your deepest layer of abdominals, the transversus abdominus. This muscle is most responsible for pulling your waist tighter to your spine and stabilizing your spine when needed. In this exercise, that stability is needed for you to work in your best form.

4. Look straight ahead to stay focused

Get in your zone. Find something in front of you to look at and do your best to focus your attention on that object throughout the exercise. This keeps you mentally focused, in the moment, and undistracted by others around you. Bonus: Take this tip and apply it outside of The Bar Method and notice all of the wonderful, new opportunities around you that you might’ve missed with your head down.

Now, get to class and practice … so diamond thigh can become your body’s best friend!

5-Bar-Method-Exercises-Spring-Break

6 Bar Method Exercises You Can Do Anywhere This Spring Break (No Ballet Barre Required)

Does your love for barre go deeper than what your friends and family would consider a “reasonable obsession?”  If so, you may start to panic when Spring Break rolls around. Maybe you’ve been in a groove, taking classes consistently and finally starting to feel like you could get through a full set of thigh without releasing. Or maybe you’re addicted and literally can’t imagine a day, let alone a week, without Bar Method.

Spring Break is here and whether you’re packing up the family for a quick trip to the coast, staying home to chaperone daily play dates, or working straight through because you feel like you’re behind in just about everything, we have just what you need.

Here are 6 easy Bar Method exercises you can do anywhere
(bonus: no ballet barre required)

Plank

Plank is one of the easiest exercises to perform just about anywhere! You just need a flat surface and a little motivation. All plank variations strengthen and tone your abdominals, back, seat and shoulder stabilizer muscles.

plank-core-exercise

  • Come down to your forearms and the balls of your feet
  • straighten your legs and grip your glutes
  • Draw your abs up and breathe sharply
  • Hold for 45-90 seconds

Push ups

Pushups are one of the most effective full-body exercises you can do, and require zero equipment and only about a minute of your time for an effective set of 20-30. They strengthen and tone your core muscles, deltoids, biceps, triceps, pecs, and shoulder and back muscles! Even better, your muscles visibly respond to pushups immediately after doing them because blood flow increases to your many working muscles, and the fibers are contracted.

  • Come down onto your hands and knees (or balls of your feet for more of a challenge)
  • Place your hands under your shoulders and bend your elbows back on a diagonal toward your waist
  • Spread your shoulder blades apart and draw your abs in
  • Do 20-30 pushups on-tempo

Heel Lifts

Heel lifts are a great way to get the blood pumping in your legs. They warm up your feet (great to do if you’re planning to do some serious walking or hiking on your vacation), Strengthen your knees and tone your calves, hamstrings and glutes.

Calf-exercise-heel-lifts

  • Stand straight with your feet parallel or turned out
  • Hold on to a ledge, counter top or chair for stability and balance
  • Grip your glutes and keep your legs straight
  • Lift your heels up and down as many times as it takes to feel a burn in your calves

Second Position

Second position thigh work pays homage to our dance conditioning background. The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen and tone your quads, gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. Not only that, but it makes you feel and look like a beautiful ballet dancer with the impressive turnout and wide, powerful stance.

second-position-barre-exercise

  • Open your legs into a wide stance with your hips and feet turned out in line with each other
  • Bend your knees outward in the same direction of your feet and grip your seat muscles firmly
  • Drop your tailbone and upright your spine to vertical
  • In a small 1-inch movement bend your knees on-tempo 10-15 times and resume to a standing position
  • Repeat with 3 sets

Clam Curl

Clam curl uses two kinds of abdominal contractions, eccentric and concentric, both good for creating definition in the abs. The larger moves and continual curls help to raise your heart rate and shave inches off your waist by aerobically burning away fat calories.

girl-sitting-smiling

  • Lay down on a flat surface and cross one knee over the other
  • Close the space between your legs and lift your feet off the floor to dangle
  • Cross your arms across your chest and keep your neck elongated, look up
  • Bend your waist slowly in and out while you move your legs slowly in and out like you’re closing a clam shell and reopening it
  • Repeat this 10 times slow and 20 times fast on each side

Back Dancing

Back dancing is the easiest way to sneak in some seat work while on vacation because again you don’t need any equipment. This exercise is easy to perform safely and sculpts your glutes, hamstrings and thighs. Depending on how you position your feet you can tone your inner thighs or carve your outer glutes all while stretching your hip flexors and therapeutically releasing your back.

glutes-barre-exercise

  • Lie down on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor
  • Keep your rib cage on the floor and tilt the rest of your torso up off the floor using your glutes
  • Relax your back so your hips can move freely
  • Lift and lower your hips 60-100 times at medium speed

So, now you can enjoy the week, keep your core tight, and feel good about time away from the studio (and hopefully getting a little tan)!  And if you are craving a full Bar Method workout, take one of our online classes.

Bar Online offers a comprehensive set of classes — from some of our best teachers across the nation and at all different lengths (20, 40 and 60-minute).  For just $15 you get unlimited classes for 30 days! https://baronline.barmethod.com/

 

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5 Simple Changes That Will Help You Improve Your Posture

We bet you’ve heard “stand up straight” or “don’t slouch” a few times before — even if the critiques and criticisms about posture weren’t directed at you personally. But what is good posture and why exactly does it matter?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary offers a straightforward definition, listing posture as “the way in which your body is positioned in sitting or standing.” The Kansas Chiropractic Foundation says that good posture means “your bones are properly aligned, so your muscles, joints and ligaments can work as nature intended.” Kerrisa Smith, a Certified Bar Method Instructor at the Bar Method Marina in San Francisco and the National Physical Therapy Consultant for The Bar Method, tells us that the benefits of good alignment as nature intended include a healthy spine, improved circulation and digestion, efficient respiration and your ability to portray a more confident body image. She also notes that good posture can even help you to prevent injuries.

