Well, it’s about time for my class review of The Bar Method.
What is The Bar Method? The Bar Method is a barre studio with more than 110 locations across the U.S. and Canada, many of which are franchised. It’s called a “method” because it was formulated by physical therapists, and the moves are mostly small isolated barre-style moves done in a specific sequence during each workout in order create that barre-burning feeling when you’re doing it. And you really get that burn.
Class Review of The Bar Method
At the end of the year, I took six Bar Method classes in order to gather enough insight to write this class review of The Bar Method, because I wanted to be certain of my thoughts, and it goes like this: There are some great aspects to the actual workout, but overall, my experience was not amazing, and I’m not dying to go back.
By the way, I paid for the classes myself by purchasing a discounted Groupon for a month of unlimited sessions.
What is The Bar Method workout like?
A typical Bar Method “mixed levels” or signature class is exactly one hour — not under, but sometimes slightly over. I like this, because some studios stop their classes at 55 minutes in order to fit them in back to back on the hour, and so you get your money’s worth at Bar Method with the full hour. And there’s a 15-minute gap between classes, which is less stressful on the in and out process for participants. I like to have a minute to myself before class starts, and you can do this at Bar Method. This is a major plus. (There are also express 45 minute classes, which I did not take.)
The class is very similar each time you take it, with blocks of work and the sequencing of moves always the exact same — that’s the method part. It starts with a very fast warm-up consisting of knee lifts and a one-minute plank, then on to upper-body with small hand weights, followed by push-ups and a stretch. Then you move to the barre for calf raises, a stretch, thigh work, a stretch, seat work, a stretch, then round- and flat-back moves seated under the barre, core work in the middle, bridges and a final stretch. There’s your hour.
What kind of moves do you do in The Bar Method classes?
The moves in a Bar Method class are very small. In fact, sometimes you can hardly see them. The phrase “down and inch, up an inch” is commonly heard. As is “down, down, hold.” What I think is funny is that someone could walk into a Bar Method class and think that students aren’t actively doing anything by the looks of it, when they are actually feeling quite a burn. The moves are that small.
There is no official cardio in the class, nor jumping, nor plyometrics — so it’s definitely low impact and safe for the joints — and most of the moves are so small that they aren’t really functional, outside of the bridges, planks and push-ups. The little leg-lifts and the round-back portion where you sit underneath the barre on a mat with your back on the wall or rounded are far from functional or anything you’d need to do to be strong in your everyday life, but that’s not saying those moves are easy to do.
There’s not even a full kick in this class, you keep things so close to the body. That being said, you can fit a lot of people into the room, you don’t need much personal space, and in spite of the tiny moves, you truly feel the burn even just a few minutes into class, and you are often shaking and ready to quit by the end of each set.
Many of the moves are pretty easy to get into, however, the round-back portion in the middle of class is not my favorite. Compared to some other barre classes, for instance, FlyBarre, the moves are not as complicated to set up, which is a plus for sure. And even though they are small isometric-type moves, they really do fatigue the muscles in just the right way, in just the right order — I guess that’s the method portion.
There are a ton of crunches, which I don’t really like. But perhaps my favorite part of class is at the end during the back-dancing portion, which is all bridge work, you guessed it, laying on your back. Bar Method offers a bunch of variations on the bridge, including having your heels lifted toes down, heels down hip-width, and heels down in wide stance to hit different parts of the glutes. I liked this section and have taken some of that back into my own barre classes and workouts.
There are nice stretches at the end of each working block, which I appreciate. And I also like that instructors pass out bands at the end of class, so that you can use the band to assist with your end-of-class stretching. Major plus there. And there’s always a proper cool-down stretch in each class, which I like to see to close a workout and send people back off into the world.
The Bar Method instruction
Here’s my slight beef with Bar Method: The instruction. I’m a pretty seasoned group fitness instructor who has been trained in and taught many formats. I am absolutely by no means perfect, but I can call it like I see it, and while what Bar Method offers may be great for some people, it wasn’t as great for me and may not be for everyone — and this is just my opinion. I think group fitness should be fun and motivating, and I didn’t really get that vibe at all from any of the classes I took. It was dry and stuffy.
I tried out five different instructors at The Bar Method studio and they all taught nearly the exact same class in the exact same way, with nearly the exact same inflection in their voice. It was eery. It made me think that these instructors were merely “delivering” what they were told to deliver, rather than teaching to the class in front of them, and I’m not a fan of that. In fact, I’d question whether any of those instructors teach anything else, or have only ever taught Bar Method classes.
Also, the instructors barely demo moves, which I’m not okay with in an all-levels class. Some people are visual learners rather than auditory learners and need to see exercises done properly in front of them. That’s not possible at Bar Method, when the instructor may or may not do one to two reps of a move, or none, and expect the entire class to do it properly. I would have liked to see them demo much more and make sure that people know what the move is, before walking around to make tiny corrections. Because that’s something the instructors at Bar Method do a lot of — correcting people.
Continuing on with the lack of demonstrations by instructors, at the start of class, people just get up and start doing knee lifts to warm up, without the instructor showing any of this move, nor saying hello or even saying their name. (Yes, you did sign up knowing the teacher’s name, but I just find it uncool to not introduce yourself and welcome people, when they have spent money to be in your class. It’s polite.) Basically, it’s like this weird cult-like beginning in which participants stand, shut up and begin the moves with no explanation at all. This was my first sign that Bar Method tailors its classes for regulars, and that’s not all that welcoming.
