Burr Answers Your Questions.
What do you do in a Bar Method workout?
The Bar Method® is a one-hour, non-impact total body workout. It starts with a warm-up, free-weight exercises and push-ups and then moves on to intense, isometric leg work at the bar, followed by abdominal work at the bar and on mats. Every exercise includes active stretching to elongate the targeted muscles.
Will The Bar Method help me lose weight?
Yes. The Bar Method’s exercise formula is especially designed to maximize the weight loss you get from exercise. Most regular students become slimmer and lighter, sometimes within months. Here’s how the Bar Method works to slim you down:
The Bar Method adds density to your muscle fiber, making your body more efficient at burning calories all day.
Last but not least, the Bar Method’s quick and noticeable results – leaner, more lifted muscles – keep you motivated to eat right.
Here are the Bar Method top ten tips for getting to your ideal weight:
- Always eat breakfast.
- Practice portion control.
- Pass on seconds.
- Pass on sweets.
- Limit snacks and sugary drinks.
- Don’t excessively deprive yourself.
- Don’t get caught up in fad diets.
- Get enough sleep.
- Beware of the claim “naturally sweetened” by fruit juice, which is a form of sugar all the same.
For more on getting to your ideal weight, see Burr’s blog:
How many calories can I burn in a Bar Method class?
Most Bar Method students burn 250-600 calories a class and then burn additional calories for several hours after the workout due to the intense deep muscle work.
Just how many calories you will burn depends on a number of variables such as your weight, your fitness level, your age, your previous weight loss patterns, how hard you work during class, and many other factors.
For more on calories burned during a Bar Method class, see Burr’s blog:
Is The Bar Method aerobic?
Yes. Even though the exercises look different from those of conventional aerobics, The Bar Method workout’s fast pace challenges both your cardio vascular system and your muscle strength throughout the class, delivering a high level of overall fitness.
For more on the aerobics of Bar Method, see Burr’s blogs:
How often should I do The Bar Method?
Research shows that you get the best results from exercise by working out three to five times per week. The Bar Method is non-impact and quite gentle (in spite of the terrific muscle burn you get), so unlike some other workouts you can do it up to six days a week and still allow enough time for your muscles to recover.
Within that frequency, individuals vary with regard to what works best for them. The best way to tell how many times a week is right for you is to listen to your body. If you feel yourself getting stronger and feeling better, your frequency is okay. If you start feeling fatigued, you’re probably going too often. The right frequency for you also depends on what else you’re doing in your life. If you’re working 10 hours a day and not getting a lot of sleep, you might need to limit your attendance to three days a week.
Can I do The Bar Method in conjunction with other exercises?
Yes. The Bar Method is a comprehensive, full-body workout, so it will give you a high level of fitness without your needing to supplement it with additional strengthening, stretching or aerobic exercise, as long as you come to class three-to-five times a week. The Bar Method also works well in conjunction with many types of exercise. Taking the Bar Method is a fantastic way to train for sport, and it will boost your performance in many other kinds of exercise such as biking, skiing, martial arts, hiking, basketball and dance.
I have a tendency to bulk up. Will The Bar Method trim me down?
Yes. The Bar Method will trim down your body, especially around your upper legs. During the first three-to-five months that you take class however, your muscles feel more “there” than before and so seem to be fuller. This is because newly toned muscles hold additional water, and also because intra-muscular fat that has been pushed outwards.
So if you’re going through the initial strengthening stage, have faith! A few more months of classes will tighten your muscles, burn away excess intramuscular fat, and give you a new, trimmed down shape.
For more on the Bar Method’s process of slimming you down, see Burr’s blog:
I’m working hard but am gaining weight. What’s happening?
Two forces are at play that are probably causing your weight gain if you’re relatively new to the Bar Method:
First, you’re in the first of two stages of body change that the Bar Method produces: In this first stage your muscles gain firmness. In stage two the fat around and between your muscles burns away. Stick to working out three-to-five times a week and you’ll reach stage two, during which you will burn off intra-muscular fat and your body slim will down, in about three-to-six months.
