“Tuck your booty under, stop sticking it out!” the uber-toned barre teacher said firmly, glancing obviously in my direction. “This is not a normal squat.” She’s been pretty chilled all class, but I think my inability to plié gracefully might just break her.
For years my workout schedule centered around treadmills, thumping music, and heavy weights — all of which I love. Pilates, barre, and yoga felt like a chore women’s magazine insist I should be doing — like taking makeup off at night, or oil pulling. And I know supermodels are supposed to love this style of “lengthening” workout, but it just seems too easy. Stretch a little, point your toes, hold a few planks; surely Candice Swanepoel, Erin Heatherton, and Behati Prinsloo don’t look so epic just from THAT?
However, I recently received an invitation to travel through California, checking out the best fitness classes in various cities, including barre. You don’t say no to that, even if it does mean switching your exercise routine up a little. So there I was, 15 minutes into a 60-minute Avant-Barre class in San Francisco, cursing the very squat technique that originally took weeks in the gym to perfect.
Avant-Barre is a ballet-based workout that promises to test your strength, flexibility, and stamina while working your entire body. What I quickly learned — as in, within five minutes, is that even though the movements are tiny (small tucks, lifts, and squeezes), they’re powerful, and damn painful. Apparently ballerinas are super hardcore guys, so don’t be fooled; this workout is tough.
The class was created by former dancer Nini Gueco, and uses a range of deep stretching, poses that work on your stability, and lots of repetitions to ensure you feel a deep burn in your glutes, hamstrings, triceps, and deep in your abs. All the muscles you want toned and lean, basically. We worked through each muscle group inside the light and airy studio, moving onto the next body area just as I felt I couldn’t go any longer.
While I never felt out of breath during the session, my body certainly burned, and I also felt about inches taller from all that lengthening and stretching. Perhaps the best thing though, is that Avant-Barre torched 308 calories (according to my Apple Watch), so can tone-up your body and help keep you lean. So yes, I’ll definitely be back — you can consider me a barre class convert.