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How The Bar Method’s Special Equipment Keeps Students’ Joints Safe
This morning while I was taking the 7 am class, I noticed two students, Raymonde and Rose, who were working across from me. The three of us are regulars at this hour, so Ive had the pleasure of watching Raymonde and Rose develop from struggling beginners into students with good form. Their improvement has been especially satisfying for me to watch because their height could have interfered with their progress had they not been at the Bar Method. Both are on the petite side, especially Rose, and Raymonde also has delicate shoulders. Here their stature and joint sensitivity are not a problem due to the availability of riser mats, a piece of equipment that you can find in every Bar Method studio. Riser mats are two inches thick and filled with dense rubber. Students who are petite or have sensitive shoulders can sit on risers so that they can reach up to the bar from below without straining their necks and shoulders. Raymonde as you can see is also using a stretching strap to hold her leg elevated, which helps her do the exercise without running the risk of overworking her hip-flexors.
The idea to make riser mats an essential piece of equipment came from The Bar Methods long-standing effort to make its workout as safe as possible. When your joints are comfortable, you can concentrate on your muscles, not to mention that you feel intrinsically safer. With this aim in mind The Bar Method has developed not only its risers but a variety of equipment that contributes to its goal of creating a workout that is gentle on its students joints, the better to be challenging to their muscles.
Rubber Underlayment: On first sight a Bar Method studio looks like a normal carpeted room. In fact, the flooring in the room is quite unusual. Under the carpet lies not regular carpet padding but rubber underlayment that is three-fourths-of-an-inch thick. Walk into a Bar Method studio in your socks and youll notice that your heels sink down slightly with each step. During class this underlayment gives extra protection to students feet, knees, elbows and hips.
Large Mat: Yoga mats are popular in many exercise studios but can feel uncomfortable during strengthening and stretching exercises. The Bar Methods mats are filled with dense, inch-and-a-half-thick foam that protects students spines and hips during ab work.
Small Mat: During thigh-work students sometimes press The Bar Methods small mat between their thighs to tone their legs. The main purpose of the small mat however is to protect two particularly boney parts of the body. First, students with sensitivity around the balls of their feet can place it under their feet during thigh-work. Second those with stiff or delicate backs can tuck it under their ribs as shown above during ab work. If you want a small mat to use at home, youll be able to buy one on our website in late October along with the new Bar Method DVDs, Dancers Body, Beginners Workout, and Pregnancy Workout, all of which use this piece of equipment.
Riser Mat: As I mentioned earlier in this blog, riser mats come in handy if youre petite or have sensitive shoulders and youre doing round-back (shown above) or flat-back (similar to round-back but with a straight, vertical back). Its biggest success however has been with students who have hip issues. When these students sit on one or two risers during flat-back, their feet drop lower down than their hips. This adjustment makes their legs easier to lift and their hips experience less strain “ while still offering plenty of challenge to their abs.
Stretching Strap: The Bar Methods stretching straps mainly make hamstring stretching more doable. Students with shoulder issues have also found them useful during flat-back, which Heather is demonstrating. By looping two straps over the bar and holding onto their ends, students can perform this challenging exercise while keeping their upper arms lower than their shoulders.
How much of a difference does all this equipment make? One student named Jen who emailed me awhile ago put it this way: I have joint problems and arthritis from numerous sports injuries, and this is the ONE workout that actually makes my legs, hip and back feel better. Thanks again.
Read here how exercise itself helps keep your joints safe: Why People Need Muscle
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