Second, you’ve probably encountered the heightened exercise hunger that descends on your appetite when you first embark on a new strengthening routine. The reason for this sudden increase in hunger is that your muscles are in the process of gaining firmness, and they’re crying out to be fed. Don’t worry! Studies have found that regular exercise does a “180” on your appetite once you reach a cruising speed of body change: It depresses your appetite! That’s why you’ll notice that the students are very lean at Bar Method studios that have been operating more than a few years. So make strengthening exercise part of your lifestyle, practice portion control (and stay away from sweets!) and you’ll be rewarded with a leaner, lighter body.
For more on exercise hunger, see Burr’s blog:
Am I too old to take The Bar Method?
Bar Method studios welcome and support students both young and old. There’s no specific age limit, and in fact our classes include a wide diversity of age groups, from students in their 20s to their 70s. One reason the Bar Method is doable for older students is that teachers call out options for all exercises. Very strong students can choose to do one option, while others who are just building their strength choose another one. That way, all students get the best workout for their level of fitness.
For more on taking the Bar Method when you’re older, see Burr’s blog:
What is “The Bar Method tuck”?
The “Bar Method tuck” is a stance that maintains spine neutrality during weight-work and muscle isolations. In this stance, students recruit their bodies’ three core muscle groups, those in their upper backs (shoulder stabilizers), their torsos (abs), and under their spines (glutes). The “Bar Method tuck” thereby keeps these stabilizer muscles working to protect students’ spines and also to enhance the effectiveness of the exercise at hand.
For more on the Bar Method tuck, see Burr’s blog:
I have very tight hamstrings. Can I still do The Bar Method?
Yes! You should do the Bar Method, or some exercise form that includes gentle hamstring stretches in order to increase the range of motion in your hips. The Bar Method works especially well because its alternating strength-stretch format exhausts your muscles before they’re stretched, allowing them to let go more easily.
Every Bar Method studio includes at least two “stall bars”, structures that offer bars at many heights. During this stretch, position yourself in front of a stall bar and choose a bar height that enables you to keep both legs straight and your hips facing forward without strain.
Avoid the temptation of forcing your leg onto a bar that’s too high for you! Strained (overstretched) hamstrings heal slowly, and if not treated can bother you for decades. So don’t risk it! Patience always pays off when it comes to stretching.
Use the bar, as shown, to keep this stretch working for you. Concentrate your mind on where you feel the stretch, and focus on the pattern of your breath to help your muscles relax. Above all, don’t look around the room to compare your flexibility with other students’!
This exercise immediately follows the seat and hamstring isolations and is especially designed for students whose hamstrings are tight. The Bar Method is unique in its ability to exhaust muscles so that they lend themselves more easily to stretching. So if other students are doing different moves during this section, ignore them, seize the moment for yourself, and focus on stretching your thoroughly warmed-up hamstrings!
Use the strap, as shown, to keep this stretch working for you. Concentrate your mind on where you feel the stretch, and focus on the pattern of your breath to help your muscles relax. Above all, don’t look around the room to compare your flexibility with other students’!
Your DVD workouts do not include the “round-back” and “flat-back” exercises you give in your studio classes. Does their absence change the results I get when I use the DVDs?
The Bar Method’s “round-back” and “flat-back” exercises do have unique benefits. They spike the heart rate, taper the leg muscles, tighten the muscles around the waist, and strengthen the core. To perform them however, you need a bar that is securely attached to a wall, which most DVD users do not have a home. Our DVDs – especially the “Super Sculpting” series and “Dancer’s Body” – make up for the absence of these two exercises with a quickened pace and extra bar-work to shape your legs and carve your abs. The intensity generated by these added elements enables you to get a Bar Method-sculpted body by either at a studio or with the DVDs at home.
How is The Bar Method different from other bar workouts?
The Bar Method focuses on effectiveness, safety, and body awareness. It is the only bar workout that was designed under the guidance of physical therapists to ensure joint safety. Its teachers receive extensive training in healthy patterns of movement, body connection, mental focus, and posture. The Bar Method workout places a greater emphasis on muscle sculpting than do other bar fitness techniques.
For more information on what sets The Bar Method apart, see Burr’s Blog:
Will I ever “plateau” with The Bar Method or will I keep progressing?
Bar Method students overwhelmingly testify that the workout stays challenging and grows on them with time. They call it becoming “addicted to the Bar Method.” Reasons for students’ increasing interest in the workout are:
- The Bar Method positions are so precise that students can continually work on perfecting them.
