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Amanda Ross talks about raising the Barre

Amanda Ross blog Barre

Barre classes may help to improve fitness, strength and flexibility.


Amanda Ross talks about how Barre classes are a useful cross-training exercise for riders...

By Amanda Ross

As always, it’s good to try new ways to improve fitness, strength and flexibility, challenge the mind, keep the injuries at bay, and just generally keep life interesting. My body is starting to suffer the effects of being pulled left, right and centre by countless feral young horses, so like many equestrians with the same problem, I was looking for something to target my ‘dodgy hip’. So I yanked myself out of bed for a bright and early 7am Monday morning Barre class, at my local physio and Pilates studio. Minus the tutu.

What is a Barre class?

Barre is a ballet inspired workout, specifically using small, controlled movements targeting movement using muscles of the the hips, core, lower & upper body, & all with good posture. Think, plié, 1st, 2nd position, it’s is kind of similar to a standing Pilates, with similar benefits of making us symmetrical, flexible yet strong & coordinated trough our core stabilizers. Oh, & did I mention burn your butt like never before?!  


Amanda Ross blog Barre

Have you ever struggled to deliver that ‘lower leg back’ aid (think outside leg back for a canter transition or traverse) without twisting your pelvis or losing flexibility in your hip? Look at the Barre move below – there’s your move! Possibly without the pointed toe, but it’s the same muscles used for external hip rotation and extension.


Amanda Ross blog Barre


The isometric contractions that make up the bulk of a barre class occur when the muscle tenses without changing length. Think of these movements as the opposite of typical strength training moves (or concentric and eccentric contractions), which occur when a muscle stretches then shortens (as in a biceps curl). Isometric exercise is a great way to maintain muscle length. 


Amanda Ross blog Barre


These higher-rep, low-weight exercises target slow-twitch muscles, which help increase endurance. In contrast, larger, compound movements target fast-twitch muscles, which help with power and speed (think running a marathon vs. sprinting). Plus, isometric movements can help strengthen muscles without straining tendons or ligaments, so there’s less risk of injury compared to more traditional strength training. Exactly what we do when riding a horse!

What’s so beneficial about the one-inch movements is that you can hold a posture and benefit from continuously engaging the muscle, but you also get a mini-recovery with each pulse, so you can stay in the hold longer. Isometric movements help isolate specific muscles, so you can do more reps with smaller movements like these, which fatigue your muscles in a different way.


Amanda Ross blog Barre


And like riding, there’s no such thing as ‘legs day’ or chest day’ – it’s always full body day!

You’ll target multiple muscle groups at once, like you do sitting on a horse. It’s a highly efficient workout since you’re doing two to four movements—holding, pulsing, stretching, for example—at a time in each move. A move mainly targets your quads, but at the same time you’re also challenging the calves, hamstrings, glutes, abs, and upper-back muscles. 

Bonus: Working all these areas at once also helps raise the heart rate! Not like running or dragging a tyre, more in the sense you’ll get very warm… there will be beads of sweat… & the voice inside your head will be constantly repeating ‘make it stop now, last rep pls, enough now!’ as you smile like Mary King on XC, pretending you’re all over this & having a great time!

Here’s a little Barre workout video to get you started. And FYI – your cross-tie, arena fence, kitchen bench… All ideal for a Barre!!

- Amanda 






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