Ballet-based LeBarre classes help with strength, balance

Herald Health CorrespondentNovember 12, 2013 

Another version of the ballet-inspired fitness trend is now at the Palmetto Art Center. Called LeBarre, the method challenges cardio, strength, flexibility and balance with a wide range of motion.

"Barre classes are designed around ballet moves, but this is more athletic," said instructor Eric Wilds.

Central to a LeBarre class are bright yellow and new-grass-green equipment called the LeBert equalizer that looks like a petite bike rack and can be used as a miniature ballet barre. Everyone in the class gets his or her own Equalizer, which is two-feet-four-inches tall and weighis eight pounds. Equalizers are light enough to be raised overhead and strong enough to be a sturdy stabilizer during lunges and plies.

Wilds began teaching the class this month. He became certified as a LeBarre instructor to add another form of exercise to the art center's schedule of Zumba, yoga and Pilates classes.

Unlike most other types of exercise classes, LeBarre sessions aren't for drop-ins. Wilds' students must start at the beginning of an eight-class series to build on their knowledge of the full-body workout routine.

The hour-long class moves quickly, starting with cardio work, then moving on to resistance training for strengthening and stretching for range of motion and flexibility. The method is good for developing balance. Throughout the routine, there are lots of repeated lunges, knee bends, plies and raised arms, along with stretches that involve feet, knees or arms being hooked around the barre.

The heart-pumping cardio segment will leave some class members out of breath, but all the exercises can be self-paced in order for anyone to be able to do them. Meanwhile, sessions also can be intense, depending on the instructor and class level. Wilds took a LeBarre class in Sarasota, where he counted 800 lunges. Despite having a high level of fitness from instructing Pilates and other exercise classes throughout the week, he felt challenged.

"It's definitely aerobic with all those lunges," said Colette O'Reilly, 45, who takes two strength-training classes and two Pilates classes with Wilds every week. Her legs could be stronger, said O'Reilly, and the LeBarre class really worked them.

After taking her first LeBarre class at the Palmetto Arts Center, Trisha McKay Powers described it as appealing to the little girl ballerina in some people's hearts and the grown-up athlete grown-up athlete that they became or want to be.

As a child, Powers was a dancer of ballet, tap and jazz, and she now takes yoga and Zumba classes regularly.

"I thought it was a great class," said Powers about LeBarre.

The LeBarre method was developed by Jenn Hall, a dancer and choreographer who is well known for her work in fitness. Hall designed the workouts to take advantage of the LeBert Equalizer invented by Canadian fitness instructor Marc LeBert.

"He saw how people like runners were using bike racks on the paths for pull-ups and made the equipment from that idea," said Wilds about the invention of the Equalizer.

For more information and to see videos of LeBarre, visit www.lebertfitness.com.

Wilds teaches LeBarre classes at the Palmetto Art Center on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8 a.m.

The current class series has begun and drop-ins are discouraged but call the center at 941-518-2109 for information about when a new series will start.

Susan Hemmingway, Herald health correspondent, can be reached at shemmingway@hotmail.com.

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