Wednesday, December 26, 2012

BarreAmped- An Honest Review

That's me in the front, doing fold-over.
I've decided to come out of my blogging hiatus in order to fairly review something new that I happen to love.

About 3 months ago, while in my "trying random workouts because I'm in a rut" phase, I ran across a Groupon for BarreAmped.  I was looking for something better than pole dance fitness (which was fun, and tough, but didn't feel like a long-term sustainable workout to me), so I didn't hesitate to click "Get Groupon."  Since BarreAmped is relatively new on the fitness scene, it was rather difficult to find reviews- especially from women who had enough experience with group fitness to allow for comparison.

That being said, here goes my rather lengthy, no-holds-barred (ha ha, get it?  Fine.  I'm a nerd.  Whatever.) review.

What is BarreAmped?

According to their official website, which can be found here,
"BarreAmped is the ultra results oriented fitness regime based on modern and classical dance, Pilates,   yoga and deep stretching created by fitness DVD star Suzanne Bowen."

My take?  Let's break that statement down:

"Ultra results oriented?"  
Oh yeah.  After completing a 6 week BarreAmped bootcamp recently, I swear you could use my obliques as a razor blade.  Well, ok, it helps if I stand a certain way and suck in, but still.  I can tell a big difference in my core strength and tone, and others have noticed it as well.  I can't help it- I appreciate the results in the spirit of self-betterment, but as females, we all know that there's nothing like appealing to our vanity to keep up the motivation.

"Based on modern and classical dance, Pilates, yoga, and deep stretching..."
Hmmm- yes, but loosely.  Having a relatively strong background in classical ballet, and some background in modern dance, I can say that although you use the ballet barre in this class, BarreAmped isn't a "dance-y" workout.  If you are looking for Zumba, go elsewhere (not that I don't like Zumba- I do- but this is very different).  As far as yoga, I've found that some instructors incorporate more yoga into their classes than others.  All instructors will take you through deep stretches during and after the workout, which is good, because your muscles will be on fire!

Here's my take on defining BarreAmped:  It is an incredibly results-based toning workout, focusing on repeating small, isometric movements with perfect form.  This workout has a very mental component, which is great for me now that I have a super-stressful job.  I feel like I get an hour of therapy and an hour of arse-kicking all at once- what could be better for today's busy lifestyle?  :)

Do I need dance/ workout experience to try BarreAmped?

No to dance experience, probably yes to workout experience.  Here's why.

Dance experience:
Dancers and former dancers will have a "leg up" (ahaha- I kill me!) on others in that they will be used to correcting and perfecting form,  although I imagine that those experienced with yoga or pilates with no dance experience would be fine as well.  Otherwise, there is no dancing in this class.  Whether or not you have prior dance/ yoga/ pilates experience, expect to have your form corrected more than once, particularly in the beginning.  It doesn't mean that you are "bad" at BarreAmped- it just means that in order to get the best results (after all, that's why you're there), you need to be working in perfect contractions/holds.  One note for dancers:  You do not use turn-out in this class.  That's a tough cycle to break when turn-out is so deeply ingrained in your muscle memory, so expect gentle corrections in some postures until you get the hang of it (fold-over, which is shown in the pic above, was the hardest for me to master.   I still have to really concentrate on my body to get it right).

Workout experience:
This workout is tough- even for experienced gym buffs- and it is going to require some pretty serious core and thigh strength.  I personally think that in order to get the mind/ body connection right, you are going to need to have at least some reserve of strength.  If you are brand new to working out, this probably isn't the place to start (although they will still accept you into class).  I would suggest starting with DVDs, yoga, or mat-based pilates classes.  One note for all BarreAmped newbies- most classes are not cardio-based.  Expect to sweat some while toning, but intense cardiovascular stamina is not required.

Does BarreAmped work?  Is it hard?
Heck yeah it does, heck yes it is!  But in a good way.  One thing I really like about it is that instead of the class getting easier the more you go, it gets harder.  That's because once you have mastered form and are really telling your muscles where and how to move, it doesn't let up on them.

What should I wear?
I had a hard time finding the answer to this initially, so I'll make it easy- wear a sports bra and fitted shirt (you'll be bending over a lot, especially in plank), fitted pants or leggings (no shorts) and removable shoes.  Some people work out in those toe-sock things, but most go barefooted.  As far as leggings/ pants, wearing something fitted allows the instructor to easily see and correct your form.  Me?  I generally wear a sports bra, tank top, 3/4 length leggings, and flip-flops.

Bottom line?
BarreAmped is all about the bottom line!  Just look at the butt of any instructor.  If that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what will.

Really, though- I love this workout, and I haven't done much else (with the exception of some cardio) since I stumbled upon it.  BarreAmped isn't a gimmick- you'll work hard, and you'll see results quickly.  Their motto is "Shake to Change," and they mean it.  Your muscles will shake like mad.  They will also change- and  faster than you would probably think.

I've also noticed that many BarreAmped instructors and junkies are into whole-body health and not just fitness or how their butts look in skinny jeans.  My guess is that's because of the emphasis on mind-body connection.  I find myself wanting to take better care of my body, which is great (if I could only give up Coke Zero, my beloved 'teacher juice'...)

So, if you are still thinking of trying BarreAmped, I say DO IT!  Feel free to leave comments on your experience below.