Welcome to Form+Function, our series with INFINITI that focuses on health and wellness ideas that have one thing in common: they are simple, streamlined, and elegant—but powerful. Here’s to the the small changes that can pay huge dividends in your diet, your fitness, your health, and your career.
An outsider observing barre class might look at the small, pulsing movements and think of it as an “easy” workout. But take one step inside to try it and you’ll instantly know the excruciating and muscle-trembling workout that is barre.
No one knows this better than Tanya Becker, co-founder and chief creative officer at Physique 57, the ballet-inspired workout that incorporates cardio, strength training, stretching, and recovery into a full-body workout—one of the first workouts that is largely credited with launching the barre fitness obsession.
As any grippy-sock-wearing barre maven knows, even though the moves are small, they are mighty—and soreness-inducing—but only if the proper attention is given to alignment and form. If you’ve ever taken a class, you’ll know the agonizing feeling of doing a pushing through a challenging move, only to have your instructor come over and lift your limb even higher—cue the shaky legs and deep, deep burn of muscles working hard.
“Form will completely change the effectiveness of your workout,” explains Becker. “You will not only see results faster, but will also reduce your risk of injury.”
If you can’t go deeper into a squat or lift your leg all the way up, that’s okay—as long as your form is in check. Once the proper adjustments have been made, you’re able to access those targeted areas and really feel the proper sculpting, yet effective, pain.
Scroll down to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your small-but-mighty exercises, with some personal instruction from Becker.
During bicep curls, we often see people let their elbows go behind their torso but that takes the work out of the biceps. The best way to do these curls is to keep elbows forward and tucked into your sides.
A common mistake we see is the placement of hands too far forward in front of your shoulders—which takes the work out of the biceps, triceps, and pectoral muscles. The proper positioning is to place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and fingertips turned slightly in.
During seatwork—essentially when you target the muscles that touch a seat when sitting—people often forget to engage their abdominal wall, since they are focusing on their glutes and rear muscles. But ab engagement and seatwork are directly connected to each other, and when the abs aren’t engaged, the seat isn’t working as hard. To ensure you’re fully engaged, imagine you are wearing tight Spanx that feel like they are pulling you “in and up,” while also maintaining a neutral spine.
During plank, people tend to sag into their lower back and arch. When this mistake is made, the abs aren’t engaged and the move isn’t effective, so always remember to keep a straight and long spine. Also, ensure that your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders for the most effective workout.
While this move looks easy to execute, I often see people over-turn out their legs. This should actually be a natural turn out from your hips with the knees safely anchored over the heels. Hips should be just wide enough apart that you can lower your hips to knee level.
Most of the time, people shift their weight back toward their heels in this position, which takes the work out of the thighs. Instead, your knees should go out over your toes and the tailbone should lead you down towards your heels—as though there is a wall behind you.
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