My Thesis Story

As I finish up my final semester of grad school, I’m also finishing up my thesis study to complete the Master of Science program in Exercise Physiology at Springfield College.  My topic is, “The Effect of Barre Fitness Training on Hip Strength, Hip Range of Motion, Heart Rate, Body Composition, and Functional Movement.”  I know, it’s a mouth full!  Any time you ask a researcher what the topic of their study is, though, it never comes without a story.  Here is mine…

I’ve been certified as a fitness trainer since 2002.  I go through “fitness phases.”  I like to experiment on myself because I do not believe in judging something without experiencing it personally.  I find exercise fascinating.  I’ve dabbled in bodybuilding, powerlifting, running, yoga, Pilates, CrossFit, etc, all in the name of personal education.  I considered my body to be pretty balanced and strong by the time I got to my barre instructor training course.  On a side note, I will be honest, I had no interest in teaching this at my studio.  I went because I knew it would be popular and I am a control freak.  If we are going to introduce a new program at the studio, I want it to be done the way I think it should be done, and it’s going to be executed to perfection.  But my control issues are another story for another time…

As we finished our introductions, I realized the room was full of dance instructors, yoga/Pilates instructors, and only 2 other fitness instructors.  When we hit the barre, our differences became evident.  I clearly was not as balanced as I thought I was.  These women had beautiful core stabilization with incredible hip range of motion.  It took a lot of effort for me to abduct my leg to get even a quarter of their range of motion.  All of these years I spent training my body, and I can’t lift my leg out to the side???  Embarrassing.

After a weekend beating (these Master Trainers are no joke), I left more sore than I had been in a long time because the small muscles in my hips had never been isolated and attacked like that.  I started with teaching a few classes at the studio and the program instantly became a hit.  For several months, I was teaching up to 13 barre classes per week!  My hip range of motion and hip strength improved dramatically, but more importantly, my members were seeing instant results as well.

Several runners noted a10338699_784108331681147_3492024351306454149_nn improvement in their running time and also a decrease in leg/hip pain that occurred over long distances.  Runners have notoriously weak glutes.  Several members reported a decrease in lower back and knee pain that had resulted from various causes.  I felt that there was something to this program that I had never seen before in any of my “fitness phases” and that it should be examined further.  There is a lot of research on the effect of Pilates on various pathologies, but barre training is new territory, and I believe may offer even more benefits than a Pilates program.

If we are friends on Facebook, you may think that I am obsessed with barre.  While I believe barre has many benefits, and I hope to demonstrate this with the results of my study, I do not believe it should be your only form of exercise.  In fact, I do not believe any one form of exercise should be your only form of exercise.  In my next blog post, I will share with you the benefits of exercise variety, and why it is essential to build a balanced body!