THE BAR METHOD AS A PATH TO MASTERY

“I have grown bored at The Bar Method,” a student named Gabrielle wrote me a few months ago. “The Method has become too repetitive, too predictable, and I’ve lost most of the fun.”

Gabrielle started attending the Bar Method in the early 2000’s, lost inches around her hips and waist, and fell in love with the class. Gabrielle and I exchanged a few emails on the subject of her dissatisfaction with class, and I learned that her work schedule had limited her to taking classes at times where there were a lot of beginners.

Burr leg lifts PasadenaEven so, I wondered if Gabrielle was missing out on what to me is most fun about taking the Bar Method whether or not beginners are present in the class: working towards mastery. This mind-set can mean one thing to you – possibly learning how to pull in your abs as you breathe – and something else to another student — maybe achieving a dancer’s posture. Whatever your goals, if you perform the exercises with the objective of mastering them, the Bar Method’s consistent structure becomes anything but boring. It becomes the very thing that empowers you to push the limits of your potential for coordination, strength, beauty and mental toughness. Repetition + focus = practice, and focused practice, experts on learning tell us, is the ultimate key to achieving significant, long term change, in other words to gaining mastery.

The Bar Method is especially suited to the pursuit of mastery in the physical realm. Its tight structure, precise positions and small muscle isolations give you a chance to overcome movement habits such as tensing your neck when you raise your arms. The mirrors in the classrooms allow you to check your alignment and performance, and – most fun of all – the ever-present possibility of going “deeper,” “higher,” “lower,” or “farther” keep the door open for new change. Have you been reluctant to work lower in thigh-work because you’re not strong enough yet? Or are you really holding back because you’re afraid of the burn? If you stay focused, eking out the answer to this question in the heat of the moment can strengthen not only to your muscles but your mental toughness as well.

Focusing on mastery pays off as well by giving you a second wave of dramatic body changes well after the initial sculpting and slimming down have been achieved. Take posture for example. I often wonder why some advanced students who regularly take Level 2 classes don’t take advantage of the opportunity to work on theirs. If they would just focus on that one change, they could radically change their appearance. In the same way, students who hunch their shoulders whenever they lift their arms, who lean forward during thigh exercises, or who have trouble pulling in their abs could transform their bodies by using the hour to focus on their weak areas.

Next time you go to class, try taking it with your own customized set of challenges in mind. You might find that the class can feel as exciting as a triathlon. The almost 30 years that I’ve taken this method of exercise has taught me to love the the classes that I struggle through most or want to do better at than before. Here are some private goals I set for myself during the class:–During one-weight lifts trying to keep my arm parallel to the floor,–During push-ups, getting my chest down to elbow height while staying in good form,–During thigh-work maintaining a more intense burn than the last time I took class,–During standing seat-work keeping my back absolutely vertical,–During arabesque looking in the mirror and seeing my working foot above my shoulder,–During round-back keeping my working leg absolutely “ballet” straight, and–During flat-back, lifting my feet up towards the height of my knees (pretty impossible!)

If you’ve been bored by class lately, make a no-holds-barred list of every conceivable way the Bar Method could change your body and spirit for the better. Then see how close you come to making them happen!

Read about the Seattle Bar Method’s fitness challenge and all the different ways people changed after taking The Bar Method for four months!

8 replies
  1. Geovanni
    Geovanni says:

    So grateful for this blog today. It confirmed to me the reason why I started the Bar Method in the first place.
    As background, I decided that at age 58 on my birthday, last month, I would walk over to the local Bar and get a taste of what I said in the application form was an exercise routine that would help me battle the menopause bulge. But As I got more into the classes and decided to double up by taking two classes in a row I found , without knowing what to call it, that I was after Mastery.
    I would often say to my self :” do it smaller, tighter, straighter, higher, lower…just as you suggested here. And yes I should have taken the before and after photos , but the snap shot that should really be taken is of the mind and spirit transformation. The joy of experiencing power to live.
    Many of the students would kid me and say: “wow isn’t it hard doing two classes in one day? ” My response:”Life is hard this is just exercise.” The Bar Method, gives me the power to win the menopause battle, not just the body bulges but also the mental fog and emotional blues that often accompanies this stage of life.
    So my friends, don’t be bored, be brave…go deeper, lower, tighter. smaller, higher….LOL

    Reply
  2. Jan Goldman
    Jan Goldman says:

    I have been taking the Bar Method for a year now and one thing I really enjoy about taking the classes is that the exercises are varied. I never get bored with the program and I do try to work harder on technique and push myself. I never thought that I could change my body at my age. I tell everyone that I feel better now than when I was in my forties. This is the best program I have found.

    Reply
  3. Jackie Andre
    Jackie Andre says:

    Wow, Burr, I loved this article, and did you ever nail it on the head! I am strong yet admit to being afraid to push myself too low and do sometimes fear immersing myself in the burn for too long, thinking my legs will buckle under me. I pushed myself to the max yesterday using utter determination and focus and really feel the difference today. I’ve written you recently to ask why I’ve gained weight instead of lost it (toned and shapely but heavier) and you responded that perhaps I’m eating more in calories than I burn. Yet I eat small portions, no sweets or junk food and limited starches (but do drink wine). I’d given up cardio since starting the Bar Method 6 mohts ago, so thought that this must be the cause. Perhaps this new goal of “seeking mastery” and increasing intensity will be the key to success for me and I can lose the extra bulk that I really don’t need on my small frame. Thanks.

    Reply
  4. P Zuckerman
    P Zuckerman says:

    This is an amazing post. Thank you. I have been attending classes 4-5 day a week now for 6 months. In my experience, I have been tempted to tell myself I am getting bored, when in reality I am avoiding pushing myself to the next level.

    I would love to see a bit more importance placed on the musicality of the class, and the ability of the instructor to “use music”. Music has the ability to push us beyond what we think we can do. To motivate, soothe and create joy.
    It is distracting when an otherwise fabulous instructor is counting against the music.
    Just something to consider in this day and age when everyone seems to be trying to copy your model. Why not be the best at everything!

    I love Bar Method. It has given me back my dance physique at 50!

    Reply
  5. Lani Muelrath
    Lani Muelrath says:

    Phenomenal column Burr – only rivaled by Geovanni’s reply!

    This is one of the reasons I love doing focused, targeted workouts. The opportunity to concentrate on deep work in the muscle combined with beloved dance form. There’s a resurrection that occurs with the combination. It is an experience I always have in Bar Method classes, too.

    Thank you!

    Lani Muelrath

    Reply
  6. Mimi Fleischman
    Mimi Fleischman says:

    Hi Dalila – Burr wanted me to tell you, “”I SO agree. Musicality is key. Thanks for your input.”
    Best,
    Mimi

    Reply
  7. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I love doing the Bar Method, however I can only do the videos because there is no studio any where near me. Will I get the same results only doing the videos and what can I do to push myself further being that I am all alone with no instructor. Any tips for us home bound Bar Method devotees?

    Reply
  8. Mimi Fleischman
    Mimi Fleischman says:

    Hi Nicole,
    We have a new Advanced DVD coming out later this month called Dancer’s Body, which will offer new inspiration for anyone looking for an intense workout. You can get it on our website at http://www.BarMethod.com in a couple of weeks.
    Best,
    Mimi

    Reply

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