Shape’s art director Ray Ticsay tried the ballet-inspired workout for the first time, and walked out sore, sweaty, and super mind-blown.
Truth be told, I’ve never thought much of barre – until now.
When the fitness trend hit Singapore a few years ago, I saw it as an exercise for dainty girls. Looking at those graceful arm-sweeping and leg-lifting movements, who would have imagined it would be a legit workout that even men would benefit from?
Well, I was proven wrong after attending a barre class with three of my male colleagues at WeBarre, Singapore’s fastest-growing barre studio. Being first-timers, we were to go through a fundamental class that would give us a taste of signature barre moves at a slower-than-usual pace.
With that in mind, I certainly didn’t expect to leave the Telok Ayer studio completely drained, soaked with sweat, and with jelly legs that could barely take me down two flights of stairs. Somehow, the workout induced serious food (read: lobster roll) cravings too. Here’s what else I uncovered in those 45 minutes. Guys, take notes.
Barre is not ballet
Though barre has its origins in ballet, it’s also inspired by pilates, yoga and functional training. Fun fact: Barre was developed by ballerina Lotte Berk in London, as a rehabilitative exercise after she injured her back. Decades later, it has been redeveloped by different trainers and offered in studios around the world as an effective full-body workout.
During my class, there was no choreography to classical music, thank goodness. Instead, instructor Anabel Chew, also the co-founder of WeBarre, took us through moves that targeted specific muscles from top to bottom. We started with upper body exercises that worked the deltoids and triceps, followed by legs, core (including glutes) and ab exercises to end. Fast-paced pop music was played throughout, but I was too shagged to pay attention, let alone move to the beat.
“Pulse” is the new dirty word
Lift 1kg weights? Sure. But to bend my knees in a wide-legged (second) position and pulse while doing arm circles with those weights? Nasty. I could not wait for Anabel to finish counting down each move. Unfortunately, pulsing was incorporated in almost every exercise – squats, lunges, leg raises, heel lifts, you name it – so there was no escape. Halfway through the reps, my legs would shake uncontrollably and buckle from the intensity, causing me to drop to the floor. I was glad this was an all-men class for newbies; I felt less judged for taking short breaks in between. Men’s Health editor Kelvin Tan commented: “I’ll never look at the word ‘pulse’ the same way again.”
Barre burns a crazy amount of calories
Going by Kelvin’s fitness watch, he burned 464 calories in our 45-minute class. “Shocking, as I typically burn only about 350 calories in a HIIT workout,” he said. Anabel shared that it’s typical for guys to blast 600 to 800 calories in a one-hour class. “When you’re pulsing during the moves, your heart rate shoots up. That’s when the burn sets in.”
Barre makes you ache in unthinkable places
My idea of a good workout is feeling muscle soreness the next day. And barre definitely checked that off. Every fibre in my arms (armpits included), core, glutes and calves ached madly for days, making simple chores like taking the stairs and removing my clothes so punishing. Man, I can only imagine what the WeBarre HIIT (a mix of barre and high-intensity interval training) will do to my body.
Even Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health’s content producer who lifts weights and runs regularly, admitted: “Barre is intense, one of the toughest workouts I’ve done. My abs and hamstrings were especially sore.” Art director Michael Chian described barre as “the second hardest workout I’ve done, second only to Crossfit”. The #barreburn is real.
Barre works your core through and through
After experiencing barre, I think I’ve found my go-to core workout. Every move requires me to brace my core, in order to stay upright. And there are ache-inducing ab exercises at the end. Anabel said: “Barre gives you core stability, which is not just about the six-pack. In a barre class, you activate your deep core muscles from start to end. That’s what protects you from injuries, improves balance and gives you better focus when doing the exercises.”
Barre is more than just about hot girls
Okay, I’ll admit that images of curvy chicks in tights came to mind, but I’ve realised that there’s so much to look forward to besides eye candy. Like a stronger core and improved muscle definition. I guess that’s why more and more guys are taking up barre.
According to Anabel, 10 to 15 per cent of WeBarre’s clients are men. “In the past year, we’ve seen an influx of guys joining our classes. A lot of them go with their wives, girlfriends and female colleagues. Some treat barre as a complementary form of training to their gym workouts and triathlon preparation. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger does barre regularly.” Now, to rope my wife into this.
WeBarre is located in Tanjong Pagar, Telok Ayer, Clarke Quay and Dhoby Ghaut. Rates start from $40 for a single class. Visit www.webarre.com for more info.