Athletes unite! Whether you are throwing punches at the Muay Thai gym, running marathons, swimming laps at the pool or something else sporty, the benefits of Barre apply to you. The micro muscle movements achieved in Barre promote flexibility, good posture, and target and activate muscles that often get left behind in traditional workout regimens. If you are an athlete looking to improve your form and achieve better results, or just someone looking to enhance your overall fitness, you should consider incorporating Barre into your regular cross-training routine.
Regina Postre, yoga and Muay Thai instructor at Hit House, explains that if you limit your athletic training to one category that “your body will only get to experience one set of ranges of motion. Meaning, if you only train in Muay Thai, your body will only experience kicks, punches etc. from a Muay Thai stance. This will cause overuse in the muscle groups mainly involved in those movements while causing weakness in other areas that are not being used as much. This imbalance will eventually lead to injuries.” She emphasizes that regardless of what sport or movement you practice, if you want longevity then pursuing cross-training, particularly with Barre, is important.
First, let’s talk about posture. Sure, having good posture looks nice, but it’s also critically important for preventing injury, decreasing muscle strain, and helping the body to work efficiently and effectively in your workouts. In particular, bad posture will increase tension in your shoulders and neck, while proper alignment helps to relax joints and ligaments and decreases the risk of chronic strain and overuse. Stephanie Limiti writes, “Having slouched shoulders doesn't just look bad, it can also hinder your workouts, too. Strong posture is essential for balance, but it also directly impacts your form, which means you'll be prone to less injury and be able to perform all kinds of exercises much better.” Working on posture is especially important in the Muay Thai world because fighters spend so much time hunched into a fight stance.
One way you can work on your posture throughout the day so you’re ready to incorporate it into your workouts is by setting reminders on your phone or calendar to check in with yourself. Ensure that your ears are above your shoulders and that you’re using your front neck muscles, not just your posterior muscles, to hold your head up.
Next up… flexibility. Sean Fagan, also known as “The Muay Thai Guy” shares, “Having flexibility in your legs and lower back is crucial if you want to throw kicks with proper form and have the ability to reach your opponents’ heads with your high kicks.” No matter what sport or movement you are drawn to, increasing your flexibility will level you up. Barre training will stretch you out and help to improve flexibility. Increased flexibility brings about many benefits important to all athletes including increased range of motion, diminished risk of injury, improved posture, muscle strength, and overall muscle and joint health.
Aaptiv trainer Mary Onyango explains how flexibility relates to muscle strength and weakness, “If a muscle cannot be fully lengthened, then it reduces its performance. So if a person lacks flexibility, they cannot fully achieve the muscle’s maximum potential.”
Barre utilizes stretching in every class to increase flexibility. If you want to start building your flexibility before you go to class, try out this stretch: Stand with a straight spine and neck. Slightly tuck your chin backward. You should feel a slight tensioning of your clavicle muscles and a lengthening of the posterior part of your neck. Hold for 3 seconds and complete 15 repetitions.
In addition to flexibility and posture improvement, consistent Barre workouts help athletes build strength in the smaller muscle groups that tend to get ignored in typical exercise regimens. Aaptiv trainer Mike Septh explains that it’s easy for smaller muscles to get lost in the shuffle during traditional workouts because they are surrounded by larger muscles that tend to do all the work. This makes it more challenging to actually work the smaller muscle you’re attempting to target. He shares, “The main reason for certain muscles to not activate is overcompensation from bigger muscles in surrounding areas.”
Barre requires participants to move their bodies in a small and focused range of motion, rather than a larger movement pattern. To illustrate this phenomenon Cameron Norsworthy, of Cam on Demand describes what’s going on with your muscles in a barre-style movement, “In a barre-style lunge pulse, where you hold the traditional lunge shape but move up and down one inch, your quads are still working but you have the added focus on supportive muscles such as inner and outer thighs and smaller muscles in the ankles and feet to keep that balance." This type of movement is known as an activation exercise.
Bri Biffignani explains that, “by strengthening these smaller muscles, you are less likely to strain your large body muscles and eliminate relying on joints to support movements when your large muscles do begin to fatigue. With barre strengthening all of these smaller muscles it also enhances your balance and body support as a whole so you are more aligned and engaged to give less risk of injury!”
You can find Jet Sweat classes taught by Regina Postre at https://jetsweatfitness.com/newplatform/items/classes/535 and classes taught by Bri Biffignani at https://jetsweatfitness.com/newplatform/items/classes/854 Emma Boelter graduated from Tulane University with a BA in English in 2017 and is currently pursuing herMasters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Loyola University New Orleans. She has digital writing experience in many different areas including health, wellness, and food and beverage. She currently lives in New Orleans, LA.