Dancers are known for their long, lean musculature, but you don't have to be a prima ballerina to reap the same benefits for your physique through exercise. Local exercise studios Pure Barre (3923 Magazine St., 342- 2208; www.purebarre.com), Nola Pilates (6268 Vicksburg St., 483-8880; www.nolapilates.com) and Nola Pilates' new Xtend Barre New Orleans facility (3225 Danny Parkway, Suite 201, Metairie, 621-5066; www.xtendbarreneworleans.com), which opens this month, offer classes that combine elements of ballet, Pilates and weight training.
"Pure Barre is the origins of ballet, weights and Pilates fused together in one class," says Jennifer Thomas, a former Saintsation and owner of Pure Barre's New Orleans studio (one of 55 locations nationwide). Each 55-minute class uses small isometric movements to work key muscle groups to the point of fatigue. After the workout, stretches elongate the muscles and keep them flexible. Pure Barre recommends three to four classes a week, and Thomas says clients who follow that advice will see results in 10 classes.
Xtend Barre is a similar workout method created in 2006 by dancer and choreographer Andrea Rogers. Nola Pilates and Xtend Barre New Orleans owner Kim Munoz says benefits include a stronger core, a lifted derriere, improved posture and increased flexibility. Instructors are certified in both the Xtend Barre technique and Pilates.
"It's a Pilates-based workout infused with dance that provides a total body workout," Munoz says. "By honing in on each muscle group, you begin to chisel out a great physique." Because participants use their own body weight as resistance, they can increase bone density and develop lean muscle mass while raising their heart rates and burning calories.
Thomas and Munoz say their respective classes are good for people of all ages and fitness levels. There's no bouncing or jumping, so the moves are easy on the joints, and the techniques complement other forms of exercise, including weight training, running, swimming and biking. Most important, each is an outlet for improved health in an atmosphere of upbeat fun. "As long as people are moving, that's a great thing," Munoz says.
The following exercise, provided by Nola Pilates, can be performed at home using a chair for stability. It increases coordination, hip mobility and body awareness while strengthening the quadriceps and inner and outer thighs. Concentrate on balancing with the supporting leg and foot, while maintaining proper posture and control throughout the execution of the plie and passe. Repeat the exercise eight to 16 times on each side.
1. Plie into deep second position (knees wide apart, heels aligned, toes turned out so the feet are in a straight line). Do not overextend the knees.
2. Gently move the right foot off the floor and toward the left knee (into a passe), balancing on the left leg. Do not place pressure on the inner knee.
3. Lower back down to a deep second position plie. Perform eight to 16 reps on each side.
4. Hands can be lifted to high fifth position (arcing over the head, palms facing inward) on the passe to further challenge balance.
Images courtesy of Nola Pilates