Injuries and ailments are almost always caused by two things: bad form, and endless repetition. Our bodies are designed to adapt, so when your workouts incorporate plenty of variety, you will make continuous progress. But if you do the same thing over and over, you will plateau. It’s as simple as that. That is why I’m a firm believer that cross-training is the best training. When you combine the best elements of various styles of training, you pretty much can’t go wrong. One way to do that is to combine barre work with weightlifting. Think I’m crazy? Keep reading.
Barre and ballet-inspired work isn’t just for dancers, it can benefit anyone. And even though I’m writing this post with women in mind there really is no reason a guy can’t try it (although if it isn’t your style I understand).
I would argue that it is because of the differences between barre and lifting that they compliment each other so well. Here are some of the main differences:
- Small movements
- Many repetitions
- Flowing, graceful
- Targets the tiny, supporting muscles that often get neglected in other forms of exercise
- Main benefits include improved flexibility, increased stabilizing muscle strength and general benefits to mobility and posture.
- Full range-of-motion, compound movements
- Heavy weight, few reps
- Not exactly a very graceful activity 😉
- Targets the larger, functional muscles we use every day
- Main benefits include improving functional strength, bone density, boosting metabolism like nothing else (weight loss), and muscle gain (or definition for women, we don’t bulk like men do).
As you can see, barre work and weightlifting are very different, which, in my opinion, is precisely why they should be combined. As amazing as lifting is for your health and fitness, there are a few common problems often associated with the sport. Avid lifters often struggle to maintain flexibility and mobility in their joints. Those who don’t devote plenty of time to mobility work often have serious joint and back issues later in life. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it isn’t lifting that is the real issue, but it is unfortunately a very common struggle for weightlifters.
Another common “weakness” of lifting (powerlifting in particular, not so much with Olympic and dumbbell lifting) is that it often focuses so much on developing the strength of the big, functional muscles that it neglects the tiny, stabilizing muscles. This becomes a problem when you are trying to develop overall fitness that carries over into daily life, because we rely on those tiny muscles just as much as the big ones to prevent injury and support us as we move throughout the day.
For those of you who are skeptics and think barre is for sissies, please give one of the workouts below a try. I guarantee that if you are used to lifting-type workouts, this will kill you. If it’s easy for you please send me a video of you doing it because I don’t believe you.
In short, I have found that barre work is a great way to improve core strength, stabilizing muscle strength and definition, posture, flexibility and mobility, and muscular endurance, all of which carry over and make lifting and daily activities that much more efficient, safe, and manageable.
And if you try one of the workouts above and want to quit early because you can’t keep up with the ladies in the videos, please don’t. Just do your best, rest when you must, and I promise you WILL improve over time. Your body adapts. Eventually you will be able to do the workout without any extra breaks. Give yourself a chance. I used to not be able to make it through the first set of the Ballet Beautiful leg workout. Now I can make it almost all the way through without an extra rest. If I can do it, you can for sure because I’m not a natural athlete.