"I'm getting a droopy pancake butt," I told myself a few months ago when I looked in the mirror. I didn't understand it. From weekly boxing classes to regular runs outside, I worked out regularly. I did tons of squats and lunges. What was going on back there?
Well, for starters, the squat might be constantly touted for glute-building abilities, but it's a quad-dominant exercise. Same with lunges. Yes, you need great gams, including toned thighs and hammies, to show off a peachy derriere, but if you're not effectively activating your glutes, then not even a thousand squats will garner you the booty of your Instagram dreams.
Factor in my long endurance runs, which were basically chewing away any hard earned muscle that I was gaining through my HIIT exercises, and no wonder my bum was quickly disappearing.
Which is why I turned to barre. I needed a low-impact exercise that would work my muscles to fatigue. And because I had been a dancer in my youth, and secretly longed for a long, lean and strong ballerina's body again, then I thought it would be the perfect new exercise to add into my routine.
There are a number of barre workouts there, including Pure Barre, Physique 57, The Bar Method, Barre3, Beyond Barre and many others. Wanting to cut down on costs, I chose to stick to those routines that were accessible free on YouTube and consistently switched it up, doing barre on my mat in my bedroom two to three times a week.
The first class I did online was only about 30 minutes, but it felt twice as long. My muscles were definitely shaking throughout, and I worked up a serious sweat. (A sweat, I should add, that continues on to this day. It's been that effective for me.)
When I first felt the real crushing burn in my glute muscles -- my butt was on fire -- I knew I was in for something good. Barre is known for using small, isometric movements to gradually fatigue one muscle group at a time, focusing on hips, thighs, butt, abs, and arms. These tiny movements not only work to tire out the muscles, resulting in lean muscle, but also reinforce the mind-body connection.
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For the first time, I actually felt that glute-mind connection that is so imperative to toning up your tush. Like most people, I sit a lot during the day for work, which often causes our butts to "fall asleep." By mindfully activating my glutes through such classic barre exercises, such as clamshells and donkey kicks, I was establishing that mind-body connection to increase the nervous system’s ability to contract the glute. This works to build the butt. Plus, the more you get your mind on board with your glutes, the more you're able to use them more effectively in squats in gym class or in everyday life.
I'm not gonna lie -- the first few times I started to shake during the class, I felt a little bad about myself. Here I was a fit person, who worked out a lot, and I was shaking during a fancy dance class? But soon I realized the more shaking that happened, the more I was engaging my muscles in new, stronger ways. Shaking = fatiguing = building a perkier butt.
And that pesky saddlebag bulge that no matter how many jump squats and side lunges I did wouldn't budge from my thighs? After two months of barre, and tons of leg lifts and plies, they practically melted away. On top of everything, I felt taller and leaner. I finally felt like I had that strong swan-like dancer's body I had always envied.
As for my derriere? It was rounder, shapelier, and definitely did not remind me of a pancake.
Since I've been doing barre for a few months now, my new challenge is going deeper. Using weights with certain moves (albeit light weights) or holding postures and poses for longer. Which is why I enjoy the workout so much -- it allows me to focus on my muscles, my body, in a more intimate way. Plus, I find that my performance in my other classes, like HIIT and kickboxing, has improved.
I probably will never get that J. Lo peach butt, but barre has definitely one workout that I don't mind filling up my dance card with.
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