Hand Weights Need Not Apply

You may have noticed that there are no hand weights of any kind in the Barre Motion studio. This is just one of the many unique features of the Barre Motion method that makes it the most inspiring, technically challenging barre workout available anywhere.

Most barre studios you will encounter locally and nationally employ hand weights for upper body work. Unfortunately, there is a broad misconception that one must move hand weights around in order to build muscle.

However, the use of hand weights, even the use of light (2–5 lb) hand weights is contradictory to the underlying premise of Barre Motion: to create lean, sculpted, elongated musculature. I have witnessed the use of hand weights in countless barre studios across the country. The use of hand weights encourages compromised posture while upper body exercises are performed. How? The hand weights encourage the tendency of letting the limbs “drop” on the lowering phase of a lift, especially once fatigue sets in. Furthermore, hand weights encourage the practice of flinging the arms and/or swinging the body, as opposed to executing slow, controlled, precise movements while the body is stable and stationary, all of which are essential for creating long, sculpted muscles.

During the upper body exert-stretch sequences that are the hallmark of Barre Motion, we utilize light resistance bands, not hand weights. Further, we leverage the presence of the barre itself, in tandem with the resistance bands, to amp up the level of challenge of the exercises.

I have studied the biomechanics of movement using hand weights versus using resistance bands. There is a clear mechanical advantage to using resistance bands. When looped over and around the barre in unique ways, resistance bands create exceptional opportunities to manipulate the angle of movement in different ways, so that the angle of exertion varies every time the exercise is performed. This form of angular manipulation engages the upper body muscles in more functionally complete ways that are more reminiscent of movements performed in activities of daily living.

Furthermore, when using the bands, resistance is maintained throughout every phase of the movement. Not only do resistance bands generate resistance during the concentric (“lift”) portion of the movement, while the muscles are shortening during contraction, but also during the eccentric (“release” or “lower”) portion of the movement, when the muscles are lengthening during extension. This is a key distinction, because when hand weights are used, the eccentric portion of the movement is often neglected, which means that the muscles are not properly stimulated during the extension. However, the extension phase is critical because during the extension phase the muscles are stretched and elongated, creating both strength and flexibility.

In summary, resistance bands:

  • strengthen and elongate the muscle fibers;
  • increase flexibility;
  • encourage proper posture;
  • stimulate the muscles consistently during both contraction and extension;
  • enable much more controlled, precise movements;
  • maintain constant tension on the muscles;
  • emphasize equally the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement; and
  • minimize the risk of injury.

What does this mean for clients who perform three to five Barre Motion classes per week? It means that in a very short period of time you will notice dramatic changes in your upper body. You will notice increased flexibility, greater range of motion, and improved strength and stamina throughout your upper body. Your collar bones will be more prominent, your neck will appear longer and more graceful, your biceps and triceps will be more evident and you will begin to see sculpted curvature around the muscles in your shoulders, arms, and back. As an added bonus, your core will be stronger because you will have engaged your core continually to stabilize your body while performing your upper body work. What you will not see or experience is increased muscular bulkiness anywhere.

Nor will you encounter the risk of injury associated with free weights, because at Barre Motion you will have performed precise, balanced, and smooth movements using the resistance bands. Your upper body will be sculpted, lean, and graceful looking, which is, after all, the whole idea.

This is what I call the Barre Motion difference.

Miami Beach
21 September 2014