- The results are so specific that the cause and effect between taking a class and seeing and feeling the results becomes increasingly clear-cut.
Students thereby develop a craving for what they get out of the workout and ultimately for the workout itself.
Can I take The Bar Method if I have an injury or medical condition?
Yes! The Bar Method instructors are well versed in human anatomy and can help you modify exercises to make you comfortable while maintaining the effectiveness of the workout. Be sure to tell your instructor about your condition so that they can best assist you. Please read applicable sections below to discover how The Bar Method can work for you.
Disclaimer: Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional.
When your abs are weak, your body tends to compensate with other muscles. A “curl” motion might translate into an effort on the part of your neck rather than your abs. Your neck might also experience discomfort because of a natural tightness in your back muscles – not in itself a problem, but something you need to be aware of during ab work.
The Bar Method curl section offers solutions to both these conditions. Teachers provide their students with mats and cushion they can place under their ribs if needed, then show them how to position these supports to best advantage. In the curl section of class, students are free to work at their own pace and can sit up and reset when needed.
With practice, most Bar Method students learn to do rhythmic curls with their abs and without neck discomfort.
Our shoulder joints are especially vulnerable to injury. Why they are this way goes back to when we evolved from four-legged to two-legged animals. When we began to use our arms, our shoulder joints became more flexible so that we could use them to throw and reach. This gain in flexibility caused the joint to lose stability. Bar Method arm-work is for this reason designed by physical therapists to help stabilize your shoulders by helping you strengthen the “stabilizer” muscles around them.
If you have a shoulder injury, the Bar Method strongly recommends that you see a doctor before signing up to exercise. Physical therapy works well on shoulders, so you’ll optimize your recovery by putting yourself in the hands of a physical therapist before coming to a Bar Method class. Then, when you’re feeling better and get the okay from your doctor to exercise, your Bar Method teacher will give you modifications to use in class that will help your shoulder continue to heal.
For more on how to take class if you have a shoulder injury, see Burr’s blog:
Tens of thousands of Americans, most of them women, suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome – compression of the median nerve at the wrist resulting in numbness and pain. An even greater number of people are genetically predisposed to this syndrome by having a smaller than average opening in their carpel tunnel, the passageway through which nerves travel through the wrist to the hand. Today, heavy computer use has increased the likelihood that these people will come down with the condition.
Falling on a hand or wrist, a common injury, is another way people end up with wrist pain. Remember to use pain as a guide, and stop when you feel any “bad”-type pain where you’re injured! See your doctor before you attempt to exercise. She or he can give you effective treatments and therapies for your condition.
The Bar Method has developed modifications for every exercise that exerts pressure on the wrists, so be sure to alert your instructor and take their adjustments. By exercising mindfully, you’ll end up not only pain free but also with stronger joints that are less vulnerable to injury.
If your lower back hurts, you’re one of roughly 31 million Americans sharing this condition at any point in time. The good news is that you have a 90 percent chance of getting better within a month with no treatment at all.
To maximize your chances of becoming pain-free and staying that way, doctors prescribe the following steps:
- Get your condition diagnosed if you’re experiencing any digestive abnormalities, weakness, numbness or tingling in your legs or if the onset of the pain was triggered by an accident or event.
- Once you’ve ruled out such complications by seeing a doctor, begin your road to recovery by staying out of bed during the day! Studies have found that bed rest only prolongs the pain. Instead, continue with your normal daily activities. Puttering through your day helps to lessen spasms and keep your joints lubricated.
- Wait until the pain starts to recede before you exercise.
- When you’re starting to feel better, resume low-or-non-impact exercise. If you feel increased pain while exercising, either stop completely, or modify the exercise so that you can perform it pain-free.
- Include stretching in your exercise routine. Lack of exercise will make you less flexible over time, limiting your ability to move, rotate, and bend, thereby making it more likely that you’ll strain something.
- Practice good posture while standing and sitting.
- Strengthen your abdominals, and stretch your back, hips and hamstrings. Stronger abs give you increased control over what you do with your busy arms and legs.
