Experts recommend that program directors and/or instructors seeking barre certification consider program details and equipment needs before choosing which company to go with.
“Evaluate the program’s philosophy, the program breadth, and the types of clients you’ll be able to work with, as well as the degree to which you’ll receive tools you need to build effective workouts and help drive demand [for the program],” says Lesley Hopps, director of education services for Merrithew™, in Toronto.
“Really consider your demographic,” advises Jenn Hall, Atlanta-based director of education programs for Lebert Training Systems™ in Canada and creator of LTS™ LeBarre™. “If your demographic includes ballet dancers, go with a more dance-based program. If you have a diverse population—from moms and kids to athletes—go with a fitness-based program. And evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your staff. Do they need professional dance backgrounds to teach the program, or is it accessible to certified fitness instructors?”
P.J. O’Clair, owner of ClubXcel and Northeast Pilates in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, says, “Check out the support the certifying body gives post-course. How much freedom does the instructor have regarding choreography and music selection? Does the program cover musicality? Programs that have a prechoreographed option, as well as freedom to mix and match music and movement segments, are more interesting and allow the instructor’s personality to shine, while also allowing for demographic-appropriate programming.
“For example,” says O’Clair, “the Total Barre™ program that I work with has segments that encompass the whole body, and instructors can select different workouts and music for each segment–core, lower body, upper body, cardio legs, mobility, etc. And then [for each segment] there are different music tracks to choose from, as well.”
“Like some styles of Pilates, many modernized forms of barre do not put the body in extreme positions. Look for programs that vary positions and do not stay in one position too long,” recommends Olson. “Incorporate extra upper-body work. Make sure the ‘burn’ and local muscle fatigue are due to muscle failure and are not caused by putting joints in tough positions that are hard to maintain, such that your body is more in a survival mode than an improvement mode.”
What Equipment Does the Program Need?
When you’re choosing a program, equipment is as important to consider as philosophy and reach. Programs vary widely in terms of equipment requirements. Options include permanent barres attached to studio walls, stand-alone portable barres, chairs and even U-shaped workout bars. Hall says, “Barres on the wall are very expensive, require foundational supports, use a lot of space, and make teaching challenging, as the instructor needs to move from the center of one end of the room to the other when everyone turns around to use the other leg.” Another constraint with permanent wall barres is that most are fixed in height.
Michelle Austin, creator of the Fluidity® Method, and CEO and founder of Fluidity® Management LLC, in Indialantic, Florida, uses the height-adjustable, stand-alone Fluidity Barre, which weighs over 100 pounds, can support up to 300 pounds, has the strength and rigidity of a wall-mounted barre, can accommodate two users at once and wheels away for storage. “It’s essential to train people into neutral alignment with a height-adjustable barre that provides stability and that supports weight in every direction to teach corrective movement,” observes Austin. “Our barre allows students to adjust the barre to their unique height, and also to pull away from the barre, which is not possible on a lightweight barre and is essential to create backline and pelvic-floor strength. These principles are the foundation of the Fluidity Method’s training philosophy and are essential in creating our results.”
Some programs—such as the Balanced Body® Barre™ and Total Barre™—use lighter-weight, height-adjustable portable barres. Portia Page, education project manager for Balanced Body Inc., in Sacramento, California, says, “A lightweight, transportable barre is useful for group settings. It allows students to stand on both sides, making room for bigger classes. The barre is easily taken apart. It can be height adjusted and is a great tool to assist students in alignment and awareness of where they are in time and space, but not stationary enough that they can ‘hang’ on it—so students have to work harder.” Similarly, the Merrithew Stability Barre™ is freestanding and adjustable in height, but it differs, in that it features a weighted circular base and is available in 6-, 8- and 12-foot lengths to accommodate different room configurations.
The LTS™ LeBarre™ program uses the Lebert Equalizer™, an 8-pound multipurpose U-shaped bar that can hold up to 400 pounds and can be used in boot camps, kids’ fitness classes and other programs. Hall explains, “Everyone in class has one Equalizer, and participants stand in their own space and move the barre as they train. We use it as a target for balance training—you only touch the barre [as you lower yourself] with bent knees. We can hold it and do shoulder presses while standing on one foot, or we can use it to do push-ups and pull-ups on the floor.”
In contrast, the Barre Above™ program can be offered without a barre. Students can use chairs or balance bars for support if permanent or portable barres are unavailable. Leslee Bender, functional training specialist, and cocreator of Barre Above and the Bender Method of training, in Orlando, Florida, says, “The benefit of not requiring a permanent barre is that it allows people to immediately implement a program without a significant equipment investment to determine whether or not it’s successful with their clientele.”
The Barre Above, like many of the other programs, uses small props like the 8-inch Bender Ball™, a set of light to medium weights, Gliding™ discs and floor mats, to challenge muscle toning and strengthening and to improve core strength and alignment, balance, coordination and flexibility. Bender notes, “We are introducing the TrueBar™, the only individual mounted bar system giving students the ability to have and use multiple small pieces of equipment instantly and providing students their own personal space.”
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