I remember when I started at The Bar Method 10 years ago. As a Groupon experiment, my expectations were minimal. When I set foot into the studio, I was blown away. I recall the instructor, Iva, greeted me with genuine enthusiasm. It was almost a “love at first sight” type of deal (for me at least). Iva has a sporty physique with toned arms and legs, paired with a gorgeous flock of blonde curls. “If I can have her arms from this exercise, I am down,” I decided then and there.
Although I expected this barre class to be like any other group exercise class, the next 60 minutes were remarkable. In a perplexing-yet-magical way, I felt muscles on my body that I never knew existed. Suddenly, I discovered where my deltoids and inner thigh had been all my life. And it was because of the precise corrections that the instructor gave me. Unlike other group fitness classes where instructions are like herding cattle, Iva attended to me personally and gave me adjustments that helped me make the most out of my 60-minute class. Most importantly, she always called me by my name!
I remember walking out of that class feeling pretty good about myself (and yes, there was slight anticipation that Iva and I may even become BFFs for life!).
My initial experience is one that many students of The Bar Method share. In a world where volume trumps quality in the group fitness circle, it is surprising to get any attention—let alone personalized correction. The focus on technique has been one of The Bar Method’s unwavering standards in serving its clients through personalized connection and upholding one of the highest calibers in the industry.
Today, The Bar Method still upholds one of the most stringent instructor certifications in the fitness industry. Each Bar Method instructor must go through 300-600 hours of training to pass. Then each month, instructors across the country receive technique notes from the corporate team to expand our knowledge around anatomy, discover new variations of exercises and learn new tips for engaging our classes. Every studio then facilitates a quarterly meeting to review new choreographies and hands-on adjustments. Finally, to stay current as an instructor, one must undergo annual certification to validate that one’s teaching skill is kept up to par.
Jessica Rennison, a master instructor at the Newport Beach studio shares, “When I started teaching barre 15 years ago, I had thought the instructor to be the second most important element in a Bar Method class. The first being the technique, of course.” Having taught thousands of classes, Rennison now thinks the teacher to be just as important as the technique. “The teacher creates the experience for everyone in the room. The Bar Method exercise is a smart one because it is so meticulous and it takes practice to perfect. That’s why it takes intelligent instructions to carry out the smartness of this unique technique,” Rennison adds.
To me and many fans of The Bar Method technique, it is indeed the experience that sets it apart from other exercises. And it does require well-trained instructors to carry out such intelligent exercise moves.
The fundamental philosophy of The Bar Method creator Burr Leonard was to “establish an exercise for everyone.” Having experienced an injury herself, Burr was especially empathetic to those with physical constraints. Every move is developed and tested by physical therapists, then put through in-studio trials to perfect and ensure that the exercise is operationally feasible.
Once the technique is approved and carried out, the studio leadership team takes the liberty to determine which type of exercise and classes should be offered based on their clientele’s needs.
As Danielle Duley, a studio owner from Newport Beach explains, “This gives us the flexibility to connect with our clients based on what their needs are. Early morning clients want faster-paced classes that get them in and out the door and mid-day clients desire more stretches to reap the stretch benefit after our intensive strength section fully.”
Reflecting upon the instructor intelligence is accurate because a wide range of freedom is given to the instructor to provide the “holistic experience” for students/clients.
Whenever I teach, I am invigorated by the students in my class. To me, no two classes are the same. This is partly because of the various variations that the The Bar Method technique incorporates and because the different dynamics in every class is based on the different types of students we get. I typically design my class after I review the student make-up the night before, based on the size of the class and understanding of their physical constraints. And it is the deep knowledge that The Bar Method has instilled in me that empowers me to design a unique class that offers a range of challenges for seasoned students and those that are brand new to the technique.
The digital world we live in is where anyone can become a “fitness instructor” by simply owning an Instagram account. The Bar Method’s commitment to its craft is the very opposite of that. Its continuous pursuit of perfection while staying true to its mission in connecting with its students through building community and connection is one that I respect and makes me proud that I am a certified instructor for The Bar Method.
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