WHY THE BAR METHOD WORKS SO WELL

Leandra Rouse and Burr Joyus“You use light weights, so I don’t understand why Bar Method students have such sculpted arms.” Leandra Rouse, a fitness expert and trainer, made this remark to me last month when we were working together on a video shoot to promote the Bar Method DVDs.

I got a similar comment a few days later from a Bar Method student named Robin. “I’m curious about why Bar Method classes all follow the same routine,” she said. “I’m not complaining because I’m getting great results. Can you just explain to me why the class is so structured?” In asking her question, Robin had unknowingly hit on the answer, namely that the secret of the Bar Method’s effectiveness lies precisely in its structured design.

If you’ve ever taken a Bar Method class, you might have noticed as Robin did that the order of the exercises is mostly the same. To illustrate how this structure works, I’d like to take you on a virtual tour of the workout and explain along the way.

First, it’s important to mention that the safety of exercises allows you to work deep “in the muscle” long enough to change your muscles without risk to your joints. Your teachers give you extra help staying in this intense “zone” by providing you with clear-cut counting and interesting choreography. Just when an exercise becomes too intense to bear, your teacher introduces a new tempo or move that revitalizes your spirit and energy.

alternating sides of legsAbout halfway through the class, you notice that you’re alternating between working the front and the back sides of your body. This pattern stretches and elongates the muscles you just worked in the previous exercise while you’re sculpting the muscles on the opposite side. Early in the class you work the front of your arms, then the back of them while you stretch the front of them. Then you work the front of your legs during thigh-work, the back of your legs during seat-work, the front of your legs again during “round-back,” and finally the back of your legs again during “curl” and “back-dancing.” In effect, you’re usually doing two exercises rolled into one: toning one side while elongating the other side, which has been primed for stretching by having just been worked to exhaustion.

Burning off fatLater in the class you hit what feels like an aerobic section. Your teacher explains that you’re maximizing fat burn-off by performing aerobic-style exercises just when you’re beginning to burn a high portion of fat as fuel. Your lungs pump oxygen as you perform “flat-back” and do more pushups, both quick-moving sections that spike your heart rate. These exercises are a key to the Bar Method’s special ability to create sculpted arms. They burn the fat off from around the arm muscles, plus they give the arms two additional intense sculpting intervals.

Another feature to bring to your attention about the structure of the class is that it’s working each major muscle multiple times. You thought you’d gotten thigh-work over with after the thigh section. Then you find yourself working your thighs all over again during “round-back” and “flat-back.” Every bout of challenge digs deeper into these muscles, and by the time you walk out of class, you tingle with a thoroughly “worked-out” feeling.

And as you probably already know, the Bar Method ensures that you get into the right muscles, those “muscles that I didn’t know I had.” This is an important ingredient in its recipe for quick body change. Some muscles when left to themselves become habitually lazy over time, and others get overused. Bar Method instructors teach you how to find these lost muscles and they have time to give you clear, easy-to-follow instructions on how to work in good form.

Finally during this virtual class, it’s become clear that the Bar Method requires you to lift not just light weights but a very heavy weight: your own body! During pushups you lowered and lifted your body with your arms. During “thigh-work” you lowered and lifted your body with your thighs. During “seat-work” you lowered and lifted your body with your glutes and hamstrings. During “flat-back,” an ab and leg exercise performed under the bar, you raised your legs with the power of your thighs, hips, pecs and shoulders. This was not in any sense a “light weight” workout!

The Bar Method gets surprising results, in sum, because it arranges its exercises strategically; then it targets muscles with precision, multiplying the benefits you get from each exercise.

6 replies
  1. Cherry O'Neill
    Cherry O'Neill says:

    I am a soon to be 58 year old mother of five and I have been an exerciser all my life. However, I have never been happier with the shape and tone of my upper body as I am after having done Bar Method for the last 9 months. My legs have been strong because I was a distance runner, but my upper body was always scrawny-looking. I feel strong, toned and lifted—both my glutes and my posture have Bar Method to thank for that! I have been getting many compliments lately and that is a great feeling at any age, but at mine especially!

    Reply
  2. Julia
    Julia says:

    I’m still convinced B-Meth works by terrifying your body into a better shape.

    Kidding!

    Thanks for this explanation. I really like it when the instructor explains the physiology (is that the right word?) of each exercise. Getting that information engages my brain, which always allows me to work a little harder … And sometimes the distraction helps me finish the set!

    Reply
  3. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    I have been going to Bar Method for 8 months now. I have always been on the heavier set until now. Bar Method has changed the way I feel about myself and how I feel about excercise. Reading this article has helped give me more information to keep in mind when tucking or staying in correct form. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  4. Donna Barker
    Donna Barker says:

    There are many reasons why you become addicted to the Bar Method in Vancouver/West Vancouver, starting with the effective, approachable and knowledgeable instructors! They are also in amazing shape and definitely an inspiration.
    In addition to the amazing staff, the studio is so clean and modern and the Bar Method in Vancouver is a welcoming environment and there is no judgment.
    The Bar Method is a blend of pilates, yoga & ballet. You use the bar as your support for some exercises. The moves are incredibly powerful. Also, the class forces you to stretch. As someone who’s not so good about the post-workout stretch, this is excellent as I am sure I have seen an improvement in my flexibility. YAY!
    Classes last only one hour , a very efficient workout and the time flies because the workout is FUN! It works all those hard to tone areas. Classmates have told me how they have improved, and I know I have t be patient but I think I have already improved in some areas, considering I am recovering from a cycling injury. I know I will not work my core and abs as intensely as I do in Bar Method class. I have also read that there are people who thank the Bar Method for helping them heal their backs, hips and knees.
    We are not getting older, we are getting BETTER!
    Donna Barker

    Reply
  5. Monica Witt
    Monica Witt says:

    My 87-year-old father suffered a stroke 2 weeks ago. Luckily it was on the minor side, so he soon was sent to an Acute Rehab Center with the goal of getting him back to independent living. Imagine my awe as I watched the physical therapists put him through Bar Method exercise after Bar Method exercise! Heel raises facing the bar, thigh work squeezing a ball between his legs…even back dancing on a pad. I already knew I was committed to Bar Method for the rest of my life. Here was proof of the value in it for ALL ages. (My father is home and continuing PT there)

    Reply
  6. Rory
    Rory says:

    Very nice.
    I like that the exercises work deep in the muscle and protect your joints, unlike some other forms of exercise.
    Good post.

    Reply

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