The Bar Method is based in part on rehabilitative back therapy and has helped countless people to free themselves of back pain. The Bar Method’s exercises work because they “rewire” the connection between the core muscles and the limbs. The standing seat exercise, for example, teaches you to keep your spine stable while using your glutes, thereby teaching your body to move from the hips, not the lower back. The Bar Method also frees up your lower back muscles by gently stretching them throughout the class.
For more on how to take class if you have a back condition, see Burr’s blog:
Hip sensitivity can arise from many causes, among them years of running or dancing, inherent hip tightness, or simply being out of shape. The Bar Method workout features protections against overuse of your hip-flexors combined with non-impact core strengthening to stabilize and protect your hip joints. Inform your teacher if you have sensitive hip-flexors and they will provide you with modifications that will allow you to workout comfortably. Additionally, the work you’re doing to strengthen your quads and abdominals will contribute to the health of your hips in the long run.
For more on how to take class if you have a hip injury, see Burr’s blog:
IT band syndrome
IT Band (ilio-tibial band) Syndrome is a painful condition that occurs when a hip muscle called the “TFL” tightens up from running or overuse in general. The Bar Method strengthens and stretches this muscle, thereby allowing it to release and calm down. If you have IT band syndrome, ask your instructor how best to modify in class to facilitate the healing process.
Having a hamstring strain is painful and easy to do! Cheer leaders, dancers, athletes of all kinds, and people who just plain exercise can strain a hamstring. And the diagnosis is not great after that, since hamstring strains don’t heal quickly and can become chronic if left untreated. For this reason, your first step on your road to recovery is to see your doctor.
Once your doctor okays you to exercise, come back to class and tell your teacher you have a hamstring condition so that she can give you the options you need to work safely. Then start slowly; be patient, and back off an exercise when you feel significant “bad pain,” that is, pain that is clearly caused by your injury and not a muscle burn.
Remember, while you’re recovering from a hamstring strain, don’t get ahead of yourself and push too hard! Listen to your body, and use modifications as long as is needed for the best resolution.
Knee problems come in many varieties, including:
- Injury to a tendon
- Injury to a ligament
- Arthritis or worn knee cartilage
- Chondromalaciapatellae, erosion of the cartilage in the knee cap
- IT band syndrome: rubbing of the IT band against the knee
If you have any of these injuries, it’s important to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment before you exercise.
After you get your doctor’s okay, the Bar Method workout can help you stabilize your knees by strengthening and aligning the muscles around them. Its non-impact, highly controlled leg work is similar to what you’d get in physical therapy, and its gentle intensity is highly effective rehabilitation when you’re at the recovery stage.
The Bar Method’s thigh-work exercises, like classic “squats” seen in gyms, are especially beneficial to the knees and can help alleviate most common knee conditions. Research supports the “squat” as the safest and best exercise for rehabbing and strengthening your knees. Four studies of the squat as a rehab and strengthening technique, which were carried out in the US and the UK from 1989 to 2000 exhaustively tested the knee ligaments of groups performing the squat and other groups performing leg extensions. The groups that used the squat for training and rehab ended up with stronger knees and greater knee stability than those that used seated leg extensions. These studies also determined that the squat did not strain participants’ knee ligaments, and in some cases tightened them.
The Bar Method’s version of the squat uses the bar to help you keep your torso vertical rather than having it lean diagonally forward. This difference acts to make your quads more elastic, increase the range of motion in your hips, and give your legs a streamlined look. If you experience knee discomfort in any of The Bar Method exercises, be sure to notify your instructor. There are a variety of ways to modify the exercises and ensure the effectiveness of the workout for you.
For more on how to take class if you have a knee condition, see Burr’s blogs:
A foot, ankle or calf condition
Foot, ankle and calf injuries including bunions and plantar fasciitis are extremely common due to our love of dangerously high heeled shoes, the hard pavements we dash around on, and how easy it is in the general course of life for our feet and ankles to be sprained and broken.
The Bar Method is an ideal workout choice if you have one of these conditions. It’s non-impact, performed on a soft carpet, and provides special options for students with sensitive feet. As always, ask your Bar Method teacher for modifications as needed – he or she will be more than happy to help!
