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Proper Alignment is Everything in Barre: Our Physical Therapist Explains Why
Proper form and alignment go hand in hand, just like peanut butter and jelly, or the bachelor and wine 😊. You cannot have one without the other. Any athlete will tell you, proper alignment and form are the difference between a strong athlete and an elite athlete. Similarly, The Bar Method’s tireless focus on alignment is the difference between a “challenging workout,” and a “challenging, effective, and safe workout.” Bar Method instructors are meticulously trained to pay extra attention to alignment, in order to keep joints protected, enhance flexibility, and to maximize load through muscles, which aides in producing stronger, leaner muscles, healthy joints, and injury prevention.
Here are my top 5 exercises where correct alignment makes all of the difference in your workout:
1. One-Weight Lifts
This exercise is one of the most challenging warm-up exercises, and one of the most technically difficult exercises in the entire Bar Method workout. Correct alignment keeps this position comfortable while allowing you to hold in the position for an extended amount of time. Taking a shorter and wider stance helps minimize strain on the hamstrings (which is a sensitive area for many), and improves stability, allowing for better engagement of your core. Dropping your working shoulder, bending your front leg, and lifting your chest results in a trifecta of benefits, including sculpting the posterior deltoid, warming up the quadriceps, and firing the abdominals and back extensors.
2. Parallel Thigh
While most students are aware they need to keep their heels lifted to engage their calf muscles and protect their knees, it is the position of the torso that can make or break this exercise. Stacking your shoulders directly over your hips increases the load through the quadriceps and calf, causing you to work harder, burn more calories, increase metabolism, and created the signature “bar method shake.” Relaxing your grip on the barre and maintaining a slight bend forward at your waist will trigger the abdominals to contract, producing a continuous challenge to your core.
3. Standing Seat
This exercise illustrates how The Bar Method uses the body’s own resistance to strengthen and sculpt muscles. At first glance, standing seat may appear easy and simple, but if you take a deeper look, you will see that the right alignment is critical in keeping this complex position challenging and effective. Rolling the hips under helps to produce a slight “tuck” of the seat, which allows you to tightly grip your glutes. Holding this position, while moving the working leg, produces an isometric resistance in the standing leg, and concentric contraction of the working leg, which is no small feat. What does this mean in plain English? A J-Lo booty in the making! Pay attention to your upper body in this exercise. Lift your chest and draw your shoulder blades closer to one another while pulling in your navel to keep your postural muscles working throughout the entire exercise.
4. Round Back
No matter your height, riser mats are the answer to help find correct alignment in this position. When positioned properly, round back is a perfect way to taper your quads, lengthen your hamstrings and glutes, and warm up your abdominals for curl. Sitting low on the glutes and adding a riser mat (or 2 or 3) will help decrease pressure on the insertion point of the hamstrings. This helps safely stretch this muscle group and avoid irritating this sensitive part of the body. Lengthening the non-working leg reduces contraction and irritation of the hip flexors, and finally the forceful press up of the arms into the barre combined with deep breathing allows the core muscles to contract.
5. Low Curl
Precise alignment is imperative to engage the deep abdominals (transversus abdominals) and minimize the contraction of the neck and upper body. Pressing your low back into the mat will produce an effective posterior pelvic tilt, while drawing your shoulders an inch below the knees helps to produce a slight snap forward at your waist, geared to make your abs quiver. Utilization of riser mats and mini mats are also key components to keeping perfect alignment.
The Bar Method is 100% committed to being safe and effective, for everyone and every unique body … in every studio across the U.S. and Canada. So if you have a question about your form, do not hesitate to ask your instructor before or after class. We are here to help you get the most out of every exercise!
-Kerrisa Smith, MSPT
National Physical Therapy Consultant
The Bar Method