I have to admit that when I took my six Bar Method classes, I was 12 weeks postpartum (read more about my postpartum fitness journey here) and only just starting to work my core heavily. I was still needing to do push-ups on my knees and was not totally comfortable doing a ton of crunches. During my classes, I had instructors literally walk up to me and push my hips down during a push-up, when I was doing modified kneeling push-ups (not knee push-ups, but even easier kneeling push-ups). I was quite taken aback. I felt violated. This instructor did not ever ask anyone or me if anyone had any issues before class, (nor was she around for me to find her and tell her until she walked in and pushed play on the music), and she must have assumed I was just cheating or didn’t know what I was doing with the modified position. Not cool. I literally will not forget how that felt as a participant, and although I never would have done that to someone in one of my classes anyhow, I will be even MORE careful to be kind and careful with people. Geez. (As a note: This didn’t happen in my first class, so it’s not the reason my entire experience was tainted, I had already started compiling my critiques before this happened.)
So back to the correction portion, The Bar Method instructors do a lot of their correcting over the microphone, referring to everyone by name. They check the names before coming in, which is something I totally appreciate. However, then they use your name against you by telling you to change your form by an inch. (See a pattern here?) They also occasionally tell people that their moves are “beautiful” too, so that’s good. The thing is, I agree with correcting form whole-heartedly, but I don’t agree with how it’s done here.
Overall, this is where my experience was not good and this happened in all of the six classes I took. The instructors were very critical of everyone in class, even brand new people who had never been in before, yet they didn’t give people enough of a chance to self correct by showing them the right moves off the bat with demos. And, an instructor should never move someone’s body without having spoken to them first. End rant.
The Bar Method studio vibe
I think the studio vibe will be different depending on your location, and perhaps the teaching style will be too, but I didn’t have any major issues or comments with the studio vibe. It wasn’t as warm and friendly as FlyBarre and was probably on par with the stuffiness of a Pure Barre. People seemed to be fairly friendly, there was child-care for kids older than three months (I never used it and only went on nights and weekends), and the clientele seemed very happy (minus the brand new people who were next to me in two classes and seemed completely awkward and defeated five minutes into class).
You have to check in at the front desk when you come in, and I usually had a semi-warm “hello,” but not always. However, there was one teacher, whom I took twice, and she would sit at the front desk when people were checking in for her class to greet people, and I LOVED that. She was friendly and perhaps my favorite, although once class started, she taught the same dry way everyone else did and the friendly seemed to go away. So weird.
Oh, and there’s a bathroom/shower/locker room for you to keep your stuff, with locks provided, so that’s helpful. You simply take the key from your locker and hang it on a little rack by the door in the studio. This is great, because a lot of other studios don’t offer locks, and well, I think they should. And you can also purchase merchandise from the lobby, so you can dress like everyone else in class, including those grippy socks. These are the ones I wear.
The Bar Method workout benefits
Here’s where I will stop all my ranting and say in this class review of The Bar Method that the workout probably works. I only went to six classes and was already starting to firm up slightly, being that I was continuing to get stronger postpartum, so I can’t attribute any results directly to Bar Method. However, I can assume that because the structure of the workout causes such a burn from the very beginning with fatigue, participants are bound to shed some fat and feel longer and leaner after a month or so of regular classes, certainly when paired with good nutrition and supplemental fitness endeavors. (Although, you can’t truly lengthen the muscles you were born with, but good posture and flexibility does help you to feel that way.)
You work the core, the back and the postural muscles a lot in Bar Method, which is incredibly important for women (although the classes are for both men and women, and there were men in two out of of the six classes I took). You also work in all planes of motion (front to back, side to side and rotational), which is another great thing. And because there is no jumping, this class is not hard on the joints.
So as you can see, as a workout, I agree with much of what you get at Bar Method, and if you’re someone who wants to walk into a class and get “toned” (I hate that word), this may be a good choice for you, just in keep in mind that you likely will not be entertained in class, and your instructor is bound to correct you by name over the microphone or with her hands.
But, as I always do, I will say you would not want to rely on Bar Method as your only workout, as you need to do more functional moves at other times. I wouldn’t recommend going every day, but perhaps three times a week with a break in between.
Perhaps my experience was specific to the studio that I attended, but I didn’t look forward to a single class after my first time. Although I walked away feeling like I had a good workout, which was effective, but not too hard on the body, I never had those post-group-fitness warm and fuzzies that I so long to have, which made it a miss in my book — because if exercise isn’t fun, it’s not for me, and it’s certainly not worth paying for either.
The Bar Method Class Details
The Bar Method “mixed levels” class …
- Duration: 60 minutes
- Format: Standing warm-up with knee lifts, planks, upper-body with light hand-weights, thigh work and seat work at the barre, round-back under the barre, crunches on a mat, back dancing and stretching
- Moves: Very tiny moves! Planks, push-ups, crunches, tricep dips, bridges, leg lifts, plies and mostly small isometric-style exercises
- Equipment needed: 2, 3 and 5 pound dumbbells, ball, mat and stretching strap are provided
- Attire: Tight-fitting clothes, capris or full-length leggings, form-fitting tank top and socks are required
- Difficulty level: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being hard, probably a 6
- Fitness level required: I don’t think someone would be very successful in their first class if they hadn’t taken any barre before, even though the class is called “mixed levels,” so I’d say this is probably not ideal for beginners. You can make it as hard as you want with your range and options though, so advanced students and barre pros would certainly benefit.
There you have it! As always, my opinions and thoughts are just my own. You need to get out there and try something to see if it’s for you before making your own decision. Thanks for reading!
Read more class reviews
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Questions of the day
Have you ever taken a class at The Bar Method?
What do you look for in a good group fitness class or instructor?
When was the last time you took a group fitness class?