For more on how to take class if you have a foot injury, see Burr’s blog:
Sciatica is pain in the buttocks and the back of the legs due to irritation of the sciatic nerve or nerve roots. It’s really a symptom of several different conditions, including:
- a herniated disk,
- spinal stenosis,
- piriformis syndrome,
- sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and
- degenerative disk disease.
90% of people with sciatica get better over months without surgery. If you experience sciatic pain, however, it’s important to see your doctor, who will prescribe diagnostic tests and treatment.
For most types of sciatica, Medical professionals recommend physical activity, not bed rest, as the best treatment. Inactivity, they say, can even make the pain worse. Recommended exercise includes strengthening and stretching exercises for the back, hamstrings and glutes. Patients who do these exercises regularly experience faster recovery and fewer future episodes of pain.
If you have or have had sciatic pain, the Bar Method workout might be just what the doctor ordered. This method originated as a therapeutic back strengthening program for a dancer who hurt her back. Consequently every exercise during the class focuses on strengthening, stretching or alignment the back.
How to take the Bar Method when you have sciatica:
- Work within pain limits! As long as you don’t feel sciatic pain you know you’re working safely. So if you feel any sciatic pain at all, stop doing the exercise, or modify the way you’re doing it until you’re pain-free!
- Lighten up on the free weights. The Bar Method free-weight section (unlike gym-style weight routines) uses the weight of the arms themselves and so will tone your arms even if performed with no weights at all. So to minimize weight on your spine, you can use small weights, or go without them altogether, and still get good results.
- If you have sciatica caused by a tight Piriformis muscle, keep your legs in a parallel position during the leg work. Instead of the turned-out leg variations for example, stick with the parallel ones.
- Always see your doctor if you have sciatic pain! Even though it’s probably not a sign of a serious disorder, you need to make sure. In any case, a good diagnosis is the first step toward recovery.
Osteoporosis and osteopenia
Almost half of all women past menopause will develop a dowager’s hump, and you don’t want to be one of them. The Bar Method is ideal for keeping your bones strong and dense in the following ways:
- Its exercises are weight-bearing but non-impact, a perfect formula for putting the right amount of stress on your bones to build density without jarring your joints.
- The many stretches performed during the class cause your muscles to tug at their underlying bones, stimulating your bones to grow stronger. Stretching also helps prevent impact injuries by making your muscles more elastic.
- The Bar Method’s emphasis strengthening around the hips and back helps prevent osteoporosis just where your body is most vulnerable to losing bone mass.
- The posture exercises performed during the class reduce stress on the spine and shoulders.
- Its balance work at the bar helps you steer clear of injuries from a fall.
If you already have osteoporosis, ask your doctor’s advice on the types of exercise you should and should not be doing. With your doctor’s approval to take class, ask your Bar Method teacher for modifications that will help you exercise comfortably.
Scoliosis or fused vertebrae
Scoliosis is a common condition where there is an abnormal curvature of the spine to one side (a lateral curvature of the spinal column). Scoliosis may occur from weakness of the muscles around the spine or from the spine not fully developing with growth. It may create an imbalance in your posture muscles, abdominal muscles and hip muscles. Scoliosis will not prevent you from doing the Bar Method in good form, though your back may look different in some Bar Method exercises than other students – especially in the “one-weight lift,” “fold-over” and “arabesque.” Ask your teacher if you need guidance on the correct alignment for you.
Studies of patients with fibro-myalgia have found that low impact aerobic exercise and gentle stretching can decrease pain. Medical experts do not recommend intense weight-lifting because it can result in excessive muscle soreness.
So while the Bar Method is safe to do if you have fibro-myalgia, you’ll need to take occasional breaks during the class, especially at first, to ease the muscle-burn associated with the strength work. Tell your teacher about your condition, so she or he understands your need to rest.
If you get over the hump of initial soreness from your first Bar Method classes, your added strength, flexibility and improved posture will lessen the stress and strain on your muscles and joints. Other benefits of strengthening and stretching workouts are reduced depression, improved sleep and more energy.
See your doctor for pain management if you have a severe case of fibro-myalgia.
The National Institutes of Health calls exercise “so important” for those with lupus because “too much rest can be harmful to muscles, bones and joints.” The NIH’s patient handout also says that exercise “can help you feel better, both mentally and physically.”
