The Method

The Science Behind Working Out in Front of a Mirror

July 26, 2021

Working out in front of a mirror may seem like nothing more than a passing fitness fad or even an exercise in vanity, but the truth is that mirrors have been a mainstay in dance studios and gyms for decades — and for good reason. Studies show that mirrors offer a wide range of benefits and can potentially improve your workout performance. We’re taking a closer look at workout mirrors and why there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Workout Mirrors: Friend or Foe?

According to Psychology Today, studies show that workout mirrors can work for or against you depending on a variety of factors. On the positive side, they’re wonderful at helping you perfect your form — particularly at the barre. Looking at your position helps you fix poor posture, control your breathing or relax your muscles. Alternatively, mirrors can interfere with our internal focus and cause us to shift our attention from feeling how our bodies move to scrutinizing how they look in motion

That being said, research shows that “external focus (focusing on how your movements affect the environment around you) leads to better performance than internal focus (focusing on how specific body parts or muscle groups are moving) during physical tasks.” Think of it like stepping up to bat in baseball. You’re more likely to hit a home run if you keep your eye on the ball — not by sensing how your body moves as you swing the bat.

5 Benefits of Using Mirrors While Working Out

When it comes to working out in front a mirror, there are some incredible benefits worth considering:

  1. Mirrors help you improve your form. The primary reason so many fitness studios have mirrors hanging on their walls is that it offers members the ability to observe their form, alignment and posture when exercising. Not only does this come in particularly handy when lifting weights or performing dance routines, but it also helps you correct and modify your technique as needed.
  2. Mirrors can lower your risk of injury. The best way to avoid fitness injuries is by practicing good form. Working out in front of mirrors can help you make the adjustments you need to prevent any mishaps, pulled muscles or sprains.
  3. Mirrors can boost your motivation. Almost everyone agrees that working out on a treadmill with nothing to look at gets boring — fast. Mirrors provide an external focal point to help you get through your workout. Seeing yourself in motion can also inspire you to work harder and give it your all.
  4. Mirrors assist with spatial awareness and choreography. Working out in close proximity to others is much easier when you can see how close you actually are. Plus, this visual aid helps you master choreographed movements without having to turn and face your instructor or fellow students.
  5. Mirrors help brighten your workout space. Let’s face it — no one wants to work out in a dark, gloomy gym. Mirrors naturally reflect light and brighten dim spaces, which is one of the beautiful design elements of a Bar Method studio.

How to Use Mirrors to Boost Your Barre Workout

women doing splits in front of mirror

Photo credit: The Bar Method White Rock Lake

In an article by Dance Magazine, the use of mirrors in the world of ballet is looked at from both a physical and psychological perspective.

As former president of the American Psychological Association Dr. Nadine Kaslow explains, “The mirror is often the lens through which dancers have a relationship with their body.” This reflection can either boost your performance at the barre or impair it through self-criticism. That’s why it’s important to resist the urge to compare your appearance to others or dwell on the physical attributes you don’t like. Instead, redirect that energy into appreciating your body for all it can do and use the mirror as a way to center yourself throughout your workout.

Acclaimed American ballet dancer and teacher Finis Jhung encourages his students to view the mirror as an instrument that can help you improve your craft. “I want you to learn to teach yourself,” he says. “We all think we’re doing something, but we’re doing something else — unless you look in the mirror, you’re not going to see that.”

Not only can workout mirrors improve the overall efficacy of your barre workout, but they can also boost your self-esteem and body image when used with a positive mindset.

Interested in learning more about The Bar Method? Locate a Bar Method studio near you, or try our online classes here.