BarreConcept is currently taught at the Loose YMCA and instructor Vicki Bernard welcomed me to the class. There were 14 attendees, all female and ranging from teens to 50+ in age. The room boasted floor to ceiling mirrors with a sturdy wooden ballet barre running the length of the room (the barre’s sturdiness would later be tested as I push all of my weight down upon it!)
We start with a warm up – as most classes do – and then move onto barre work. It is a little daunting to be so close to a mirror but with good reason, I can instantly see that I’m as crooked as a teaspoon compared to Vicki’s sleek, knife-straight body line and I find myself auto-correcting.
The class focuses on the legs and after the hour I feel like I have had the best work out ever – there is no doubt that if I stuck to this class my legs would become toned and my buttocks firmer! A cardiovascular 5 minutes and warm down later and I am ready to take on the world (or at least drive home and tackle the washing!) so as a concept it works but it is a very different idea.
The pioneer behind BarreConcept is Emma Newham who explains the logic behind it: “Yoga can often lack the core strength of Pilates, whereas Pilates is not as good as yoga for stretching and flexibility training. This method combines the best of both worlds and goes even further with the ballet element. We live in a society of instant gratification. Clients want fast results and this hard core workout gives just that. We are deliberately inducing muscle fatigue via small isometric end range muscle contractions (‘feel the burn”) and then immediately stretching out that muscle group afterwards. I have been teaching Pilates for 16 years now and my advanced students have moved to BarreConcept now. I have noticed a significant increase in stamina and strength but what has been more evident is their increased flexibility. I attribute this to the amount of heat created in the body from this non-stop workout, which requires a certain level of stamina. The muscles are warmer than in a typical Pilates class and because we stretch during and after the workout, the muscles seem to go further, resulting in increases in flexibility for our students.”
Emma goes on to say “As with anything that becomes popular, you may find that some trainers may jump on the band waggon and offer courses that are not externally verified. BarreConcept is the world’s first internationally accredited course and is recognised in the UK, Canada and Australia. This means that you can be assured that your instructor is of the highest quality as they have been on an approved course and had to pass certain exam criteria.”
There is no doubt that this is a fitness workout with firm foundations in tried and tested exercise classes. Vicki has completed all the BarreConcept instructor exams and has been teaching BarreConcept since it launched over 2 years ago and also teaches Pilates, Fitsteps (like Strictly Come Dancing), Gold (over 50’s fitness) special needs classes as well as taking private and community Pilates classes. Vicki is a busy woman but manages to fit this in around her family of three children “I started when my youngest was in pre-school and teaching fitted in nicely. I start at 9:30am, then have a couple of sessions in the day, do the school run and then teach in the evening – so I am still around for my children. I do have to work weekends but a session only takes up about 1.5 hours.”
Vicki is full of enthusiasm for BarreConcept “It’s a body conditioning class in essence and tones the legs. It brings in elements of dance and the correction and strength side of Pilates. It works different muscles than going to the gym or going for a run – for example it strengthens muscles around the joints, so the knees, ankles and hips. We also add cardio into it as well as weights so it’s a real mix.”
Vicki likes to ensure people know what muscles they are working “If people understand their bodies more, they listen to them and become more body aware. There is a lot that in the body can be corrected through exercise” Vicki concludes.
The class is clearly a hit and the other women taking part were keen to tell me the pros of BarreConcept “It’s more fun than the gym” Shelley tells me before adding “my bum has toned up – so my husband tells me!” then there is Laura who confides: “It burns!” and I have to say I agree. The students are also keen to point out that Vicki is an asset to the class “She is very knowledgeable” chips in Amanda and soon all of them are singing the classes praises with phrases such as ‘core strength’, ‘toned legs’ and ‘flexibility’ being thrown into the mix. It is clear Vicki is an instructor that gains respect and I can see why – her teaching is clear, you can hear her over the music and she is attentive – correcting body alignment and giving positive feedback. All in all BarreConcept is a positive fitness class that really gives your legs a workout and yet I have never felt more graceful when exercising!