Why good posture matters

“Posture isn’t actually an inherent trait as it’s affected not only affected by genetics but also our daily rituals, positions and habits,” Kerrisa says. “Our hectic routines and mobile lifestyles can attribute to bad habits and cause problems like neck pain, shoulder impingement, carpal tunnel, back pain and tendonitis.” Even more, slouching in chairs, carrying heavy backpacks or purses, and sitting in awkward positions while driving can also lead to postural issues — leading to discomfort and injury over time.  

The silver lining? Kerrisa says that it’s never too late to correct your posture. “Making simple changes to your daily routine can save you from pain and impairment in the future,” she promises.

To begin practicing better posture, Kerrisa tells us you’ll need to take a quick inventory on your current physical stature. While facing forwards, look into the mirror and notice:

  • Are your shoulders level?
  • Is your head straight?
  • Are you hip straight?
  • Is there equal space between your arms and sides of your body?
  • Are your ankles straight?

Next, turn to the side or on profile to the mirror (or take a picture):

  • Is your head upright? (not pointing forwards or backwards)
  • Is your chin parallel to the floor?
  • Are your shoulders in line with your ears and the midpoint of your hips?
  • Are your knees straight?
  • Is there a slight forward curve to your low back?

After assessing your posture, begin to incorporate her five easy tips into your daily routine. They’ll correct postural imbalances while helping you maintain the superb stature you’ve mastered by taking class.

  1. Lift your chin: Kerrisa says, “Doing this will help help decrease unnecessary stress on your cervical spine.”
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together: Whether you’re sitting at your desk or standing in line at Starbucks, begin to perform small isometric squeezes of your shoulder blades. Kerrisa tells us that this will help to lift your chest and stretch out tight, rounded shoulders.
  3. Pull your belly in: Do this all day and every day! Kerrisa explains, “This action will activate your deep abdominals (the transversus abdominis muscle) — just like the work you do in flat back. Think of these muscles as your inner girdle and know that as this muscle strengths, it will help protect your back and help flatten your stomach.”
  4. Stand with relaxed legs: Like your instructors tell you in a Bar Method class, avoid locking out your knees. This puts increased pressure on your lumbar spine.
  5. Stand tall: Be proud of your height (or lack thereof!) and own your body by standing tall. Not only will your inner confidence will reflect outwards, and you’ll look more lean while doing so.

As Kerrisa reminds us, “We’re only given one body in life and it’s our job to love it, respect it and nurture it. Take the time pay attention to your daily positions, and make the necessary changes to improve your posture. You’ll find yourself with a healthier, happier body.”

We’d love to learn how Bar Method has helped you improve your posture — share your personal story in the comments!

What the Tuck?

On the front lines of communication when it comes to feedback and questions from students across the country, Bar Method studio owners really know their stuff. We recently caught up with Jessica Bowman, Owner of Bar Method Solana Beach, about a blog post she recently published for her client community that talks specifically about the infamous “tuck” you experience in a Bar Method class.

As Jessica shares in her post on her blog Barre Boss, “People who ‘do barre’ typically know that all barre classes are not created equally and understand the subtle (but important) differences between the various programs. However, even if you’ve been taking The Bar Method or another barre fitness program for several months or years, you may still be confused about some of the terms instructors use to help you achieve proper form.” She went on to guess (and we bet she’s right!) that at some point during your Bar Method journey, you’ve probably stopped to ask yourself, “what the tuck?”

What the tuck?

Jessica went on to perfectly explain, “The Bar Method tuck is really just a stance that maintains spine neutrality during weight-work and muscle isolations. In this stance, students recruit their bodies’ three core muscle groups, those in their upper backs (shoulder stabilizers), their torsos (abs), and under their spines (glutes). The ‘Bar Method tuck’ thereby keeps these stabilizer muscles working to protect students’ spines and also to enhance the effectiveness of the exercise at hand.”

As Jessica notes, a good example of this is in the warm-up weight work. Instructors will tell you to “drop your tailbone, draw your abs in and grip your glutes” to achieve stability in your back to perform the targeted weight work (bent-elbow lifts, biceps curls, lat pulls) properly.

The term “tuck” takes on a different meaning when it’s used in choreography (i.e. in thigh or seat work when you’re told to “tuck for the last 20”). In this context, the instruction means to grip your glutes repeatedly to the specified tempo in order to isolate and contract the glutes against stability coming from the front of the body. In this example, your glutes are the muscle group being targeted and worked as opposed to providing stability like they are in the previous example.

What the tuck?

In both cases, she states, “you can potentially over-tuck resulting in overstretched hip flexors, poor upper back posture and lower back strain. To prevent this, use the mirrors in the studio to check your low back alignment and be mindful of whether or not you are simply engaging your glutes or tucking your tailbone under you in a way that creates unnecessary resistance in your glutes. Oftentimes very flexible students won’t realize they are over tucking which is why it becomes very important to workout under the guidance of highly trained instructors.”

From her experience as a studio owner, Jessica wisely notes that an outsider comparing a Bar Method workout with another barre class might not see that the students in both classes are using entirely different muscles. She says, “This skill is called ‘differentiation,’ or the power to use one muscle without unconsciously engaging another. Bar Method teachers are highly trained to help their students learn this important kinetic ability.” As Bar Method Founder Burr Leonard explained, Bar Method is not “all about the tuck” but rather “all about the technique”.

Have questions about your tuck or specific positions in class? Drop a note in the comments!