The sign outside Barrecorre’s Mayfair branch promises me a pert-looking ‘barre butt’. I’m keen to put the ballet-based exercise company’s tagline to the test – ‘where change happens’. I’ve already witnessed some seriously impressive change in a close friend of mine, who has virtually sculpted every curve of her body before she becomes a beautiful bride in just one week! She gave up traditional weights classes in favour of Barrecorre and has been singing its praises ever since, so I figured it was high time I see what all the fuss is about.
My barrecorreMIXED instructor is Charlie, who I later learn is a former dancer from The Lion King musical in the West End. Like a lioness she’s lean and strong, but the only roar to contend with comes from my thighs. Her instructions are warm and easy to follow as we move from static stretches to floor exercises to resistance band repetitions on the barre and finally to ball balances. Each move is deceptively elegant, but I soon realise that grace does not equal ease. High repetitions and progressive exercises work deeply into targeted muscle groups from top to toe. I know it’s working when I struggle to speak through the shakes – especially when Charlie asks me to hold those final repetitions for 10 second countdowns that feel more like eternity.
I’m particularly fond of the resistance band exercises, which add gentle tension to functional movements that make your muscles feel long and strong instead of short and tight, as they often do on some of my least favourite exercise machines. While the barre provides the perfect height and support for many of these moves, I picked up a few tricks I can use in my own at-home training. (Watch this space for a new video on my 10 favourite resistance band exercises, coming soon!)
Another challenge comes from the small weighted balls that Charlie asks us to balance in the backs of our knees. This demands absolute muscle control while I crunch the knee as close to my chest as possible, then push my heel towards the ceiling to strengthen my glute and hamstring. You can even “come up onto stiletto toes” to work the back of your standing leg. Of course, this is only a small segment of numerous consecutive leg exercises we must repeat on the other side. The series burns even more on weaker left, so I’m pleased when Charlie announces we’ll be ending the class with a short Shavasana.
When I roll to my final seated position, I feel like I’ve worked hard while keeping healthy stock in my energy stores. In fact, I’m far more awake than I was when I first arrived. And while I occasionally broke a sweat throughout the class, the focus is more on endurance than explosive (read: super-soaked) strength training, so a quick blast of deodorant and I’m fresh enough to get on with the rest of my day.
I’ll definitely make Barrecorre an early morning and lunchtime staple as it fits effortlessly into the working day. If you’re considering doing the same, you can try it at their London studios in Chelsea, Mayfair and Wimbledon.