The Method

How The Bar Method Reshapes Muscles

January 31, 2009

By now most of us know that you can’t “spot reduce”.  That is, you can’t burn fat off of one part of your body by working that body part.  

What you can do is “spot strengthen.”

That is, you can develop certain muscles in your body more than others.  “Spot strengthening” however, is easier said than done.  First, working just one muscle group doesn’t generate the caliber of intensity you need to change the visible shape of your body.  Second, that one body part you want to change is inseparably connected to a lot of other body parts that are affecting its shape.  So leaving out surrounding muscle groups in your exercise routine will not produce an all around change in shape.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to lift and define your glutes.  So you buy a glute-lifting exercise video and get to work.  After a few months you do feel firmer in that area, but you don’t see much change in the way you look.  The reason for the frustratingly meager results is that your thighs, hips, lower back and calves haven’t changed, and they play a role in determining the appearance of your rear.  Add thigh-work, and your thighs will lift forward from the front and help make your rear look narrower.   Add lower back stretching, and your glutes will sit higher and to grip more firmly.  (Read more about the importance of stretching exercises to sculpt your body.) Work your calves and your hamstring muscles, which overlap your calves, will give more definition to the lower part of your rear.

There’s second reason bun lifting exercise videos don’t work.  Our glutes are built for power and endurance: deep, tough and interlaced with fat for extra energy and armor.  Therefore bun exercises by themselves don’t make a dent in the fat component in your glutes.  For your rear to become leaner and more defined, multiple muscles must be competing for fuel at the same time.

Third, that same power and endurance possessed by glutes makes them a tough customer when it comes to getting enough challenge.  Spinning, dockey kicks, stair climbers, Pilates, yoga — you name it – work the hamstrings but barely touch the glutes.  The Bar Method has thus far been a lone voice in the wilderness calling for a new look at how glutes function and what challenges them. (Read this article to learn our secrets to sculpting a Bar Butt.)

There’s a second key element in the Bar Method’s unique ability to reshape muscles: its emphasis on technique.  Unlike its imitators, the Bar Method trains its students to identify and use the muscles they want to work – those that truly change the shape of the body.  Just as important, students learn not to engage overused muscles such as those in the neck and lower back.  This difference is subtle but vital to safe and effective muscle sculpting.  An outsider comparing a Bar Method workout with one of its imitators might not see that the students in both classes are using entirely different muscles.  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 – and up-to-now much neglected – kinetic ability.

In sum, the Bar Method succeeds at reshaping by rewiring the muscles’ interconnection.  In a Bar Method class, for example, thigh-work and seat work are performed in sequence.  During the thigh section,  the seat muscles come alive towards the end of the exercise to intensify the elongating contractions of the thighs.

Then during seat-work, the warmed-up, worked out, and now exhausted thighs act as a break against the glutes’ and hamstrings’ contractions.    The result is beautiful scissor-like legs that have narrowed when viewed from the front or back.