Over the years Bar Method students with lupus have reported that their affected joints feel better after their Bar Method classes. Most of all these students have talked about overall increased well-being. All this said, check with your doctor before starting the Bar Method or any other exercise program.
Doctors say that exercise is the best therapy for varicose veins. Getting the heart pumping helps send blood through the veins and discourages the pooling that’s the cause of the condition. The Bar Method has helped fade veins in some students. Its “round-back” exercise, which works the legs upside down, is especially good therapy for varicose veins since it allows gravity to draw the blood from your legs and back to your heart. Before you begin an exercise program, get your doctor’s okay to exercise. Then stick with the routine for at least six weeks if you can. Becoming more fit might help to alleviate your discomfort.
Exercise headaches are a common medical phenomenon. They’re usually caused by vassal dilation in the temporal arteries during intense exertion. Here are two links to reputable sites that describe why they happen and when they might be a sign of a serious condition (rare but something to consider). We recommend that you discuss your headaches with your doctor and ask her about medications and other courses of treatment that could help you.
For more information, please visit:
How do I begin taking The Bar Method when I’m pregnant?
First, bring a note from your doctor to give the front desk manager at your studio, stating that you can safely participate in strengthening and stretching exercise classes while you are pregnant.
If you’ve never exercised at the Bar Method, we recommend that you to take several Bar Online Pre-Natal classes or try out the Bar Method Pregnancy DVD so that your body gently becomes accustomed to into the deep-muscle routine (while it’s already undergoing lots of other changes due to your growing belly). After you’re familiar with the class, it will be easier to start taking regular beginner or mixed class.
How do I modify the class when I’m pregnant?
- Skip the stretch on the stall bar (shown above), which students usually perform before and after class, so as not to over-stretch your internal organs.
- Do a “cat stretch on your hands and knees (shown below) instead.
- During this stretch series, do not take the option to do a split (because the pelvic ligaments loosen a bit while you’re pregnant, and a split might farther loosen your pelvic bones). Stick with the “hamstring stretch” position (shown below).
- Do add a “sciatic stretch” after the hamstring stretch by pressing your extended leg diagonally behind the center of your body as shown, which stretches your waist and lower back.
How do I modify the class when I’m 20 weeks or more into my pregnancy?
Continue to use the modifications above, and add the following ones:
- Work with your back at less of a forward angle or hold onto the bar for balance.
- You can do pushups against the bar with your heels up or down.
Stretch at the bar:
- You can do this stretch series in a kneeling position.
- Replace the “fold-over” and “arabesque” exercises with “standing seat” or “diagonal seat.”
- Place three or four “riser” mats under your large exercise mat (your teacher will give them to you). Lean on the risers so that your spine is at no more than 45 degrees back. The risers allow you to gently stretch your lower back and work your lower abs at the same time. This position will keep the weight of your uterus from tiling back onto major blood vessels. Hold onto a strap over the arch of your extended foot.
- Keep one or both of your feet on the floor if you feel uncomfortable lifting both at the same time.
- Lean on three or four “riser” mats as you did during “round-back.” Substitute “high curl” for any “low curl” positions. Start and stop as needed during the curl section.
- Do the sitting “mermaid stretch” in place of the prone back stretch. Sit up with both knees bent to one side. Lift your opposite arm and gently lean your torso sideways towards your feet.
- Modify “back-dancing” by kneeling in front of the bar and holding onto it rather than lying down.
- Replace butterfly stretch with a half lotus stretch. During the “strap stretch,” sit up and place one foot in the strap. Place your other leg with a bent knee on the floor for stability.
Options and special rates for pregnant students
During your pregnancy, Bar Method studios offer you several special options and rates:
- Option 1: You can take the pre-natal class exclusively (if your studio offers it).
- Option 2: You can take the regular class and make modifications in the exercises as needed. (If you’re new to the Bar Method must have taken at least five pre-natal classes before joining the regular class.)
- Option 3: In selected studios, you can take the first half of any class for half price. (The first 1/2 hour focuses on the arms and legs.) Ask your local studio if it participates in this program.
- Option 4: You can alternate among the three options.
Check with your local Bar Method studio to confirm classes, pricing, and special rates.
Have a happy, healthy pregnancy!