Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Downtown Chic: Review of The Bar Method Soho

The Bar Method is a barre-based body sculpting class which has more than thirty studios all across the country with many more in the pipeline, and numerous dvds, including the newly released Super Sculpting Workouts. It opened its New York city studio, the Bar Method Soho, exactly one year ago. Curious about checking out this wildly popular fitness method, I made my way down to Spring Street in the heart Soho late last week and took an elevator one flight up to the studio. The elevators opened into an expansive, loft-like space. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful it was. The studio is bright and airy with an exposed-brick wall to one side and rows of white lockers with keys on the other side. There is a small kitchen area located in the corner.

Source: The Bar Method

As I entered I was warmly greeted by Kristin, one of the owners and also an instructor, Amy, the second owner and my instructor of the day, and Ashton, one of the instructors-in-training. Ashton gave me a tour of the studio prior to my class. There are three studios, each carpeted and equipped with balls, straps, small foam rectangles, mats and weights. The changing rooms are really spacious, more so than at other fitness studios, and are also lined by lockers each with their corresponding keys.

Once it was time for the class to begin we all filed into the studio, hung our locker keys on a key-holder attached to the wall (pretty nifty, I thought!) and were asked to pick up two sets of weights (2lbs and 3lbs were suggested). The clientele was composed of mainly women although two men were also present, and there was a wide range of ages. I was one of two clients taking the Bar Method for the first time. I also want to mention that the instructor made sure she knew everyone's name prior to class, which was a nice touch.

Source: The Bar Method

Now, the class itself. It started off with a warm up which then flowed into the arm work series. Only three exercises were done in sequence (extended arm lifts, bicep curls and tricep kickbacks) but each exercise involved numerous repetitions. The philosophy, I felt, was to perform the same movement to the point of exhaustion. Push-ups were next and we were asked to do thirty in a row with slight variations thrown in after every ten push-ups. After a set of tricep dips and the first of many stretches, we moved to the barre for thigh work. Again, we only did three exercises albeit with numerous repetitions. We did the high heel parallel (where you keep your knees, thighs and feet together, pick your heels up and pulse up and down) with a piece of foam between our thighs for added inner thigh work; we did the flat back chair (where you hold onto the barre with your arms extended and your body as a human chair and pulse your hips up and down) and we ended the thigh section with another high heel parallel set minus the foam, with our legs hip-width apart. There was a great attention to form and Amy and Ashton walked around and were making a lot of changes, which I appreciated. However, I did not feel the burn in my thighs and also would have liked the pace to be faster.

After another stretch we moved onto seat work where we did numerous hip extensions while standing at the barre and then folded over the barre. Another stretch and then the abdominal series. The abdominal series differed from other classes I have taken in that there is a lot of attention to breath work and how it should be coordinated with contracting the abdominal muscles. Ashton, the instructor-in-training led the last of the abdominal exercises (the curl section- where you lie with your shoulders raised and abdomen contracted in an "abdominal curl.") I enjoyed this abdominal series the most as I felt my core work more than in the other sections. After another stretch, back dancing (pelvic tucks) was done followed by the last stretch of the class.

The class was definitely slower than other classes I have taken and I did not feel my heart rate increase the way I think it should have. I would have preferred more cardio. I can see how their method of doing fewer exercises with more repetitions can be effective but I found myself getting bored repeating the same thing again and again. Also, since I was taking class for the first time the instructor was watching over me very carefully. Because of that she must have said my name out loud at least ten times over the microphone asking me to correct my form. While I appreciated the attention to form, after a while I found myself getting irritated and it took away from my workout experience. I think after calling out in public a few times the instructor should walk over to the client and make hands-on corrections. Its more discreet that way. There were also times in the class where I felt that cues were not given appropriately and I had to look at the instructor to see exactly what she wanted us to do.

The Good:
1. Facility: Gorgeous studio
2. The people: Friendly owners and staff
3. Alignment: A lot of attention to form
4. Music: I thought the music was fun

The Not-so-Good:
1. Slower pace: May not be as challenging for some people
2. Multiple repetitions: This is a personal preference, I feel. Some may prefer multiple repetitions and include this point in "the good" but I found myself getting bored.
3. Lack of discretion: Constantly calling out in class can get uncomfortable for some as it did for me. It may be more discreet for instructors to walk over and make manual adjustments and thus avoid drawing too much attention to the clients' incorrect form.

The Bar Method Soho is a beautiful studio employing the sculpting principles of the Lotte Berk Method. The class places a lot of importance on correct alignment and proper breathing, and as result is slower-paced. While I did not feel the workout to be very intense, the constant repetitions can be challenging. Classes are $35 and currently there is only one studio in New York city.


Amber said...

Great review! I spent about 5 months at the Bar Method here in Chicago before I discovered Core Fusion. You pretty much nailed my cons as well. However, the lack of varation is the one thing that did me in - there was only one class and that was it. I have heard there is a Level 2 class now and I am super curious about it, but obviously not that curious since I haven't done anything about it.

Mom at the Barre said...

Amber-I think there is only one level at the NYC Bar Method. Maybe a level 2 would be more challenging? Who knows. I still have to take a Core Fusion class. I will take a few classes, hopefully including their new bootcamp class this summer for sure!

Dori said...

I did not enjoy my Bar Method experience. I found it to be an extremely watered down version of the other barre classes. Only doing 3 arm exercises bored me and didn't work all the muscles I like to hit. The slow pace and the instruction not to take our elbows off the floor during the curl made it all seem too easy. I left wishing I could do another workout for the day. It also bothered me that they charge more than the other barre studios but offered (at the time) just one class at just one studio.

Mom at the Barre said...

Dori: You are so right about the the curl section being too easy. I also felt that in the round back ab section I was working my hip flexors more than my abs.

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