Re-posted from Amanda’s post to the BANG™ and FREEDOM BARRE Instructors (Closed Group) Facebook Page, June 27, 2017.

Dear Barre Friends,

I have talked to some of you about my thoughts on the evolution of Freedom Barre. As I work to find new exercises that target the muscles at slightly different angles – challenging the muscles in new ways – I am discovering that barre becomes more “organic” – less “weight lift-ey” and is accessed more easily by a greater number of bodies of all shapes, sizes, experience and ability levels. To some it may seem more “dance-ey” not in a “complicated steps” kind of way, but in a movement vocabulary way.

This weekend in class, I tried a rough draft of some of the tracks with no weights. I was so sore in the upper arms, back and torso afterwards, that I felt it for two days. This is unusual for me. What I found is that the emphasis on focusing the effort on true engagement (tension) was every bit as effective as using weights, possibly even more effective. Creating tension in muscle is only one third of our triple threat approach to building muscle in Barre. But it is, I feel, the most important for this class.

In order to build muscle you need three things: Tension, Metabolic Stress, and Muscle Damage.

In Freedom Barre we are combining the three types of muscle training in varying amounts. We use Metabolic Stress, or weights until extreme fatigue, or failure in Arms 2A, and 2C, Legs 3 & 4, and Final Burn as well as abs. The third category – Muscle Damage – sounds scary, but it is one of the ways we signal to our bodies to get stronger. When done safely, it works. When done unsafely it causes injury. “Sweet Dreams” is a Barre class’s example of the third category. A 10 lb. plate is a challenge for most people when used in this way and it has some real benefits in bone density – we do not want to shy away from heavy weights for those who can tolerate them.

But what I want to talk about today is most of what we do in Barre. We create tension in muscle. So how should we look at it differently to improve our delivery and our results? How can we help our students learn how to maximize it? Ha ha. Well, you and I are partners in this effort.

I, for my part, am trying to help us shift our emphasis to focus more on creating constant tension on the working muscle. Your job is to help your students (and yourself!) make sure that while performing your exercise your muscles do not take a break, until the stretch portion of the track. Thus the class becomes a constant process of stretching the muscle (the eccentric) and squeezing the muscle (the concentric), with some breaks throughout.

Constant tension usually means stopping just short of lockout on the concentric portion (think of flexing your bicep), and then a little short of the “bottom” to maximize the stretch. In other words, it tends to be about 90 percent of range of motion on both ends, which ensures non-stop tension and an environment for building muscle.

We cannot truly get people to build muscle effectively by sticking a weight in their hand. We need to coach them in how to create tension – rather than bouncing in their plies, and swinging weights.

This does not mean we will not be using weights. This means that we change our focus. Our emphasis is shaped like a pyramid. Tension – first and foremost is at the base of the pyramid. Metabolic Stress – or fatigue is the second smaller layer. Muscle Damage is at the top. Think of it as Carbs, Protein and Fats in your diet, if you like.

The movements I am bringing into Release #10 will, I hope, help people better discover where they are in space, find their placement, and sink deep into their muscles using tension first and foremost.

Once we have them do that, rather than fitting into a cookie cutter, they begin to feel what feels right from the inside, wherever they are in their fitness journey. And I feel that’s the right direction for us. I hope you agree with me…after all, I cannot do it without you.